Arrested Development: 4.07 “Colony Collapse”
Posted by therebelprince on June 5, 2013
Today, we look at the fourth season‘s seventh episode, probably the most callback-heavy yet, but also one that continues to find new life for an iconic character.
“I didn’t want to make a big deal of it”
“You haven’t” — GOB and Michael Bluth
Please note this review contains spoilers for the entire fourth season of the series.
4.07 Colony Collapse
written by Mitch Hurwitz & Jim Vallely
directed by Mitch Hurwitz & Troy Miller
After Double Crossers left us with the first tangible threads of a bigger picture, Colony Collapse – the first of two GOB episodes this season – retreats from this to tell a story set in some much more familiar milieux. (Although we do get much further in the timeline than most characters’ first episodes.) I’m reluctant to ascribe the moniker of “breakout character” to any of the Arrested Development team, as I’d say it depends on who you speak to, but for me in 2003, the most influential character was GOB Bluth. He wasn’t my all-time favourite (Team Lucille 1!) but Will Arnett’s performance elevated the character’s bathos and self-deceiving arrogance to stratospheric levels. Like all of his siblings, GOB has long abandoned reality for his own fantasy world. The difference is that, truthfully, he would probably never have amounted to much anyhow. GOB doesn’t have a thoughtful or working bone in his entire body, and short of marrying rich (maybe he should’ve stuck with Lucille 2), has little to offer. Perhaps that’s why this episode more than the six that precede it restricts itself to characters and situations we’ve seen before – the Veal family, the magic act, Tony Wonder – at least until it finds the one place that GOB might actually do some good in this world: a wasteful celebrity’s posse.
On a comedy series like Arrested Development, weekly writing credits are often arbitrary. Since so much of the show is written “in the room”, a credit might just single out the person who had the original concept, or the one who did the final edit (rules governing both writers’ awards and their royalties prevent scripts from being just credited to dozens of writers each week), or sometimes the staff might divide up the episode credits at the end of a season to just make sure that they’re fairly shared. So when a showrunner like Mitch Hurwitz puts his name on an episode, it means only one of two things: either he liked the concept so much, he had to write it himself, or otherwise it was considered one of the weakest and he’s taking the fall so as to protect the others. After rewatching Colony Collapse, I’d have to go with the former. We start even further back on the day of the Queen Mary event, with GOB and Ann on the marina. It’s a relief to have Mae Whitman’s deadpan presence back onboard, and the scene where GOB keeps flinging mice from behind Ann’s ears is uproarious. (“You’re like the only person I know who doesn’t just love magic.”) GOB’s courting of Ann Veal gives us his concept of fourth base, an amazing series of shots of Ann unzipping her onesie, and a reminder that jokes about people forgetting Ann’s name will never get old. (“How did you like your egg?”)
While the storylines of Lindsay, Tobias, George, and Michael largely abandoned any dangling leads of the season 3 finale in favour of new adventures, Colony Collapse loyally follows up on that episode’s twist that GOB had been dating Ann for most of the season — although largely in increasingly failed attempts to get her to sleep with him. The scene in which GOB proposes to Ann after trying to end things is a phenomenal bit of deconstructive comedy on Will Arnett’s part, with GOB breaking down and really only able to use phrases from the original series. When first watching the season, I theorised that it was as if the characters from Arrested Development had been freed from a sitcom and let loose in the real world. While I have to retract that attitude now (since it’s clear that the world these characters enter is just as zany as that of Newport Beach), it does seem as if GOB’s breakdown has him teetering right on the edge of the character’s traits. And hey, he’s wearing a ladies’ nightgown, so that’s funny too. The proposal leads quickly to a wedding that GOB sees as major publicity, which he intends to broadcast live on the Christian morning show As It Is Such So Also Is it As Such Unto You, hosted by the camp Father Marsala (Bruce McCulloch). GOB’s lifelong denial is such that even a bunch of weird-ass niche Christians are a good audience, and where would GOB be without an overly elaborate magic act to plan?
