Search Party Recap: Ghosting in the Machine

Search Party

The Riddle Within the Trash; The Return of the Forgotten Phantom
Season 1 Episodes 7 - 8
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
John Early as Elliott, Meredith Hagner as Portia.

Search Party

The Riddle Within the Trash; The Return of the Forgotten Phantom
Season 1 Episodes 7 - 8
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
John Early as Elliott, Meredith Hagner as Portia. Photo: TBS

In “The Riddle Within the Trash,” Search Party takes a brief detour from its central mystery to tell three very different stories about seduction. There’s the physical seduction of Dory by Keith, which happens during their investigation. There’s the attempted seduction of Drew by his sexy, screwed-up neighbor, April (Phoebe Tyers). And there’s the emotional seduction of Elliott by Julian, who’s writing a profile of “Pour,” Elliott’s suspiciously self-serving Ugandan water-bottle project.

The funny thing is, the most obvious of these seductions is the least successful. April brings Drew an extra taser she happens to have lying around (she spotted him putting notes under people’s doors — in Spanish and English! —  about the break-in) and then strips off her clothes before trying on Dory’s cropped sweater.

“Who looks better in it, me or your girlfriend?” she coos. “I think you, uh, both have a certain charm,” Drew says.

“What does she do to turn you on?” April says, dancing around the apartment. “Does she dance for you?” “Yeah, at weddings,” he answers, sheepishly.

April proceeds to get more vivid, describing in not-so-subtle detail what Dory should be doing to him (“Does she sit on your big, fat snake?”), and then tries to kiss him. He squirms away, stammers, “I have a girlfriend so I can’t do this,” and she’s out the door a minute later. Can I just say that I have come full circle on Drew and now I totally love him?

Julian’s seduction is more sly. I’m not sure if he goes into the assignment thinking that Elliott is a liar, but he figures it out pretty fast. Elliott’s lymphoma story always felt a little convenient, like something he trotted out to make himself seem insightful and profound. Still, it never occurred to me that Elliott was actually lying — I mean, who does that? — I just thought he was exploiting his past. But Julian picks up on a glitch in the timetable: Elliott says he was sick when he was 15, the exact same time he was making his triumphant high-school stage debut in Mack the Knife. Julian flirts with him a bit, gets him to open up, and then starts grilling him about his illness. Feeling trapped, Elliott flees.

The final seduction is the one I didn’t quite see coming. Keith and Dory head back to Bellow & Hare, where they run into Pia, who is scrubbing the floors with a toothbrush. (Seems like a pretty harsh punishment for a subpar blow job.) After snatching the trash for clues, they escape down the street and Dory flashes a look of pure joy. At Keith’s apartment, they comb through the garbage, mostly turning up dead ends. But Keith talks about that special tingle you feel when a clue materializes. That’s when Dory discovers the second part of a check from TW Brownway, the firm where Lorraine claimed to have been a “Head Realtor.” The check is for $7,000 … and it was made out to Bellow & Hare.

At first, Keith says that TW Brownway probably just owns the building and it’s a rent check, but Dory points out that the check is made out to Bellow & Hare, which makes no sense. This eureka moment is so intense that Keith admits his wild attraction for Dory — “If you knew all the things I want to do to you right now” — and they fall into each other’s arms.

After they have sex, Dory wakes up to discover that Keith has a hideous tattoo, his apartment is a complete pigsty, and he has a chin-up bar on his bathroom door. Also, he has an antagonistic ex-wife and a daughter. Oh, and he thinks he’s in love with Dory. Not good.

Making matters even worse, the euphoria of discovery has totally worn off. Keith mentions that TW Brownway also cuts rebate checks for taxes, so that probably explains the payment. Consumed with regret, Dory slips out of Keith’s apartment while he’s in the shower.

Drew is waiting for her when she gets home. As he cautiously confesses what happened between him and April, Dory starts crying, out of guilt, and Drew is so such a perfect boyfriend in this moment, so adorably contrite and worried, I want to write “I WILL NOT SAY BAD THINGS ABOUT DREW” 100 times on a blackboard as penance for mocking him.

