“Rashard And Wallace Go To White Castle” (season 2, episode 12; originally aired 2/1/2006)
Hey, do you remember a few weeks back when there was that big, melodramatic blowup where Jackie publicly humiliated Veronica and drove a massive wedge between herself and Wallace, leading to a breakup and helping push Wallace to leave for Chicago? Or do you even remember Jackie at all? I’d half-forgotten about her, perhaps mentally categorizing her with Troy as an evil fling (and not really paying attention during the credits). Well, at any rate, Veronica Mars does remember Jackie, although it doesn’t seem to remember that Wallace and Veronica both have very good reasons for treating her badly. And for making any off-screen reconciliation something of a cheat.
That’s the bad part of “Rashard And Wallace...”. And it’s only really bad in terms of tight serialization, it’s not a specific problem with the episode itself, which is otherwise quite good. But Jackie is still a problematic character, and suddenly having her be part of the crew, without any apologies, is a little bit too far. It made for an effective twist, but that’s a one-time only deal – now we know Jackie is part of the gang.
Speaking of gangs, the B-plot involving Logan and Weevil investigating Felix’s murder was actually improved this week, with Veronica joining in the action. The key scene had Logan, Weevil, and Veronica all pretending to not be talking about anything important, and it had a season one sort of vibe, in that it actually had the characters playing off of one another instead of just yelling. Though there were some insults involving horse’s asses, it was all in good fun, not melodrama for its own sake.
This also led to Weevil discovering who and how the drug deals were being done involving his gang and the Fitzgeralds, through the local Catholic church (of course). And just as he’s about to report his success, there’s a coup, with the entirety of his gang beating him up, sinking his bike, and kicking him out. This is not unexpected, of course, but it is tense, affecting, and, I think, for the best. Weevil’s always been held at arm’s length, with even his connection to the Lilly Kane murder being treated as a bit of an afterthought when the climax happened. Part of the reason for this is that he always had his own issues with his gang that were only indirectly related to Veronica, as opposed to moving within the same circles as the other characters. This should push him directly into Veronica’s orbit, which is promising.
The other major new development in “Rashard And Wallace Go To White Castle” is that Keith sneaks into the evidence room and sneaks out with the interview tapes from the bus crash incident. He’s working under the theory that the rat was planted on the bus in order to stink the rich kids off the bus, but even that gets blown out of the water when he hears Gia say that her father told her not to take the bus back, moving Woody from second to first in the Big Bad Ranking, with a bullet. Well, my Big Bad Ranking. Sheriff Lamb has his own ranking, arresting Jackie’s father for the big cliffhanger of the episode.
In addition to the mostly compelling plot and character development, I thought this episode had a lot of the technical verve which had been missing from the second season. Or perhaps I didn’t notice it, which is entirely possible, as I never took a film analysis class so most of the time it just breezes on by me. With that said, there were three scenes that seemed to add a little something extra with the directing and editing. First, the scene in the coffee shop with Logan, Veronica, and Weevil was very tightly shot, all close-ups, indicating the distance between one another (which I noticed primarily because I was hoping for a good screencap once I realized how awesome a scene it was).
Then, the editing when Wallace and Veronica go to the club is disjointed and fractured. Maybe it’s the show showing off a bit too much, but for a scene that really doesn’t have much text at all – just cell phones being discarded and picked up – it’s a necessary framing device. The confrontation between Weevil and his gang is more impressive, shot in a highly stylized fashion that uses the artificiality of the framing to suggest a kind of formalized, ritualistic interaction between the gang and its leader. So I’m happy to see the kind of formal playfulness coming back and the over-the-top plotting of most of this season wane a bit. I hope we can find a nice balance moving forward.
“Ain’t No Magic Mountain High Enough” (season 2, episode 12; originally aired 2/8/2006)
And...whatever hopes I had after the last episode weren’t high enough, as it were, as “Ain’t No Magic Mountain High Enough” promptly became my favorite episode of the season so far. I was somewhat predisposed to like it, although I didn’t realize this until after watching it. I like the idea of the partially contained carnival mystery, where something bad is going on but most people don’t even know. I think I got this from reading medieval/fantasy books from a young age, and some of the very best, like the works of Guy Gavriel Kay, prominently feature carnivals. And though those medieval parties involved a lot more norm-breaking than a high school fundraiser, the form is the same.
