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Party Down Recap: The Truth Shall Set You Free

Death comes to Party Down this week. No, it’s not a cliffhanger and none of our favorite CSI’s caterers meet a shocking end (although Ron does end up hotboxing himself in a closed coffin). Instead it’s the (barely) catered funeral for Frederick Walter Ellison, a pillar of the African-American community, a loyal, loving “crockpot” to his wife of many years, and, as we soon learn, something of a crazy adulterer. But that’s not all we learned! We also learned that partying with Seth Rogen gets you super hung-over, Henry is (maybe?) an excellent actor, and that the secret to the blues is giving up your belt and picking the shrimp out of mini–shrimp puffs in a way that is not at all meant to suggest picking cotton.

So, yes, there was a lot to take away from this episode of Party Down, but because we, like Roman, believe in honesty above all else, we feel compelled to admit that this was also the weakest of at least the first seven episodes of this stellar second season (we’re willing to wager that it’s the weakest of all of them, but we can’t bring ourselves to watch the last three yet because we want to savor them. Even though our wife keeps trying to sneak them on because Adam Scott “completes” her). The twisty shenanigans of hiding the sloshed mistress were amusing but a little forced (farced?), and while we could watch Ron sing the blues in his “blues accent” all day, we’re happy that his time as a sweaty, stoned slacker is coming to an end. (Treating a coffin like a marijuana hyperbaric chamber will do that to a guy — even one that had to repeat first grade because he couldn’t “figure out” scissors.) Also? Too little of Henry and Casey fight-flirting! Although the goofy way Lizzy Caplan says “crockpot” does help. As does the delightful mocking of Roman’s script about an intelligent fungus.

Yes, the MVP this week wasn’t Lydia (although Megan Mullally’s delivery of “Yay! Singing!” was typically aces), it was Roman. Few characters are better constructed to be so idiotically and cluelessly offensive as our resident prestigious blogger, and when given the opportunity to put his foot in his mouth, he did not disappoint: From correcting a black couple on the correct usage of “jungle fever” (and even offering “fjord fever” as an alternative) to then double-checking his definition of the term with a youthful product of said fever, Martin Starr proved yet again that he does deadpannishly dickish like no one else. Best of all was this exchange with the deceased’s harried daughter, Mary, about whether to tell her mother about the presence of a love child at her perfect husband’s funeral:

Roman: “The truth shall set you free. Martin Luther King”
Mary: Actually, that’s Jesus.
Roman: Also black.
Mary: Shut it, white boy.
[She exits.]
Roman: It’s obvious who has the racial issues.

Party Down at its worst is still better than 99 percent of television at its best. Unfortunately, 99 percent of television seems to get better ratings than Party Down. Math! Right, guys? Anyway, Steve Guttenberg shows up next week and it’s a classic. Also classic? Casey’s wordless reaction to the arrival of Frederick Ellison’s Asian mistress and his other love child. We’ve said it before (mostly via creepy anonymous comments on our favorite blog), and so we’ll say it again: No one — no one! — gawps like Lizzy Caplan.

Photo: Courtesy of Starz