Original airdate February 8, 2004
Written by John Levenstein & Jim Vallely
Directed by Joe Russo
Production Code #1AJD11
“A Valentine’s Day speech from Michael unwittingly upends the Bluth family’s love lives. Marta consequently develops feelings for Michael, but neither he nor Gob realize, and both come to believe she’s having an affair with a man named “Hermano.” Meanwhile, Tobias books a meaty film role, just as he and Lindsay undergo a trial separation, forcing the cousins into an undesirable new living arrangement. Buster is similarly displaced after a break-up, while Lucille discovers joy in solitude, as per George Sr’s caged wisdom.”
NOTE: Deconstructing Arrested Development openly discusses spoilers when relevant (which can include episodes that come later in the series). Readers who have not seen the series in its entirety are advised to proceed at their own discretion.
Romance is one of the most prominent narrative forces in the sit-com landscape. No matter how unconventional the show or how unlikable the characters, almost every entry in the genre explores its characters’ love lives in some capacity. It’s completely understandable as to why; after all, there are few things in this world more universal than love, just as there are few things that can reliably generate story ideas than a relationship. Arrested Development rarely broaches the subject in quite the same manner as its contemporaries, but it’s still a major driving force in the show’s storytelling. So it’s telling that the show puts its romantic relationships front and center in its twelfth outing; one which was intended to function as Arrested Development’s penultimate installment (or at least the first season’s) had the network not picked up the show for more episodes beyond its initial order of 13.
Marta Complex is generally considered to be the first multi-part episode in the show’s run. Arrested Development would never title its multi-part episodes in a way that explicitly denoted them as such (outside of the Cinco de Cuatro three-parter that closes out the Season 4 Remix), but for all intents and purposes, Marta Complex and Beef Consommé meet all the criteria of a two-parter; every storyline in the former episode is unresolved when the end credits roll, carrying into the latter episode, where most are concluded. Though granted, when it comes to a show as heavily serialized as Arrested Development, the term “two-parter” has very different connotations to what would usually be expected from a sit-com. If anything, the show’s multi-part episodes are more in line with those of network dramas, where serialized stories are told in an episodic framework, and multi-parters are typically reserved for key points in the season.
So, how does Arrested Development – a show that goes out of its way to not be like other sit-coms – handle a Valentine’s Day episode? By placing most of the family’s romantic relationships in turmoil, of course. Much like In God We Trust, Marta Complex doesn’t quite meet the definition of a “holiday episode” so much as it is an episode that’s set during a holiday (though it certainly does more to incorporate the theme of its respective holiday into its story). The Valentine’s Day party in the first act isn’t even technically a Valentine’s Day party, as Michael has coerced an unknowing Lucille into throwing the gathering for Lindsay and Tobias’s anniversary. That theme of deception is present all throughout the episode, though amusingly, it’s an innocuous, well-intentioned speech from Michael that proves to be the catalyst for everyone’s romantic anguish.
The biggest ripple this sends is through Gob and Marta’s relationship, as the latter finds herself falling for Michael, and actively trying to court him before officially ending things with Gob. It’s an overheard phone call that leads Gob to believe Marta is cheating on him with a man named Hermano – the Spanish word for “brother.” It’s partly amusing because, to the unknowing ear, “hermano” actually does sound like it could be a person’s name, though mostly because of both Gob and Michael’s self-absorbed ineptitude; neither man is able to identify a pretty common Spanish word, despite respectively dating and desiring a woman whose first language is Spanish. The Bluth family’s incomprehension of the language has already been on display several times, and would continue to be a source of humor throughout Arrested Development’s run (particularly in seasons 2, 4 and 5, when the show actively utilizes LA’s proximity to the border in the narrative). Arguably one of the first season’s most memorable, the “hermano” storyline feels like a point of culmination in many ways; both the aforementioned Spanish runner, and the Gob/Marta/Michael love triangle, which has been simmering for eight episodes now.