That form also means there’s a conceptual bottle episode, where the main characters are all forced to interact and confront one another. Although usually the bottle episode is done to save money, something I doubt is the case with “Magic Mountain” and its big set and array of guest stars, it still has those strengths.
The plot is straightforward enough: Veronica is helping with the fundraising carnival, has the cashbox for a second, and it gets stolen. She recruits herself to aid a willing Principal Clemmons and an unwilling Mrs. Hauser as well as clearing her own name. The suspects? Well, they conveniently include Jackie, for “standing while black”, Dick, having an especially Dick-like episode, Madison, making her triumphant return, J.B., apparently Veronica’s chief competition for the Kane scholarship, and Weevil, who of course did it, but who had good reason to – he needs a car. The case itself is plenty entertaining, and we get some of Veronica’s best-ever cockiness in part of the denouement (“TA-DA!”). It’s a throwback and I love it.
But that’s not all that’s going on at the carnival. There are also three subplots that each shed more light on major characters who have been quiet for a while, as well as Logan, who’s never quiet. His is the cleverest, with a twist I didn’t see coming at all, and one that leaves some fascinating ambiguity. He shows, verbally spars with Veronica, makes fun of Dick, and then disappears into his own story where he slowly flirts and hooks up with Hannah, a girl who looks roughly 12 years old compared to Logan. Why is Logan doing this? Why is the show having us see him being so charming? At the end, they kiss, Hannah gets her ride, and her father is revealed to be...the plastic surgeon who fingered him to the police. What was a half-sweet, half-smarmy sideplot suddenly turned into “Logan, you deliciously evil bastard, you’re a genius!” (Alternately, this was all a coincidence, but either way, great twist.)
Mac shows up again, in a bit part, having moved her flirtation with Cassidy from the last episode into something apparently more serious. They seem to be in Cute New Couple mode, at least up until Dick shows up and bullies Beav for no reason other than that as a big brother, he can. Mac and Cassidy get their revenge by playing on Dick’s homophobia, though. The Casablancas brothers have been quiet for several episodes, so given their prominent placement in the credits, it’s good for the narrative to bring them back into the fold.
We also get a Jackie subplot that’s easily the best thing we’ve seen of her this season, as she is humiliated, stubborn, and humanized. With her father taking the blame at the moment for the bus crash, Jackie is ostracized at Neptune, and yet she takes a perverse pride in going through the motions even as everyone, particularly Madison and Mrs. Hauser, take their shots at her. I’m still not happy that Wallace and Veronica never had A Talk with her, but I think I understand her now. She’s in the show as a kind of surrogate for the Veronica Mars we lost from the flashbacks in Season 1. Jackie has the status to lose, the brains to help herself and hurt others, and the stubbornness to cause trouble. It’s hard to forget or forgive her ice queen introduction, but she is coming into her own.
Speaking of Jackie’s father, Terrence meets with Keith Mars to try and get his name cleared. Keith is ridiculously excited at meeting his sports hero, and they go through sports history – and Terrence’s unwillingness to come clean about his past – and despite some nasty revelations, Keith takes the case. Terrence basically gives Keith a bunch of reasons to hate him and believe that he did do it, but Keith’s sports fandom still pushes him into helping out. This doesn’t seem like it’s going to end well, but who knows? It can’t be so obvious that the guy with the motives and desperation is the one who did it.
At any rate, while I didn’t notice the formalism of the previous episode, I still have to say that “Ain’t No Magic Mountain High Enough” did pretty much everything I wanted from a Veronica Mars episode. It moved the main plot forward, it had a fun case of the week, and the characters work was magnificent on multiple fronts. Toss in the iconic Veronica moments documented in the screencap and we have a winner.
- “Do you know what any words even mean?”
- “Ah, a favor. One of our specialties.” That word again...an academic could make hay with an analysis of favors and capital in Veronica Mars.
- “There’s a fifty dollar bill?” “I had it made special”
- “Why is the Beav all snuggling with the chick from Ghost World?” It’s true, it’s so true.
- Wallace’s new girlfriend seems awfully excited by Wallace defending his ex’s honor.
- We’ll be taking next week off, but back again in the first week of January! And I suppose it’ll be time for the second installment of the Big Bad Poll after 15 episodes.