“Charlie Don’t Surf”/“President Evil” S3 / E4-5
- B+ Community Grade
“Charlie Don’t Surf” (season three, episode four; originally aired October 24, 2006)
The Mars family operates by a certain code of ethics. I’ve described it in the past as “rule utilitarianism,” and some of you mentioned that they, Keith especially, behave as though they’re in law enforcement. It’s simpler than that sometimes, though. The Mars family serves the truth, even when it hurts, even when it goes against what they want. At its worst, this tends towards self-righteousness. At its best, well, there is no best, but they might be recognized as being good people.
There are three obvious instances of this in “Charlie Don’t Surf.” Two for Veronica, one for Keith. Keith’s is the most straightforward. An old acquaintance who clearly has a (reciprocated) soft spot for him is ready to end her loveless marriage based on her husband’s apparent affair – and seems half set on hooking up with Keith immediately after. He finds enough odd behavior from the husband to look deeper, and even pulls up a photo of him being kissed by a potential lover. But Keith also has audio of the husband rejecting the kiss, and evidence that he took steps to prevent it ever happening again.
Obviously Keith could have only told his client about the photo, giving him a new girlfriend. The marriage was even described as loveless, so what would it hurt? But he would know. I don’t think there was ever an expectation that Keith Mars would not have served the truth, even if it would have been good for him personally on the surface. We know he’d have been torn up with guilt. It wouldn’t have been worth it.
Veronica’s choices are more complicated. In another side plot, Logan believes that he’s missing money from his trust fund, so he asks Veronica to investigate. She does so, and uncovers that Aaron has been paying a “Charlie Stone” child support. Logan decides to meet up with his half-brother, who, it turns out, is a cool guy! They go surfing together, Logan tells stories about how terrible Aaron is, and Veronica, well, Veronica double-checks on the truth. The truth is that this particular Charlie is a reporter from Vanity Fair, digging up dirt on the real story behind the Echolls family.
So she intervenes. Logan would have found out anyway, probably, but he responds by outing the half-brother he believes sold him out to the reporter. The reporter says that’s not the case. He’s not the most trustworthy source, but the end of the episode indicates that both Logan and Veronica believed they’d outed an innocent man out of misguided revenge. The truth? Well, they sought the truth of one thing in order to protect another bunch of truths. It’s a mess. It couldn't be anything but a mess.
Some of you suggested that Logan was on a downhill trend after the last episode, but I think this episode had great stuff for him. Jason Dohring plays Logan’s vulnerability up here, and it makes sense. He’s trying to get away from “Bum Fights” Logan, and that requires going against the cynicism that he uses as a defense. That means fighting his inner disdain and letting feelings out.
Finally, in the main storyline, Veronica starts trying to repair her relationship with Parker, but Dick, on behalf of his fraternity, asks her to exonerate them after the Hearst Free Press connects them to the rapes. She doesn’t want to, but she does want to serve the truth, and eliminating, or confirming, the most likely suspects helps her achieve that goal – no matter how she looks to Parker or the rest of the women on campus.
The Duke lacrosse case gets mentioned in this episode, and I think it hangs over the episode and the overarching serial rapist plotline as a whole so far. I hadn’t considered it as an influence, as I thought it took place after Veronica Mars aired, but apparently not. Here Veronica stands against the rush to judgment. The Greek system makes such an easy target, but that target needs to be the right one. As she tells Parker: “You wanna nail someone to the wall just to have someone nailed there? Or do you want the person responsible there?”
This happens with emotionally charged criminal cases. Mass public scapegoating is an all-too-human reaction, one studied by a bunch of social sciences (Salem Witch Trials, anyone?). And it’s certainly interesting to have Veronica trying to be the voice of reason. I think that largely works here, but it’s a delicate balance. This could easily go so very wrong.
“President Evil” (season three, episode five; originally aired October 31, 2006)
If the first four episodes were largely about Veronica Mars adapting to a new setting, then it’s probably a good time for the show to talk about the past, as it does in “President Evil.” We even open with a brief discussion of Lilly Kane – although not a full recap – and how Veronica wears her necklace as a memento. According to some Russian guy, that means the necklace becomes important, and so it gets stolen.
