Arrested Development, Season 4

“Off the Hook”: Buster Is More Ophelian Than Ophelia
Talking television.
June 5 2013 4:23 PM

Arrested Development, Season 4

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The extremely hilarious and curiously moving Buster episode.

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Courtesy of Netflix

In Slate’s Arrested Development TV Club, two fans will IM about each episode of Season 4 once they finish watching it. Today, copy editor Miriam Krule and editorial assistant Emma Roller recap Episode 14, "Off the Hook."

Miriam Krule: So, should we chat about Episode 14?

Emma Roller: Well, it’s 8 a.m. somewhere!

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Krule: Great, let’s get juiced … because it happened! We finally got our Buster episode. And while I wouldn't want a Buster spinoff, in the scheme of things, his episode seemed the most solitary—in the sense that he rarely interacted with the other characters, even if his plot points were essential to the other stories—and the most successful. We saw the motherboy we know and love, but we also saw a much more adult Buster who in many ways is losing his innocence. Is Buster the only Bluth who's grown at all?

Roller: The only way Buster has grown is by transferring his Oedipal feelings from Lucille to Lucille 2 to Ophelia, and he's just as oblivious as ever to the women in his life taking advantage of his good-natured naiveté. That said, Tony Hale does an amazing job of showing Buster's simultaneous yearning and terror about growing up, and this may be the episode with the most LLOL moments for me.

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Courtesy of Netflix

Krule: Any scene with Buster and Lucille, even when one of them is made out of pillows, works for me. But, especially with the brief return of Buster's favorite nurse and some exploding toothpaste, I kind of saw some growth. Yes, now we have him pretending he doesn't know how to use his "big hand" (so many points for 1. bringing back that doctor 2. figuring out another thing to do with Buster's hand) instead of being in a coma, but he's figured out more ways of gaming the system. I never get emotional while watching AD, mostly because I'm too busy laughing, but that scene where he goes to Ophelia was heartbreaking! Buster feels more Ophelian than Ophelia.

Roller: Maybe if his relationship with Ophelia had seemed more plausible—if, say, Ophelia were a similarly maladjusted woman-girl rather than a successful adult—I would have felt more for Buster. (What can I say? I’m a monster!) But since Lucille made him a co-dependent motherboy, Buster inevitably flies back to the nest even when he has a chance to leave it for good. Is there such a thing as the “son zone” along the lines of putting a potential romantic partner in the “friend zone”? If so, that’s Buster’s problem.

Krule: But on to some of the better scenes from this episode: Buster visiting his mother in "prison." I had to keep rewinding to catch it, but in the background you can see "L.I.T.E. Security: Rules No Touching, Do Not Pass Prohibited Items to Guests, No Pets." Also, Alex Trebek. I'm sorry, “Who is Alex Trebek?”

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Courtesy of Netflix

Roller: Oh, good call. I totally missed that Buster's nurse is the same nurse in A Thoroughly Polite Dustup, the fake British war movie in the Season 3 episode "Notapusy." That also explains the, erm, pussycat tie-in. But I agree that his unrequited love with Ophelia is tragic—everyone's laughing and riding and corn-holing except Buster. Can we also talk about the various political references in this episode? Between the “don't ask, don't tell” repeal and Buster's stint as a drone pilot, this was an episode that was more overtly set in the present than others this season.

Krule: Yes! Which I guess also added to my feeling that this episode was more serious and did a better job of standing alone: especially the tidbit about Buster not realizing that he was killing innocent (or guilty) people.

Some other odds and ends regarding Lucille's relationship with Buster: Did you notice the strewn juice boxes when he's being "drugged" by Lucille 2? Exactly like the sea of martini glasses he'd innocently and dutifully prepared for his mother.

There was also the meta commentary about commercials when Buster broke the remote in the testing facility. We got one or two Netflix references in previous episodes, but I found myself missing Ron Howard's pleas to Save Our Bluths or other jabs.

Roller: I figured the bit about SNL ads with the guy from the Drew Carey Show was a jab at Hulu, another Netflix joke. In the "Jokes I Didn't Get" column, there was Buster repeatedly making sure he'd heard someone else correctly: "Wait, you said, something, right?" And while I like to employ the phrase "hot mess" as much as possible, I didn't understand why all the characters kept saying it. Perhaps as a sort of mantra to ward off bad reviews of the show? I guess at some point we have to stop trying to read between the lines and just take it as a silly thing to say. Wow, we're just blowing through nap time, aren't we?

Krule: Well, at this point in the season, the show is seeming a lot less like a hot mess. All I can say is, Grrrrrrrl, I ain't going nowhere. Bring on the movie.

Miriam Krule is a Slate assistant editor. She writes about religion and culture and edits the photography blog Behold

Emma Roller is a Slate editorial assistant. Follow her on Twitter.