The penultimate episode of Arrested Development Season Four, Off The Hook, is our first real foray into the world of Byron “Buster” Bluth. Sure, we’ve seen him around – most notably in an early episode with Lucille using him as a smoking device – but what has his life been like without his mother around? The answer to that appears to be messy, weird, army-based and full of Love. Herbert Love, that is.
Buster’s episode is pretty wonderfully streamlined; because he’s never done much that doesn’t involve the Lucilles, it’s effective to see him trying to find a new one. Lucille Austero offers Buster some respite before, and after, Lucille Bluth is taken from Buster, but Lucille 1’s neglect riles him up more than Lucille 2’s affection ever could. Naturally, she hates that, and Buster is left lost and alone.
And so Buster signs back up to army, only to serve as a drone operator, but due to an accident, the army gives the man a hand out. A nice, big hand. A giant hand that he can barely operate. Then, they send him out into the world, where he finds himself shacking up with Herbert Love’s family as a good spokesperson for the Love campaign.
The budget army jokes have been done many times before, and in this episode they’re not as funny as they could be – although a sequence involving testing Buster’s new hand with a kitten reaches a sustained level of teeth-clenching comedy – but when Buster moves on from this part of his life, things do pick up. Buster becomes a bully-stopper in school and, eventually, a Blind Side Monster to Herbert Love, which makes Herbert’s wife want to commit adultery with him. Mix all that with Buster’s giant hand, which always does odd things at inappropriate times, and Buster’s very cartoony existence in the universe makes for an offbeat, silly slice of Arrested Development that is much needed after the serious George Michael stuff.
35 minutes is still too long with Buster – an opening involving a Psycho-like Buster waiting for Lucille is awkward – and there’s some real downtime because not every joke hits, but Off The Hook is certainly funny, and much more focused than the majority of Season Four. It’s just a shame they waiting until the end of the season to throw him in – unless they plan something big for Buster in the finale. Seeing as that’s a George Michael episode, though, it’s hard to see how.
For more on the Bluth’s new outings, read our Arrested Development interview with the case, our chat with Annyong, or our other Arrested Development Season 4 reviews.