There’s one truly great sequence in “Brandix Corporate Retreat.” It comes along well into the episode’s running time, just as all of the members of the Party Down crew show up for a team building exercise Ron has insisted they attend. Ron opens the meeting with this insight: “Team meeting. What is the first word in ‘team meeting?’ It’s team.”
There is tons of tension in the room – Henry is under the false assumption that Casey has slept with athlete Rick Fox (who I know literally nothing about, except that he’s funny and charming in this episode of Party Down) and he’s upset and jealous about it. Casey doesn’t get why Henry is being so cold to her. Roman, who also believes that Casey slept with Fox, is similarly jealous; he feels that he owns Casey, he did call dibs on her after all.
So when Ron inanely asks the group for team-building suggestions, Henry isn’t having it. His immediate suggestion is that Ron “[p]ay us double.”
(Constance’s suggestion is that they “should all adopt a homeless person and care for him.”)
When it’s Roman’s turn to make a suggestion, he pointedly states that Casey should “be more discreet.” Assuming that he’s referring to her secret relationship with Henry, Casey lets slip that she and Henry have been hooking up. This sends Roman into an outrage. He did, after all, call dibs. Why doesn’t anyone understand dibs?
Then Henry accuses Casey of sleeping with Rick Fox. This leads to a fantastic scene wherein Henry and Casey discuss the nature of their relationship. Casey tells him, definitively, that she has not slept with Fox, but she wonders why Henry would freak out if she had. Adam Scott is fantastic as Henry in that moment, articulating the idea that it’s natural for someone in Henry’s position to be jealous even if he and Casey had agreed to a casual relationship. Scott’s sheepishness is tangible throughout the whole conversation. This particular aspect of the sequence is especially great because both Henry and Casey have valid points and they lay them out well.
The episode takes place at a corporate retreat, where an office management solutions company has sent its employees for a fun day of team-building exercises. The incredibly talented comedian, writer, and actor Rob Corddry shows up as a corporate sales lackey who offers Henry a boring, nine-to-five job in sales, telling him that his years of experience in acting qualifiy him to be a top-notch salesman. In the episode’s tag, Henry interviews for the position, only to learn that it’s a minimum wage telemarketing gig that would involve sitting at a long table and making calls. (The interviewer, Steve, is played with an epic level of douchiness by Nelson Franklin.)
This is all good stuff. The team-building blowout sequence is fantastic; Henry receiving yet another hit to his career and his ego is just as crushing as it was the last time around with J.K. Simmons. However, and this was the case last week as well, for the most part, this episode is just not very funny. It’s just not. There are a few good lines in “Brandix Corporate Retreat,” but what makes this a good episode of Party Down is the character drama, not the comedy.
Which makes me think about why I have such fond memories of Party Down in the first place. Generally, whenever I think about Party Down, I think of it as an unusual sitcom that is both funnier and more poignant than most. However, it seems like in the latter half of its first season, Party Down places much more emphasis on poignancy than on comedy. Which is a shame, because in its best moments Party Down does both of those things simultaneously, and it does them incredibly well – the Party Down pilot juggles those tones better than most long-running shows ever manage to.
If I’m not mistaken, this trend continues for at least another episode. I haven’t rewatched the next episode yet though, so I may be wrong, and in that case I’ll write about it next week. However, I’ve become less excited to watch these episodes every week with the gradual decline in the ratio of laugh line to episode.
Fortunately, as I recall, the last couple episodes of this season and the majority of the second season bring “the funny” back to our Party Down catering team. I’m looking forward to laughing at this show again in the near future.
“Brandix Corporate Retreat” Rating: 6.5/10
Soup’r Crackers Quote Corner
“I am so happy to be here, because I just sat in office management and I need an office management solution.” – Casey, trying to help guest speaker Rick Fox come up with witticisms for his speech to a group of office management solutions people.
“Henry, I am going to ask you one last question, and it’s the most important one of this whole interview. Okay? … Are we having fun yet?” – Steve