What Colony Collapse gets right that some of the earlier episodes might have overlooked is a feeling of paciness and the overall reach of the lead character’s “arrested development”. Perhaps this is because, as I mentioned, GOB is the only member of the family who couldn’t have achieved anything even if he tried, so his denial is inherent in every scene. By the time GOB (Will Arnett looking, if I may say so, rather fine) performs his Jesus magic act to the confused responses of the Holy Eternal Rapture congregation and is then knocked unconscious to spend two weeks trapped inside a boulder in a storage locker (where he is found by a reality TV show crew, but fails to fetch even a single cent as “Feral Jesus”), it’s clear that GOB is facing the same crucial choice that George Sr, Michael, and Tobias faced before him: say yes to change, or avoid reality altogether. And, for the space of a few hours, GOB makes the tough choice. He reconnects with Steve Holt (once he figures out who the guy is) and agrees to start working at Steve Holt Pest Control (now renamed “Steve Holt and Dad! Pest Control”). This, surprisingly, lasts all of one night. Meeting Mark Cherry (“Mark Cherry the baby-faced singer, or Marc Cherry the baby-faced showrunner?”) allows GOB to find some kind of usefulness, even if it’s primarily driving a limo and blinding members of the paparazzi with lighter fluid. Cherry and his entourage give GOB a nickname (“Getaway”) and a role, and it really appears to be everything he ever wanted.
But just as Michael is being gradually edged out of the film industry, “Getaway”‘s place in the gang is clearly suspect. Soon, he’s got stage four syphilis and has alienated those around him, stuck in a roofie cycle that empties his life of more than a year. This is indeed GOB’s “arrested development”: even once he’s caused Mark Cherry and the gang to be taken to hospital with countless bee stings (well, okay, it was half DeBrie’s fault), he still turns away the only member of his family who truly cares about him in favour of chasing an empty dream. He’s never going to evolve, but unlike most of his family, perhaps that’s for the best. There’s little out there for GOB, and the fantasy world can give so much more.
Your enjoyment of Colony Collapse may depend on your tolerance for the recurring Sounds of Silence gag, in which GOB continually zones out of the moment and hears the strains of Simon and Garfunkel. For me, it’s hysterical (“I feel like I was out of the room at that point”) relying almost entirely on Will Arnett’s “serious” face and being a literal manifestation of the character’s in-built denial. The joke also pays off this season in two big ways: first, it makes a mockery of some of the other characters, such as when GOB completely fails to hear Michael’s “I’m out of the family” speech. Second, we’ll later see characters such as George Michael drift off into their own thoughts for upwards of 40 seconds, with the narrator outlining the key thought processes playing in their mind. Contrasting this with GOB’s empty-headedness is just bliss. (This kind of multi-faceted, cross-episode joke is just the kind of thing I adore about Arrested Development, and I’ll have to find time in a later review to talk about why I love callbacks unequivocally.)
Whereas some sequences in later episodes explicitly feel like puzzle pieces being put together, the final scenes of Colony Collapse are a series of resolutions and plot extensions – DeBrie joining Mark in the limo, Mark and DeBrie being hospitalised, GOB sabotaging Marky Bark at Herbert Love’s fundraise on the night of the Opie Awards when he thinks he’s sabotaging Tony Wonder, Rebel doing a PSA – that work perfectly in the moment. The structure of season four was devised to reach two conclusions: just what happened to Lucille Austero and whether any of these characters could change. In GOB’s case, we perhaps knew the answer to the latter beforehand. Yet seeing him reach that answer time and time again proves consistently entertaining.
Thoughts and musings:
- (Who caused GOB to be locked in the cave? I’ll take a look in his next episode, A New Attitude.)
- The Entourage opening didn’t strike a chord with me, as I wasn’t a regular viewer, so it took some explaining for me to grasp the “And Jeremy Piven” joke: the episode’s opening parodies the series’ opening, with Jeremy Piven’s club “And” mimicking his credit on that show. Having said all that, the boys are very well cast for such small roles – Parks and Rec‘s Ben Schwartz as John Beard, Jr. and Trevor Einhorn (Freddie from Frasier!) as Mark’s business manager’s son. Daniel Amerman as Mark Cherry is kinda cute, aptly capturing that perfect grown-up Nick-at-Nite star’s mix of dim eagerness and resigned celebrity arrogance.
- GOB’s instrument in the opening credits? An electric guitar, of course!
- “Fuck you too, America” — Andy Richter.
- GOB on Jesus: “For a second I thought that was a real guy”.
- The people doing John Beard’s live-to-air subtitles are reliably terrible.
- Will Arnett has a lot of fun convincing George Michael they’re good. Of course, it’s Michael’s arc – and possibly George Michael’s too – to learn whether or not he really can be good.
- I wish we got to spend more time with Ione Skye and Alan Tudyk as the Veals. And hey, they even got Ann’s Uncle Paul back!
- I’ll be honest: I think the Church of the Holy Eternal Rapture joke is a bit over the top. I know that seems like an awfully specific selection from a series like this one, but the letters spelling out “HER?” just doesn’t work for me.
