Netflix has released Season 4 of Arrested Development in its entirety, which means we'll be binge-watching the series' revival and sharing our reactions with you over the next couple of days. The recap below contains spoilers from Episode 5 - "A New Start." Read no further if you haven't seen the episode yet!
”Now the story of a family whose future was abruptly cancelled and the one son-in-law who had no choice but to keep himself together. It's Tobias' Arrested Development.”
There aren't many television shows that can retroactively affect an audiences' opinion and appreciation of previous episodes but almost every new installment of the fourth season of Arrested Development has (mister) managed to elevate the first impression of those that came before. Is the new structure still somewhat jarring? Sure. The pacing a little bit off? Maeby. Does it still have the same wit and charm that made the initial run such a critical and cult success. Most definitely. Even if it took five episodes to fully appreciate the tapestry that Mitch Hurwitz is creating with the fourth season. And, after two hours of set-ups, we finally get to the aptly titled "A New Start," the first truly brilliant chapter of the new batch. Despite the altered structure, focussing the story on one particular character instead of the entire Bluth(-Fünke) family, it finally feels like home. In my best Ron Howard, it's Arrested Development.
"On the next Arrested Development. On the next To Entrap A Local Predator."
It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that the first fantastic installment of the revamped Arrested Development would be a Tobias-centric episode. David Cross' closeted son-in-law has always been a highlight (amongst many, many others) and I had a feeling when watching "Indian Takers" that his story might take him to India as well. Remember the seat kicker? I figured that had to be one of two people (either husband or daughter) and, just like the old days, the show pulls back from the focussed 'close-up' of Lindsay's story to eps prior to reveal a fresh point of view that also reshapes old threads and jokes. I wonder how Maeby's first installment will weave into the rest of the Funke family's adventures abroad. Well, we've already seen her once but I'd like to see which seat she's sitting in on the plane. Probably somewhere painfully obvious to her parents but they're too wrapped up in themselves to notice. Tobias, literally, since he's dressed to fly.
"Looks like we've got ourselves an Anus-Tart."
"A New Start" uses a clever bookend structure to frame Tobias' story, opening and closing with the 'How To Entrap A Local Predator' sting operation. This tool works wonderfully for the episode, starting with a bit of mystery as to why the (something that isn't exactly clear and, again, will probably be addressed in Maeby's story) TV show has decided to use Sudden Valley - with its familiar sounding street names - for its location as well as immediately getting to a few classic Tobias phrasing mix-ups. First, there's the license plate, noted several times by the crew, before his use of 'big daddy' and asking if there are any little girls home alone upon arrival. He walked right into John Beard's not too much make-up wearing hands. And cue the two sets of titles, first 'How To Entrap A Local Predator' (Supercreeps) followed by the new intro for AD. At this point we, of course, also have no idea why Tobias is dressed as The Thing but by the confrontation at episode's end, all has been made clear. Well, except why John Beard spiked the lemonade. Or if Tobias ever did get his rocks off.
"It's just I've got a bit of a stick up my bunghole about what I've now found is a running joke about me."
Back to why he got his rocks on, starting in Lucille's apartment with one of the few scenes that seems to bring the whole family together. I love that almost immediately the running gag of the family's thinly-veiled japes at Tobias' sexual orientation is turned on its head with the comments no longer heavily implied but straight-up said to his face (oh, Gob) forcing him to confront the 'false' claims. It also leads to the Fünkes' separate but mutual decision to try a new start which, as I said, takes them to the same place. On the same plane. With the same luggage. Even though I had my suspicions that Tobias was the person sitting behind Lindsay on the plane as well as the thing that gets his by the bus, the execution of both made me laugh out loud. Cross' physical comedy is matched only by, well, a few others on this cast, and this might be my new favorite character getting hit by a mode of transport shot ever. Sorry, Meet Joe Black. The accident takes Tobias to a local hospital, where a familiar face is teaching medicine to the local residents. It's literally the same Doctor that pronounced George Sr. gone and Buster all right.
"Did you see my straight-bait movie of the same name?"
