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Once again, we're tackling another show in TV Blend's weekly series "___'s Best Episode." Each week a different writer will pick out a different episode of a TV show and argue why it is definitively, absolutely the best thing the show ever did. Arguments will be started, tears may be shed, but we're here to start some conversations and make some arguments for really, really good TV. This week Jesse continues things by examining the excellent comedy series Arrested Development. Read below, argue with us in the comments.
When a series has delivered three seasons of gold, (or two and a half), choosing the best episode is not an easy task. I’d be in serious trouble, had the genius that was Arrested Development continued its run... Oh right, thanks to Netflix, that dream is becoming a reality, so I guess this is really the best Arrested Development episode to date. The show was shockingly good right from the beginning with the quirky characters, memorable lines ("there is always money in the banana stand") and layered jokes all taking shape as early as the second episode. However, "Beef Consomme," the thirteenth episode of the first season, is the absolute best example of the demanding, dense and utterly irreverent comedy that made the show so brilliant.
"Beef Consomme," directed by Broken Lizard's Jay Chandrasekar, is the episode that finally resolves the love triangle between Gob, Marta and Michael. Actually, this episode makes that a love square because Buster soon throws his balloons and Mariachi Band in the ring to bid for Marta's affections, even if she isn't exactly sure who he is. Other story lines central to the episode are George Sr.'s first court date, Tobias and Lindsay trying to overcome his never-nude issues, and George Michael continuing his investigation into the mysterious conception of cousin Maebe.
"And maybe that's so very, very right... Uncle Gob!"
In "Beef Consomme," George Michael's infatuation for his cousin Maebe has him following up on the 'Lindsay couldn't conceive' tidbit he overheard during his recent roommate chat with Uncle T-Bag. He starts by asking Gob about his Aunt's pregnancies, apparently there were dozens, before going back to Tobias for more information. Of course, Tobias mistakes the questions for queries into the more literal 'birds and bees,' resulting in the most awkward conversation about where babies come from I have ever seen. ("You see, when a man needs to prove...") Tobias also takes a moment to show-off his jean cut-offs (his never nude affliction central to this episode), which only further confuses George Michael.
In fact, George Michael doesn't really find out anything useful until he pays a trip to Gangy's. There he learns some details of Maebe’s mysterious conception, which was apparently the result of in vitro fertilization. As Lucille puts it, Maebe spent her inheritance getting here as one expensive cup of soup. Obviously thrilled by the news of their non-relation, George Michael rushes to share the news with Maebe but realizes that he can't bring himself to crush her new-found appreciation for her extended family, even if it crushes him. George Michael is obviously the character with the biggest heart in the series, so it's not exactly a stretch to see him decide to keep the secret for Maebe's benefit but it's still a very sweet moment in a show not known for its sentimentality.
"I'm sorry it's not recognized here in the States, but I know for a fact that there are two members of German parliament. They're called nein wohlstandig nude."
Another uncharacteristically sweet segment of "Beef Consomme" belongs to the horribly/hilariously mismatched couple of Lindsay and Tobias Funke. Having not been intimate in some time, Lindsay and Tobias get into a little spat in front of Maebe with one ending up calling the other a "cun-try music loving lady." Lindsay finally broaches the subject of the jean cut-offs, in a way that is far more sensitive and warm than her usual self. In fact, after some mild ranting about members of German Parliament and how Tobias cannot even be nude by himself, Lindsay offers a playful solution and the two become intimate for the first time in years. The camera leaves the married couple alone, and they seem to have a genuine, romantic encounter... well, as genuine and romantic as Tobias can have with a woman. However, during the classic 'On the Next Arrested Development segment, writers Richard Rosenstock and Chuck Martin, slip in one final joke about Tobias' affliction as he comes down to breakfast the next morning fully nude, overcompensating for his years covered-up.
"You're a good guy, mon frère. That means 'brother' in French. I don't know why I know that. I took four years of Spanish!"
“Beef Consomme” opens with a recap of the previous week's The Marta Complex where Michael finally discovered that the feelings he has for his hermano's girlfriend are mutual. Michael talks to Marta about the love-triangle and she admits that she's over 'cock of the walk' Gob and interested in 'sensitive like a woman' Michael. They start to do the wrong thing but are interrupted first by a picture of Gob (and Jesus) and then a by a tape of his singing. The whole hookup goes from hot-wrong to regular-wrong and Michael decides that they should do the wrong thing the right way. Doing the right thing proves difficult when Gob refuses to answer his phone. However, he does thank his fratello (Italian for brother) Michael for his excellent advice on other people's women. It turns out that Buster ("weird brother of prime rib") also has a thing for Marta, and once he informs Gob of the true meaning of hermano, well, Gob still has no idea what's really going on. Instead, he assumes that Marta likes her TV character’s brother and he quickly goes down there to put him in a "como" (which instigates the slowest chase scene in history, with Michael's stair-car trying to catch up to Gob's Segway). Too bad for Gob, he's the one that ends up in two thirds of a hospital room.
"See if you can get it down to five."
The final thread of "Beef Consomme" - the one that keeps them all together - is George Sr.'s first court date. The episode opens with Michael, Lucille and family attorney Barry Zuckercorn meeting with Pop Pop in prison. Barry says how good it would look if everyone showed up to the hearing and appeared to be a loving family, if only for ten minutes. George Sr. arrives at the hearing and finds that only Gob and Lucille are there (or according to him, nobody). Barry's asking his clients for a plan, just as Buster enters with an entire Mariachi Band at his side. Court goes in session with the Honorable Judge Ping, and as the cameras are forced to exit, we finally hear all of George Sr.'s charges listed consecutively.
There are a lot. Thankfully, Michael arrives just in time for Gob's jealousy to bubble over and create a diversion as they bust out the back door fighting. In the chaos, both George Sr. and Barry flee, intimidated by the sheer number of charges being faced. George, he runs right back into his cell while the rest of the mayhem spills out onto the courtroom steps. Michael and Gob's fight explodes into a full on battle with Buster, intent on experiencing his first fight, hot in pursuit. Unfortunately for the boys, Marta arrives on the scene as is more than a little unimpressed by the lack of family values displayed. And Gob and Michael make up in nice/petty fashion
Arrested Development isn’t just a story about a wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but keep them all together, it’s about detailing the odd minutiae that not only makes a family but also makes them worth keeping together - even one as horrible as the Bluths. Sure, the reasons (and ridiculous plot recap) written above, help highlight why “Beef Consomme” is the best episode of the show - the demanding, dense, irreverent and even cruel humor that makes Arrested Development endlessly hilarious - but the it also contains a somewhat unusual and welcome large amount of heart. It spends a lot of its time showing the many odd ways that love can rear its ugly head when it comes to family. “Beef Consomme” delivers 22 minutes of television with enough jokes, enough great characters and even enough heart for an entire feature film. I can't wait to see what's “On The Next Arrested Development...”