Erik Adams: As season four of Arrested Development progresses, one generation of Bluths is turning into the other, a point driven home by “Colony Collapse” and “Red Hairing.” For Michael, this is a gradual transition; for Lindsay, it’s pretty much complete by the time she’s styled her hair like her mother, adopted a more conservative wardrobe, and formally signed on to compete with Lucille 2. She’s also supposed to be a Sarah Palin stand-in, but dressing up for a photo opportunity with a comatose patient is a total Lucille Bluth move.
Though he’s only a minor part of this week’s episodes—and a distracting presence in “Red Hairing”—Michael’s devolution into George Sr. is still an awful lot of fun. Witness the scene where he walks into the model home to find GOB rehearsing the boulder portion of his wedding illusion, and without a second thought, kicks the fake rocks down the stairs. Giving Michael this kind of edge is the main source for a lot of complaints I’ve heard about season four; to me, Jason Bateman absolutely found what’s funny about Michael finally following through on his threats to make family the least-important thing. Free of concern for other people (both by and not by choice), Michael no longer has to fight back the selfish urges that have always been a part of his character, and you can tell that’s an opportunity Bateman relishes. There are punchlines in that dinner scene at the Balboa Club that would’ve dripped with sarcasm in the first three seasons—here, they’re funny because he’s playing them completely sincere.
The act of a father forsaking his son is a Bluthian trait, but George Sr. picked it up from a role he’s played several times in an Orange County park. That tradition is carried on by one of his namesakes in “Colony Collapse,” as GOB’s search for a new magic-show hook leads directly to that giant phallus/lowercase “t” introduced in “Double Crossers”—a symbol GOB can’t recognize at the end of “Colony Collapse,” in spite of the fact that he was hanging from it some 20 minutes earlier. (In TV time—who knows how long it’s been in Forget-Me-Now time.) This week’s episodes go heavy on Arrested Development’s two favorite topics of impolite discussion—religion and politics—using the show’s non-Sitwell anti-Bluths, the Veals, as the targets for some light skewering of evangelical Christianity. Predictably, they’re none too happy to be told by the naïvely blasphemous magician named for the Bible’s most well-known sufferer that Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t a trick—it was an illusion!
There’s some SCTV-level potential for deadly accurate TV parody packed into the segments of And As It Is Such, So Also As Such Is It Unto You (headlined by another sketch-comedy icon, Bruce McCullough of The Kids In The Hall), but I’m most taken by the way “Colony Collapse” folds its Entourage sendup into an episode where GOB tests the faith of The Church of the Holy Eternal Rapture. (A.k.a. The Church of HER?) The fourth season’s finest half-hour can’t completely duck the “multiple episodes of story in a single episode” problems that plague season four as a whole, but the sudden transition to GOB’s time among the young, rich, and influential in Hollywood sits a lot better when you consider that Mark Cherry (the baby-faced singer, not the baby-faced showrunner) is held up as a modern-day deity, with an entourage in lieu of apostles. It’s a sly joke, and it plays better as a part of GOB’s downfall (from being the guy on the cross to being the guy who’s at the back of the apostle pack), but it’s a smart way of bridging the two halves of “Colony Collapse.”
“Red Hairing” doesn’t fare as well in this regard, but that’s only because, as implied by the title, a lot of the episode is tied up in the overall plot of the fourth season. It’s not quite weigh-station TV like “Double Crossers,” but it shares elements of that episode, as when Lindsay runs into Michael while exiting the Ealing Club, and the episode briefly shifts gears to focus on her “twin” brother. Things eventually come full circle when, as a prelude to their awkward Balboa Club double date, brother and sister continue an exchange of favors that counts as an incredibly small-scale NINJA loan. (To keep things going with Rebel and Herbert, the Bluths are paying favor-credit with favor-credit, with no real intention of ever actually fulfilling their debts.)
