Arrested Development: 4.03 “Indian Takers”
Posted by therebelprince on June 3, 2013
“Those were wetlands?” — Lindsay Bluth
Please note this review contains spoilers for the entire fourth season of the series.
As usual, we’ll take a look at the episode and the season, followed by some musings and callbacks, and our growing list of suspects in the Who [bleeped] [bleep] mystery.
4.03 Indian Takers
written by Caroline Williams & Dean Lorey
directed by Mitch Hurwitz & Troy Miller
Like Borderline Personalities, Indian Takers centres its plot around a Bluth attempting to find something beyond the world of Newport Beach, but ultimately failing. The difference is that whereas George, Sr. is perhaps the least thematically important character to the series, Lindsay Bluth personifies the idea of “arrested development” in all its forms. This is a woman who married Tobias Fünke of all people as an act of rebellion, argues passionately for animal rights (except that she doesn’t “care about ostriches”), and has devoted more time to the causes of anti-circumcision and TBA than anything particularly world-changing. She’s the prototypical rich kid “making a difference”, playing into Portia de Rossi’s classic Ice Queen character. You would think that a character with (deliberately) so little depth would be hard to write for in a longer format, but Lindsay benefits from this structure in a way that George or, say, Buster do not. Perhaps this is because unlike those characters, Lindsay Bluth Fünke has always had a clear arc on the series that makes it easy to accept her journey from Eat, Pray, Love to India to the best house money (and self-deception) can buy.
The sequence in which Lindsay finds enlightenment in the Indian ghetto of Shuturmurg is quite hysterical in a way that Tobias’ misadventures in India are not. There, the humour seems to be as much at the Indians’ expense, whereas this is a tale of Lindsay’s penchant for mistaken self-improvement and vapidity. She’s come to India to find herself, but “finding herself” for Lindsay means buying “the best bag on the mountain” and ultimately rationalising all of her existing choices rather than changing any of them. (Where’s Laura Dern when you need her?) All Lindsay has ever wanted is validation that her life choices are correct, and she gets it by actively misreading a Shaman’s words (“in my culture, that’s kind of a dig”), and assuming that everyone is flirting with her. Her ability to flirt mistakenly is rivaled only by GOB’s ability to tune everyone out to the strains of Simon and Garfunkel. The Shaman sequence is, of course, another of those fantastic examples of reading a scene two ways depending on which character we’re focusing on. Some of the reviews in the week before release suggested that this kind of doubling-up was rarely effective. I can only disagree, as – with the possible exception of the endless Cinco de Cuatro misadventures – these scenes tend to mislead us the first time around. Anything could come back to haunt us, but it’s often hard to guess which. It’s the series’ usual penchant for double entendre and mistaken identity writ large. (It’s no surprise to me that reviews from that first weekend were decidedly mixed, whereas most reviewers coming out now have allowed time to digest the season, and are showing much more positivity.)
The promise of money and comfort lures Lindsay back home where she agrees to perjure herself at Lucille’s trial, and to get back together with Tobias. This side of Lindsay’s arrested development has always been an interesting one; unlike Tobias, she doesn’t need the marriage to prove anything. She could easily find a man more sexually interested in her, but affecting any serious change would require some serious introspection, and so the only way she could ever leave this marriage is for someone to come along who is alluring yet ultimately willing to be at her beck and call. Instead, the family head to a meeting with Ed Helms’ realtor, James Carr (“we have plenty of outgoing income”) where the series manages to get in some more potshots at the housing market. “You don’t need a wine cellar”, Carr concedes, “if you want to do wine tastings in your butler’s kitchen”. And hey, why shouldn’t they purchase from him? The guy just put John Beard in a house! At first glance, the “Fünke family gets back together” plot is just a tiny cog in a larger plan, and I felt as if it sapped energy from the ongoing storyline. The sequence of Tobias and Lindsay fighting via split screen (effectively commenting on the series’ unique filming schedule) is only marginally funny, although I do love the genuine happiness on Maeby’s face when they finally get that duck into the oven. It’s a Thanksgiving miracle!
