Arrested Development: 4.06 “Double Crossers”
Posted by therebelprince on June 5, 2013
As I continue to construct my season four timeline (not to sound like a complete nerd, but so far it holds water), let’s take a look at the climax of George Sr’s Arrested Development, and hold a memorial for Pete the mailman.
“Your body wants the maca. It’s not the maca.” — Dr. Norman
Please note this review contains spoilers for the entire fourth season of the series.
4.06 Double Crossers
written by Dean Lorey & Richard Rosenstock
directed by Mitch Hurwitz & Troy Miller
Much ink has already been spilled on the structure of Arrested Development‘s fourth season. Brought about by budget, by ambition, and by the limited availability of much of the main cast, the format was also originally devised to offer a serious alternative to the typical television season: a series of episodes that could be watched in any order. While Mitch Hurwitz and his editors subsequently stepped down from this position, remnants of that aim can be seen in the fact that George Bluth’s story comes to an end in Double Crossers, quite literally taking us through to his “change of life” in his final scene, taking place on the real Cinco de Mayo. I’m more accepting of this than some critics, as I do think that the series rewards marathon viewing. Yet I can still acknowledge that it’s a little frustrating. Given some of the final episodes will go to characters like George Michael and Buster, who have been primarily divorced from the main storylines, it feels as if season four never quite reaches a climax. We’re left dangling throughout, and George is the first character to disappear from the tapestry.
Anyhow, before we reach that point, there’s much else to explore. George, Sr. attends a political fundraiser for the conservative elitist Herbert Love (the irresistibly charistmatic doofus Terry Crews), abducting a $50,000 cheque from a red-wigged Lindsay that is actually Maeby’s salary for working on the Shirley MacLaine horror film Gangie 4: Facelift (in a neat little father/daughter disconnect, George “remembers” she dyed her hair even though he never knew) and then returns to the border only to find his fortunes on the brink again: the land he’s so successfully campaigned for is actually in Mexico, and thus worthless if the Wall is built. (Cue Heartfire: “It’s obvious we’re in Mexico, right?”) This is particularly staggering since George has given that $50,000 to Love to build the Wall (or so her thinks, though we’ll learn in Señoritis that the cheque makes it back to Lindsay anyhow, in a manner of speaking.) When Father B’s colony is decimated by an ill-timed bee attack by “gentleman honey farmer” GOB, it’s time to make a change. So, it’s back to California to figure out George’s impotence and somehow convince Love to stop building the Wall.
The George, Sr. episodes seem to be getting the most flak from preliminary reviews and I can understand that way of thinking. A little of the Bluth conspiring goes a long way and the emphasis on new supporting characters in the Mexico storyline takes away from the precisely convoluted nature of the Bluth family trials. On top of this, the Wall storyline doesn’t develop any real stakes until late in the episode, when it becomes clear (to George, at least) that the family will become bankrupt again if the Wall is built, as all their money is tied up in that land and Michael’s unsuccessful Sudden Valley investment. They’re also two half-hours that spend a lot of time divorced from much of the cast, although this is a charge that could be leveled at several more episodes coming up. Double Crossers certainly squeezes every ounce of comedy it can find in the character of George (and, to an extent, Oscar) but I’m not convinced it’s a failure. Some of the setpieces – GOB releasing the bees (“Beans? “Bees!”), GOB’s giant cross, the craziness of Cinco de Cuatro – seem like confusing non-jokes to first time viewers, and they did so for me too. On first viewing, I definitely considered this episode the nadir of season four. Yet on rewatching, I find myself impressed by the overall direction, and truthfully Double Crossers exposes the fact that Arrested Development isn’t going to adhere rigidly to the “character-centric” format. By season’s end, as the vagaries of the various political and personal misunderstandings make themselves known, it’s clear these episodes may not be the highlights of the season but they’re foundations for the narrative that are – in GOB’s turn of phrase – solid as a rock.
We take time off from the perils of George to visit GOB and Michael in a scene that takes place very close to Cinco de Cuatro, I believe, and suggests (with the hindsight of Colony Collapse) that just because a magic act may have failed once (and spectacularly), doesn’t mean GOB will stop performing it. (“The Christians aren’t so shit hot about it either.”) It’s great to see Will Arnett and Jason Bateman together, as they’re probably the greatest pairing in the show’s history (well, excluding Buster and Annyong, obviously) and I adore their line readings in the opening “GOB”, “Michael”, “GOB” standoff. The structure may not be solely about George, Sr. in a narrative sense, but it’s his paternal influence that lingers in these scenes. Twice in two days George manages to draw his ethical son back into the family: first by asking him to use his (overstated) influence to stop Love making the wall, and then asking him to get GOB a job “where his incompetence won’t be out of place” — in this case, selling the impossible-to-sell Sudden Valley expansion. While I’m not convinced that George would think Michael that important to effect genuine political change (typically, his lack of faith in his children leads George to conceive of the entire scheme himself) but perhaps in the aftermath of his colony collapsing, George will try anything. And admittedly Queen B. suggests that George’s mind for business has been failing him since the move to the border.
