First airdate: 7 November, 2005
Written by Ron Weiner
Directed by Lev. L Spiro
Now we get to the point where everything started to go to hell for Arrested Development. After “Forget-Me-Now” aired on the first Monday of October, 2005, it took over a month until the show returned, which it did with a pair of episodes on 7 November, “Notapusy” and “Mr. F”. And it was then another four weeks until the next episode after those, “The Ocean Walker”. This all coming in the midst of one of the show’s few true protracted narrative arcs, and one uniquely ill-suited to being dragged out (it’s incredible how much better the Rita episodes flow in a systematic re-watching than when they first aired, or in cramming them all in one sitting, as I have always done since then), and besides, such schedule juggling is pretty clearly a sign of a show’s impending death (which as I recall was officially announced sometime in December of 2005). It was a dark time to be an AD fan, the autumn of Aught Five; but many years later, with the magic of DVD to keep us and guide us, it’s not as desperate and horrible, and each new episode doesn’t feel like the pronouncement of a dying god. Which makes all of them seem much less special, and also much more enjoyable.
And boy, “Notapusy” sure is enjoyable – much more than I recall, though not nearly enough to unthrone “Forget-Me-Now” as my favorite Rita episode. If it’s even fair to call it that: Rita appears briefly in the beginning and end, and her use of a (non-existent) British slang term kickstarts the plot, but she’s mostly kept offscreen, along with the spy parody plot that gives the episode its undeniably strained title (an Octopussy reference, if you’re not up on second tier James Bond pictures). In its place is whole litany of wacky jokes running the gamut from political satire (this is one of a very tiny number of overtly satiric Season 3 episodes) to broad physical humor to quite a bit of the show’s customary smut; it’s not as uncompromisingly dirty, nor as clever about it, as “The Cabin Show”, but it’s pretty bold, and perhaps emblematic of the network’s disinterest in the show at this point, that the episode can get away not just with structuring its plot around the word “pussy”, but also with a scene where George Sr. tells a roomful of gay teens about being fondled in prison.
Not all of the comedy lands, certainly, and it hasn’t aged as well as many episodes; the Bush-era jokes about bullet-susceptible Humvees and the encroaching religiosity of the “don’t call it a crusade” war in the Middle East are one thing, but the Jamie Kennedy Experiment references are just damn befuddling, having already been a bit too obscure for comfort back in 2005. And certainly, the loopiness of a lot of the humor is cheap next to the wit and complexity of a really top-notch AD episode: there’s dirty jokes told with intellectual flair and then there are puns that exist solely to sneak the phrase “camel toe” on the air. Though I giggle like a toddler at “I’ll put a [bleep] in my mouth and think of you”, so I probably don’t know anything.
Anyway, even if “Notapusy” isn’t the kind of AD story that requires a chart to explain why some of the more complicated punchlines are funny, at least its simpler, broader humor is pretty consistently funny: Steve Holt’s! training regimen for Michael (and the accompanying power ballad, a testicle-based rock parody that feels like something out of South Park) is a fantastic example, or the motif of George-Michael being easily terrified and a physical weakling. It’s kind of dumb comedy, but enthusiastic, high-energy dumb comedy made with skill and excellent comic timing.
And it’s not like “Notapusy” is entirely free of smart writing: most of the stuff centered around the Church & State Fair represents the show’s wordplay in full flower (“Blue State in the Red”, “all the crucifixins”, even the phrase “Church & State Fair” itself), and the use of foreshadowing here both in the short-term (the Rita reveal to come in the next episode starts to be very heavily suggested), but also all the way up to the series finale; as the show entered its final phase and started to wrap things up, it began to discard foreshadowing and rely ever more heavily on callbacks, and “Notapusy” is perhaps the last great gesture in that direction, obvious in retrsospect that it’s nearly impossible to understand how anybody couldn’t see it coming, and yet I don’t know a single person who did. I promise to clarify whatever the hell it was I just said when we get to the last episode.
No, it’s not a terribly sophisticated episode, and some of the strongest moments are a bit auto-pilotey (particularly those things involving Tobias and Lindsay); and the Tobias hair-plug plotline makes its first lurch into the dark, ghastly places it will end up in an otherwise inexplicable one-off joke. But the show was rich enough at this point that it could still be awfully funny without pushing itself very hard, and while there’s not much about “Notapusy” that’s memorable in and of itself, I spent almost the whole thing laughing pretty hard, which is ultimately what matters most.