Arrested Development S04E14: "Off the Hook"


If the George Michael episode was about his growth and, specifically, growing up, "Off the Hook" was its insane bizarro-world counterpart within the coming-of-age theme. Of the many definitions of the phrase "arrested development," Buster's has always been the member of the Bluth family to most obviously exhibit its most common meaning. But it's usually not this obvious.

It was a little disconcerting to watch Buster traipse around Orange County actively looking for a mother figure. It's one thing for him to rebel against his mother on occasion, or to constantly seek her approval, but to actually say out loud that he really needed a mother figure seemed at best a little on-the-nose and, at worst, a little hackneyed.

Though far be it from me to criticize the genius of this program. "Off the Hook" was still full of the one-liners and situations that make Buster a fan-favorite, creating a warped world of near fantasy. Where does Buster get a costume that's like a cross between Alex Trebek and Pierce Hawthorne's dad on Community? Why is Army so full of goofballs? On what planet would Fancy Monroe fall for Buster with a hand like he's in a Foo Fighters video? Maybe she was having past-life flashbacks to the times when Jamie Foxx used to give people the screech hand.


Tony Hale also seemed to play Buster a little more loosely than usual, though that might just be because of greater exposure, too. There were so many times in this episode that he would deliver a line in such a way that it would be funny, but it wouldn't feel very, well, Buster-y. Think of the the "Motherboy ball" joke or the first time he told Ophelia, "I ain't goin' nowhere." While Buster does have a tendency to go overboard sometimes, it's usually way too much but still within his character. These felt like funny things, but ones that fell outside the realm of Buster's understanding. Though maybe that's just an exhibition of his awkward growth, the coming-of-age that beyond the firm grasp of Lucille. Things grow strangely when the gardener is away, and sometimes that means Buster makes a face very similar to Roberto Boucher in Waterboy.

I feel like I'm saying this a lot, but this episode wasn't exceptional and it wasn't terrible either. It was somewhat surreal and oddly paced, but still funny (why pie?). In the end, it was somewhat fitting for the awkward, disturbing education of a motherman like Buster.



THESE THINGS WILL ANNOY YOU BUT THUNDER WILL EFF YOU UP

– How long do you think Mitch Hurwitz & Co. have been waiting for the opportunity to do a Psycho reference with Buster? Just for Season 4, or the entire series?

– "Good. I'm glad they saw it. It's was like a Motherboy ball, right?" As soon as Lucille said "testicle," I figured a Linus or Charlie Browns comment was coming. And then I was a little disappointed when none came.

– "Honey, it's 8am somewhere." Sometimes, Arrested Development totally gets LA (even if it takes place on the outskirts of the city). Juice is very important.

– Buster stopping to John-John salute the random military personnel: You have to admire his commitment.

– This may've been a Buster episode but Lucille was a scene-stealer. You could tell just how much Jessica Walter was relishing the material. Their conversation while she was being pulled away by police might've bee one of my favorites of the season from her. "Won't miss it!" Diabolical woman.

– "Buster Bluth and a pie for his mo— Lucille Bluth." So Buster brought pies for his mother and then was also disappointed when there was no cream pie for him at Lucille 2's apartment. A lot of pie talk. Also, gross about cream pie have a pointed double meaning. But I guess these are the benefits when, as Lucille said in "Queen B," these are the best years of her life, the last ones when she can't get pregnant.

– I like that Buster was Herbert Love's Joe the Plumber. Except Buster would never be offered his own talk show. What would that even be like? "Mother Dressing: Outside the Bathroom Until Zip-up or Anything Goes? Let's Let Mother Decide!"

 In addition to Garcelle Beauvais, some other guest-stars popped up in more unassuming roles. Zach Woods was far more likeable as Buster's co-pilot in Army than he ever was at any point of The Office. And Diedrich Bader had my favorite line of the episode in reference to Buster destroying the remote, which now keeps him from fast-forwarding his DVR: "I hope this guy likes the musical acts on Saturday Night Live because he's going to be watching a lot of them." It's true! I fast-forward through almost all of them! Even Kanye!

– When Buster talks about Herbert Love being in "pretty hot hamwater," it reminded me of the last time Buster tried to find a mother figure who wasn't Lucille and ended up with Lindsay. "Sister's my new mother, Mother." Awwww. Good times.

– "I'm in the movie." This Lucille 2 mystery gets curiouser and curiouser.