There are some odd moments as Double Crossers unfolds. After a change of plan, Lucille decides they will let Love build just enough of the Wall for the Bluths to get their payout, before destabilising it so they can retain the value of the land (she subsequently develops a further plan, but that’s for another time). So on the day before Cinco de Cuatro, George and Buster set out to film proof that the wall is coming along nicely by driving around and around the same “Hall & Burton’s Frozen Goat Cream” tank in a nod to silent movies. It’s a jittery moment that seems disconnected from everything, and I wonder if it was a scene shot with a different place in the narrative and then re-purposed – perhaps there was just nowhere organic for the scene to appear before its importance becomes clear in Queen B. (The camerawork attempts to avoid showing Buster’s giant hand by making it seem that he’s being weighed down by it, which at least suggests this wasn’t intended to be part of Buster’s episode.) But the strangest development is certainly George’s discovery that he’s essentially a woman. He discovered an appreciation of blouses while living in the attic in season 2, but all of a sudden, George finds a new calling in life. While I don’t really believe George to be involved in Lucille 2’s untimely disappearance, his attempt to retreat into the life of a female hermit seems like part of a larger scheme rather than a life-changing revelation, and I’ll be interested to see how this is followed up in whatever format Arrested Development takes next. Until then, I just consider it a bizarre tangent unless someone can point me toward some enlightenment?
At the end of Double Crossers, Lucille 2 confronts George over the campaign money he gave Herbert Love. One of her major platforms is to prevent the Wall from being built, so naturally she’s upset. And in the episode’s tag, we find out that Lucille Austero went missing that same night. The season has been quite clear that Cinco de Cuatro is its endpoint, and now it appears we have a specific event in which things will climax. Yet perhaps this personifies the key area in which season four of Arrested Development is less experimental than it would have liked to be. The episodes themselves allow us to bring each character’s plot to its own finale (George this time, and Lindsay and Tobias coming up) yet it’s clear that there’s still a sense of things unfolding each week in the lead up to Blockheads. I can’t fault the series for this, since experimenting in any medium involves some trial-and-error. But I’d be perhaps more forgiving if it didn’t become clear that what happens on Cinco de Cuatro won’t be explained until after Cinco de Cuatro… and that isn’t gonna be this season. For a series with notoriously “unlikable” characters, Arrested Development has always had a surprisingly mature approach to their psychology. Yet it’s also remembered that the long term plots come second to the humour. What worries me about the loose threads from this season is that it almost feels as if the writers got too swept up in the long term. I’ll reserve my final judgment until we find out if there will be more Arrested Development (and because if there’s any show I want to see tackle a murder mystery, it’s this one). All I’m saying is, I can appreciate the reservations of other fans and critics, even if I’m ultimately in this for the long haul.
Thoughts and musings:
- Oscar and Lucille’s lovemaking is “too explicit for an American audience” ala Les Cousins Dangereux (the remake of which starred Rebel Alley). Oscar feels it’s good to be “out of that sweaty old hotbox”, earning him a slap from Lucille.
- George mistakes a black waiter for a “successful republican strategist” and then asks Lindsay, “You don’t think Maisy’s [a] cuter [name]?” What a hero.
- Nice cameos from the comically inept surveyors played by Andy St Clair and Brad Morris.
- Come to think of it, I don’t think we see Heartfire again after the bee attack. Did she die of her allergies?
- The tiny republican strategist David (Bob Glouberman) makes the perfect visual counterpoint to the massive Crews. Glouberman is a constant presence throughout the season although primarily in the background, and I wonder if he’ll hang around should Lindsay still be running for Congress in the theoretical season 5.
- John Slattery remains exquisite as Dr. Norman, a character who definitely needs his own spin-off. (Mad Men is ending next year after all.) One of his typical questions on a physical: “Any earthquakes in a Chinese restaurant while you were trying to prove something to your mother?”
- While I may think the George character barely warranted two whole episodes, Jeffrey Tambor is a delight as George breaks down – his haunting tale of a busload of black kids laughing at his cute hat blowing away is priceless. (The hat, incidentally, is from Mort Meyers’ Schnoodle company.)
- Isla Fisher shines in Rebel’s Woody Allen turn: “I felt I was in The Iceman Cometh only, you know, in my case he faketh”.
- “There are some vultures. I think they still might smell Pete.”
- GOB gets Ron Howard confused with Moe Howard.
- George Michael, Maeby, and Tobias sit out the proceedings this week.
- Like the Bluths, Barry Zuckerkorn is unable to speak Spanish. He is also seen buying a ladder and using cash… so we shouldn’t be too surprised he ends up needing Bob Loblaw’s services.
- GOB’s bees got out because the box fell over when GOB swerved to avoid hitting an ostrich. (Which would appear to be Cindy making a break for it after she’s let loose by Maeby and attacks Lucille 2. I tell you, the ostrich did it!)
- George, Sr. in a beekeeper hat is of course reminiscent of the wedding veil fight during the second season.
- Buster got a C+ on his cartography assessment.
- George has “made love with treason charges over [him] before”, so he’s got that going for him.
- It was George in the farmacia just missing GOB. He later sings All You Need Are Smiles while driving back to California.
- Michael answers the phone “Michael B. project”.
- John Beard has left his “hard lemonade” at the model home.
- That’s Lindsay causing a riot at Cinco de Cuatro, of course, although we’ll only learn at season’s end that George Michael’s FaceBlock scam and GOB’s business interactions with a horde of Mongols definitely helped.
- Dr. Norman’s drugs will float downstream and have a devastating effect on DeBrie.
- Johnny Bark cameo! The bee colony is not doing well, sadly.
- As they watch Herbert Love’s Youtube video, we see another video in the sidebar, “Herbert Love Gets a Big Hand from Vet”.
Who killed Lucille 2?
#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 who blatantly suggests in Double Crossers that something might just happen to her rival.
#4. George Bluth, Sr. – puppet of #3.
#5. Heartfire – potential puppet of #4 (potentially deceased after a brutal bee attack).
#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 – [motives from A New Start no longer relevant]
#9. DeBrie Bardeaux – [motives from A New Start no longer relevant]
#10. Cindy the Ostrich – clearly there’s a rivalry between these two old birds.
#11. Byron “Buster” Bluth – clearly susceptible to his mother’s wishes, one of which primarily includes defeating Lucille 2. (And 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.