Off The Hook
Original Air Date: May 26, 2013
JD – Sr. Staff Writer
Buster’s back! Throughout the entire 4th season of Arrested Development, Buster has been mostly absent. We’ve really mainly seen him reacting to things, but not gotten to observe his life following Lucille’s commandeering of the Queen Mary. Considering Buster has always been one of my favorite characters, it’s been mildly disappointing to see him go unused.
In Buster’s Arrested Development we watch him go through the torment of losing his mother (in part to prison, but also of her own choosing) and his desperate search for a replacement mother figure, as well as his attempt to regain her love and respect after missing her trial.
Yep. Buster wasn’t at the trial either.
When the episode begins, we see Buster has started a new life for himself. He’s with a black woman and her two kids, a family he seems to have adopted, and he tells the woman that he wants to take the relationship to the next level. She kisses him.
Wait, what? Okay, let’s rewind a bit. After falling off the Queen Mary at the end of season 3, then seeing his mother taken away by the police, Buster returned to the penthouse and resumed his normal daily routine: laying out mother’s clothes, making her breakfast (a martini!), etc. But without Lucille actually there, Buster gets lonely and eventually stuffs the clothes he laid out for her with pillows. Then realizes she looks fat, and rips a little stuffing out of them. Then breaks out the sewing machine and creates a life-sized, stuffed Lucille, which he dresses up, talks to, “cooks” for, argues with, and receives criticism from.
It’s totally not weird or anything.
Lucille is eventually released to await her trial (wearing an ankle monitor), and enters the penthouse to find untouched martinis on every flat surface and Buster cuddled up on the couch with his Lucille doll.
Okay, fine, it’s weird.
So mother and son are reunited again, but tensions quickly escalate. Lucille is going crazy stuck inside the penthouse playing “guess the fur” with Buster all day, and Buster becomes upset with her increased hostility toward him. He storms out one day and runs into Lucille 2 in the hallway, who invites him inside for some juice. Juice being a weakness of Buster’s, he accepts the offer… and the next morning he wakes up back in the penthouse, surrounded by empty juice boxes. He’s overslept, and is going to be late for his mother’s trial.
He throws on his John John Kennedy coat and short pants (an old Motherboy costume…Lucille wanted him to wear his Army uniform, but he couldn’t find it) and runs to the seafood restaurant where the trial was being held, only to get there in time to see Lucille being taken away by the police again. She’s been found guilty and is serving 3-5 years. Before she leaves, though, she makes sure Buster knows that this is all his fault, and she will not see him if he visits her in prison. Her tirade against him here sort of broke my heart a little. And it broke Buster’s too.
He returns to the penthouse, and realizes he can’t stay there or he’ll go crazy without her, like he did last time. “I can’t go through another two days like that”. So the doll, the martinis, the Norman Bates-esque reaction to being alone was over a period of only two days?! Whoa, Buster. Yikes.
Buster proceeds to try to visit his mother in prison daily, though she refuses to see him every time. Meanwhile he moves in with Lucille 2, but she eventually gets frustrated with him seeing her more as a mother figure than a lover and kicks him out. Looking for a place to go, he winds up wandering into the Army recruitment office on the exact day the Army’s policy on gays and lesbians changed. The recruiting officers assume he’s gay, and encourage him to sign back up.
Six month later, Lucille gets a visit from the Army about Buster, and after making sure Buster isn’t trying to trick her into seeing him again, she rushes to hospital. The Literal Doctor is there, and he tells her Buster went down while piloting a plane over Afghanistan, and that he deserves a big hand, which they gave him. She enters the room to see he’s fine, though. Turns out Buster had become a drone pilot, and he somehow never knew he wasn’t just playing a video game. He freaked out when he found out he was actually hurting people, and fell out of his chair.
For this the Army gave him applause? Lucille asks. No. A big hand. Literally. The Army decided they had to buy Buster off to keep him quiet, so they replaced his hook with a huge bionic hand. Buster explains that the miniaturization comes later, and reminds Lucille how big the first cell phones were. “That was a phone. This looks like you’re pointing to a place that buys your gold.”
Lucille is still upset. She tells Buster she’s glad he has a new hand, but he still needs someone else to hold it, and leaves. Buster is hurt again, but he’s at least relieved that he still has the Army to turn to. Until he hears they are planning to turn him into a killing machine with his new hand.
The Army starts to train him how to use it, but Buster doesn’t want to succeed in this training and just keeps smashing things “accidentally” with his giant hand. Eventually, the Army figures out that Buster is stringing them along, a theory they test by leaving him alone with a kitten that he turns out to be fully capable of handling safely, and they discharge him. Again, Buster has no idea where to go, and expresses this to the woman discharging him. “You should have thought of that before you let that cat live.”
Buster is leaving the Army office when he runs into that black woman from the beginning of the episode. He tells her he has nowhere to go, and she decides to take him in. Turns out, her name is Ophelia Love, and she is Herbert Love’s wife. She thinks taking Buster in will help Herbert compete with Lucille 2, who adopted a hispanic child (Maeby’s kinda sorta boyfriend, Perfecto) to help her image with voters. Buster is a veteran now, and his hand is a great example of government waste, by the Love’s standards. Herbert is hesitant, but agrees, and is soon trotting Buster around at his events. Buster kinda likes it too, until he winds up at the fundraising event that that Lindsay and Marky Bark planned to sabotage. Buster is nearly blown up by Marky’s stunt, and decides it’s time to start spending more time with Ophelia and her kids instead of with Herbert.