If there’s any story device as ubiquitous to sit-coms as the love triangle, it’s the “will they/won’t they.” Michael and Marta still very much meet the criteria at the moment, but there’s no denying who the show’s central “ship” is. There are sit-com couples who seemingly eclipse almost all else about the show they’re on (to the point where terms like “Sam and Diane” and “Ross and Rachel” are instantly associated with their respective shows, even among those who’ve not seen Cheers or Friends). Arrested Development can’t claim immunity, no matter how debauched the specifics of its “will they/won’t they” relationship may be. In fact, Marta Complex makes the first explicit suggestion that George Michael’s deviant crush on Maeby might not be as wrong as it seems. While there are still many twists and turns ahead when it comes to the question of the cousins’ relation, what transpires here is undoubtedly one of the most major developments in the story. I don’t believe Arrested Development wants its viewers to actively root for them to get together, but it certainly wants to challenge our perceptions of their relationship.
While George Michael finds good news in the wake of a negative development, the exact opposite happens to his new roommate, Tobias. His recently-fired acting coach Carl Weathers has pulled a few strings to get Tobias an audition for a small part in a film (presumably with the hope it’ll appease Tobias just enough to nullify his requested refund). It’s a part so small, he isn’t even the first “Frightened Inmate” on the call sheet, but Tobias is genuinely ecstatic about it… at first. The reveal that the role requires nudity is a brilliant way of marrying together both of Tobias’s main storylines so far: His career as an aspiring actor, and his psychological inability to be nude. Now that the show has a decent number of episodes under its cut-offs, more coalescence is beginning to emerge between its seemingly unrelated story arcs. This long form narrative dovetailing is something Arrested Development’s writers would lean further into with each subsequent season, just as the pay-offs thereof continue to grow more elaborate and audacious.
These aren’t the only storylines Tobias is juggling, either. In the wake of his and Lindsay’s fourteenth anniversary, their marriage hits its lowest point in the series so far. The couple would come to experience many ups and downs – mostly downs – as their relationship gradually dissipates over the first 4 seasons; in fact, this slow, painful decline is probably one of the most realistic elements of the Fünke’s marriage. The couple switching rooms to each live with one of the cousins is… a less relatable concept (excuse the pun), but when viewed in context with all the future developments to come, it’s an oddly logical early step in their drawn-out separation. Unfortunately, I cannot say I feel the writers fully realize the potential of this temporary living arrangement (I certainly wouldn’t have minded them drawing the arc out a few episodes’ longer, if only for the guaranteed hilarity that is George Michael and Tobias alone in a room together). But few images better encapsulate the Fünke marriage than the split-screen shot of Tobias proudly yelling “You could have been sleeping with Frightened Inmate #2” as an unaware Lindsay does her nails while making Maeby blow-dry her hair; both husband and wife showcasing their highest personal priorities, each oblivious to the other.
Another relationship actually does meet its end in this episode – at least, for now – as Buster and Lucille 2’s taboo romance finally buckles under the pressure of its 2 biggest barriers: The meddling of Lucille Bluth, and Buster’s inability of differentiate the roles of lover and mother (the latter ostensibly being an extension of the former). When Buster attempts to move into the Austero penthouse, Lucille 2 quickly hits the brakes, bluntly asking him if he’s just doing so to get even with his mother. Buster’s response exhibits just how deeply ingrained Lucille’s influence is: “This isn’t about my mother. Besides, it’s the only way I’m ever going to get her to respect me.” But any opportunity for self-reflection is quickly squandered, as Buster inevitably blames the break-up on Lucille 2’s gentleman caller (not that Carl Weathers should be trusted, though I do genuinely believe his primary interest was the free food). It’s a bit of an unceremonious season 1 send-off for Lucille 2 and Carl Weathers, though of course, this wouldn’t be the last we’d see of either character. Seeing as the book is far from closed on Buster and Lucille 2’s relationship, the somewhat abrupt end to this story arc works just fine for the time being. Not to mention it frees Buster up romantically to entangle him in the A plot, which produces some hilarious material in the next episode.
