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Party Down Season Finale Recap: We Belong Together

This is how the Party ends, my friends. Not with a bang, but a wedding. Still, if this is the end of the line for the most critically adored/commercially ignored sitcom since Arrested Development (R.I.P.), then what a way to go. “Constance Carmel Wedding” rescues Jane Lynch from the misery of her Glee mega-success, allowing her one last go at her greatest creation: the delightfully dippy Constance Carmel, star of Dingleberries, notorious drunk dialer and, now, soon to be wife to Howard Greengold, a sleazy, septuagenarian producer with an oxygen tank, a bum ticker and a set of what I believe is referred to in the lecher community as “happy hands.” (In a coup, Howard is played by Alex Rocco. It's easily his best role since the glory days of The Famous Teddy Z (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Famous_Teddy_Z)). And Constance’s wedding has everything you’d expect from a New Age-Jewish ceremony: dramatic confessions of love, high-test marijuana cookies, an emo song that might be about the Holocaust and Henry finally maybe embracing the good kind of crazy. Also: Patrick Duffy!

Each of our beloved Pink Ties gets to shine in what could be (should be? will be?) their final catered event, egged on to goofy new heights by the peerless Lynch. Clueless as ever, Constance’s real joy at seeing her old workmates is also barbed. “How’s my favorite bartender?” she asks Henry before gushing, “you guys look the same!” The only person who doesn’t get a warm welcome is Lydia, who introduces herself as “your replacement!” leading to all sorts of delightful, passive-aggressive undercutting. (Seriously, we’d watch a Mullally/Lynch sitcom. The height difference alone = comedy gold!) Ron doesn’t fare to well either: his noisy entrance seemingly causes Howard to drop dead — only to pop back up again laughing at his hilarious “little joke.” Love this guy!

Anyway, Ron has bigger issues than potential manslaughter: namely that Danielle, his soulmate (they finish each other’s food, er, sentences) is a guest at the wedding along with her cuckolded fiance, Stuart Zune (you know, of Zune Bouncy Houses). Also there? Danielle’s dad, Bolus Lugozshe, the head of Party Down catering and the man about to give Ron his dream job at the company just as long as Ron doesn’t do something stupid, like steal his precious daughter away from his beloved soon-to-be son-in-law. Problems!

Meanwhile, Roman is ignorantly nibbling on three wildly potent pot cookies that will, according to their hippie creator, “make your colon sing.” Soon Roman is calling the paramedics from the bathroom, not because his colon is doing the Jeff Buckley version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” but because he’s asking people to take off their “sun helmets” and generally being the funniest super high person we’ve seen on television since Jennifer Coolidge in the last episode of season one. (It’s not all bad for Roman: after being led on a spirit quest that involves imagining himself as a self-devouring serpent, he dictates what may well be his masterpiece to the helpful hippie who jots it all down on a very large roll of toilet paper.)

What else? Kyle, when not laughing at Roman’s Vision Quest, performs a song written specially for Constance, his fellow misunderstood Aryan, with his band Karma Rocket. After taking the time to butter up an elderly Jewish powerbroker by explaining what emo is (reminds us of our book tour!), Kyle takes the mic to perform “My Struggle,” a song he thinks is about making it in Hollywood, but judging by its lyrics about money, conspiracy, trains, and giving people numbers, it’s actually about the Holocaust. Or as he puts it, the “Holo-what?” Classic.

As for Henry, when he’s not cleaning up urine in the Ladies Room, he’s busy reading a script called Velour that Kyle is up for a part in but, being Kyle, doesn’t understand. Henry is really into it, showing Casey a new side of him: the side that kinda cares about stuff. But the two are soon drawn into a dispute over a last minute pre-nup that Howard’s icy daughter (played by Cassie from Eastbound & Down!) is demanding her father sign before he marries that “cunt spending our fortune on scented candles.” The wedding itself is a wild one: Ron declares his love for Danielle and gets decked by the justifiably aggrieved Stuart for his trouble and Patrick “Duffles” Duffy tries to win Constance back by reminding her of the time they made love in a glider plane over the rainforest and again in the waterfall where they crashed. But no dice. Constance is in love. (“Gold digger actress pursues wealthy producer with a heart condition,” sputters Howard’s daughter. Constance: “Oh, I know. It’s like a fairy tale!”) Also, she was drunk when she left an hour long message on Duffles’s voicemail. Back to Dallas for you!

Of course, Constance and Howard’s wedded bliss lasts as long as it takes for their “Just Married” limo to get halfway down the driveway. Howard dies in the backseat. Oh well. But! He signed his pre-nup as “Jack Shit.” Constance gets the money! All is well!

Except all is not well: Casey finds out her heralded scene in the “Apatow movie” has been cut. Henry tries to comfort her but Casey calls him on it: “Maybe if we were the same kind of crazy but we’re not. Because if you’re not crazy enough to believe it for you than how can you believe it for me?” she asks before walking away. And for a second it seems like Party Down is again going to end a season by ripping apart hipster America’s number one dream couple. But the next day, at a “Monday Bar Mitzvah” (natch), Henry isn’t there. “He had something to do,” Casey is told. And slowly a creeping smile of realization spreads across her face. And we’re out on Henry going in for an audition. Ready to actually try again, one more time. Crazy? Maybe. But at least this time it’s the right kind of crazy.

So! A hilarious end to a great season but also a tonally perfect one. There are no instant successes in Party Down — except maybe for Ron, who one day after nearly losing everything and getting punched in the nose is now happily co-habitating with Danielle, still in line for his dream job, and even adopting a talking bird. The fact that the struggle continues for this group of lovable, self-deluding losers actually makes us think that the show could survive and even thrive in a third season without its tiny, talking-bird-like leading man (who is now committed to the almost-as-wonderful Parks & Rec): with Henry acting again, we could foreground Casey as the one struggling between disillusionment and dreams, and god knows Lizzy Caplan is up for anchoring a show. We could watch her for days and not necessarily for the same two reasons that Howard Greengold can.

Godspeed, Party Down. This year alone you brought us Guttenberg and Duffles, a man hotboxing himself in a coffin and the most comfortably casual relationship on television. You will be missed. Even if you never did teach us, exactly, which parts the flanks are on a woman.

Photo: Courtesy of Starz