Veronica Mars: “Hi, Infidelity”/“Of Vice and Men”
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Veronica Mars: “Hi, Infidelity”/“Of Vice and Men”

Hi, Infidelity” (season 3, episode 6; originally aired November 7, 2006)

First of all, a nice big fuck you to Veronica Mars. The briefly resolved “radical feminist fakes her own rape” has done nothing for the overarching storyline, while it helps to support a culture whose defense against charges of rape is to say the woman was just trying to get revenge. Useless and disgusting—at least, in this episode. Nish, the firebrand now-former editor of the Free Press, swears vengeance against Veronica and the Dean for uncovering Claire’s deception and punishing her for it. Maybe this’ll be relevant, but it’ll still be disgusting. Fortunately, this is a brief throwaway at the start of the episode, so it doesn’t ruin the whole thing. But its lack of impact makes it even more annoying.

Once that’s dealt with, though, we have a nice, interesting episode, and one of the best yet in terms of utilizing the college setting. The main plotlines help here, but it’s mostly the little things that make it work. Piz, surprisingly, is the main strength here. His overwhelming excitement at finding London Calling on vinyl is both annoying and all too appropriate. And the ironic-but-not-really trip to the bowling alley turns into a legitimately good time for him, Parker, Veronica, and Logan. Even little things like the look of the dorm room and hallway when he tries to awaken a passed-out Wallace seem right. For perhaps the first time in the third season, Hearst actually feels like something akin to my small liberal arts college education, and likewise for the first time, I didn’t actively miss Neptune High.

“Hi, Infidelity” is, as the title indicates, built around cheating. Some of this is academic cheating. In Wallace’s case, he’s dealing with the fallout from cheating on his mechanical-engineering exam. This is, as he says, his dream major, and he’ll do anything, including leaving the basketball team for a term, in order to give it a go. At first I wondered if this was making something out of nothing, but then I remembered that Wallace has been given this trait for a while, like when he and Logan almost won their science competition for Veronica. It’s simple and uplifting that Wallace chooses to dedicate his time to his classwork, and his professor is happy to encourage that.

Veronica’s in a more complex situation, with more than one type of cheating. She’s acing her criminology class, naturally, a fact that her professor un-charmingly points out in front of the entire class that she’s leaving in the dust. The TA sets up a case where she gets accused of plagiarism, in order to teach her a lesson about the professor’s philandering ways before she becomes the new teacher’s pet. She’s not happy, and neither am I. I still don’t see where she made the leap that it was the TA, not the prof, who framed her (Occam’s razor suggests to me that the prof did it as a practical test of her sleuthing abilities). And his spotlighting her as the best student in the class says more to me about his character than his banging the Dean’s wife.

Because sometimes, good people cheat. There’s Keith Mars, flirting with Harmony, who wanted just cause for her divorce so badly, wanted Keith so badly, that she wants to continue their nascent relationship. Veronica disapproves, and Keith does as well when Harmony makes her initial move, until a near-death experience pushes him to change his mind. It’s hard to blame Keith for this, which I think is deliberate—it’s meant to contrast him with Logan.

Because there are two last bits of cheating, both involving Logan. In one, he lives out the old joke of the student asking the tester “Do you know who I am?” and hiding the test in the stack. Sure, it’s cliché, but it kind of works, because, well, there’s actually reason to believe that someone would know who Logan is.

The second possible cheating is more complicated. Parker catches a whiff of Logan’s friend Mercer’s cologne, which reminds her of her rapist. Veronica breaks in, discovers a razor in Mercer’s room. She goes to Lamb, who says that they found some GHB in Mercer’s stolen cashbox, making Mercer the new most likely culprit in Hearst’s rapes. But Logan swears to Veronica that he was with Mercer at the time of the rape… and he won’t say what they were doing. Oh, dear. Still, even though the relationship drama with Veronica is somewhat predictable, it beats the hell out of a strong feminist show deliberately corrupting feminism, which is where “Hi, Infidelity” started.

