Heading into the season, I didn’t expect Elliott would be the one who unraveled first. He’s not exactly even-keeled, but he seemed to have a powerful survival instinct, and he’s the most practiced liar of the four. When they had to deal with Keith’s body, he took the lead, talking down any suggestion to call the police, knocking Chantal out with sleeping pills, and sending Dory and Drew off to buy shovels. But he’s also the one who shits himself in the middle of a party thrown by the town of Chappaqua to honor the foursome for rescuing Chantal. Maybe it’s his way of expressing the fear that they’re all struggling to hold in.
They’re back in Chappaqua because the town is presenting them with a key to the city. Dory, in keeping with the episode’s title, “Paranoia,” thinks the ceremony might be some “twisted” ploy to catch them, but as per usual, her intuitions are completely wrong. Chantal’s family and friends really are gathered to celebrate the “closet heroes,” as the State Senate hopeful Mary Ferguson calls them in her presentation speech. “There are people out there doing good, just for the sake of doing good!” Maybe, but those people are not portrayed on Search Party.
When Dory is summoned toward the podium to accept her key, I wondered if she’d fall to her knees, like she did before the puppet show, but she stays upright, even though she’s gripped once more by terrible flashbacks from the night of the crime. When Elliott hisses at her to say something, she manages to come up with what must be one of the more surreal acceptance speeches in the history of key-to-the-city ceremonies: “This is such a big key. I don’t know if I’ll ever find a door big enough for it.” Like Alice in Wonderland, if Alice were a felon.
Mary Ferguson doesn’t seem to mind Dory’s bumbling. After the ceremony, she approaches Dory to compliment her on her words. “I see a really unusual power in you,” she says. Dory is surprised and moved by this compliment; after all, this kind of recognition is what she spent much of last season yearning for. Remember when she burst into tears at the Leading Women to Lead interview? Her hunt for Chantal was driven by her desperation for someone — anyone! — to see her potential. As it turns out, though, Mary Ferguson hasn’t so much recognized Dory’s potential as she has recognized her “lineage.” Dory’s parents are from Iraq, and Mary needs to increase the diversity on her campaign staff by 30 percent.
That Dory goes for this offer is unsurprising: She really needs something to do with her time besides hallucinate about Keith. But I didn’t think that Julian would follow suit. Julian seems genuinely awed by Mary’s presence, and when she extends her job offer to him, he is even more eager than Dory to accept. Is this an indication that Julian’s character arc will take a darker bent this season? Or is this just a writers room ploy to get Dory and Julian together in more scenes?
While Mary is wooing Dory and Julian, Drew has decided to cut things off with Chantal — great timing, by the way, to engineer a breakup just moments after hugging the girl’s “meema.” Then again, she’s served her purpose. Drew just dated her to make Dory jealous, and now Dory has discovered their tryst. Between his casual use of Chantal and his ruthless determination to sabotage his colleague, good boy Drew has clearly embraced his dark side. When Agnes confronts the foursome about her aunt’s missing interior-design award, Drew is the only one able to come up with a convincing lie on the spot.
Agnes seems to buy Drew’s kleptomania fib, and there’s a palpable exhale of relief from the group, but it’s short lived. Agnes soon delivers the news they’ve been dreading since Drew smashed that interior-design award into the back of Keith’s head: A body was found in the woods near the house.
Meanwhile up in Montreal, NYPD detective Joy Hartman has driven out to survey the grave. (“Any excuse to get out of the city,” she tells the local mountie on the case.) It seems fitting that the detective is a bit off-kilter — she’s scared by the sound of her own car door slamming — but she doesn’t need to be an ace to solve this case. It’ll be easy enough to connect Dory to Keith, and after that, there are any number of witnesses who could place Dory and the others near the scene of the crime: Chantal, the guy at the hardware store where they bought the shovels, Mathieu, and of course, Agnes.