Arrested Development’s story arcs can generally be classified as either “short form” or “long form,” but neither category adheres to any particular template, and Marta Complex contains numerous examples that demonstrate this point. The show’s shortest arcs will usually only span two or three episodes total (ie. Buster’s brief relocation to the model home, which concludes in two episodes’ time), though there are larger short form arcs that can last twice as long (ie. Tobias’s new film role, which continues over the next four episodes). The long form arcs, however, tend to take up the bulk – if not the entirety – of a season (ie. George Sr’s stint in Orange County Prison), with the show’s most ambitious arcs lasting even longer (ie. the larger narrative of George Sr’s legal battle). But really, it’d be futile to try and codify the show’s serialisation, as the lines between short and long form arcs are often blurred; for instance, George Michael’s investigation of Maeby’s origins comprises 2 episodes – seemingly making it a short form arc – but bears relevance to an extended long form arc when brought up again in season 3.
To that end, the Gob/Marta/Michael love triangle (now something of a quadrilateral, with Buster’s newfound infatuation) is a prime example of an arc that defies categorisation. The arc spans eleven episodes – precisely half the season – though Marta only plays a major role in four of those. Then there’s the fact that Gob continues to seek retribution from Michael after the arc’s conclusion, which only makes things hazier as to exactly where this arc “ends.” But it’s precisely this lack of uniformity that makes the show’s approach to serialisation so thrillingly unpredictable. When a new plot thread emerges, one can never be sure exactly how things are going to go; it could be over by the time the credits roll, but it could just as likely determine the narrative trajectory of many episodes to come. The show doesn’t just keep an impressive number of balls in the air at all times, they’re balls of all different shapes and sizes, and it’s never quite clear when any of them are going to drop (a sequence of words Tobias has almost definitely said at some point in his life).
Marta Complex also functions as a spiritual sequel of sorts to Key Decisions, the episode in which many of these story arcs originated. It was in Key Decisions when Michael first developed feelings for Marta, and ultimately chose not to act on them. Here, the tables are flipped; it’s Marta who realizes she has feelings for Michael, while Michael erroneously believes Marta’s values – the thing that attracted him most to her in the first place – have been compromised. Gob also enlists Michael’s “help” with Marta in both episodes, only to have it backfire in the long run (and by choosing to do this rather than spending time with her himself, Gob only contributes to the key impediment in their relationship – his unavailability). In addition to being among the show’s most grounded and character-focused, both episodes are tinged with underlying tragedy and pack gut-punch endings; Key Decisions sees Gob recommitting to Marta and immediately regretting it, while Marta Complex closes out with Michael realising he may have just blown everything with her. The episodes even conclude with the same words:
Originating in Key Decisions, it’s a line that gets reintroduced to viewers earlier in the episode, in the form of a two-shot flashback of Gob breaking up – and then reconciling – with Marta. Despite both shots consisting of the same characters exchanging the same five words, delivery is everything, each putting the line in very different contexts. This versatility makes “I’ve made a huge mistake” a perfect Arrested Development catchphrase (not to mention how wholly it encapsulates one of the show’s key themes). Already a solid catchphrase by any metric; it’s short, instantly recognisable, and immensely quotable. But Arrested Development loves to play with the manner and context in which its catchphrases are deployed, and “I’ve made a huge mistake” is a sequence of words that can be applied to countless possible scenarios. It’s largely why the show’s approach to running gags is so often singled out; even when a punchline remains the same on paper, Arrested Development will always try to put a new twist on it each time it’s uttered. To that end, the catchphrase is taken to its most creative heights yet here, much in the same way Marta Complex also builds on the episode that first introduced the phrase.