That sequence wears out its welcome, but it provides an intriguing parallel to the one part of “Colony Collapse” I have trouble getting behind: GOB’s “roofie circle.” The joke of the eldest Bluth son taking multiple Forget-Me-Nows to blank out the shame that could be erased by a single Forget-Me-Now is funnier in concept than practice: It’s GOB’s overzealousness, habit of repeating himself, tendency to not learn from his huge mistakes, and bullheaded stubbornness rolled into a single gag—a gag which is then undercut by an over-explanation from The Narrator. It’s a lot like the roommate vote from “Flight Of The Phoenix,” only Ron Howard’s not making any room for the laughs.
That sequence helps explain how GOB got down to a single dose of his brother’s little helper in the season première, but it’s funniest as an illustration of how Arrested Development’s leads are each stuck in their own roofie circles. It’s all part of the second generation of Bluths fighting against their true nature: Michael circling his destiny as a selfish real-estate developer (just like dad) and Lindsay being the WASP-y, Orange County princess her mother knows her to be—and which that “Put up this wall!” speech shows her to be. They’re face to face with the truth, but like Marky Bark and Nat King Cole, they can’t recognize it. GOB doesn’t even realize he’s singing along to a massive pop hit that’s also a pointed dig at his “hopelessly hopeless”-ness.
Being the episode that many full-season reviews cite as the best, we’ve been looking forward to taking a crack at “Colony Collapse” in these reviews: Noel, does it live up to the hype? Were you as surprised as I was at how quickly the jokes come—and how frequently they land? What do you make of GOB’s newfound tagline “Love Each Other”? And do you agree that what we’re seeing in “Colony Collapse” and “Red Hairing” is the assurance that George Sr. and Lucille’s legacy of lies, deceit, and hypocrisy (and a lot of love) will be carried on?
Noel Murray: The real question I have about “love each other” is whether GOB got it from Pete The Mailman or whether Pete got it from GOB. (I still haven’t entirely figured out the season four timeline.) And you know my take on the Bluths: A Bluth is a Bluth is a Bluth, regardless of generation or genetics.
As for whether “Colony Collapse” lives up to the hype, I’d say it definitely does. But then I liked both of these episodes quite a bit. They’re both so much more confident in their storytelling than the scattered “Double Crossers.” Plus, they take season four in unexpected new directions, rather than merely circling back over the same few moments to get the different Bluths’ different perspectives. As I mentioned last week, all those times The Narrator re-explains something we already know has made a lot of season four so far feel halting, lacking the headlong momentum of the best Arrested Development episodes. On the flip-side, it’s surprisingly satisfying in “Red Hairing” to find out how Lindsay and Marky Bark trashed Lucille’s apartment, how the ostrich ended up attacking Lucille 2, that the red wig George Sr. wears at the end of “Double Crossers” was one Lindsay discarded, and that the hot girl Michael admires in the elevator at Balboa Towers is actually his sister. Maybe that’s because in each of those cases, The Narrator doesn’t connect the dots for us.
It’s also rewarding to see Lindsay’s angle on the Herbert Love fundraiser, and to find out that when she ran into her dad and he started saying things like, “I forgot you dyed your hair,” it was another case of George Sr. pretending to know and care about one of his family members, when in fact he was just guessing. That adds a layer of poignancy to Lindsay running into her daughter Maeby at the event and not really knowing what her girl’s been up to. (Lindsay assumes Maeby’s lying when she says she’s heading to the adjacent “Opie Awards” to pick up a lifetime achievement trophy for her work in the entertainment industry.) Erik, you hit the nail on the head when you talked about the Bluths repeating patterns: their own and their parents’. Lindsay isn’t just becoming her mom, she’s also aping some of her dad’s worst qualities—and there’s a bit of Michael too to the way that Lindsay’s political ambitions are rooted in a childhood rivalry with Sally Sitwell.
In my TV Club Classic reviews of the earlier Arrested Development seasons, I complained a little about the treatment of Lindsay, who by the middle of season two is largely condemned to the same arc of pathetically trying to win over a new man while getting humiliated. I confess that I have similar qualms with some aspects of what Lindsay goes through in “Red Hairing,” in particular in the way people keep confusing her with a prostitute (perhaps because she keeps doing degrading things for money), which strikes me as a bit cruel. On the other hand, the “I am not a whore” jokes do set up the great moment where Herbert Love Pretty Womans Lindsay with a jewelry box, which is another fine example of Arrested Development skewering romantic comedy bullshit, as the show did throughout the “Mr. F” storyline (in which Rita was also, similarly, Pretty Womaned).
