REGRESSION IS ONE WORD HURWITZ USES TO DESCRIBE SEASON 5. Here are three others: “Where is she?” She (not her?) is vertigo sufferer/Buster luster Lucille Austero, a.k.a. Lucille 2, last seen lying on the stair-car stairs. A determined detective named Lieutenant Toddler (Rebecca Drysdale) is hot on the case, so Lucille 2 “better get back here, because Buster is the one paying the price for her disappearance,” says Hurwitz, noting that the loopy man-child serves as the catalyst for bringing the Bluths back together this season.
Unfortunately, Buster is not so great at clearing his name; in fact, he keeps pointing a finger at himself. “I feel like he is such in a state of arrested development,” says Hale. (Hey! That’s the name of the show!) “All Buster does want in life is safety. It was fun because it felt like taking someone like Buster and putting him in Law & Order. He’s just like, “What the hell is going on?’”
If Buster feels like he’s been through the wringer, so does a certain replacement appendage: his government-experiment superhand melts in the dryer, leaving him with its skeleton. (“I tried to use it a lot,” notes Hurwitz, “because it was $60,000.”) “Since it is mechanical, it did a lot of things that Buster didn’t intend — and also [I] didn’t intend, because someone else was controlling it,” reports Hale of the contraption. “It was a very well-built thing. [But] I’d be doing a line and look down, and three fingers would fall off or five bolts would unscrew. Or I’d feel like a jolt of electricity.”
In a slightly less shocking development, Gob has been reinstalled as president of the Bluth Company. (“I guess he’s Don Jr.,” says Hurwitz. “They do line up pretty well.”) In addition, the clueless prestidigitator, who wound up in bed with rival Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller), is still dealing with the aftereffects of that quasi-magical, confounding encounter. “Really, all he’s trying to do is figure out who he is,” says Arnett. “Gob’s desire to understand his relationship with Tony Wonder takes us to new heights.” This may involve the procurement of a Beard — John Beard’s ex-wife Joannie (Lauren Weedman).
Lucille will forge a relationship — perhaps romantic, perhaps not — with a lawyer-turned-surfer named Dusty (Dermot Mulroney), which will make Buster and George jealous. And in a season of regression, there is growth for the grand dame wielding a martini. While Walter promises that Lucille is “crazy and mean, and vicious as ever… Mitch has really gotten into a little bit of humanity for our Lu. There are multi-layers to Lucille that you haven’t seen.”
Meanwhile, Michael (who’s teaching family self-defense classes, as in how to defend yourself from family members) longs to repair his relationship with George-Michael (who has been working on his broom-based lightsaber moves), after it imploded over their romances with Ron Howard’s daughter, Rebel (Isla Fisher). “As much as he postures as the only goddamn smart one in this cage of monkeys, he’s just as dumb and as dysfunctional as the rest of them,” says Bateman. “He really gets exposed, though, when he’s around his son. George-Michael is like his kryptonite.” And once again, there are fake-outs and fumbling on both sides. “George Michael, who has not been dating [Rebel], is trying to convince his father that he has been dating her, so his father doesn’t feel like he broke up with her for nothing, and Michael actually didn’t really break up with her,” hints Hurwitz. “She’s this avatar for all of their dysfunction.”
Speaking of dysfunction, Lindsay, who has replaced Herbert Love (Terry Crews) on the ticket, is prodded by Lucille into running for Congress against Sally Sitwell (Christine Taylor), who has replaced Lucille 2. Her beyond-estranged husband, Tobias, desperately tries to remain in the family, toiling as Lucille’s therapist and pretending to be Michael in a behind-the-scenes campaign video. (Which sort of explains the flesh-colored mustache.) Slippery, testosterone-deficient George Sr. is hitting rock bottom and secretly scheming ways to kill himself, while master-of-disguise-and-lies Maeby (Alia Shawkat), who has passed herself off as younger and older, is now playing really older: she has a tight wig game and hides out in a retirement community.
In other news, the Bluths give themselves a Family of the Year award, the banana stand has pulled a Lucille 2 and gone missing, and some non-maritime courtroom drama will introduce confused-yet-killer district attorney Lottie Dottie DA, played by Frances Conroy. Through much of these adventures — one of which takes you under the sea — you’ll see literal togetherness from the Bluths, which especially pleased Walter. She not only calls season 5 “off-the-wall, wild, funny,” she deems it the best one yet. “So much of it is the ensemble together, which I think is really important,” she says. “That’s one of the reasons I loved it so much, because we didn’t have that in season 4.”
Arnett agrees — to a point: “I reject the notion that season 4 was the bastard-stepchild season that nobody wants to talk about, and now we’re back to ‘the real thing.’” Hurwitz agrees — completely. “The only thing that pains me is I have to kind of play the game that ‘Oh yeah, it wasn’t their best season,'” he says. “I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. It may not be that appealing. It depends on what you mean by best. It was such a massive, complicated puzzle that at the same time I wanted to be funny. And I wanted to play with storytelling, and I did. We did it. We got through it.” (Hurwitz re-edited those 15 episodes into 22 installments that interweave all of the characters’ storylines, viewing it as a “great challenge” and a way to make the show more viable for syndication. Earlier this month, Netflix released the “remixed” season 4, which led to a brief pay dispute with the actors. It has since been resolved with the stars receiving compensation, sources tell EW.)
After all that season 4-play, when it came to season 5, Hurwitz says with a shrug, “I just made the show like we always did. It usually began and ended with the family together.”
So, is season 5… the end? While the creator already has more misadventures zipping around his head — “It flows so easily out of this cast, it’s hard not to want to do more” — it may be another epic wait. “We’ve always been underdogs,” he says. “Nobody ever got cocky, really. We’re still just trying hard. So actually, the every-few-years thing works great for me, because it’s hard to get a laugh through to that screen.”
That may not sit well with the woman who doesn’t care for the Sitwells. “I’ll be too old in five more years,” quips Walter. Bateman is open to a Bluth-ercise video: “It would be a combination of small muscle exercises that Michael knows how to do,” he explains. “Lot of shoulder lifts with his workbag—you can probably work your traps pretty well.” But Arnett is thinking bigger. And darker. “I like the idea that we’re all working towards Arrested Development: Last Bluth Standing,” he says. “Mitch has written out versions where each one of us is the last person, depending on who lasts the longest, and I predict it will be me. Yeah, I’m going to outlive everybody.” Or at least that dove in Gob’s jacket.