Comedy-wise, Marta Complex peaks early, never quite topping the rapid-fire hilarity of its opening act (not that any show could be expected to do so after a show-stopping moment like the “speech” chant, which remains one of the show’s most beloved gags to this day). But this episode is arguably less concerned with being funny than most others; in fact, its final scene clocks in at over 2 and a half minutes with little-to-no comedy, in a creative decision that only emphasizes the sorrow of Michael’s closing realisation (a fitting choice for an episode where major realizations are a recurring theme). Even though Marta Complex is simultaneously setting up the next episode, mirroring a prior episode, and serving as a holiday-themed installment, it never feels “too busy” – perhaps on account of the very coalescence mentioned earlier, which helps streamline many of the show’s disparate narratives. It’s a downright pivotal episode too; one that takes many of the first season’s story arcs and either spins them towards their natural conclusions, or throws a wrench in the works to ensure they won’t remain exactly the same going forward. As we approach the mid-season finale, Marta Complex is ultimately setting the Bluths up for consequences and repercussions – not unlike a well-intentioned Valentine’s Day speech.
LUCILLE: You tricked me.
MICHAEL: I deceived you, mom. “Trick” makes it sound like we have a playful relationship.
“Lupe, untie the balloons!”
(Lucille later asks “Lupe, where are those balloons?!” An off-camera Lupe can be heard responding “You want balloons?”)
“There was somebody for a little while, but it was too much of a brother… bother.”
TOBIAS: Do you see me more as the respected dramatic actor or more of the beloved comic actor? (goes to empty his leftovers into the trash)
CARL WEATHERS: Woah, woah, woah! There’s still plenty of meat on that bone. Now, you take this home, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato? Baby, you’ve got a stew going!
TOBIAS: Yes, that’s fine, but I would like to focus on my acting, Mr. Weathers. I did give you my last $1,100.
CARL WEATHERS: Let me tell you a little story about acting. I was doing this Showtime movie – Hot Ice with Anne Archer – never once touched my per diem. I’d go to Craft Service, get some raw veggies, bacon, Cup-A-Soup… Baby, I got a stew going!
TOBIAS: ….I think I’d like my money back.
GEORGE MICHAEL: “Maybe tonight.” What are the chances?
NARRATOR: Actually, “Maybe tonight” was a very popular candy slogan, and the chances were one in eight.
LUCILLE 2: Do you like ham?
CARL WEATHERS: No… I love it.
GOB: Speech, speech, speech…
EVERYONE: (chanting) Speech, speech, speech, speech, speech, speech, speech, speech, speech, speech, speech, speech, speech…
“The family continued to chant ‘speech, speech, speech’ to no one in particular…”
“Speech, speech, speech, speech, speech, speech, speech, speech, speech, speech, speech…”
GOB: … Speech.
MICHAEL: …Gee, after all that, I was kind of hoping somebody would make a speech.
BUSTER: Speech, speech, speech!
MICHAEL: All right, I’ll say something.
MICHAEL: Cheers to mom and dad, to Buster and Lucille…
BUSTER: Don’t forget my girlfriend!
MICHAEL: That’s who I meant. To Lindsay and Tobias, to George Michael and… I almost said George Michael and Maeby.
GEORGE MICHAEL: (laughs uncomfortably) Oh!
LINDSAY: I was thinking about that toast you gave at my anniversary party. So, I want to get a divorce.
LINDSAY: Do you think I should use our attorney Barry, or just kind of bolt in the night? I’m leaning towards “bolt in the night.”
(When Michael subsequently reminds Lindsay she has a child, Lindsay clarifies “I was going to take her with me in the night. She’s part of the bolt.”)
“In fact, Tobias was a never-nude. As of yet, the DSM-IV has not acknowledged the affliction.”
“Can I throw out this yoghurt?”
“Buster, two things. First of all, it might be time for you to move out. And secondly, you don’t want to take any chances with yoghurt, mom. Just let her throw it out.”
“Hello? Who’s on this phone?”
GOB: Great speech last night.
MICHAEL: Really? What did it inspire you to do, kill somebody?