More importantly, the prostitute theme feeds into the larger Lindsay arc, where she becomes a political hero to the huddled masses. I mentioned in my take on the previous Lindsay episode “Indian Takers” that Lindsay’s a great improviser, able to take whomever and whatever life throws at her and then pretend that this is who she is now (even though, as you note Erik, she’s always going to be Lucille Bluth’s daughter, for worse or for worser). In “Red Hairing,” Lindsay’s habit of owning the moment means that she goes from pretending to be a Herbert Love supporter to becoming Herbert Love’s mistress, and then his actual supporter, and then his replacement. She’ll fake it ’til she makes it.
The tragedy of GOB, on the other hand, is that he’s more honestly committed to the roles he choose to play; he just doesn’t understand them very well, and thus doesn’t understand why they inevitably leave him feeling so empty, certain that he’s “made a huge mistake.” I’m sure GOB means no offense with his Imitation Of Christ routine. It’s just that GOB’s sure everybody in the congregation of HER(?) sees the story of Jesus as one big magic show, the same as he does, which explains why GOB gets no satisfaction from leading the Christian life, or from his engagement to Blank (or, if you prefer, Egg, or Plant, or Mouth). Even the way GOB winds up engaged—because he uses what he assumes to be the hip slang expression, “Marry me!”—is indicative of him intending to do the right thing but not really getting the meaning of the words he’s saying or the gestures he’s making.
That’s why I love the Arrested Development team’s appropriation of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sounds Of Silence,” which they use every bit as well as they’ve used Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here” in the past. When the song plays over a numbed GOB, it’s a direct echo of the closing shot of The Graduate, in which the directionless Benjamin Braddock finally makes an active gesture toward getting what he wants—by breaking up a wedding and stealing his beloved Elaine from her husband-to-be—and then realizes he has no idea what he’s supposed to do next. Even when GOB becomes “Getaway” and starts living what he thinks is his dream, partying every night with Mark Cherry’s entourage, he’s left hollowed-out by the experience. And when Ann tries to have a real conversation with GOB, he breaks down into a stammering string of his old catchphrases.
“Colony Collapse” has a lot of fun with GOB’s ignorance of what religious faith is all about. (My two favorite bits: GOB seeing a picture of Jesus and saying, “For a second I thought that was a real guy,” and GOB telling Michael about how he’s trying to get his audience “to root for the Jesus character.”) But the episode also delineates the clear differences between GOB’s ersatz Jesus and the Jesus of The Bible. For one, when GOB disappears, Ann knows that “he’s not coming back.” For another, where Jesus does as his father commands, GOB ends up working for his son, Steve Holt! (and complaining that “my boss is on my ass”).
The son-leads-the-father theme is an interesting one that’s been developing here in season four. Erik, you mentioned that the Michael scenes in “Red Hairing” are “distracting,” and I mostly agree, in that once again they feel like remnants of another episode that got shoved into “Red Hairing” because they had go somewhere. But the moment where Michael makes up a lie for why he’s going to be late for a meeting with George-Michael—and then hears his son parrot the lie back to him—is one of the saddest of the season so far. You’ve watched ahead and I haven’t, so I probably shouldn’t ask this question, but when we get to the George-Michael episodes, is “The Sounds Of Silence” going to be replaced by “Cat’s In The Cradle?”
EA: The answer you seek is scattered across the Internet, Noel (and embedded in your Netflix queue), but I will say this of the “Sounds Of Silence” gag: Your comparison to the show’s use of “Christmastime Is Here” is completely apt, in terms of frequency of use and transferability between characters.