However, after reconsidering Michael as a mini-George, this makes perfect sense. The Fünke family have had few happy storylines together, restricted mostly to their early music-making days (at least, before that woodblock Yoko broke up the band), but what we saw in all those moments was a kind of willful delusion, brought on either by drugs or hippie therapy. On their return from India, Lindsay now has a mansion with a Roomba (“The robot is dead again!”) and she’s constantly torn between this life and a smelly but socially conscious man. By the time Lindsay cuts her hair at episode’s end, she’s almost completed the transition to becoming Lucille Bluth. This is made all the sadder by the look on Portia de Rossi’s face when Lindsay talks about social issues. It’s like she’s getting so close to believing in something, to understanding something, but she’s not willing to cut the cord completely. (And admittedly, the show constantly reminds us that people who’ve given up all material possessions for self-enlightenment have their own series of woes, leading to some more self-deception. Like everything on Arrested Development, it’s a vicious cycle.)
The two Lindsay episodes were filmed 5th and 6th, after the Michael and George episodes (although this schedule is approximate, as much of the material in the season was shuffled around in the editing suite or filmed when cast members were available). Being almost completely separate from those two arcs, Indian Takers is the last of the “standalone” episodes, one that is reliant more on references to the original series than to season four. Overall, I enjoyed it more than those two episodes, but I’ll concede that the season doesn’t really take off until we join Tobias in A New Start. Still, the second half of Indian Takers does kick things into second gear as Lindsay and Tobias’ marriage splinters once and for all. Lindsay begins to grow irate at her family after discovering a cheque for Maeby, apparently from Gangie for a facelift. For the first episode, I assumed this was some ploy on Lucille’s part to squirrel away money from the Wall, until I quickly realised that this was the youngest Bluth’s salary for Gangie 4: Facelift. It’s a great gag that pays off on more than one level, particularly since the release of the seemingly successful Gangie 4 is mentioned several times in the oddest of moments throughout the season.
At Tobias’ “Method One” acting class – or so he thinks – Lindsay comes across a vaguely unwashed activist named Marky Bark (Chris Diamantopoulos). He’s the brother of Johnny Bark (Clint Howard) who once lived in the tree outside Lindsay’s window (and who is sadly dead after a run-in with bees), and he also happens to have that alluring Tom Jane homeless vibe about him. So of course, Lindsay falls for him. This is convenient, given that Tobias (who first wanted to act after seeing You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown) has found a soul mate in DeBrie Bardeaux, a meth addict with a toe in the door of the film industry. As played by Maria Bamford, DeBrie will turn out to be one of the delights of season four, but that’s for another time. Suffice it to say, it’s leading up to a double date at C.W. Swappigan’s, the dumpster dive where a nice pair of shoes might get you a meal, but they no longer take hotel soaps. It’s one of the weirdest conceits the show has yet done, and I’m not sure it’s my favourite (Arrested Development tends to do better satirising capitalist fare like the Skip’s Scramble) but it leads to the neat conceptual idea that Lindsay and Tobias think they’re on a double date with one another, while in fact they’re each sitting across the table from their intended. Plus, I have to give the scene a few points for inviting back the delightfully dopey Loretta (Becky Thyre) whose résumé has also included Skip’s and Klimpy’s.
Diamantopoulos is wonderful as Marky Bark, explaining that his brother died as a result of a bee attack (in a scene rather reminiscent of Michael and Heather Graham’s accidental stroke banter) and playing the reveal of his face blindness completely seriously. The episode even finds a moment of genuine sweetness when Lindsay and Marky, out on the road, experience the joys of freedom. Seeings Lindsay cavort in the wilderness (even if her lover’s primary sexual trait is “quick”) sets us up for the hopeful possibility that she’s more than Lucille, even as we know full well that self-deception will work its way around eventually. Yet, like most happy moments on this show, it’s a trick… I mean, illusion. Marky was partly making love to her “to make sure you weren’t a dude” (cross-dressers are pretty relevant to the series overall, from George Michael’s hairless Tony Wonder-esque legs to George, Sr.’s eventual transition in Double Crossers) and his mother Joan (the refreshingly gruff Debra Mooney) is happy to set the ostrich on her son’s paramour.
As I mentioned, Indian Takers is another set-up episode but I think it will have more resonance for fans once it is viewed as a part of the series. Again there are a lot of gags whose importance is unknown or unclear. Lindsay has a much more defined arc than her father and a much more immediate arc than her brother, making this episode feel the closest to an Arrested Development plot yet. Now that we’ve established the season’s premise, the show can get on with telling character-based stories like this one, while hopefully injecting them with more of the bonkers side-stories it does so well.
Thoughts and musings:
- The best line of the episode goes to Maeby: “I could’ve spoken up, but I just wanted to see if you guys got there.”