Veronica is discussing the necklace with Weevil at the start, and that relationship comprises the core of the episode. They’re very friendly so far this season, even going so far as Weevil helping Veronica give a presentation for her criminology class. This is a pretty far cry from the antagonistic battles they had in the second season. That's something that the show remembers part of the way into "President Evil," as the necklace gets stolen and Veronica blames Weevil.
To be fair, there is some evidence to believe that it was Weevil, and Veronica’s obvious negative emotional response to losing the necklace indicates that she may not be thinking entirely clearly (somewhat ironic, given her battle against emotionally jumping to conclusions in the previous episode). But it’s a bit rough to watch regardless. This is actually a problem the show has had with Weevil since the first part of the first season: he’s too damn charming, but he's supposed to be dangerous. I like Weevil. I’m generally going to take his side. And, I believe that the writers of the show like Weevil and they’re not going to have him do anything unforgivable. So Veronica comes across as a little judgmental and shrill here, to me, although I’m not sure how much of that is just my feeling that she shouldn’t be mean to Weevil because Weevil is awesome.
That confrontation between the two leads to a return to their second season relationship, where Veronica can use Weevil but she doesn’t trust him a damn bit. But of course Weevil isn’t the culprit. He’s just a convenient person to frame for the real culprit, a Hearst security guard (with a real brat of a kid).
The kid is interesting. When she’s introduced, she just seems like a random small blonde child to annoy Veronica. Yet her sassyness and way with words make me wonder if she was supposed to be a slight Veronica surrogate. Would Ms. Mars have said something so snotty as “I thought this was supposed to be a good school. Aren’t you supposed to be smart?” as a child? I can’t help but think yes, even if the kid is eventually revealed to somewhat worse than simply a brat. I wonder how intentional that was.
There’s another blast from Veronica’s past, as she enlists the aid of a Neptune High underclassman. She cut a bloody swath across the high school landscape, but she doesn’t necessarily believe that she did. I think it’s entirely plausible that she’d have a reputation that lasted long after she was gone, and it might manifest as amusing (and helpful) hero worship. In the end, she exonerates Weevil and even works with Sheriff Lamb to do so. He’s smarmy about it, of course, but it is entertaining to see he him portrayed as something other than an antagonist.
Keith’s storyline doesn’t hinge on the past of the series like Veronica’s does, but it’s as cognizant of history in its own way. Veronica’s dean and his wife are meeting with Keith, as we discover in a painfully obvious scene straight from a hacky sitcom, where she complains about a sports car to her father only to discover the owner of that car can also hear her complaints. That aside, it turns into a fun little bit where Keith, Cliff, and Veronica use their acting skills to lure the dean’s stepson’s deadbeat dad into a meeting to convince him to donate bone marrow to the dying kid. Their history is too overwhelming – the dean and his wife are simply unable to speak to the father without the past clouding their emotions.
In the end, they force the issue, and it actually works out well for all parties involved. It’s a little bit too pat for me, but it has Cliff doing funny voices, so I can deal with it. There’s also a minor third storyline in which Wallace gets caught cheating on an exam, but it seems to be primarily buildup to a fallout in a later episode.
While “President Evil” was not a favorite, and has a few annoying moments, it was generally a perfectly adequate episode of Veronica Mars. That is, until the ending. Veronica was also investigating the man in the ATM photo who was the mostly likely suspect for raping Claire, which leads her to his house, where his roommate reveals that the suspect is actually Claire’s boyfriend – even though she said she didn’t know him.
The implication here is one that I’ve been dreading for a few episodes: that the radical feminist Lilith House has staged Claire’s rape, and possibly others. There are other possibilities, of course, so I will save my angry rant until this is confirmed. As it is, it took a fairly enjoyable, effective episode and finished it off with a feeling of disgust.
- The scene with Logan, Veronica, and Keith was properly awkward, and I think indicated an interesting tension around Veronica and Logan’s difficulties accepting adulthood.
- “One less bastard child conceived by mo-rons.” The scene with the gas station attendant was funny, but also hard to laugh at given the context.
- Wonder if the use of “Stone” as the bastard’s last name is an intentional A Game Of Thrones reference.
- Here’s why Weevil is great: “Dr Landry said we were allowed audio-visual aid. He’s audio...” “Yo!”
- “Or you could just save yourself the trouble and take my word for it.” A nice moment of levity. Kind of.
- I’ll be taking the next week off from Veronica Mars as I attend a conference. See you again on the 16th