Back in Brooklyn, Portia is ranting about how she’ll die in prison because everyone will be so jealous of her — a.k.a. Portia’s go-to excuse for any conflict. “They’ll resent my bone structure and sparkling personality and kill me!” she shouts. But Dory seems energized by the news. “Guys, we are a really great team,” she says. “If we just put our minds together and think for a second, we’ll figure this out.” Given that both of these statements are demonstrably false, Drew is right on the money when he calls Dory on her bullshit. “I feel like you want things to go bad so you can go on one of your little adventures,” he says coldly.
In the subsequent screaming fight, Dory accidentally lets it slip that she wrote an email to Keith’s ex from his computer, pretending to be him. Dory may have sensed that the others would be troubled by this decision, since they had to more or less drag it out of her, but she’s still shocked by their torrent of rage. It’s in the midst of this chorus of screams that Elliott’s nervous breakdown reaches a new, frenzied peak. Stripping off his clothes, revealing the hives covering his body, he shouts for someone to bring him ice. Even in the worst of times, Elliott maintains his high standards. “I just need two to six bags of ice — and it must be fresh!” he shrieks, staggering out into the night, clothed only in boxers and socks.
In the season’s sixth episode, “Obsession,” Elliott continues his descent into madness. He’s resumed writing his book on strips of paper towels while ordering Mark to cover all the windows with tinfoil. When Portia tactfully suggests he goes to a doctor for his rash, he waves the notion away — as long as he’s never exposed to the sun again, he’ll be “totally fine.” Once Portia leaves, he arranges all the strips of paper on the floor of the apartment. “I think if I can just make the strips flow, then its going to be easy for me to see where the story problems are!” he exclaims, laughing with delight. (Is it just me, or does this seem like a totally accurate portrayal of the writing process?)
Elliott ends the episode in a treatment center called Hallways — he’s sent there by his editor after he shows up unannounced at her brownstone and tries to grab her baby — but none of the others are faring much better. Drew is devoting more and more energy to taking down his co-worker Alan, one of the few characters we’ve met who actually seems like a decent person. Portia is falling under Elijah’s sociopathic spell. At a rehearsal, she launches into an impromptu defense of the Manson murders. “I really think good smart people have the potential to make really big mistakes,” she exclaims. Her fellow actors seem disturbed — “I wouldn’t call the Manson murders a mistake,” says one — but Elijah is obviously intrigued by her admission of susceptibility and weakness. He bestows Portia with a nickname (Northstar!) and invites her over for dinner, where he tells her that she’s dangerously beautiful and promises that he won’t let anyone take advantage of her ever again. If they’d written this season after Harvey Weinstein’s fall, Elijah would probably be out of a job by now.
Dory, meanwhile, is having a shitty first day at Mary Ferguson’s campaign headquarters. First, someone spills coffee on her. Then, a stranger she cold-calls to pitch Ferguson’s candidacy tells her that she sounds sad, and Dory can’t resist this invitation to open up, creepy as it might be. “Everyone hates me,” she says. The guy listens for a minute, then gets to what feels like the inevitable point: a demand for fellatio. Dory hangs up, shocked. But it’s the phone call from Elliott’s editor that seems to break her, delivering the news that Elliott’s heading for treatment. “He does have a message that I am reluctant to relay,” she tells Dory. “He wanted me to let you know that it’s all your fault.” Hard to argue with, when you get right down to it. Episode four hinted at suicide, with Dory hallucinating dead Keith’s offer to “join” him, but now we’re past hints. Up on the roof, Dory walks right to the edge, and pictures herself jumping.
If she doesn’t kill herself, jail time now feels like a real possibility. And not only because Detective Hartman is inching closer to the truth. (She knows about Dory now, and about the email that Keith’s ex received after meeting Dory.) But the police might not be the group’s biggest problem. Late at night, all alone in the office, Drew returns to his desk to find flowers on his desk. The accompanying card has an accusation: “You murdered someone!” Of all the characters we’ve met, who is passive aggressive enough — and knowledgeable enough — to send these murder flowers? Chantal seems the obvious suspect.