By the time “The Return of the Forgotten Phantom” begins, the ish has officially hit the fan with Elliott’s lymphoma. Julian’s story, called “The Millennial Who Cried Cancer,” refers to a “mewling, woe-is-me tales of a childhood with cancer.” Ouch. So Elliott does what he always does — he runs to Portia, who’s still reeling from being killed off on Surviving Essex. Much to his surprise, she’s pissed.

“All this time that we’ve been friends, you’ve been completely lying to me?” she says, aghast. “Not just you,” he says. “I’ve been lying to everyone.” (As if this somehow absolves him.)

Elliott then tries his luck with Marc, whose willpower lasts for all of ten minutes. Marc thinks he’s gained the upper hand by making Elliott sincerely admit that he’s a liar and narcissist, and they sleep together. You can see that Marc is already thinking about china patterns and vows hand-etched into papyrus scrolls when Elliott gets a call from his agent — he’s getting a book deal — and gleefully bolts without so much as a good-bye.

Elliott races back to Portia’s place, assuming she’ll be thrilled for him — “Put on a dress, girl, we’re going dancing!” — but she’s still hurt and mad. She tells Elliott a whole sob story about how her dad died of cancer and he was her biggest fan and now she doesn’t get to have a dad because of cancer.

This gives Elliott actual pause. “Portia, I am so sorry,” he says. Portia takes a swig of her wine, and then says, with a gleam in her eye, “Now, what if I told you that my dad is totally fine? That he’s a boring ophthalmologist that lives in Park Slope and I was only telling you that story so that you would think I was really cool and empathize with my struggle?” Elliott blinks at her, confused. “Wait, is that true?”

“You tell me,” she says. Damn, girl.

One thing about this falling-out: It highlights the sneaky way that Search Party makes you care for its characters. I didn’t realize how invested I was in Elliott and Portia’s perfectly shallow and simpatico friendship until it was in jeopardy. Likewise, Dory and Drew’s relationship. I’m really rooting for those two crazy kids to make it, and I’m afraid he’s going to find out about Keith. (Dory carelessly leaving her phone on the bed is not a good sign.) I like a show with characters who are believable and relatable enough that you intuitively empathize with them, even if some of them are selfish jerks.

As Elliott deals with the fallout to Julian’s article, Dory has convinced herself she’s done with this Chantal nonsense once and for all. The universe seems to be in alignment with her choice: She goes to a coffee house and runs into the mean lady from the Leading Women to Lead program, who apologizes to her, explaining that she was in a horrible place when she interviewed Dory. From there, after literally being used as a human curtain rod, Dory quits her job with Gail, who takes it surprisingly well. She even runs into Julian, who apologizes for having been such an ass. (When she tells him she’s putting the whole Chantal thing behind her, though, he seems disappointed. “I was hoping you’d prove me wrong,” he says. Ugh. The worst.)

But here’s the thing: Dory doesn’t really want to put Chantal behind her. She just feels guilty about sleeping with Keith. When she goes back to the coffee house to meet Leadership Lady for a proper interview and finds the $7,000 check in her pocket (and sees that her possible future boss is having a complete meltdown over some spilled coffee), she realizes she must continue her pursuit.

Fully back in Dory the Explorer mode, she goes to TW Brownway looking for “Head Realtor Lorraine De Coss,” only to discover that Lorraine was just a temp, probably had her business cards made at Kinko’s and … was run over by a train. She’s dead. (Frankly, having met the horrible cackling witches of TW Brownway, death seems like the better option.)

Totally freaked out by this turn of events — and hearing Keith’s “you learn in PI work, there’s no such thing as coincidence” swirling in her head — she goes over to his place. He’s calls her “kid,” which is what Big called Carrie Bradshaw, so my pop-culture worlds are colliding here. (Livingston was the “break up with Carrie on a Post-It note guy,” in case you didn’t know.)

Dory tells him that Lorraine is dead. “Holy cow,” he says.

“What do we do?” she asks. “Well, that’s the reason I was calling you,” he says pulling out a box of micro-cassettes, of all things. “I found us some new leads.”

Cue dramatic music!

Search Party Recap: Ghosting in the Machine