This time his diagnoses is a skull cracked in two places, once on the street and once in the elevator, with two more places to come. One of them, happens right after he falls off the hospital bed. It does, however, also lead to the sign he was looking for and he not only decides to be a comedic actor but fly home to make it work with Lindsay. Two weeks later. Once his spine got a little stronger. We also learn why he was framed behind the flowers in the previous installment, in order to keep his neck brace a surprise. His neck brace and his shemale tee. The couple's reconciliation takes us back to Ed Helms' real estate agent who is once again little shocked by Tobias' license plate (we're in on the joke now!) and talks the pair into purchasing a house they can't possibly afford. Then becomes Tobias' agent. Yep. Things were going great for the Fünkes, including a Thanksgiving miracle involving a duck and some oranges, until everything came crashing down in a four way split-screen that culminated in the new agent's suicide. Don't worry, he died in vain. Searching for solace, Tobias takes Lindsay to the 'Method One' acting class and it's there that the troubled couple each meet not so cute with another terrible twosome.
"... all the itises really. And there's also a host of ostises. You know what this means in non-medical terms is that you have landed a real party girl."
Captivated by the uh, monologues, Tobias approaches DeBrie Bardeaux (Maria Bamford) with a few notes and to say how much he admired her work in the 1992, rights-saving, made in six days, version of Fantastic Four. Flattered, cause she's almost never recognized for her role as the invisible girl (cue the scene from the film, complete with a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 cameo), and perhaps pretty high, she goes along with the misunderstanding and soon the pair are out on a double date with DeBrie confusing her face for a piece of toast. It's in the bathroom that their relationship really (Billy) crystallizes, Tobias wondering if he can improv his way out of a marriage while their counterparts back at the table have also experienced a spark and already taken off. Bite me! That's what happens when your heart stops. A trip to the hospital that is, with Nelson Franklin making a great appearance as the attending, and far less literal, physician. Unfortunately for Lucille, her son-in-law is forced to miss her hearing as DeBrie, a 61- year old male, is being fixed up. He also learns where they actually met ("are you high?") as well as where he actually recognizes her from. Anustart.
"Two people in blue doesn't say Fantastic Four. You know what though? I think I may have just the thing. Just the thing. Cut to..."
The actors, one a lawyer and one a doctor, take to the boardwalk to make a buck off of her Fantastic Four fame but they run into a little snag when kids don't respect Tobias' old-fashioned set-up. He also realizes that one member of the four is not enough, so he quickly blue's himself and joins the show as the Human Flamer. Still, even though kids love fire, two in blue doesn't make a Fantastic Four either and it's time to change character. Again. Daddy needs to get his rocks on. The new act doesn't pan out either, with paper from the Blues Brothers working at Feinberg, Feinberg, Feinberg & Feinberg beating rock and forcing them to move to yet another, less popular, venue without the rights. This plan is foiled even faster when a ten year old and his partner patrolling the area arrest them. Circumstances get so dire that DeBrie almost sells her costume, I mean body, to make some money. And Tobias' "I am a Thing" might be the funniest line in the season so far. Continuing to weave the mysterious tapestry, Tobias then visits Lucille's now destroyed apartment and, like Michael, takes a guess at who's to blame before having a run-in with the Ostrich.
"Daddy needs to get his rocks off!"
That ostrich is up to no good. We've already seen it have a go at Michael. It currently has its sights set on Lucille 2 and Tobias, in a rare bout of courage, saves the Lady Austero from the flightless beast as well as continues to impress the ladies who work at the hospital. To show her gratitude, Lucille 2 offers the out-of-work doctor a new job with a great salary and just when you think that Tobias might face reality for the first time (no one thought that did they?), he turns down the offer to keep his dream alive. That does NOT turn out well for DeBrie, whose story has an unhappy ending. To put it mildly. Maybe Ron Howard is in that limo? I guess Tobias' tale didn't turn out much better, waking up two weeks later covered by two bums - one actually a process server ("bleep me"), the other a CIA agent who I'm sure will figure into someone else's chapter. Things bring us back to the bookends, specifically the end part, with Tobias handling John Beard's 'Predator' sting operation exactly how you'd imagine. With his foot unknowingly in his mouth and completely unable to take a hint. Cue the fourth place he breaks his skull.
Read more Arrested Development recaps here.
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