TV Throwback Review: Party Down (1×04) “Investors Dinner”

Party Down (Starz)

Party Down (Starz)

“You know what they say about a gun in the first act.” – Casey

Things get pretty crazy in this week’s episode of Party Down. More so than the previous three episodes, “Investors Dinner” demonstrates just how far Rob Thomas, Paul Rudd, and company were willing to take the abject craziness of the Party Down events. While the first three episodes may have ended in absurd moments, none of those come close to Ron putting a gun to his head under the false impression that it’s a prop. Nothing comes close to him peeing his pants at the revelation, and nothing comes close to his incredibly pitiful stammering monologue about the movie Witness, Amish crowds, and little boys.

The titular Investors Dinner is hosted by Tony Carolla (Daran Norris). The dinner is, seemingly, an opportunity for Carolla to pitch a group of businessmen on investing in a seaside town in Baja. Eventually, Henry and Casey discover that the “investment opportunity” is a scam–unfortunately, they’re too late to save Ron, who has easily convinced Carolla to take his life’s savings–ten thousand dollars–and to invest it into the (unbeknownst to Ron) bogus Baja town.

This is a terrific episode all around. From Roman and Constance’s running debate as to the meaning behind the name of the TV show Baretta to Constance’s dramatic interpretation of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” “Investors Dinner” is consistently hilarious and often poignant.

An example of said poignancy lies in Ron’s story arc. From his pathetic begging of Tony Carolla to allow him to invest his meager savings; to his brave, triumphant, climactic speech; to the eventual revelation that causes him to pee his pants and curl up on the floor quaking like a small child, every beat of his storyline is funny and emotionally resonant. Ken Marino is perfect. I often find similarities between Ron Donald and Michael Scott, but it is in this episode that Marino comes closest to achieving what Steve Carell achieved consistently  throughout his tenure on The Office: he makes Ron an extremely sympathetic figure as well as an extremely buffoonish one.1x4 Ryan and Kellum

In other news, Kyle becomes chummy with one of the potential investors, a rich kid named  Kellum (Ryan Devlin). They bond over their mutual douchiness and sleazy L.A. attitudes, eventually making plans to go to a club after the dinner. Constance butts in awkwardly, wanting to be one of the guys (“I’m a great wingman, so if you guys are looking to nail some babes…”). Noticing her social abnormalities, Kellum immediately begins to taunt Constance mean-spiritedly; Constance, who is naïve to the point of blindness, doesn’t even notice. Kyle does take notice, however, and he is noticeably upset at Kellum for taking advantage of Constance. The episode ends with Kyle telling Kellum that he’s going to meet him at the club; in actuality, he invites Constance to hang out somewhere else.

Party Down gets pretty heightened at times, but it is regularly terrific with human drama. I tear up every time at the end of the episode  when Constance responds to Kyle’s invitation with pleasant surprise. It’s a touching moment in a delightful ongoing friendship between Kyle and Constance. Ryan Hansen and Jane Lynch are both spectacular.

Henry and Casey’s arc is less entertaining than the others. There is some funny stuff, such as Casey’s fable of the pancake lady and Henry’s revenge on an asshole investor, but overall, Henry and Casey serve two functions in this episode: to discover Tony Carolla’s scam and to progress their relationship to the next level (friends-with-benefits). They do have a sweet moment when they hear that Ron is investing and immediately rush to try and save him, but that’s about it.

(Henry and Casey running to save Ron from a dumb investment is again reminiscent of The Office, where Pam and others were constantly saving Michael from his own uninformed financial decisions.)1x4 Roman, Casey, Henry gun

“Investors Dinner” is classic Party Down and an integral episode for the show. It’s a great example of the show’s ability to balance multiple tones and a great showcase for all of its remarkable stars. It shifts the focus significantly away from Henry for the first time, giving other members of the ensemble more screen time to great effect. I’ve not even mentioned Roman, and he gets some of the best lines in the episode. Every aspect of Party Down shines in “Investors Dinner.”

“Investors Dinner” Rating: 9/10

Soup’r Crackers Quote Corner

“I’m a waiter like Einstein was a patent clerk, you asshole” – Roman

“The only way I’m Googling you in ten years is if you get very creative in the way you kill yourself.” – Roman, to Ron

“Hey Henry, you’re aware that Soup’r Crackers is the fastest growing non-poultry non-coffee franchise in all of Southern California, right?” – Ron

“You can’t shoot me in front of all these people ‘cause it’s like the movie Witness where all the Amish people are standing around and they can’t shoot the little boy because they they’ll have to shoot all the people and I’m the little boy–so everybody, go get him! Rush him! He’s–rush this guy!” – Ron

 

Eli is a 20-year-old film student living in Boston. He spends quite a bit of his free time consuming pop culture and media: movies, TV, podcasts, etc. He is an aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker and will almost certainly “make it” one day. His favorite filmmakers are Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, Paul Thomas Anderson, Martin McDonagh, and the Coen Brothers; his favorite movies are Punch Drunk Love, Amelie, Once, O Brother Where Art Thou, and In Bruges. A true contrarian, Eli believes that Christopher Nolan, Marvel, and small children are overrated.