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The Worst Things The Gang From Search Party Have Ever Done

"Search Party" isn't the definitive television show of the millennial generation, mainly because the millennial generation isn't self-aware enough. Granted, in this instance, the "millennial generation" actually refers to a specific group of college-educated urbanites born between the early '80s and mid-'90s — not necessarily everybody whose coming of age took place during the same era as the 2003 capture and execution of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. 

However, if those of us who stumbled out of higher education into overpriced and purposeless big city existence need our own fictional paragon of ethical ambiguity and moral failure — perhaps a sort of hipster Tony Soprano – Dory Sief (Alia Shawkat) does the trick. Created by Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, and Michael Showalter, "Search Party" premiered in 2016, with its fifth and final season airing on HBO Max in early 2022. "Search Party" starts when Dory becomes fixated on locating Chantal Witherbottom (Clare McNulty) — an acquaintance from NYU who has gone missing. 

All five seasons include Dory; her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Drew Gardner (John Reynolds); her pal Elliott Goss (John Early), a diabolical narcissist; and her other pal, aspiring actor Portia Davenport (Meredith Hagner). Apart from their ongoing presence, each season sends the series in a completely different direction.  

But what makes Dory and her friends such a suspicious bunch? Let's go over some of the worst things the gang from "Search Party" has ever done.

Naturally, the following contains massive spoilers for "Search Party."  

Elliott falsely claims to be a cancer survivor

When we first meet Elliott Goss in Season 1, he comes across as a gregarious and stridently dressed international water charity organizer. He's obnoxious, self-involved, and way too eager to retell his tale of surviving cancer during his teen years. Still, he doesn't necessarily come across as a potential sociopath — until Episode 7, "The Riddle Within the Trash." There, Dory's ex-boyfriend and journalist Julian Marcus (Brandon Micheal Hall) uncovers Elliott's dark secret.    

In an ostensible effort to promote his charity — which has something to do with distributing fresh water in Africa — Elliott pitches a story on himself to Julian, who lands the article in New York Magazine. During Julian's information gathering process, Elliott brags to a crowd that he played the lead in his sophomore year production of "The Threepenny Opera." Julian notes that, according to Elliott's official biography, he was bedridden with stage four lymphoma during his sophomore year, which would've made singing and dancing impossible. A few phone calls later, and New York Magazine calls out Elliott as an appalling liar. 

Manipulating other people's empathy and passively insulting legitimate cancer survivors is pretty seriously awful. It might've been semi-justified if the lie helped starving children access clean water, but since Elliott's water charity is never mentioned again after Season 1, we suspect it was also some kind of grift.

Dory's treatment of Drew throughout their entire relationship

Perhaps the most memorable scene from the first episode of "Search Party" entails Drew attempting to comfort Dory following an unsuccessful job interview and Dory mercilessly cursing him out in the middle of the street. Their relationship goes through ups and downs, but it never gets much healthier.  

The first time you see it, Dory's public verbal berating feels justified. Drew is under the impression that his girlfriend's ongoing underemployment and lack of direction can be solved with ice cream and platitudes; his clearly well-intended pep talk comes off as infantilizing, bordering on insulting. Earlier scenes depict Drew as emotionally and sexually needy while oblivious to Dory's problems. Without any other context, Dory's emphatic and repeated requests for Drew to "Shut the f*** up!" look like a long-simmering pot finally boiling, rather than emotional abuse. 

However, when you watch the scene again after seeing the rest of the series, it looks way more like emotional abuse. 

In fairness, most of the significant harm Dory inflicts on Drew throughout the show is incidental. For instance, her hilariously unnecessary self-appointed mission to find Chantal Witherbottom means that Drew ends up on trial for first-degree murder. While Dory ruins Drew's life more-or-less by accident, all that means is her occasional deliberate, direct gibes at her lanky onetime suitor resonate as all the more brutal.

Chantal allows everyone to believe she's missing when she's on a selfcare break

The core "Search Party" group consists of Dory, Drew, Elliott, and Portia — which means even though Chantal provides the story's catalyst, including her on this list requires us to stretch our definition of "the gang." However, we can't credibly discuss the worst things that happen on "Search Party" without mentioning Chantal. Everything bad that happens on "Search Party" is Chantal's fault. 

Dory begins to hunt for Chantal at the onset of "Search Party" after she notices one of the many posters seeking information on Chantal's whereabouts posted across the city. Throughout Season 1, Dory encounters all kinds of evidence indicating that Chantal may either be pregnant or on the run from a cult and/or a homicidal spurred lover. 

As it eventually turns out, Chantal is merely chilling out in Montreal to clear her head after a romantic disappointment. She knows her parents think she's missing. Nevertheless, Chantal allows them to keep believing she could be in peril to fully embrace this chance to, in her words, "finally be myself." All of Dory and her pals' sleuthing is a complete waste of time.

