Let me just tell you something right now: flashbacks may be easy to keep up with on TV because there are subtitles and little fun pictographs showing you where you are in the time/space continuum, but they are a little more difficult to write about, especially with a show as multi-faceted and meta as Arrested Development. But I love you people, and I’m going to recap these episodes for you, and if you want to show your gratitude by sending me cookies or trinkets or locks of your child’s hair, I won’t throw them away, that’s fine, but Visa gift cards are awesome, too. Just saying.
In Ron Howard’s narrator voice: When we last left the Bluth family, George Sr. had stowed away with Michael and George Michael while Lucille Bluth (not to be confused with Lucille Austero – or Lucille Two – unless you’re Buster, who is confused about Lucilles and loose seals and gets loose on too much juice) hijacks the Queen Mary. A flashback (within a flashback, we’re getting all Orson Welles up in here) shows us that a young Barry Zuckercorn advised Lucille and George Sr. to have all their meetings at sea because of “Pirate Radio Laws,” and because – should something happen – a husband and wife can’t be tried for the same crime.
George Sr. approaches his rival developer Stan Sitwell (played by the darling, if hairless, Ed Begley Jr.) with the hope that Sitwell will buy some Bluth company stock so George Sr. can pay for Lucille’s mounting legal bills. Instead, George finds out that Sitwell has plans to build a wall along the California/Mexico border – which he at first thinks is a monument to George W. Bush: “It’ll never stand,” George claims.
Bummed that Sitwell won’t buy (and probably with a headache from their little hair-pulling argument concerning the blueprints for the wall), George retreats to his favorite private marina club where he finds his twin brother, Oscar, has already been seated and is enjoying lunch (on George’s tab) with an entourage of desert-dwellers. (Hey! It’s that dude from Mad Men as a hippie quack doctor and that chick from “24”! She doesn’t say much, but she’s still pretty funny.)
Now, if you think Michael and George Michael have identity issues, George Sr. and Oscar make them as easy to spot as Charlize Theron in a spy shop.
Over lunch, Oscar and his friendly flock tell George Sr. about their desert retreat, where they are testing out plans to harvest the Mexican Maca Root and basically just sweating out life. Once George visits and hears that the government is about to purchase the land and evict Oscar and his brood, George vows to buy the land. In his mind he’s going to “gouge the government,” but to Oscar, George is now the best brother George can be and exonerating himself for, well, all that business with framing Oscar and leaving him to go down with the ship.
Planning to sell the land to the government (after buying it with money he doesn’t have) to build their wall, George Sr. and Lucille decide to tell their family they are getting a divorce; this way they can split their assets and, as usual, have no idea what the other is doing.
This brings us back to the recurring scene of all the children, George Michael, and Maeby together with George and Lucille. This scene, played out in nearly each Season 4 episode from the point of view of different characters, is stellar both for its comedic value (after learning that his parents had sex in his bedroom and arguing that he should have left, Buster revives his Army training with, “But you said don’t pull out!”) and because these are the only scenes when all of the Bluth family is in the same room. It’s like a magic trick (“Illusion, Michael. A trick is something a whore does for money.”) in that you can’t believe all this is happening, and you don’t know where to look next: Tobias behind the plant? GOB guzzling scotch on the couch? And where is that ostrich? (Patience, my precious.)
Because he has, once again, made a huge mistake, George decides to start a “sweat and squeeze”: a “seminar” for high-powered executives during which he locks Oscar (once again the suffering patsy) into a hut with America’s CEOs and then charges them thousands of dollars for a glass of lemonade.
In the meantime, George and Lucille are having clandestine (sorry, I’ve always loved that word, and frankly I don’t think it’s used enough) meetings to discuss their “divorce,” but they’re actually carrying on a torrid affair (torrid! another hot word!) during which Lucille wails what is one of her best lines ever:
“I haven’t had an orgasm outside of my bathtub in over 30 years!”
George and Oscar bond over some Maca Root, which causes them to hallucinate seeing an ostrich and a Native American shaman, who portends (rocking the $5 words today) the role reversal of the two brothers:
“The strong will become the weak, and the weak will become the strong. You have been warned.”
“I don’t know what you saw, but I got an ostrich and no boner.” George Sr. responds.
A year later, however, their desert business is drying up, and Oscar has become more independent and difficult to find.
Awesome Pop Culture Reference!
George has put off the wall project due to the lack of funds, but when his attorney Barry Zuckercorn rolls onto their struggling desert compound with the news of a $15 million balloon payment due on the land, George knows he has to do something. Barry convinces George to push for political backing: Lucille (Two) Austero is running for Congress, but she’s a major owner in the Bluth Company now, plus she’s very pro-immigrant (going so far as to “adopt” a “minority child”). George decides to approach her opponent, Herbert Love (the rampantly hilarious Terry Crews).
In another twist of the mistaken identity knife, Barry Zuckercorn stumbles across Oscar after defecating in the desert and, thinking he’s George, mentions the plan to build the wall and George’s purchase of the land to do so. Oscar, stunned and hurt, pays a visit to Lucille Bluth and finds the truth… and a well-worn path to more pleasure outside her bathtub.
Tomi L. Wiley is an author, poet, and freelance editor. She is an unabashed Arrested Development fan.