I also can’t recall if we ever see GOB crossing paths with Pete the mailman—but it’s only just now dawning on me that the ill-fated postal worker’s final words aren’t completely clear, and could possibly be in reference to the politician who Lindsay’s serving/servicing in “Red Hairing.” That’s a stretch, but no Arrested Development choice is ever unintentional, and giving Terry Crews’ character the name “Herbert Love” has to go somewhere beyond its phonetic echoes to “Herman Cain” and the setup for Marky’s most tragic bout of face-blindness. Or maybe I’m just treating the “puzzle” aspects of the fourth season too seriously; the show ultimately presents the answers that truly matter, like the origin of the ostrich spirit who “cursed” George Sr. and Oscar. (Surprise! It was Marky, so deep into a maca trip he thought he was seeing double.)
Marky ends up becoming a double himself in “Red Hairing,” when the sabotage GOB intended for Tony Wonder ends up impeding the paint-bomb protest instead—blueing Marky in the process. To underline the fact that Lindsay can’t stop repeating her own patterns—in addition to those laid out by her father, mother, and brother—the activist winds up covered in blue pain and glitter, all the better to illustrate that Marky’s boundless passion and limited amount of followthrough make him just another Tobias. He’s a bit of a Thomas Jane, too, but only in “I just want my kids back” Homeless Dad/Junk mode.
For a show that turns such a skeptical eye toward religion, Arrested Development certainly believes that its characters are traveling along circular, predetermined courses—though these paths are more often than not laid out by human factors. GOB’s inattentiveness, Lindsay’s misplaced sense of rebellion—the only way to break the cycle is to leave these traits behind and truly evolve. And if they did that, there’d be no cause for a season four.
Of course, there are omniscient, unseen beings pulling the Bluths’ strings: Mitch Hurwitz and his writing staff. The indication that the writers truly were setting these characters down some sort of path is the most important revelation of “Colony Collapse” and “Red Hairing.” That headlong rush that Noel mentions above is just starting to gather steam, and it’s downright thrilling to finally be caught up in it.
“Colony Collapse”: A-
“Red Hairing”: B
- Erik, you mentioned the connection between “Love Each Other” and Herbert Love. After the appearance of Lindsay at the Love rally in “Double Crossers,” I was certain that this week we’d find out she was there because she finally finished reading Eat, Pray, Love. [NM]
- GOB’s catalogue of animals drowned in the Queen Mary accident reveals that there are some limitations to a magician’s powers. GOB: “These were mice…” Tobias: “For rabbit to mice.” GOB: “No… that can’t be done.” [EA]
- Cue Tobias: “Howdy doodat?” [NM]
- A non-Bluth stuck in his own cycle: John Beard quits another job in a “Colony Collapse” cutaway, ditching his gig as the “in lounge” news anchor for Outwest Airlines. (The crawl above his head: “Outwest Magazines available only to ticketed passengers (while in flight!) except in bulkhead seats.”) [EA]
- Another great (and pertinent!) visual gag in that Beard clip: To illustrate how much the public hates magicians, there’s a picture of a drooping magic wand. Shades of last week’s erection theme. Also, don’t you kind of want to see an entire Arrested Development episode about the relationship between Beard and his disappointing son, JBJ? [NM]
- It’s odd to hear Anne saying so much, especially after Mae Whitman has spent four seasons in the more sedate, naturalistic settings of Parenthood. I’m not sure she rediscovered what was so funny about the character the first time around, but as a fan, I was happy to see her back. Same goes for Justin Grant Wade, who dons a heinous, GOB-like hairpiece as the several-years-older Steve Holt! If he’s running his own business, is it too much to assume that he finally graduated from high school? [EA]
- Like the many appearances of Gene Parmesan (who gets a shoutout from Lindsay in “Red Hairing”) in “¡Amigos!”, Tony Wonder’s “I’m here, I’m queer—now I’m over here!” magazine spread is one of those Arrested Development jokes that I wish I could experience for the first time over and over and over again. Should’ve popped a Forget-Me-Now… [EA]