If Chantal had just done the decent thing and called her mom to tell her where she was, multiple people who are dead by the end of Season 4 would still be alive!   

Dory and Drew kill Keith Powell

The death of private investigator Keith Powell (Ron Livingston) launches Season 2 and remains a relevant event throughout "Search Party." However, we question if Dory or Drew should be held solely accountable. 

Did anyone force Keith, a grown man, to tell Dory the Witherbottoms hired him to look for Chantal when he'd never even met the family? Dory inevitably learns the true nature of Keith's employment, which naturally causes her to question his motives. He's clearly not who he says he is. Is Keith a killer? Dory can't say no for sure at that point, can she? 

Does Keith have a good reason to follow Dory to Montreal? Why does he continue to approach her, despite repeated warnings to keep his distance? Maybe if Keith backs off a bit, he doesn't get tasered or smash his head on the side of a kitchen counter. When Drew enters the room, Keith is pinning Dory to the floor and yelling obscenities in her face. Ergo, when Drew fatally bludgeons Keith in the back of the head with an obelisk he subsequently buries in a field, he has every reason to think he's saving Dory's life, right? 

Keith's death is a tragedy. He had an ex-wife and a daughter depending on him. Nevertheless, this dude makes plenty of questionable choices shortly before his demise. We're not suggesting Dory or Drew are blameless only that there's plenty of finger-wagging to go around.    

Putting Keith's body into a suitcase, burying it, and lying about it constantly

Elliott takes a lot of grief for being terrible, but when he stumbles upon Dory and Drew standing over Keith's corpse, it's Elliott who prevents anyone from prematurely calling the police. If he was really the completely self-involved sociopath he acts like most of the time, he could've informed the authorities himself, truthfully explained that he had never met Keith before he saw his dead body, and Elliott would've been in the clear.  

While folding Keith's body up in a fetal position to cram it into a tacky suitcase and concealing it under mounds upon mounts of dirt is sort of a redemptive event for Elliott, it's pretty terrible for it everyone else. After all, typically, when a person dies, a respectful, solemn event is often expected to take place in their memory. Perhaps they're buried in a family plot; perhaps their ashes are scattered across the ocean. Keith Powell is merely left to rot in a hideous pink tiger-striped suitcase. 

Dory pushes April off the Staten Island Ferry

The finale of Season 2, "Psychosis," contains an important turning point for "Search Party." When Dory and Drew kill Keith, they essentially do so in self-defense. However, when April (Phoebe Tyers) — Drew's unhinged neighbor who records Dory and Drew confessing to their semi-accidental slaying through the wall — declares that she will use her evidence to ruin Dory's life, Dory shoves her off the Staten Island Ferry. April tumbles through the air and makes a splash in the New York Harbour, never to be seen again. 

There's no grey area of self-defense to explain this one. Dory murdered April to cover up a previous killing and, perhaps, this could cause us to wonder — was Keith's death as accidental as it looked at the time? This is certainly the moment where Dory crosses the threshold from a comical anti-hero to the full-blown secret villain of the show.  

This is not a ranking, necessarily, but we'd suggest that cold-blooded murder with no extraneous circumstances to dilute the extent of its atrocity is definitely the worst thing Dory has ever done. Ergo, it's the worst thing that anyone in the gang from "Search Party" has ever done.

Portia testifies against her friends

When the police bring Portia in for questioning, they intimidate and manipulate the living bejesus out of her. While our legal experts haven't weighed in yet, we think we can challenge the admissibility of the confession she signs under blatantly coercive conditions.

However, nobody really forces her to continue her cooperation with law enforcement and testify during Dory and Drew's trial. In fact, Portia's testimony includes some barely earned self-righteousness. She tells the jury she didn't want to look for Chantal, which is true. She tells the jury she believes Dory lacks a sense of self, which is also true. She also says Dory didn't try to keep her away from Keith's death, which those of us who watched the beginning of Season 2 recently can tell you is bogus.  

Portia needlessly increases her friends' chances of going to jail for the rest of their lives, but at least her credibility is destroyed, and her testimony falls apart. Dory's lawyer correctly notes that Portia has obviously been coached into memorizing the prosecution's version of events. Portia cannot use the word vitriol without guided preparation because she does not know what vitriol means. We're not convinced she knows what the word coercion means, either. 

Elliott claims to be a sophisticated Brooklyn hipster

In Season 1, Elliott's life gets sent for a loop when New York Magazine exposes him as a phony cancer survivor. If Julian had dug a little deeper, he would've uncovered an even crazier story.  

In her efforts to discredit Elliott in his capacity as a witness for the defense during Dory and Drew's murder trial, Polly Danzinger (Michaela Watkins) doesn't cross-examine Elliott so much as eviscerate his identity.

During Polly's questioning, we find out Elliott lied about graduating from NYU or even attending the college in an official capacity. As a child, he was never the Gerber baby and did not attend Space Camp, as he has previously claimed. The oft-repeated story about his grandfather inventing fish sticks is a fabrication. Most shockingly of all, Polly reveals that Elliott, an up-and-coming cable news personality by this point, has been paying actors to pretend to be his affluent Manhattanite-type parents. 

