In Slate’s Arrested Development TV Club, two fans will IM about each episode of Season 4 once they finish watching it. Today, Brow Beat editor David Haglund and editorial assistant Emma Roller recap Episode 8, “Red Hairing.”
David Haglund: We’re halfway through the season, and this episode, the delightfully titled “Red Hairing,” brought several of our beloved characters to a hotel in, get this, Beverly Hills. But it focused particularly on Lindsay. What did you think?
Emma Roller: I thought this episode offered one of the best character arcs so far. And hair was an important part of it! When we last saw Lindsay she was cutting off her hair to embark on her new, supposedly less materialistic life with Marky. Then she wears Lucille 2’s Tennille wig. And by the end of the episode, she’s sporting a Lucille 1-style executive realness ’do. And all she had to do was completely bankrupt her political values—small price to pay for self-esteem.
Haglund: There was a lot about Lindsay’s hair, but even more about her face: Her new beau, Marky Bark, is face-blind, and, as Troy Patterson came to suspect in his chat with Farhad Manjoo, it is almost certainly a meta-joke about Rossi’s semi-recognizability. Right? There was also the gag about the check for Gangy 4: Facelift, and the reference to a teenaged nose job that Sally Sitwell used against Lindsay in their class president faceoff (so to speak) back in high school.
Roller: I’m skeptical that the show’s writers would use Portia de Rossi’s face work as joke fodder—if they did, Rossi has a very good sense of humor about herself. I was more pleased that they brought up prosopagnosia, or face blindness, which I didn’t know was a real condition until Brad Pitt brought it up in an Esquire interview a few weeks ago. (I honestly thought it might have been a jab as Scientology, just because that seems to be something Scientologists would self-diagnose.)
But can we talk about how fantastic Terry Crews is as Herman Cain/Herbert Love?
Haglund: Is he Herman Cain? I guess his deep voice and his way with words (“Here’s a little severance package for servicing my package”) are pretty Cain-like. As are his politics, his glasses, his facial hair, the first three letters of his first name, and his complexion. And I agree that Crews/Love is fantastic, whether ordering the great American scallop or praising the beautiful American ocean. I also enjoy his plainspoken side. (“Now, that is one redhead I do not want to have sexual relations with!”) And he has upped the political content of the season considerably, as a “very conservative candidate” for a seat in “the very conservative House of Representatives,” as Ron Howard, that Hollywood liberal, matter-of-factly informed us.
And that political slant helped shape the ample character arc you mentioned: Lindsay went from indifferent to radical to radically conservative—and, probably, herself, or maybe Sarah Palin—in 37 minutes. Of course, unlike Palin’s idol, Ronald Reagan, Lindsay doesn’t want someone to “tear down this wall!” She wants them to “Put up this wall!”
Roller: Cain also came to mind on account of Love’s “high-low” tax plan and the clip about two women charging Love with sexual harassment over his “one-eared elephant re-enactment.” And when they’re showing the fake YouTube clip of Love defending the allegations, a related video to the side is titled, “Latest Herbert Love Seems like ‘Bad Campaign Ad’ Parody.” They also hinted at another meta-joke—that Tobias is actually an albino black man—when Ron Howard says Love “reminded her so much of Tobias when they started dating.” Marky, of course, is a more obvious stand-in for Tobias. (Cue my “Why couldn’t there be more Lindsay/Tobias scenes?!” nostalgia.)
Haglund: Well, Marky blue himself in this episode, so there’s that. Do you see other Tobias/Marky Bark parallels? And what is with his young-Wahlberg-ish name?
Roller: I have no idea! I wish they’d played out Marky as the Ostrich Spirit more, or done something to flesh out his character a bit to make him as much of a larger-than-life character as Tobias. But the portmanteau of Cindy Featherbottom—the ostrich’s name and Mrs. Featherbottom—harkens to some shared space in Lindsay’s heart for Marky and Tobias. Either that, or it’s just a funny name.
I have a random question for you: As I watched the episode for a second time, I noticed that there are a lot of sound effects interspersed, though they’re sometimes hard to hear. The most blatant one is around the seven-minute mark: After Marky says, “But this time I’m eating beforehand,” you can hear the blooping sound of a Facebook chat. Do you think that’s a prank for people watching Netflix on their computers? It certainly confused me for a second.
Haglund: (Goes back to listen.) Oh my goodness! If that was the goal, it totally worked: On my previous viewing, I immediately looked to see where my Facebook tab was. I didn’t have one open, and I put the thought aside. That is even subtler than the Showstealer Pro Trial Version watermark. Which brings up a larger point about this season: Probably even more than the first three, it demands rewatching. (After I asked you that young Wahlberg question, I immediately thought of a Mark Wahlberg project that is alluded to in the previous episode, to take just one example of a possible joke that only becomes sort of clear a second time through.)
But because of the way the Internet works now, so much of the reaction to the shows is almost instant. I’m beginning to suspect even more that the seemingly widespread disappointment I mentioned in our first chat will gradually give way to geeky love for these messy, layered, baggy bunch of episodes.
Emma: Agreed. It’s all about mining the episodes and unearthing something shiny and new each time. We’re so in sync, David. It’s like we finish each other’s …