- Tobias’ big breaks on the Miracle Network include starring roles in Embryo Dan: It Would Have Been A Wonderful Life and the “lighthearted comedy, A Jew Comes To Dinner.” [EA]
- By the way, I have yet to get tired of hearing Tobias in the background of scenes, singing, “Just a phallus-eeee!” [NM]
- Also routinely funny: Rebel Alley’s PSAs. (“Binge drinking. Not cool.”) [NM]
- In the same episode that introduces us to Bruce McCullough’s Father Marsala, we learn that Steve Holt! has a brother named Dave Holt!—thus giving McCullough one more Dave he knows. [EA]
- Look at banner, Noel! Lindsay’s misspelled campaign advertisement for Lucille 2 is scrawled on the reverse side of the original “You’re killing me, Buster” sign. [EA]
- The bizarre bird motif in season four (Ostriches! Vultures! Other “shill, feathered creatures!”) continues in offhand way when Rebel Alley accuses Lindsay of “parroting” Herbert Love’s values. Meanwhile, there’s something of a marine-life motif arising too, as Love refers to Rebel as a “red snapper,” and multiple characters load up on coconut shrimp. [NM]
- So many examples in these two episodes of people becoming other people or echoing other people: Lindsay gets mistaken for DeBrie because she cuts her hair short; GOB and Ann wear each other’s clothes after they have sex for the first time; both Marky and GOB spend weeks confined in a tight space; Lindsay’s red wig resembles Rebel’s hair; both Lindsay and Rebel drink out of their purses; and Lindsay joins the parade of Bluths who can’t stand the heat that accompanies their new lives. (“I’d give $20,000 for a lemonade right now.”) [NM]
- Also many more examples of dots getting connected from earlier episodes. GOB’s Jesus-cave gets sold on Craigslist, which is where George Sr. finds it in “Borderline Personalities.” And Marky, startled by a non-dead iguana, asks, “Who keeps numbing these desert animals?” (That would be Dr. Norman.) [NM]
- I’m not a huge fan of the Marky Bark character (the hippie/activist humor he prompts aims mostly for easy targets), but his dig at the very concept of golf—“Ah, what a great day to step out onto an over-irrigated golf course and play a game that wastes vast acres of usable and farmable land”—justifies his existence. [EA]
- Also justifying Marky’s existence: His inability to recognize the smell of “not urine.” [NM]
- That’s casting director Allison Jones, the secret architect of the last 14 years of TV and film comedy, declaring “It’s a masker” during the Storage Wars parody Locker Hawkers. When it comes to determining whether or not a performance like GOB’s stinks, Jones is definitely someone you can trust. [EA]
- The best part of that Locker Hawker scene: the bidder in the background yelling, “Nooooope!” [NM]
- The damage that Super-Creeps has done to the Model Home is more noticeable than the typical dents and dings: Lindsay: “Oh, what happened here?” Maeby: “Kids. Or people who like kids.” [EA]
- Herbert Love’s preferred jewelry store: Brother Brothers (or, as it’d known to its Spanish-speaking clientele, Hermano Hermanos), conveniently located next to the Garden Grove “Method One” Clinic. [EA]
- Classic Arrested Development dark comedy: When Michael opens up and tells his Dad that he’s smitten with Rebel Alley because “she’s Tracy,” George Sr. asks, “Fat Tracy? Or Thin Tracy at the end?” [NM]
- Classic Arrested Development absurdist satire: Marky Bark’s political status is changed from “prank bomber” to “non-Arab terrorist,” because his IED used “shrapnel-grade” glitter. [NM]
- Classic Arrested Development “when you get it, you get it” gag: During the Forget-Me-Now spiral, GOB has a message on his mirror addressed to “Joe Withabee,” which I can only assume was his date’s mishearing of what he probably said to her when she called him “Joe.” (Also GOB is a guy who owns bees. Unfortunately, his bees are dropping like flies when he needs them to be flying like bees.) [NM]
- Here’s how good “Colony Collapse” is: With everything else going on, there’s still room for a great bit of weirdness like GOB making a snack out of grated parmesan and mustard (served in his hand!); and still room for a snappy little insult like GOB answering Ann’s warning that it’s bad luck to see her in her wedding gown with, “Well, hopefully I haven’t.” [NM]
- The best “on the next” in these two episodes: Annyong gets charged for Michael and Lindsay’s dinner. Goodbye, Annyong.