“Rat Saw God” (season 2, episode 6; originally aired 11/9/2005)
In which Keith loses an election but continues winning our hearts, Veronica and old enemy Clarence Wiedman re-open a cold case, and Logan Echolls is in bigger trouble than normal…
One of the interesting things about Veronica Mars’ budget constraints is that within those limits the story takes on some fascinating components. For example, the last episode dealt primarily with Wallace and Jackie and their relationships with each other as well as Veronica. Neither of them appear in “Rat Saw God”—Jackie isn’t even mentioned. Wallace may have occasional pride of place in the narration, as Veronica tries to keep him up to date with what’s going on and works around his disappearance at times, but he doesn’t actually appear.
So it’s a credit to the show’s storyline density that it can avoid having those two major characters in this episode and still spend most of the story dealing with previous events. It’s aided by the fact that the main storyline is a callback to season one, with Abel Koontz, Amelia Delongpre, and Clarence Wiedman returning. Now, as some of you may remember, I did think that these three characters were compelling and somewhat under-served in the first season, so having some kind of closure for this storyline is great.
Amelia, it turns out, has disappeared while enjoying her money. A dying Abel Koontz, having mysteriously lost his Southern accent, enlists Veronica to find her before he dies, and the trail eventually leads back to Wiedman… and Amelia’s dead body. Although Wiedman initially appears to be the culprit, he and Veronica actually work together quite effectively as good cop and bad cop, determining who the killer is before Wiedman leaves to go find the guy.
This story is bookended by Keith’s sheriff election and its fallout, as Lamb wins another term, with the bus-crash investigation dominating both the election and the two men’s relationship. Keith uncovers Veronica’s previous run-in with the law, thanks to the dead man’s hand-message, which leads to Veronica spilling her feelings of guilt over the bus crash. This fascinated me, because as I discussed during Amelia’s episode last season, Veronica could easily be called as (or more) complicit in the events leading to Amelia’s death, as it was her meddling that directly led to the more drastic measures of Amelia’s disappearance. Perhaps we’ll see more of this as this storyline doesn’t appear to have resolved completely, but it’ll be interesting to watch and see if my questions about Veronica’s morality and choices match up with the show’s.
Yet as compelling as all that is, it has to be considered something of a sideshow compared to the third plot, Logan’s second arrest after the formerly anonymous witness comes forward and pins more direct blame on him. (Is this double jeopardy? I don’t recall if the arrest over the summer led to a trial or just a hearing, but it sure seems like double jeopardy.) This provides a marvelous excuse for the return of Harry Hamlin as Aaron Echolls, whose charm is in full effect, making his moderately convincing case that Duncan did the deed, not him.
But what’s more important is that Aaron provides a direct anchor to the events of the first season. He, Amelia, and Wiedman draw their stories directly from what came before. More generally, they show that Veronica Mars has created a strong enough world that it can support much higher levels. I have been, and still somewhat am, dubious about the pace at which this season is moving. But this was a great episode, even with all its density and the fact that it was essentially all setup. And it was great because it was attached to the history of the show so far.
“Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner” (season 2, episode 7; originally aired 11/16/2005)
In which Veronica gets told she doesn’t need bigger breasts, and also learns that children are evil, and parents are worse…
“Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner” starts out with clips from The Big Lebowski, which turns out to be an inspired choice for this episode. Veronica Mars has been weird in the past, but this time around, it gets downright surreal. Yet that surreality is balanced by perfectly reasonable character work and choices. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this episode is a Coens homage or anything (it doen’t seem to have the right formal restraint), but I would say that this was probably Veronica Mars’ strangest episode yet, and Lebowski, at the least, gives me some kind of lens through which I can attempt to view and understand this episode.
The scene that gives this review its screencap is the clear winner in the Weirdness Sweepstakes. Veronica babysits for an odd, overly well-behaved child, and then his father thanks and pays her. Then he offers to have her hang out if she “just wants to fool around or smoke a J.” And he gives her the picture his son drew of her. And that’s it. Veronica has a shocked reaction, but nothing more is said about this. We simply venture outside the realm of plausibility for a short scene, and that’s that.
Although this is the most strikingly odd scene, there are others. Veronica invites herself to a party at Gia’s, which turns into a “girl’s night” where Veronica is notably out of place. But the party as a whole seems like someone’s idea of a rich high-school girl’s party, the introduction scene to a schoolgirl porno—nothing actually real, even TV “real”.
And this is fine. This is great, even. At a personal level, I’ve been blazing through several shows for the end-of-year TV Club list, and today, watched several episodes of Louie and Childrens Hospital, as well as a typically odd episode of Community and an atypically odd episode of Parks And Recreation. “Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner” was not the weirdest of these—I’m gonna go with Louie’s masturbation episode for that distinction—but it wasn’t the least strange either. Combined with things like Veronica’s vision of Lilly in the season première, it makes me think that Veronica Mars is moving in a much more metaphorical direction.
In terms of the main storyline, this episode’s most important indirect contribution toward solving the mystery is that Woody, previously a genial if overly slick businessman/politician, showed a much darker side, at two different levels. In the opening scene, he tells Keith his intent to incorporate Neptune Beach as a city, and as a city specifically for the 09ers. Keith diplomatically notes that while he’s being considered for chief of police, he probably couldn’t live in that city. Second, Woody’s kid is one of the ones Veronica starts to consider for the abuse storyline, and Woody and as his wife exhibit behavior indicating that the kid may well be treated poorly at the house. Neither of these things necessarily make Woody the most likely suspect, but it’s clear at this point that there’s a lot more going on with him than the first few episodes showed.
In other interesting turns of events, Veronica and Logan start working together to help Logan with his little murder problem, a situation that gets complicated by Logan living with Duncan, as well as breaking up with an increasingly desperate Kendall. Logan’s reintegration into Veronica’s life and case can only be good for the show.
- “I promise to hold his hair back if he makes sick.” Cliff, why aren’t you a main cast member?
- “And who proved that stripper was colorblind?”
- “That’s gonna mess up your Tivo.” Two very good episodes for Sheriff Lamb as a jackass, and then as something more than a jackass.
- “Are you all right?” “Yeah, it’s just a really big bug. I’ll call you back.”
- “Veronica! Do you know how to do dreadlocks?” I have no idea what the twist for Gia is going to be, but I can’t wait for it.