MICHAEL: That’s crazy, Gob. She’s not a cheater. If she were to cheat, I’d like to think she’d cheat… you’re the cheater!
GOB: That’s how I know all the signs! Last night she was all distant and weird. Wouldn’t let me make love to her on mom’s bed. I don’t even want to tell you what she wouldn’t let me do to her in the car.
(The line about Lucille’s bed was actually written as a callback to an earlier moment in the episode, which wound up getting cut for time. Luckily, the joke works equally as well as a nonsequitur!)
MICHAEL: If anyone’s going to go out with that girl, it’s going to be one of us.
GOB: Right. Me.
MICHAEL: And I’m okay with that.
“We’re all just going to have a more normal arrangement. I’m going to sleep with my daughter, and you’re going to sleep with my husband.”
Buster confronts Lucille:
CARL WEATHERS: This is just purely a social call. You know, just two adults getting a stew on, man.
BUSTER: I don’t know what that means, but it sounds disgusting.
LUCILLE 2: Buster, this is exactly why our relationship does not work.
BUSTER: Our relationship doesn’t work?
LUCILLE 2: No, not as long as you keep getting me all mixed up with your mother.
BUSTER: It is exactly the opposite. I’m leaving my mother for you. You’re replacing my mother.
GEORGE SR: There is joy in solitude, Lucille. Try being alone. It-it just might make you happier. Honey, my happiest times here are alone. (addresses guard) Hey Bruno, any chance that the hole is available between 4:00 and 6:00?
LUCILLE: I don’t even want to know what that means.
Buster realizes Marta is the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen:
“…I’ve been dating an old lady.”
MARTA: Thank you so much for the lovely party and for making me feel so welcome in your family.
MICHAEL: Yeah, sure.
BUSTER: We love you! …Can I, can I stay here for a little while?
MICHAEL: Well, everybody’s already sharing a bedroom but me, Buster.
BUSTER: Oh, perfect.
GOB: (on the phone to Michael) She’s at the house. She’s at the house!
MICHAEL: One second.
GOB: I’m gonna speak very carefully in case she’s with you.
MICHAEL: You’re right.
GOB: Right about what? She’s there? What’s going on? Who’s with you? If it’s Marta, say “nobody.”
GOB: Well, now I don’t know what’s going on.
“The competition frightened Tobias, which he felt he could use in his performance. Unfortunately, this made him more confident, which frightened him again.”
“Isn’t this fun? It’s like a slumber party. Ooh!”
LINDSAY: We’re having a little fight right now. But don’t worry, darling. Okay? Mommy and daddy aren’t going anywhere.
MAEBY: Okay. I’m going to go unpack my suitcase.
LINDSAY: (whispers) No! We may have to bolt.
TOBIAS: Fourteen years of lies. Yes, I’m the doctor. The perfect husband. The big manly man, the big strong daddy… Do you know the last time that I made love to my wife?
GEORGE MICHAEL: No.
TOBIAS: I’ll tell you when…
GEORGE MICHAEL: No, don’t.
“I booked it! I booked the acting job! Did you hear that, Lindsay? You could have been sleeping with Frightened Inmate #2!”
MARTA: Sometimes, working at something, it’s a way to not deal with some other things.
MICHAEL: But… he who often suggests uh, working on another thing, which, when the first… thing, is not…
MARTA: Will you excuse me for a moment?
MICHAEL: Yes. Sure.
MARTA: (simultaneously with Michael) What the hell is he talking about?
MICHAEL: (simultaneously with Marta) What the hell is she talking about?
There’s a debatable long-term continuity error with this episode, as Lucille 2 and George Michael are shown both being present at the same party, while it is stated in season 4’s Señoritis (and again in season 5’s Family Leave) that George Michael doesn’t know who Lucille 2 is; he himself claiming “Never met the woman.” Realistically, I think it’s perfectly reasonable that he wouldn’t remember someone from a party years earlier, though nonetheless, the purported gaffe has stirred up enough discussion to warrant acknowledgement here.
