In his introduction, author, raconteur and show creator Eric Jonrosh (Will Ferrell) warns the audience about The Spoils Before Dying’s penultimate episode, “The Trip Trap”: “Things get weird tonight,” he says. “But you can handle it.” No truer words have been spoken since…last night’s installment. However, it’s not just the episode that gets freaky; Jonrosh himself has a few things to get off his chest, including admitting to doing a lot of “suspect substances” from South American Indians while writing the novel on which the miniseries is based, and that he possibly might have killed someone he loved, too. But NBD, right? Channeling his inner Orson Welles, Ferrell’s deadpan intros have been a highlight of each episode.
“The Trip Trap” lives up to its name—it follows Rock (Michael Kenneth Williams) as he comes down from a drugging by some nefarious types. Rock then trips through a third of the episode, with the audience subject to both highs and lows (aka good and bad jokes). Williams, who’s best known for his work on The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, isn’t known for his comedic talent, but in this series, he doesn’t need it. His uber-seriousness and straight-faced sincerity only accentuates the humor of his scene partners like Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Haley Joel Osment even more.
Before Rock’s story continues, there’s a Reefer Madness-like PSA on the dangers of hallucinogens starring Jimmy Fallon. Though he introduces himself as “Detective Kenneth Bluntly,” watch closely as the onscreen titles read “Keith Bluntly / Television Actor.” Spoils always has fun with both subtle and not-so-subtle humor.
In his compromised state, Rock meets up with Lloyd the bartender (Tim Robbins) who looks like Doc Brown from Back to the Future for a groovy conversation about nothing of consequence; the episode then segues into a ballet sequence with Delores (Wiig) that’s reminiscent of the out-of-nowhere Cyd Charisse-Gene Kelly ballet interlude in Singin’ in the Rain. He also runs into dead Fresno (Rudolph) who reminds him that his is an artist and not to do a strings album. We wish that Rudolph had more to do, either dead or alive, in the show, but her character only has limited screen time.
The cops are running out of patience with Rock, but he convinces them that he’s being framed and asks for a few more hours to track down the people who drugged him. Here’s where “The Trip Trap” goes on its wild ride: Rock learns that he has to track down a modern sculpture that belonged to Adolf Hitler and that Wilbur Stygamian eventually acquired. He goes home to Delores for help, who has the best line of the episode when she sees him: “Rock, you’re hurt! Let me make you some eggs.” It makes no sense, it’s completely ridiculous, but coming from Wiig is completely hilarious.
Rock asks Delores to pick up a saxophone case at the bar, then get Alistair (Osment) and meet him at his cabin. After they decide what to wear (and advertise the sales going on about town), and Wiig inadvertently tortures a cat, Rock heads off on his motorbike to the final episode showdown.
In “The Biscuit Eaters,” Jonrosh congratulates the audience: “You made it. The thrilling end to my lost masterpiece The Spoils Before Dying.” In a bombastic statement, he says that Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams lacked the courage he had to speak out against attacks against jazz, art and sexual freedom (though those authors may beg to differ.)
The finale wraps things up for the Spoils Before Dying as Rock brings together the gold cigarette case, the saxophone case and a statue that belonged to Hitler, all of which may hold the answers to who killed Fresno and Stygamian. At Stygamian’s house, he finds a dying Salazar (Chin Han), who we think is of Mexican descent and played by an Asian actor who speaks with the cadence of Dracula. It’s bizarre, but with this series, anything goes.
As Rock waits for Alistair and Delores at his cabin, he passes the time by reading a new Jonrosh novel, The Spoils Over the Border, which follows two hippie bikers looking for kicks in Mexico. (Though Rock says that it’s not Jonrosh’s best, could he still be planting the seed for the next installment in the franchise?) The episode’s high point comes when Alistair and Delores arrive and the biscuit and brandy party starts. They drink brandy out of snifters the size of globes, and Wiig once again steals the show with great physical comedy. She stuffs her face with biscuits and works the pauses for an incredibly funny moment—eating biscuits—in the middle of a supposedly serious scene.
Inside the sax case they find negatives of naked men—powerbrokers in Hollywood and government. In the statue, Rock finds a list of names of noted Americans who were Nazi collaborators and sympathizers in WWII. After a shootout, Rock discovers that he’s being framed by the government, leading the noirish caper flick to a showdown between Rock and…J. Edgar Hoover (Ferrell).
The Spoils Before Dying is a quirky pleasure with jokes and visual gags aplenty. Some work and others definitely do not, but at least IFC and Funny or Die have the gumption to offer us something different. The humor isn’t for everyone, but in the hands of veteran comedians they prove that they can spin straw into gold (at least most of the time).
Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based freelance pop culture writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter.