Screenshot: Search Party/TBS

The Riddle Within The Trash

Dory’s ruffled a lot of feathers in pursuit of the truth, sometimes even upsetting the very people she’s supposed to be helping. She’s so convinced her search for Chantal is worthwhile that she doesn’t really find her recent actions or encounters that untoward, whether it’s using a friend as bait to try to catch an unhinged person in a lie, or stumbling upon Pretty Princess Penelope’s den/warren of iniquity. Even teaming up with a complete stranger—private eye Keith—doesn’t seem like such a bad idea, not when it could give her the answers she so desperately needs. Now that we’re in the last four episodes of the season, those answers will ostensibly be revealed. But they’ll probably just raise more questions. However the mystery pans out, what will that mean for Dory? Is she going to go into detective work? Will she and Chantal (if she’s alive by the time they do find her) become roommates and sit around smoking weed with a bunch of bowls of milk on the ground? Probably not, because it’s looking less likely that there will be a clear-cut, let alone happy, resolution to all of this.

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Infiltrating the Handmaid’s Tale-lite cult didn’t yield much more info, but their seeming response to it—tearing down the conspiracy collage and leaving a threatening note in its place—isn’t really enough to shake Dory off the case. After consulting with Keith about it, she doubles down and returns to Bellow & Hare, where we see poor Pia scrubbing the afterbirth with a toothbrush. She’s doing so to make up for “offending” Edwin, the leader of the pack. Like Dory, I was too easily charmed by Brick, and I ended up partially shrugging off the rest of the bad vibes from that place. Of course the cult would put its best face forward, which is why you need to look for its seamy underbelly, starting with digging through its trash.

Sorry, I know that’s not a great screenshot; sometimes my damn internet connection makes for some grainy streaming. But do you see how alive Dory looks? She hasn’t looked that happy at any other point in this series so far. She’s also pretty scared, obviously—Pia can really scream. But running through an alley with bags of trash is the most thrilling development since she and Lorraine thought they were being followed. Where the note was just scary, this is Dory in action. She rides this high the rest of the day, which she spends sifting through trash at Keith’s apartment. He reveals a bit more about himself, and that backstory’s like catnip for Dory, whether or not he knows it (he does). Keith talks about making his own path, which has been difficult but will be totally worth it once he finds Chantal.

Like Julian, he has a sense of purpose, and he’s even helping people while he’s at it. The fact that the seemingly most productive people Dory knows are not a part of her inner circle should tell her something, and maybe it does. Lately, Dory’s having the most fun when she’s not with her friends or boyfriend, and when she’s otherwise not behaving like herself. So, despite being surrounded by garbage (a lot of it Keith’s), Dory’s swooning. Keith reveals his intensity about his work extends to Dory, whom he describes as stunning (we all do). He was also right about the fruitfulness of trash, as they find a check from T.W. Brownway, the company Lorraine claimed to work for. It suggests that there’s some connection with the cult, which Brick said had been buying up real estate. (Okay, she didn’t describe it as a cult).

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The check is just the spark needed to ignite Dory’s simmering feelings. Still, she regrets sleeping with Keith almost immediately—the sexy haze around him dissipates when he starts ranting at his ex-wife over the phone. Later, when Drew confesses to his attempted seduction by the neighbor (whose name, if she’s been given one, I have not caught), Dory cries because she’s the one who’s actually betrayed him. But she’s not going to give herself up anytime soon. She’s used to playing the good person, too—that’s part of what the search for Chantal is all about.

It might be the first time Dory’s really considered what she stands to lose if by continuing in her search. She could be thinking that her life’s not all bad, just meaningless. Besides, losing Drew would disrupt the harmony of their little group, leaving her at the mercy of Portia and Elliott, who are roommates. Obviously, she could also just walk away from that terrible twosome, but then what would she do? Dory’s doubts will probably just last until she finds another significant clue, but sitting with them in “The Riddle” shows just how scared of change she really is. So for now, she keeps quiet.

After rewatching the episode, presenting the seduction scenes—Drew and the neighbor, Dory and Keith—in tandem was a smart choice. It shows just how far Dory’s strayed. But even though Drew said no, he didn’t put up a great argument. He had no real reasons for why he and Dory are still together, and his nice-guy shtick extended to telling the topless woman in his apartment that she and his girlfriend both have their charms. Still, it was Dory who gave in, and her present misdeeds might not be negated by accomplishing her goal.

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The Return Of The Forgotten Phantom

Although it’s an obvious fakeout, Portia’s onscreen murder in the opening is thrilling. It’s her scream, according to Duncan, which sounds so real that he and the rest of the Surviving Essex crew “hated hearing it.” We only see blond hair and a hooded man in the woods, but there’s no real reason to think it’s Chantal who’s at the killer’s mercy. It is in keeping with all the mirroring we’ve seen on this show, though—we’ve heard about how much Portia resembled Chantal. But Chantal has also been referred to as someone who could be overlooked, like Dory. Portia’s learning just how indistinguishable she is, as she’s already been written off the show. But cheers to her for going out in a blaze of glory: “It was a pleasure killing you.” It also proves you can’t trust people named Kippy.

Deceit’s been the running theme, though not much of it’s actually been exposed. There’s been plenty of effective teasing leading to actual reveals, but even if people aren’t withholding information about Chantal’s whereabouts, everybody’s lying about something. Dory’s going around assuming that people are keeping something from her, but she’s the one doing the cheating. Nanny Daddy’s obviously up to no good, but his photography hobby’s been forgotten for now. But for Elliott, the jig was up in “The Riddle Within the Trash,” as Julian caught him lying about the whole “I beat cancer” thing. It’s fitting that he gets his comeuppance courtesy of the very New York Magazine profile he sought. Elliott’s so convinced of his own self-worth that he doesn’t wonder why an investigative journalist would want to spill the digital ink on him. But I’m not sure Julian intended to expose Elliott when he began the interview; it’s just that the wannabe philanthropist served himself on a platter by not doing a better job of managing his lies. But it’s rather poetic that Elliott’s inability to keep from bragging about himself–he just had to mention that decade-old high school theater production—was his undoing.

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Screenshot: Search Party/TBS

“The Forgotten Phantom” wasn’t exactly an Elliott-centric episode, but the parts dedicated to his shaming and pending redemption were a treat. No one wears their self-centeredness—or an all-over print—like he does. The snide way he tells Julian during their interview that while he’s certainly comfortable (read: brave) enough to talk about his near-terminal childhood illness, he’d rather talk about how he’s going to help people. This, after raising the topic of survivor’s guilt himself. Elliott thought he’d played Julian, but it turns out the reporter is “a snake in a beautiful man’s body.”

Even though he’s been “lying to everyone all of the time,” Elliott considers himself the victim in this scenario. He’s losing his investors, and worse, people are tweeting vile things about him. That might be the biggest punishment for a millennial like Elliott, who’s used to using social media for affirmation. Not that he thinks he deserves the drubbing—he might beg Marc to take him back (damn it, Marc), but he practically puts air quotes around his admissions of being a liar and a narcissist. At first, his delivery is sing-songy, but he knows how to appear contrite. He’s versatile.

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Screenshot: Search Party/TBS

Elliott also defends himself to Portia by telling her she was just caught in his cancer-lie crossfire before suggesting that Dory’s cheating was worse than his lying to countless people throughout his adolescence. Obviously, Dory tells Elliott about sleeping with Keith, because his judgment, if he has any, wouldn’t really mean anything because he’s a prolific liar. As such, he encourages her to keep the truth to herself. Then he attempts to absolve himself right along with her: “We cannot hate ourselves for wanting to make our lives a little bit more meaningful. We’re two very nice people who made huge mistakes.”

They’re not, though. No one on Search Party really is. They’re varying degrees of awful, and they don’t really seem to be interested in self-improvement. They’re infuriating, likable assholes—even Dory. So Julian shows up like our collective conscience to remind Dory of that fact. Well, he’s speaking more of Elliott than her. His morality is a bit too black and white—bad people do do (heh) bad things, but so do good people, on occasion. Everybody makes mistakes. Dory’s not irredeemable, but she’s starting to walk a fine line. She does try to course correct by pulling away from Keith, giving up her thankless job, and making plans with Drew. But there’s a reason why she ended up in that role, just as there’s a reason why she’s been looking for something more. The question is whether Dory has the guts to figure these things out.

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Naturally, Dory’s journey of self-discovery takes a detour into Chantal-land when she finds the T.W. Brownway check in her pocket. Lorraine’s death is actually a pretty big deal, even though her terrible (or traumatized, depending on who you ask) co-workers cackle about while suggesting it might have been intentional. Alia Shawkat handles the mix of emotions so well here; she’s the youngest person in the room, but the only one to respond properly to news of someone’s death. She looks downright aghast. The gallows humor is just too much for Dory, especially with all the indifference she thinks she’s encountering to Chantal’s disappearance. So she returns to Keith, who’s just dug up a whole box of clues. So much for things going back to normal, eh, Drew?

Stray observations

  • Portia’s mother’s breakdown of Portia’s Surviving Essex character makes me wonder just how “strong and complicated” a character Duncan wrote for her. But at least Portia’s no longer stealing roles from Latina actresses.
  • But Portia’s best acting moment happens off set, when she leaves Elliott in doubt about her father.
  • That’s Phoebe Tyers, another Fort Tilden alum, as Drew and Dory’s neighbor April, the former owner of a taser and new owner of a sweater, some shoes, and what looked like a Modcloth delivery box.
  • Elliott’s poised for a James Frey comeback, isn’t he? I hope we learn the title of his memoir.
  • “Don’t you think it’s stupid that she wants to move to Kissimee?” Maybe.
  • Bye, Gail! Great job with that Rosetta Stone!

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