Of Vice And Men” (season 3, episode 7; originally aired November 14, 2006)

Just two weeks ago I was saying that Veronica Mars operates according to a code of ethics that can trend towards self-righteous at its worst. She wasn’t at that point then. She is now. I’ve liked it when the show puts Veronica in questionable ethical positions, but in “Of Vice And Men” she makes them for herself, which makes her rather unlikeable.

It’s started before this, even in terms of looks. Veronica’s style seems overdone and out of place. Too much makeup alongside wavy, impracticable movie star hair isn’t out of character for the ever-pragmatic Veronica—it’s out of character for most any college freshman girl, especially one who has deliberately rejected sororities and that sort of culture. This isn’t directly relevant—it’s just a look, it’s just a TV show—but it plays on audience expectations. When the kid in “Hi, Infidelity” called Veronica out for not paying attention to the “little people” at the Neptune Grand, it seems like it may well be valid. She looks, and kind of acts, like she’s one of the 09ers she spent so much time disdaining beforehand.

Simply put, Veronica spends most of “Of Vice And Men” acting like she’s better and smarter than everyone else. Of course, she is smarter than everyone, so that’s okay. But better? Sometimes that’s justified, sometimes it’s not. And whether or not that’s true, it can be difficult to watch when the focus of the show becomes someone you don’t want to spend time with, as is the case with Veronica in this episode.

Perhaps it’s just a stress reaction. A large part of that stress comes from Logan, whose “I was with Mercer but I can’t tell you what we were doing” seems designed to trigger his girlfriend’s worst impulses. She can be judgmental about this, to be fair. It sure sounds like they were out having an orgy, possibly even a drug orgy. So Logan’s eventual reveal seems pretty minor, and Veronica’s reaction not entirely in balance with the level of his crime.

She’s even more judgmental about Keith and his new affair. My theory that this was being developed primarily to contrast to Logan didn’t entirely hold, but I do think it was intended to be more metaphorical. That interpretation is given more weight by the fact that it doesn’t really make sense. Harmony says she’s going to leave her husband, then Keith just lets himself get blackmailed without apparently even discussing it with her? All so Veronica can confront him and tell him he’s acting just like every john they catch as detectives? Again, she’s not entirely wrong here.

Veronica gets more wrong with the guest stars, though. Her nasty treatment of Mercer (prison-rape jokes, how humanitarian) while he’s locked away seems to simply be her taking her frustrations about Logan out on a convenient side target.

That criticism also leads to poor judgment when the case of the week: a girl named Meryl and her missing boyfriend. He’s in the drunk tank, it so happens, but Veronica tells Meryl that she shouldn’t call the sheriff, because the sheriff is a moron. So they go on a quasi-wild goose chase, with Veronica continuing to insist that it’s a breakup, and control Meryl’s behavior on those grounds. She’s lucky that Meryl is a sweetheart, though, and even invites Veronica to hang out despite being led around and insulted.

And if you need a fifth (!!) example of Veronica being overly judgmental in this single episode, well, there’s her treatment of her professor doing her a favor by encouraging her to apply for an FBI internship, instead of doing the class’s final. She thinks he’s buying her off to keep silent about his affair, but he insists it’s because she’s his best student and deserves it. Maybe it’s both, but either way, again, Veronica: keep it down a little.

The importance of all this quickly fades at the end of the episode, though, as the rapist spikes Veronica’s drink, and begins to shave her head before Logan happens to come by. It’s tense, yes. But it also feels slightly manipulative. It’s hard to discuss this plot because of the emotional stakes of rape in our culture, but I think that’s also one of the reasons that it was a mistake for Veronica Mars to use it. It just rarely rings true, and not just because it’s an uncomfortable subject to discuss.

Stray observations:

  • “This must be a real Kafkaesque experience for you.” Oh, college.
  • The Dean still doesn’t really know Veronica, does he? Leaving his door wide open…
  • “I don’t know why I ask you these things.” “I don’t know either.” The show is also just better when Keith and Veronica get along.
  • “Have you ever heard of Occam’s razor, Meryl?” “Is that a space laser? Has it already been invented?”
  • “I didn’t used to be. I had this one, shining example.” Oh, get over yourself.

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