– I'm really happy that we got a Buster Bluth episode with a full-on dance sequence. His dancing is something so amazingly original that it almost worms its way into my brain and sticks there like a Boyz II Men song. Or maybe I just dance like Buster Bluth. Maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 5/26/2013

Season 4 : Episode 15

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No mention of the best Doctor ever?
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I rather enjoyed this episode. I agree that the Tobias standalone episodes aren't good, but I'll take a full 30 minutes of Buster any day of the week. Just thinking about how Buster spends his day makes me laugh.
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Buster was saying he was Alex Trebek, that was the joke. It did however come off more as Pierce Hawthorne's dad.

I enjoyed this episode a little more than it sounds like you did, but your criticisms do hit the mark. This felt like 30 minutes of wasted opportunities, of Buster - who has steadily become less capable as the series has gone on - being a character without context because nobody was around for so many long stretches.

The giant hand was just stupid, I've disliked Buster's hook as a running gag for way too long, there's no logic to it and it comes off as lazy humor, but to then give him a real prosthetic finally and play the "oh, the good one came out right after I left" is thoughtless, it doesn't hold up after 5 seconds of realizing that nobody would let any of this happen.
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I thought this was actually one of the weaker episodes of the series. Not quite as "bad" (bad is relative in this sense) as the Tobias episodes, but close. And for the same reason; Buster and Tobias are better used as a quick joke than a full episode. If this storyline had been stretched through 4 or 5 episodes it would've landed much better.
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I applaud anyone who doesn't let Kanye finish when he's the one [who's /supposed/ to be] on stage. Turnabout is certainly fair play.

Just out of curiosity, is AD being given special treatment by TV.com? I thought shows with very few comments typically stop getting reviewed, and I've certainly seen other shows with way more comments than these episodes are now generating cease to get any further coverage. (This is not a complaint at all, just a question. Personally, I like to see shows that don't seem to have widespread appeal get covered here anyway and I wish it happened more often.)
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I think it's a prestige thing, in for a penny, in for a pound. Plus, it's likely a search engine darling as it rides the crest of renewed interest in AD. That said, IGN wrapped theirs ages ago with the same original schedule that TV.com was shooting for, so it's weird that it lumps along here at a slower pace when articles are getting less than 10 comments every time.
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It's a little of both, we wanted to make the commitment to review all the new episodes no matter what, to see how they might do over time as people finish the season at their own pace. Admittedly once people quit showing interest chatting, we kind of lost some momentum with posting reviews. In the future with original Netflix series, anything we decided to review on an episodic basis, we'll try to stick to a more regular/published schedule.

@WavSlave Outside of this edge case for AD, in general we pay attention to both pageviews and comments; sometimes the two figures can be dramatically different for a given review. Often we will stick with lower-pageview shows because the comments are good and vice versa. Though sometimes there are casualties either way; the current season of The Killing is a prime example, the folks who are discussing the show in the comments have been great, but pageviews-wise, there just doesn't seem to be enough interest, so we're scaling back the coverage to more of an "occasional check-in" status instead of a "definite weekly review."

But the launch of our new Community pages should help with the lower-commented shows! We should be releasing a new batch really soon...

(Here's the launch announcement for the Community pages, in case you missed it: http://www.tv.com/news/hey-check-out-tvcoms-new-show-communities-137226524808/)
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Sounds logical. I think future Netflix-dumps, it might be better to review them in blocks of several episodes at once, assuming the reviewer is keeping a fast schedule.
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Thanks for the reply. Sometimes it /is/ fun to see how the sausage is made.
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Buster crying into the pie when Lucille wouldn't see him ...

...was a call back to a joke about a line Tobias said to Lindsay in his first episode when they were packing for India. Lindsay said she wanted to make "... a new start. that sounds nice." and then Tobias said, "Well I've already got the license plate, so go cry in your pie!"
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Good review! I think Tony Hale's performance was awesome in this episode, not just the way he delivered the lines but also and above all his effective physical humor. It made me laugh several times. But I like how you kept your mind open to appreciate this slightly changed Buster, instead of just complaining about Buster not being exactly the same as he was before, even though his whole life revolved around his mother until she was arrested and began avoiding him, which consequently meant that she was no longer a constant presence in his life.
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My favorite line was Buster complaining about how the new version of the hand came out a week after he got his.
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