In an issue that can likely be attributed to digital video technology circa 2003/2004, a lot of the night footage in this episode has a particularly grainy appearance (namely Lucille’s drunken montage alone in the penthouse, and Michael’s outdoor dinner with Marta).
This episode’s title is a play on the phrase “martyr complex” (a term that often bears relevance to this show’s characters). It also refers to the developments that occur in the Gob/Marta/Michael love triangle, which effectively make the story arc more complex.
As mentioned in the deconstruction, this episode and Beef Consommé are generally considered to be a two-parter; the first in the show’s run (the others being Altar Egos/Justice is Blind, Out on a Limb/Hand to God, and arguably The Righteous Brothers/The Cabin Show).
This is the first of two episodes to be penned by John Levenstein & Jim Vallely as a pair. The other is Whistler’s Mother.
This is the last we see of both Lucille 2 (Liza Minnelli) and Carl Weathers (himself) this season. Both characters return in seasons 2 and 4, with Lucille 2’s next appearance in Queen for a Day, and Carl Weathers’ in Motherboy XXX. Other recurring characters present in this episode are Lupe (BW Gonzalez) and Marta (Patricia Velasquez), along with the latter’s two children, Amable (Oliver Patrick Sandino) and Cortesio (Casey Sandino).
Actor/writer/comedian Bashir Salahuddin also has a brief cameo as the prisoner in George Sr’s Caged Wisdom video. He is best known for his recurring roles on GLOW and Looking (along with a slew of other small tv parts over the years), and, more recently, being the co-creator and star of Sherman’s Showcase and South Side. He is one of the few actors to have played multiple characters on the show, returning in season 5 for the role of David ‘G-Man’ Barnes (one of The Guilty Guys) in The Untethered Sole and Saving for Arraignment Day.
The clip of Carl Weathers from Predator appears again in season 4’s Smashed (in an inexplicable “Celebrities I Know” portion of Tobias’s acting reel)
Lucille’s line to Lucille 2 – “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” – is a reference to the 1967 film of the same name, about a white daughter who brings her black fiancé home to meet her family.
Carl Weathers’ line about ham – “No. I love it.” – would later be repeated by Steve Holt in season 3’s For British Eyes Only, this time on the subject of magic. George Michael also says a variation on the line in season 5’s Emotional Baggage (“I don’t like hot dogs… I love them”).
When Michael returns to the penthouse and reminisces at the end of season 5’s Self-Deportation, echoes of audio clips from previous episodes can be heard – the most prominent of which is the “speech” chant from this episode.
This is the introduction of Caged Wisdom, a series of religious self-help VHS tapes George Sr. releases during his Judaism phase, complete with a pitch-perfect infomercial:
Caged Wisdom is brought up a few times throughout the series, sometimes as a running joke (ie. appearing as an Amazon listing in Let Them Eat Cake), other times as a plot point. Later this season, in Shock and Aww, Caged Wisdom gains George Sr. a genuine follower, whose devotion to the tapes also proves an important plot point in Altar Egos. In season 2, Tobias then refers to the tapes in Motherboy XXX when he is cast as George Sr, donning a yarmulke and a prison jumpsuit accordingly. Later, in season 4’s Borderline Personalities, George Sr. starts a new self-help scam using the funds from his Caged Wisdom sales (with the narrator summarizing George Sr’s endeavor as a “brief stint as a Jewish-y guru”).
This is the second time the family’s inability to understand Spanish has been played as a plot point; the first instance being Marta’s accidental kidnapping of Helen Delgado in Charity Drive (though the runner itself was first established in Key Decisions).
While the Bluths’ incomprehension of Spanish comes up at many points throughout the series, the “hermano” misunderstanding from this episode receives several specific callbacks (in addition to its continuation into the next episode, Beef Consommé): In season 2’s The One Where They Build a House, George Sr. repeatedly says what he believes to be the Spanish word for brother – “brothero” – while season 4 has the mirroring lines of “it’s adios, brothiero” and “it’s adios, fathiero” (said respectively by Michael in Flight of the Phoenix and George Michael in It Gets Better). A subsequent misunderstanding also plays out around the word “primos” (“cousins”) in season 5’s Self-Deportation.