- My least favourite moment of the episode is Tobias’ failed attempt at improvisation. While I like his defeated “I don’t have a guy”, the joke’s concept seems far funnier than its execution perhaps because the whole scene feels, ironically, too improvised.
- Appropriately, Lindsay’s opening credits are punctuated by sitar music.
- Shuturmurg is Hindi for “ostrich”, apparently.
- “And that was with me picturing fudge.”
- At the marina, the guests are being sorted into “Bluth Family” and “Victims Of”.
- A very tight timeline squeeze occurs here when it’s stated that it’s been a year between Lindsay moving into the mansion and Lucille’s trial. Even if we accept that a year passes between the family meeting and the day no-one shows up to the oyster bar, it still makes Lindsay’s time in the desert very short-lived for her to get back to the penthouse in time for Maeby to flee and re-enrol in her third senior year.
- I didn’t mention it above, but there’s a divine flashback to young Lucille and Buster at “Camp Kiss-a-me-Mommy”. Whatever Buster writes in his letter doesn’t matter to Lucille: “I’ll be proofing it anyway”. It also allows Portia to show the more canny side of Lindsay, which has been noticeably absent in Indian Takers: “‘Suckled at her champagne glass breasts’ isn’t a joke?”
- The soundtrack yowls “co-incidence!” when Lindsay ponders the ostrich’s significance.
- Alright, I guess I should briefly comment on Portia de Rossi. It’s true that, for whatever reason, her face lacks some of the expressiveness it once did. Still, I don’t think it’s removed any of the humour from Lindsay’s character. After all, Alia Shawkat no longer looks 12 years old, and both Jason Bateman and David Cross have filled out a little bit. It’s not as if Lindsay having protected her looks is out of step with this show, after all!
- People not at Lucille’s trial this week: Michael, George Michael, George Sr, Lindsay. The scripts won’t drag this conceit out much longer, but it’s all worth it for Barry referring to the witness stand as “the oyster bar thing where they sit”.
- Speaking of trials, if there’s a season 5 or a movie, Maggie Lizer better damn well be the prosecutor.
- George, Sr. sits out this episode, while Buster has no dialogue and George Michael is limited to a few choking noises at the marina.
- This neat article by Darren Ruecker blew my mind by suggesting that CW Swappigans is owned by none other than Carl Weathers. It would explain the otherwise bizarre dolls that GOB was planning on “taking to the chipper” in episode one, and of course the concept makes perfect sense within that character’s mindset.
- We get our longest look yet at the marina scene set just after Development Arrested, with GOB shouting that he’s a “yes man”, the sound of the kids choking in the background, and my sneaking suspicion that Portia de Rossi and Jessica Walter didn’t film their confrontation scene at the same time. (The Narrator also responds that Tobias’ song is “from nothing”, which Maeby will later clarify.)
- The “house Shaman at the Mumbai Four Seasons” is obscured for most of the scene to cover up the ultimate revelation of who it is. It never even struck me that he might be someone other than an everyday Shaman, convinced as I was that the arc was about Lindsay misreading the true signs, rather than her misreading false ones. (In a cheeky nod to Chris Diamantopoulos doing double time as the Ostrich Spirit, the Shaman is credited as Rich Aliaändanost.)
- We see Maeby in the background at the hotel reception. Lindsay took the wrong baggage from the airport which includes, surprise surprise, a pirate blouse! Lindsay later does the prayer gesture to her Indian hosts.
- Lindsay argues that she’s “not a whore”, which won’t be true for long.
- “SHOWSTEALER PRO TRIAL VERSION” remains.
- Tobias may not yet realise he’s performing at a meth clinic, but he’s sure enjoying the “juice” they serve.
Who killed Lucille 2?
No new suspects this week, as everything here is set before Michael even borrowed that money and set Ms. Austero on the path to political office.
#1. Michael Bluth – owed Lucille 2 $700,000. Despite his implication that he [bleeped] his way out of it, that doesn’t really seem to fit with the timeline. So what exactly did Michael do to sort out the problem?
#2. Stan Sitwell – sold his shares to Lucille 2 and has a lot at stake against both the Wall, and the Austero-Bluth company.
#3. Lucille Bluth – leading proponent (at this time) of the wall Lucille 2 is fighting against.
#4. George Bluth, Sr. – puppet of #3.
#5. Heartfire – potential puppet of #4.
On the next Arrested Development: Michael assembles Hollywood’s best and brightest.