In Slate’s Arrested Development TV Club, two fans will IM about each episode of Season 4 once they finish watching it. Today, Future Tense editor Torie Bosch and video producer Chris Wade recap Episode 9, “Smashed.”
Chris Wade: It’s hard to talk about specific episodes after having finished the whole thing. Have you finished?
Torie Bosch: No, this is the last episode I’ve watched.
Wade: For me, everything feels just like a piece of one giant story, and the rewatch was more a reminder of what I can’t talk about, even though I know it’s implied in the ‘sode. Which in itself is interesting, and I think says a lot about the ultimate strengths of the season as a whole.
Bosch: I’ll trust you to hint—without spoilers, of course—where my viewing and predictions will end up as off-note as Argyle Austero.
Wade: Perfecto. (By the way, that word is foreshadowing.)
Bosch: Episode 8 seemed to go on forever. But this one reinvigorated me. So much terrible behavior!
Wade: Yes, I had been looking forward to more Tobias, and I found it pretty satisfying, save for maybe fewer never-nude jokes and less expertly-worded gay innuendo than I would have hoped. But overall, it was a pretty perfect little Tobias story of him insinuating his nonexistent performing career into where it doesn’t belong.
Bosch: His direction of The Fantastic Four (or The Fantastic Three and Lousy One) was arguably even more disastrous than his directorial debut with the gender-bending Much Ado About Nothing.
Wade: And both times it all goes awry because he’s trying to play matchmaker, first for Steve/George Michael/Maeby, and this time for himself. Connections!
Bosch: But at least we’ve seen a little growth: He’s ditched the “analrapist” title for “theralist.” He loves combo titles: Did you see that he identified himself as “Tobias Funke, MD, S.O.”—for sex offender?
Wade: His weird lack of shame about being a sex offender is perfectly in character. But how great is Maria Bamford as DeBrie? So completely hapless.
Bosch: When Tobias was musing rhetorically to a wasted DeBrie about whether he “did this” to her or she to him, and she said, “You to me,” faintly as he ignored her, I felt that acute sadness that happens from time to time in Arrested Development land.
Wade: Then immediately after when she says “Let me die!” as fluid leaks out of her mouth … hilariously disturbing.
I find some of the directing in this season weird and distracting—particularly the framing of over-the-shoulder conversation shots so you can never tell if the two actors having the conversation are actually there together. But I do love the split-screen montages they do that allow you to watch a single character and the whole group at the same time, like when they split-screen a close-up of DeBrie having a nervous breakdown with a wide shot of the entire cast rehearsing choreography. It’s a cool way to show as many parts of the story as possible simultaneously, which is kind of what this season is all about.
Bosch: Oh! And what about the almost-return of Gobias industries? The idea of GOB and Tobias getting together to transform Sudden Valley into a community for sex offenders is genius.
Wade: Yes, a great idea for GOB, a terrible idea for Michael. Speaking of that scene: One of my new favorite running jokes is everyone eating Parmesan cheese and mustard as a meal.
Bosch: I hadn’t caught that! How clever—and nauseating. Like so much AD humor.
Wade: I wish the MST3K guys had had a line or two when they showed them watching Imagine Generic’s B-movie version of Apollo 13.
Bosch: I thought the same thing. What a waste of getting the rights to MST3K.
Wade: Maybe that was the whole joke of it? Seems like it could be.
Bosch: One thing I liked about this episode was that it showed what a terrible theralist Tobias is, too—especially in his handling of the Bieber-esque Mark Cherry. Maybe the universe was right to steer him away from medicine. But now he’s feeling another push: He feels “the universe putting up all sorts of walls between me and my dreams.” Again with the walls.
Bosch: In another demonstration of just how terrible Tobias is at advice, we see him coaching Michael on how to force Ron Howard to break up with his “num num.” How far our hero has fallen! Michael’s taking advice from the man who once said, “I know you’re the big marriage expert—oh, I’m sorry, I forgot, your wife is dead!”
Wade: Yeah, that’s a great example of the horrible feedback loop of the Bluth family—where Michael allows himself to be goaded into confrontation by Tobias. Though I would sincerely relish a chance to yell, “You are ruining my life, Ron Howard!”
Bosch: I bet Ron Howard gets that a lot.
Wade: His cameos aren’t great, but I do appreciate all the little (mostly hat-based) jokes they give him—the “hat on” haircut, the fact that there’s a giant wooden cap brim over his office door.
Bosch: One moment from that scene that I hope will become a boomerang joke is when Tobias is trying to convince Howard to give him the rights to the Fantastic Four. His big pitch: that then Tobias will owe Howard a favor. I would love, in a couple of episodes, to see whether Howard regrets dismissing that offer.
Wade: I can neither confirm nor deny.