Buster’s declaration of “I can blow myself” marks the first of several puns the show would make about autofellatio (though it’s Tobias who would immortalize a variation of the gag in The One Where Michael Leaves).
Tobias’s “Frightened Inmate #2” story arc begins here, continuing through several episodes this season; most notably Staff Infection and Missing Kitty. This plot unfortunately fizzles out in the latter episode, though a more substantial conclusion was filmed for Missing Kitty and released as a deleted scene on the season 1 dvd (the footage briefly appearing in season 4’s Smashed, during the same acting reel scene mentioned earlier). Lindsay also confirms Tobias was fired from the production in season 2’s Motherboy XXX, where we also learn he had an “INM8 2” vanity plate made up.
This is the first time the show has overtly called into question Maeby’s relation to George Michael, as Tobias casually mentions that he and Lindsay had difficulties conceiving (although Maeby’s very name serves as the show’s earliest hint; “This is George Michael’s cousin, Maeby/maybe”).
While George Michael ceases his inquiries into Maeby’s conception in the next episode, he eventually discusses it with her in season 3’s Exit Strategy. The same episode finally gives us our answer once and for all as to whether or not Maeby is Lindsay’s biological daughter (though, due to a series of similarly soapy twists regarding Lindsay, it isn’t until the series finale The Fallout when we receive definite confirmation as to whether or not the cousins are blood related).
This isn’t the only time Michael bribes the son of a love interest with a treat in exchange for information on the other man in their mother’s life. He would do so again with Rebel Alley’s son Lem in Queen B. (this time with what he believes to be Dove bars).
Lucille’s “alone in the penthouse” montage is later mirrored by Buster in season 2’s Spring Breakout, complete with the same song (“Rose’s Turn” from the musical Gypsy – which is actually referenced again in the next episode, Beef Consommé).
The scene would also come to be recreated almost shot-for-shot in the Archer episode “Happy Borthday,” in one of the show’s numerous allusions to Arrested Development.
The Spanish dialogue Buster repeats in the “On the next” translates to “I love you very much.”
Marta Complex has a total runtime of 21 minutes and 54 seconds, and is rated TV-PG-LV.
Lupe continues to wear hand-me-downs from two holidays behind (a subtle running gag that began in In God We Trust). This time she can be seen in a thanksgiving sweater:
Maeby can be heard blowing bubbles into her soda several times during the party.
The brief cutaway of Gob listening in on Marta’s phone call is a callback (excuse the pun) to earlier in the episode, when Lucille also attempted to eavesdrop on a private phone call. Both mother and son’s attempts at covertness are thwarted by oblivious third parties simply going about their business.
Michael’s visit to Marta’s set contains a brief continuation of a running gag established in Key Decisions, wherein Spanish soap opera actors are shown portraying children via wigs and painted-on freckles:
The makeup artist can also be seen checking out Michael as he leaves to pursue “Hermano.”
When Tobias moves into George Michael’s room, he unpacks several pairs of cut-offs:
If you’ve ever read up on Arrested Development’s background jokes, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about this running gag (though if not, it is very easy to miss due to its sparse and subtle deployment): Tobias is actually a black man with albinism.
There are two hints in this episode. The first being a black Tobias doppelgänger present at the Frightened Inmate #2 audition (he’s actually the only auditionee who we see acknowledge Tobias):
And the second being Tobias’s statement about Lindsay: “The only reason she ever married me was to piss off her mother”; Lucille’s racial prejudices being well established throughout the series (though it should also be noted that, in the series finale, The Fallout, we learn Tobias has been the Bluth family’s therapist for a long time – his associations with the family dating back to when the Bluth siblings were still teenagers – so the line could also be an allusion to the inappropriate origins of Tobias and Lindsay’s relationship; though this episode’s specification that they’ve been married fourteen years indicates they wouldn’t have actually gotten together until Lindsay was in her 20s).
