“I Know What You’ll Do Next Summer” (season 3, episode 18; originally aired 5/15/2007)
“I Know What You’ll Do Next Summer” ends with a public service announcement for Invisible Children, an organization dedicated to stopping the use of child soldiers by Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army. Three months ago, I might have had explain the organization and its mission in greater detail. Now, the almost inexplicable success of the Kony 2012 publicity campaign renders those explanations unnecessary. Instead, the Kony 2012 popularity (and backlash) means that this episode can’t help but be viewed within the context of the attention paid to Invisible Children.
There’s an interesting mirror here. Back in my second week of reviewing Veronica Mars, I discussed the show’s timeliness—as well as timelessness of shows we’ve designated as “Classic”—in relation to Paris Hilton’s cameo in “Credit Where Credit’s Due.” Here, something different is going on: The relevance of the episode can change depending on when and how you view. In the case of Paris Hilton, this can be a bad thing: She’s a forgotten punchline now, though she was a controversial celebrity then. “Next Summer” gains power from its ties to Invisible Children. The context and controversies surrounding the Kony 2012 video make the episode more interesting now, in 2012, than it may have been in 2007.
Apollo Bukenya, a student at Hearst, has written a memoir about his time as a child soldier. A man claiming to be Apollo’s father contacts Veronica, who attempts to prove his paternity and reunite father and son. Along the way, Veronica starts uncovering information that indicates that Apollo is taking credit for a book written by his advisor. The facts about child soldiering may be real, but their delivery mechanism is flawed.
In one specific scene, Wallace makes the unintentional parallel between “Next Summer” and Kony 2012 clear: There’s a job/internship fair on at Hearst, and he says the popularity of Apollo’s book has people lining up in droves to help Invisible Children. He goes as far as saying that the morality of stopping child-soldier indoctrination is worth the possibility that the book could be a fraud. This is roughly what many defenders of the Kony 2012 video, including Invisible Children itself, have said in response to criticisms focused on the simplifications and ethnocentrism of the piece: Despite its flaws, it got the message out.
It became essentially impossible for me, as a viewer and a critic, to separate the current discussions of Invisible Children from the show’s portrayal of the group’s motives. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s a representation of how television, like any art form, can have multiple meanings, which evolve through time. That doesn’t always make the television episode good—in this case, knowing that Kristen Bell is a huge supporter of Invisible Children meant that Apollo was never likely to be a fraud, as proved to be the case—but it does make them consistently interesting.
The relationship-based serialization that Veronica Mars is using as it comes to its conclusion is growing more complicated. The most intense new development is that Dick’s father returns from his flight to the Cayman Islands, turning himself in on a plea bargain, but wanting to spend time with his son before his incarceration. But this triggers a massive emotional outburst from Dick, shouting his anger and guilt about Cassidy’s murders then suicide. Ryan Hansen is great here, and the emotional reaction has been a long time coming. It’s as if the show’s writers and producers realized that Dick Casablancas had serious unfinished business that needed to be dealt with before the show’s end, or at least the end of the season. Better late than never, especially when it’s this good.
“Weevils Wobble But They Don’t Go Down” (season three, episode 19; originally aired 5/22/2007)
That feeling that the show’s creators are dealing with the end of the show is even stronger with “Weevils Wobble But They Don’t Go Down.” In one sense, this episode plants a flag, proudly declaring “Here are Veronica Mars’ themes!” It’s a Platonic ideal of an episode, where Veronica is at her best: charming, clever, and witty. Her friends are generally happy, or at least, working on happiness. She helps one of them out of a tight jam in the case of the week, sticking it to rich kids, as the heroine of such a class-conscious show always should. Right before the end, Veronica Mars does what it does best… right?
There are a few issues with that idea. First, Veronica Mars was rarely so thematically simple as “Weevils Wobble” is. Looking back at the series, the episode that, to me, defines Veronica Mars thematically is “Clash Of The Tritons.” In that episode, our every expectation is that Veronica is chasing the rich kids to ruin their secret fun club, but they’re not the ones committing the crimes she’s trying to solve. They don’t need to commit the specific crimes, because they have the power. That’s a difficult theme to deal with.
That’s not the case here with “Weevils Wobble.” The secret club of rich kids are the perpetrators of their petty crimes. It’s simple and satisfying when they get taken down. Its simplicity is refreshing, but complexity is what made Veronica Mars so great.
“Weevils Wobble” also isn’t an “ideal” episode due to its sour ending. A sex tape of Veronica and Piz is making the rounds, and Logan does not deal well with this. He assumes that Piz is behind it, and immediately goes to beat him up. We’ve seen this kind of behavior from Logan before, when he felt it was more appropriate to go to prison to beat up Veronica’s would-be rapists, instead of comforting Veronica directly. His violent, destructive, and overprotective impulses still dominate his character. It’s difficult to watch sometimes, because I want to like Logan and believe that he’s changed. But it’s also setting up character development that’s never going to come.
That’s also the case with Dick, who continues coming to terms with Cassidy’s death. But this episode, as the title suggests, focuses on Weevil. He and Veronica have some light sparring, though not at the antagonistic level they’ve been at before, at least up until the end. Then Weevil calls and asks who’s done more for whom about his case; Veronica understandably answers that he should be thanking her, which triggers Weevil stealing a machine that can be used for forgeries. I’m not entirely certain why Weevil asked the question, as while he’s done favors for Veronica before, he didn’t really do any for her this time around. But it did open up the possibility that Weevil would be back to the criminal life in the fourth season.
Finally, there's the election, hanging over both of these episodes. Vinnie's ridiculous commercial was a highlight of "Next Summer," but his inanity is less funny here. Vinnie actually seems likely to win the vote even with lines about how he's going to fight terrorism before underage drinking. Keith's a bit of a boy scout, and that actually hurts him.
As fun as this episode is, the lack of the fourth season stops me from fully enjoying it. Logan, Dick, Keith, and Weevil all being given potentially more depth for the future should be something to rejoice. But the knowledge that this might be the last time we see them puts a damper on things. Still, better to go out with good episodes than bad.
- OF COURSE Piz would get an internship with Pitchfork.
- “Are you at your desk?” “No.” “Are you at my desk?” The Keith-Veronica interaction in this episode was stellar. Especially his secret 97 score.
- “Love makes me lazy. It’s a dangerous drug. Kills more brain cells than crystal meth.” Team Mac all the way.
- “Next Summer” makes a bunch of assumptions about college students which are somewhat offputting for a show built around class. Keith’s belief that a college student couldn’t write a memoir ignores non-traditional and older students. And everyone seems really gleeful to latch onto an unpaid internship in their first year of college, despite Wallace, Piz, and Veronica all being middle-class or lower.
- “Damn, Veronica, I don’t even know what a Bursar is.” One of the favorite characters in Discworld, that's what!
- “Remind me which color bandana I’m supposed to wear that says ‘I’m straight. But flattered. And non-judgmental.’” An all-timer Wallace line...
- ...and a fantastically deadpan Jason Dohring reading...“Sorry about that. That was Dick, he’s gearing up for finals.”
- ...and Mac again, trying to take the crown. “I read in FHM that boys like bare breasts.”