Which lead to that kiss… which Buster responds to with confusion. When he said he wanted to take the relationship to the “next level”, he meant adult adoption. But Ophelia insists that Buster has been flirting (“Mother stuff!”), and shows Buster photos of Herbert with a prostitute. Ophelia gives Buster the same speech about wanting a lover and not a son that Lucille 2 gave him, and Buster eventually sleeps with Ophelia.
The next morning, he’s elated. He goes to the prison and tells his mother that he doesn’t need her anymore. He’s not a Motherboy anymore, he’s a motherman. On his way out of the prison, he runs into Michael who has just left the fight with Gob at The Little Ballroom and is going to tell Lucille she’s out of the movie. Buster signs over his rights for the movie, then heads back to tell Ophelia that he ditched his mother for her. Unfortunately, Ophelia has told Herbert everything, and he wants to fix things. Ophelia admits she used Buster to get back at Herbert, and kicks Buster out. Feeling lost again, Buster decides to get back at Ophelia and Herbert by stealing the pictures of Herbert and the “prostitute” and giving them to Lucille 2.
He finds Lucille 2 at Cinco and gives her the pictures, but she’s confused when he says he wants to hurt Herbert Love. She’s never known Buster to want to hurt anyone. He says he hurt his mom by missing her trial, but he’s over it now (suuuure)… which is when Lucille 2 admits that she is to thank for that. She apparently got him all hopped up on sugary juice drinks the night before the trial to intentionally make him miss it. She somehow thinks telling Buster this will make him feel better, but it clearly doesn’t. He walks away furious, wanting to hit something and finds a juice stand. He has a couple of drinks, then runs into Herbert Love, the perfect target for his rage. Buster knocks Herbert unconscious with one blow of his monster hand.
Annnnd this is when the blowback riot starts. Somewhere on the pier, the Fantastic Four musical is going on, Lindsay is giving a political speech, and Michael has just tried to seduce Lucille 2. High on juice, Buster tries to get out of the frenzy and winds up at the stair car, where he finds Lucille 2 is slumped on the steps. She is illuminated only briefly by the lights of fireworks. It goes dark, and when the next fireworks flash of light illuminates the stairs again, she’s gone and the place she was laying is covered in blood. Or something that looks like blood. And that’s when Buster realizes he’s in direct view of a security camera. And when he remembers that he’s signed over his life rights for the movie.
On the next Arrested Development… Buster goes to George Michael to ask if he can borrow Fake Block, intending to use it to cover his tracks. Then he visits the security office. When the guard leaves him alone in the office, Buster plugs the USB with Fake Block loaded on it into the computer… and then loses himself in dancing to the beat of the wood block sound it starts playing. Of course, he doesn’t realize that this is also being filmed.
Notables and Callbacks:
– Buster’s “biggest fear wasn’t confronting a wet, loose seal, it was losing one.” Excellent loose seal/Lucille wordplay at the beginning of the episode as the police take a dripping wet Lucille away!
– Buster sitting at the sewing machine completely naked, talking to someone who isn’t there as he creates the Lucille doll!
– The box of crackers Buster pulls out of the cabinet has a recipe for “Mock Mother’s Pie” on it. The recipe serves 3-5, exactly Lucille’s prison sentence. Also, the miniature liquor bottles that spill out of the box read “not available behind bars”.
– Buster tries to visit his mother in prison dressed as Alex Trebek, who Lucille apparently once dated.
– The drone program is run out of a mini-mall. The sign outside of Buster’s little work space says “We do not validate Quizno’s parking”.
– Lucille quotes “Getaway”, saying it might as well have been written for her own son, meaning Buster. She has no idea that “Getaway” was actually written for her own son, Gob.
– Buster says Herbert Love has gotten himself into some hot ham water, referring to the pictures of Love with a prostitute. He doesn’t realize the “prostitute” is his sister Lindsay, who was the inventor of hot ham water.
– References to Buster being a “monster” abound!
– Hot mess! Hearing Buster and Lucille throw around the expression “hot mess” cracks me up!
This is a difficult episode to review. The first time I saw it, I enjoyed it, but it also made me sad. Buster is so damaged and very much like a child in many ways. It was painful to see him get used, hurt and abandoned over and over again during the course of one episode. I know this has always happened to him, but it was always mixed in with other stories. The single character focus of each episode this season meant that most of Buster’s abuse to was crammed into a brief 35 minute time frame.
That last betrayal by Ophelia, and him (again) wondering aloud what he was going to do this time, made me hurt for him. Then the episode ended with him getting violent. Again, Buster’s child-like mind is to blame for this, but it was hard to watch. Tony Hale did a brilliant job portraying Buster’s pain and anger without losing the ingrained naivete and underlying innocence of the character.
I have watched the whole series again, though, and I honestly enjoyed this episode much more the second time around. I guess once I was prepared for the level of abuse thrown at Buster in one episode, having already seen it, it didn’t have as strong a sympathetic emotional response and was really able to enjoy it. There was some really great gags and wordplay thrown around, and my love for Buster is still intact.
What did you guys think of this episode? Have any of you rewatched it and changed your opinion? How bad do you think this looks for Buster should an AD movie ever actually be made? And what the heck do you think actually happened to Lucille 2? Surely Michael didn’t kill her, right?! He seems to be the last family member to see her alive, and in the first episode of the season, the narrator only tells us he did “something unthinkable”. What are your thoughts? Give us your Two Cents!