One of the many aspects of Arrested Development that makes it so friendly to super-fandom is Mitch Hurwitz’s penchant for saturating the show with internal references, rewarding dedicated viewers with jokes so dense that multiple re-watches are almost a necessity. In anticipation of Season 4, unleashed upon the world just five days ago, NPR even compiled a handy infographic charting all the running gags packed into the show’s first 53 episodes, from the stairs car to the banana stand. So it’s little surprise that Hurwitz’s creative carte blanche at Netflix resulted in more recurring laughs and extremely meta moments than ever. Some were on the obvious side — oh, stair car, how we’ve missed you — but others were so subtle, fleeting, or just plain underhanded they’d be easy for even veteran AD devotees to ignore. But of course, that’s why we have the Internet. Here are some of the most obscure self-references packed into the fourth season of the story of a wealthy family who lost everything (and its members, who had no choice but to keep themselves together).
G.O.B. covers his own song
Early in the season’s first episode, Michael catches sight of something G.O.B. wishes he hadn’t when the younger Bluth son shows up at a Sudden Valley model home to lick his wounds after a highly traumatic Cinco de Cuatro. This prompts G.O.B. to force-feed Michael his very last Forget-Me-Now, the roofie pill almost everyone will recognize from earlier seasons. What everyone might not recognize is the repurposed melody from G.O.B. and Franklin’s dubiously tasteful single “It Ain’t Easy Being White (It Ain’t Easy Being Brown),” which G.O.B. uses to serenade Michael while pinning him to the floor. Since “It’s So Easy to Forget” wasn’t delivered by an African-American puppet and lasted all of three seconds, even Franklin devotees can forgive themselves if this particular throwback slipped them by.
The Phoenix airport mural
Kicked out of a UC Irvine dorm room by his only child and his niece/said child’s girlfriend, Michael dejectedly makes his way to Phoenix, only to find an unflattering profile in an in-flight magazine and a swelteringly hot desert city. Devoted audience members likely enjoyed Michael’s brief visit to Arizona more than he did, however, since the airport scene featured the mother of all Easter eggs: a giant mural packed to the gills with running gags from throughout the show, from the stair car on the far left to the Queen Mary on the far right. In between, you’ll find the banana stand, the cabin on a flatbed from Season 3, and the church from Mexico where G.O.B. debuted his notoriously un-chicken-like chicken dance. Snaps to Hurwitz and the props people who made this incredibly dense tribute happen.
Lindsay recycles a Bluth family banner
Arrested Development‘s prolific use of banners for comedy is one of its signature running gags. From “Mission Accomplished” to “Family Love Michael,” the good people at the Arrested Development Wiki document no less than 17 throughout the first three seasons. When she decides to help out Lucille Austero with her congressional campaign in Season 4, Lindsay makes her a glittery-heavy “I’m for Lucille2 4 Congress” banner in a misguided show of support, honoring the Bluth family tradition. But true to her pseudo-activist style, Lindsay actually makes the sign on the back of a better-known banner from Season 2: “You’re killing me, Buster,” Lucille’s passive-aggressive (or rather, aggressive-aggressive) contribution to Buster’s army acceptance party. It’s also not the first time the banner’s been repurposed; it was adapted to say “Welcome Home, Buster” after the youngest Bluth was honorably discharged on account of no longer having a right hand.
Are recovering addicts “Feeling Blue”?
In Tobias’s latest disastrous attempt to jump-start his acting career and save his loveless marriage, the Bluth family’s resident “analrapist” decides to take Lindsay to a “Method 1” acting clinic. Unfortunately for him, it’s actually a methadone clinic for recovering addicts, leading to plenty of cringe-inducing scenes where Tobias critiques addicts’ personal stories of hitting rock bottom like they’re dramatic monologues. In addition to a bunch of “Act Now!” posters that likely contributed to the misunderstanding, the clinic’s walls also sport a “Feeling Blue?” flier, a quick nod to Tobias’s stint as an understudy for the Blue Man Group, numerous scenes covered head to toe in blue makeup, and what might be his most iconic line from the original three seasons. “New start” aside, it looks like Tobias blue himself once again.
“Mr. Mister” Makes an Appearance
While George Sr. vents his frustration at learning the property he once thought straddled the border is actually located in Mexico (and thus can’t be sold back to the government at a profit) to incompetent attorney Barry Zuckerkorn, a cart cleverly called “Mr. Mister” passes briefly in front of him. The cart’s name isn’t just a lame pun on its merchandise (or a reference to the ’80s pop group); it’s a brief throwback to the “Mr. Manager” joke from Season 1, when George Michael’s excitement at his promotion to supervisor of the Bluth’s Famous Frozen Banana stand leads him to get a bit too creative with his job title, much to Michael’s chagrin. Bonus, more obvious Easter egg in the George Sr./Oscar plotline: even before the brothers start switching places, George Sr. selling lemonade to parched executives harks back to Oscar’s attempt to make use of his lemon grove in prior seasons.
Mr. Banagrabber becomes a knife store mascot
Fans could be forgiven for missing the return (after a fashion) of G.O.B.’s beloved Segway-riding banana as the mustachioed logo of Thin Wally’s Knife Store. After all, they were probably more excited by the cameo appearance of private investigator Gene Parmesan, manning the counter and inexplicably sporting a hairnet. Still, before Michael and G.O.B. bust through the wall after getting into a fistfight in the much safer ball pit zone next door, we get a brief glimpse at a cowboy-booted knife that looks an awful lot like Mr. Banagrabber. Presumably neither G.O.B. nor Michael has the animation rights at this point; otherwise, Thin Wally’s would be getting a call from Barry Zuckerkorn sometime in the near future.