- On the other hand, Jason Bateman kicking that fucking boulder down the steps of the model home slays me every time.
- As always, Tobias is cast as Roman Centurion #2. Highlights of his film reel include such screamingly funny titles as Embryo Dan: It Would Have Been a Wonderful Life and his “pitiful” performance in A Jew Came to Dinner. (Timeline quibble: GOB’s wedding occurs mere months after Development Arrested, suggesting either Tobias’ “film” career took off in a very short timespan, or the narrator wasn’t telling us the whole truth about Tobias’ life during the series. Which would make sense, given he didn’t tell us about George Michael’s terrible kissing ability, but contrasts with Lucille’s later statement that Austerity is “his first paying job in ten years”.)
- Justin Grant Wade is finally back as Steve Holt. Wade famously launched a campaign to get himself back on the show, although it hasn’t yet been made clear whether he was hired because of the campaign or if the writers just hadn’t figured out Steve’s role in the plot a year ago. Still, why exactly is he wearing that hairpiece? Some viewers suggest it is because Steve was scared of getting bald back in season 2, and it furthers the running joke that he was always older than his schoolmates. My personal theory is that that’s what the writers told Wade, while really they were just doing it as punishment for his internet campaign.
- GOB doesn’t know how to pronounce the biblical “Job”.
- Isla Fisher continues to be a treat: “Binge drinking. Not cool.”
- Maeby doesn’t appear this week, and numerous members of the family have no dialogue.
- I’m not sure why the boulder is being shipped by an “Anne Murray Live!” truck but I love it.
- People not showing up to Lucille’s trial this week: George Sr, George Michael, Michael, Lindsay, Tobias, GOB. It’s pretty clear the other two won’t show up either, but Maeby and Buster are perhaps the two most believable attendees so that’s a neat bit of structuring there.
- Will Arnett imagining himself to be in Driving Miss Daisy will never not be funny.
- GOB turns in his drowned doves and rabbit, in a similar shot to Rebel and Michael discovering dead doves of their own later in the season.
- Tobias’ eagerness to assist GOB in that marina scene reminds me of Buster’s attempts to be his brother’s magician’s assistant in season 2.
- GOB drives past a China Garden.
- Ann has a low centre of gravity, as we already knew. Way to plant, Ann.
- The pictures reserving seats for the Bluth family at GOB’s wedding (reminiscent of Lucille’s trial) have Buster sitting on his own in the row behind everyone else. Classic GOB. (And I’ve always liked that particular headshot of Alia Shawkat.)
- Tony Wonder is currently “posing” as a gay magician if you believe GOB. “I’m here, I’m queer, now I’m over here!”
- GOB’s mustard lips of course resemble DeBrie’s butter face.
- GOB implies (without realising it) that Ann is pregnant, with what we’ll later learn is Tony Wonder’s son. It’s an unusually understated development that seems entirely out of place with the season (and Ann’s character), so I assume this is pipe being laid for a future season. In fact, check back with me in my review of A New Attitude for some conspiracy theories on this one.
- LOVE EACH OTHER
- GOB’s ringtone is Getaway, that Mark Cherry chart-topper.
- During her wayward years, Rebel met GOB at a bar and made out with him. Yet another connection between those woman-sharing Bluth men.
- Ann sells the tomb on CraigsList – to George, Sr.’s assistant, Heartfire.
- And look who’s got his own meeting in the same hotel as the Opies. Hey, Mort Meyers!
Who killed Lucille 2?
Disappointingly, no new suspects this week since we’re further back in the timeline. So instead, please ponder these same old suspects again.
#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 of the wall Lucille 2 is fighting against and blatantly suggested in Double Crossers that something might just happen to her rival.
#4. George Bluth, Sr. – puppet of #3.
#5. Heartfire – potential puppet of #4.
#6. Oscar Bluth – had an affair with Lucille and clearly wanted to keep it quiet.
#7. China Garden – slept with Oscar, and seems like the possessive type.
#8. Tobias Fünke – [previous motive retracted]
#9. DeBrie Bardeaux – a meth addict who we know will end up at Cinco de Cuatro.
#10. Cindy the Ostrich – Lucille 2 has always reminded me of Wile E. Coyote.
#11. Byron “Buster” Bluth – clearly susceptible to his mother’s wishes, one of which includes defeating Lucille 2. (And he’s also a guy with some serious issues controlling his appendages.)
#12. George Oscar “GOB” Bluth II – the new President of the Bluth Company, destined now to share his parents’ rivals.
On the next Arrested Development: Lindsay becomes a “key advisor” and we finally uncover Cindy the Ostrich’s timeline.