There are more hints of Tobias’s true ethnicity scattered throughout the series, which will be covered as they come up. Supposedly, these were all intended to lead to an eventual storyline (or some sort of pay-off) the writers concocted early in the show’s run, but never quite managed to work into the show. The earliest hints are actually present in the show’s initial promotional images (including the family photo seen at the end of the intro alongside Mitchell Hurwitz’s credit), where Tobias is sporting a dashiki, a garment of clothing worn mostly in West Africa:
The narrator’s final line of dialogue – “Buster rebounds from Lucille 2” – can also play as the equally apt statement, “Buster rebounds from Lucille, too.”
A lengthy chunk of footage was cut from the opening scene, immediately following Lucille’s cry of “Untie the balloons!” (which is also shown from an alternate angle, this time with Lupe remaining in the background of the shot the whole time).
LINDSAY: Y’know, it wouldn’t hurt you to support Tobias and me, we’ve been married fourteen years.
LUCILLE: God knows why. Sometimes I think you’re in it just for the cake.
BUSTER: (spanks Lucille) Good one, mom! (giggles)
LUCILLE: What the hell was that? A son doesn’t spank mother!
BUSTER: I’m sorry. I got my Lucilles confused… (spots Lucille 2 walking nearby, then runs up and spanks her)
LUCILLE 2: What the hell was that?
BUSTER: I don’t know… You don’t spank mother!
LUCILLE 2: Yeah, we can add me to that list.
BUSTER: … Okay. Noted!
(the camera pans over to Lucille’s bedroom, where Gob and Marta emerge)
MARTA: … And I don’t see what makes it so “doubly good.”
GOB: Because it’s Valentine’s Day and it’s my mother’s bedroom. Dos bueno!
MARTA: It’s disgusting and it’s wrong.
GOB: Right, doubly good! (Gob heads into the kitchen as Marta lingers at the doorway, looking increasingly disillusioned)
6 thoughts on “Season 1, Episode 12: Marta Complex”
I kept thinking I had read this but uh……….nope. I love everything about this episode though, the “hermano” subplot was hilarious. George Michael’s quest to find the truth about Maebe. The party.
I forgot that this was Lucille 2’s final appearance of the season. Her presence seems to loom over so many storylines it feels like she’s there more often than she really is.
Baby, we got a stew going
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You missed a reference! When Lucille introduces Carl Weathers to Lucille 2 she says “guess who’s coming to dinner?” which was the title of a famous 1967 film about a white daughter who brings home a black fiance.
I love the inept way Buster bundled up his things in a blanket and just dragged it behind him when he left. You can later see a stuffed elephant in there, too.
The point you made about the model home’s stereotypical boy’s room for George Michael carries over here where we see that Maebe’s room is terribly girl, pinks and so on everywhere. And also, fairly not fitting for her.
You nailed this show’s approach to catch phrases too. Rather than just be a “hey he said the thing!” sort of repetition, they usually spring them back up on us in unexpected ways and from unexpected characters, and as we know, “the unexpected” is one of the well springs of comedy. Each time “I’ve made a huge mistake” pops up here, it gets better and adds more comedic value.
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“…we see that Maebe’s room is terribly girly,” I meant to say.
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It’s actually Tobias and Lindsay’s room – Maeby had been rooming with George Michael up to this point, then switched places with Tobias in this episode.
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Whoops, you’re right.
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Oh damn, great catch! I’m pretty sure I even had that notation up in the original write-up too, haha. Thanks for that – it’s been added to the notes.
It’s *perfect* that Buster’s notion of starting a new life is just “hobo with a bindle,” likely modeled after whatever old-school pop culture Lucille exposed him to. I’m sure he just assumes that’s how everyone does it when they leave home.
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