In actuality, Elliott's progenitors reside in a rural community known as Huggett, and his original birth name is Eldad Tupper. As it turns out, Elliott Goss is really more like an idea of a person, rather than an actual person. 

Dory fires Cassidy Diamond, who was doing an okay job

Sometimes when we say "worst things," we don't always mean moral transgressions or even ethically neutral choices that turn out okay. In this case, one of the worst things Dory Sief has ever done mostly just makes us feel bad. 

Dory fires lawyer Cassidy Diamond (Shalita Grant) in the penultimate episode of Season 3, essentially because Cassidy correctly does not believe Dory's claim of total innocence in the killing of Keith Powell. Cassidy initially encourages Dory to plead self-defense, then raises the issue once again when a mistrial looks likely. 

Let us note that Cassidy looks at the evidence of Dory and Drew's case and accurately determines exactly what happened, but nevertheless did her job as if Dory was completely blameless and innocent. She probably would have succeeded if Dory hadn't canned her so shortly before the not guilty verdict. 

Firing Cassidy isn't as bad as throwing someone off a boat to murder them, but it bums us out to see someone get punished for doing a good job.   

Portia agrees to play Dory in Savage: The Dory Sief Story

Let's remind you that we're including major moral or ethical failings alongside bad but comparatively harmless life choices in our definition of "worst things." Portia isn't a murderer like Dory, and her tendency to occasionally lie cannot compete with Elliott's endless deluge of belligerent mistruths. But Portia certainly makes a lot of questionable decisions!    

For instance, she confesses her involvement in Keith Powell's death to a director she's working with, but there's an ethically redemptive element to that action. It might've been the right thing to do, even if it's a maddeningly stupid move. However, there's no such silver lining to Portia's decision to appear in "Savage: The Dory Sief Story."  

After initially asking to audition to play herself, Portia accepts the role of Dory in an in-universe made-for-TV movie based on Dory's life. Imagine if, within months of testifying at O.J. Simpson's murder trial, Kato Kaelin portrayed O.J. in a TV movie. That's pretty much exactly what Portia's doing. If her long-term plan is to have an acting career and a public identity unrelated to the tabloid murder trial she was a significant part of, this is a terrible career choice. 

It's also fair to question the ethics of Portia leveraging her relationship to Dory — and the tragedy that ruined Dory's life — to advance her otherwise flailing acting career. Maybe Portia's more sinister than we give her credit for? 

Drew turns down Cindy's marriage proposal

We feel sorry for Drew much in the same way we feel sympathy for Carmela Soprano (Edie Falco). When one half of a romantic partnership is at least fairly evil, we naturally sympathize with the other, comparatively less evil and therefore better half. 

However, just like Carmela turns a blind third eye to mob violence as long as it maintains her swanky lifestyle, Drew is not the good guy he considers himself to be. After all, he sleeps with Chantal, he invents a workplace scandal to usurp a coworker's transfer to China, and he can only blame himself for repeatedly getting sucked back into Dory's orbit. The universe itself practically gift-wrapped Drew a Dory replacement in the form of Cindy (Rebecca Robles) — a theme park princess who, unlike Dory, genuinely appreciates him. Maybe Cindy appreciates Drew to the point where it causes problems, but that beats the alternative, right?     

Is Cindy perfect? No. Does Cindy, whose marriage proposal includes flying Drew's family in to serenade him with a song from his favorite childhood cartoon, perform the literal definition of cringe? Yes. Could Cindy remind Drew of the sunnier but devastatingly unaware version of himself we see in Season 1? Absolutely. Did Cindy accidentally kill a baby one time? Yes. 

However, since Drew clearly needs to take extreme measures to distance himself from Dory, Cindy's probably the best he can expect to do at this point in his destroyed life. 

Elliott becomes a right-wing news pundit

Okay, look, it's one thing for Elliot to compromise his values for money. Chances are, so do you, and that's fine. In fact, it's better to be honest about it.

However, there is no lower form of celebrity than the cable news pundit. For Elliott — a man talented enough to get away with covering up a murder — to agree to become a talking head on a conservative news network, then pretend to turn conservative himself, is both a waste of ability and the behavior of a man whose morals have become completely and utterly corrupt. 

Throughout "Search Party," Elliott demonstrates an incredible knack for failing up. After his cancer grift gets exposed, he lands a book deal. After he botches the book deal, he free falls into a high-paying pundit job on cable TV. When he sacrifices his already limited principles to enhance his star power — once again, lying about who he is for the sake of cultivating an audience — he becomes one of the network's biggest stars.  

Is Elliott Goss the devil? Maybe. Is Dory the devil? Possibly! All we know is that when the gang from "Search Party" sets their minds to it, they're capable of some pretty terrible things.