“The Rapes Of Graff” (season 2, episode 16; originally aired 3/19/2006)
I have to say, this is one of the most dense and interesting episodes of Veronica Mars yet, on a number of different levels. On the most obvious level of serialization, we finally see the return of Troy, the homme fatale of the first handful of episodes. I really expected this for a while after him being such an important character early on, followed by his total disappearance in a single episode. But that became less pressing as time went on, and a season and a half later, he became easier to let go. Which makes this almost the perfect time for him to show up again, actually. It’s a pleasant surprise that only feels slightly forced (he’d really check out a college in Neptune?).
The show also does a good job of integrating Troy’s past—and Veronica’s—within the storyline. As prospies at Hearst, Veronica, Troy, and Wallace all end up at a party. They have various pleasant and unpleasant interactions, and Troy leaves with a girl named Stacy, who wakes up the next day after being roofied, raped, and receiving a compulsory head-shaving. She blames Troy, who, with nowhere else to turn but Veronica, convinces her to believe his redemption story just enough to make an effort to clear his name.
Of course, there’s more going on than just Veronica believing a (former?) con man out of the kindness of her heart. She has a terrible experience with a fraternity member (who embodies rape culture) at the party, and a later scene where she talks to Stacy helps indicate her emotional connection to that rape. It’s also the first reminder we’ve had in a while of Veronica’s rape, which was so important to season one.
The rape is also a heavier storyline than most of those we’ve seen recently. While last week I complained that the show was spinning its wheels instead of revving up, that was partially based on the emotional stakes of the cases of the week as much as the literal serialization. That’s not the case, either in terms of the standalone emotional impact or the overall emotional effect.
Logan Echolls, after all, had a crisis of conscience last week, and he hasn’t quite followed up on it. He’s gotten the false witness to recant his testimony and get Logan off the hook, but as part of a “deal” where Logan also stops seeing Hannah. Initially, Logan does abide by this, but he has a change of heart—he can’t just break Hannah’s heart because he actually likes her now, even if initially it was just manipulation. Logan tries to be a good person and not hurt Hannah—but it’s too late. His initial plan to use her for his own benefit comes back to haunt him, when her father discovers her and ships her off to boarding school. I can only imagine (hope?) that this turns Logan into a more desperate man for the rest of the season.
A C-plot involving Keith and Cliff works on the overarching narrative a bit more, but it’s the comic relief of the episode. Really, anything involving Cliff is probably going to be amusing, and this is probably the most Cliff-heavy episode yet, which is a nice bonus to an already fascinating episode. Cliff and Keith discover that an escort has stolen a briefcase with the Logan Echolls murder papers, and that Don Lamb and Madison Sinclair are doing something with one another, after Madison dumps Dick. As if that’s not enough, that last little cliff-hanger shows that Terrence Cook was probably framed, and the Fitzpatricks are probably to blame.
As if that’s not enough, this episode is also structurally fascinating. Other than the season-long storylines, Veronica’s mysteries always end with some kind of significant resolution. We know who did the deed, and why. It’s not necessarily a happy ending, but it is an ending. Here, we only get a partial one. Veronica does conclusively prove that Troy wasn’t the rapist, but she doesn’t discover who actually was. It’s an interesting move, although a fan on Twitter noted that this was partially a stunt, where the producers let it be known that this storyline would continue in the third season.
Of course, that’s another important aspect of this episode: Veronica’s college is introduced. Well, we don’t know that for certain, but it does make logical sense, just as it made sense that Buffy would end up at UC-Sunnydale. The school was introduced in “One Angry Veronica,” and now we see Wallace accepted? Of course this is where Veronica is ending up, and Wallace seals the deal when he says: “See, if you come here next year, you’ve already got enemies. You’ll fit right in.”
And to top the whole thing off, there’s a fascinating external narrative of Michael Cera and Alia Shawkat of Arrested Development playing the two primary guest stars. Both are quite good, with Cera playing a typically geeky Cera-type, while Shawkat does a much more serious character—which is a bit offputting. It’s not quite like the Buffy reunion from earlier in the season, as they don’t actually share a scene directly. Although it did seem for a minute as though Cera’s character was being set up as the rapist in a twist that would have been doubly bizarre for the meta-textuality of it.
With all that going on, it could have been easy for this episode to fall apart somewhere. And maybe the Logan/Hannah resolution was a little bit too fast, but other than that, “The Rapes Of Graff” really managed to do everything it was trying to do quite well. It may have been missing something special to put it in the absolute top tier of Veronica Mars episodes, but it’s still a marvelous episode for pulling all those different strands together.
“Plan B” (season 2, episode 17; originally aired 4/5/2006)
I would imagine that “Plan B” is the episode that’s considered the turning point of season two. The characters are learning a bit too much, secrets are becoming exposed, and one major subplot is resolved—or at least, pointed in an entirely different direction. We’ve also got a set of breakups, rearranging the emotional and relationship setup.
The secrets and breakups are related in at least one major instance—Cassidy doesn’t want to get intimate with Mac, and refuses to tell her why. When she presses him, he gets extraordinarily defensive and breaks up with her. Why? Well, we don’t find out within the episode, so chances are, it’s important in some way. Meanwhile, Wallace breaks up with Jane because suddenly he finds himself unable to keep away from Jackie once again. This is sort of out of nowhere, so I have to assume it’s becaus the actress playing Jane only had so many episodes on her contract. Otherwise, all it did was make Wallace look like a dick while trying to shove a reformed Jackie down our throats.
But those breakups aren’t the focus of the episode. That goes to two related storylines: Logan wins an essay contest and goes to intern with Woody as Keith continues to work with the commissioner, while Veronica and Weevil track down proof that Thumper killed Felix. It’s rare that Veronica doesn’t get the main storyline, but I think that’s the case here, as Woody dominates the proceedings. He’s been around the periphery a lot, and had some important scenes for himself, but nothing quite like this episode.
First, he has to deal with Logan as his intern. Amusingly, Logan seems to have won the essay contest by quoting Easy Rider, and just as entertainingly, Woody cancels a press profile of his new intern as soon as he realizes who it is (which makes me wonder how well this whole process was vetted). He also gets (maybe) a little bit too friendly with Logan at the gym, while laughing off most of Logan’s bitter sarcasm.
More pressingly, Logan, discovering the joy of intern work via a mail-opening assignment, finds a disc with a video on it. That video appears to be someone attempting to frighten Woody by breaking into his house and recording him and his family. Keith figures it’s opponents of his incorporation plan, up until he notices that the clock indicates it was recorded in the winter, before Woody had gone public with the plan. He asks Woody if there’s anything else that might cause someone to threaten him. Woody says he’ll think about it, and then the next time he shows up, he tells a transparent lie and seems desperate to get the disc back. Keith notes this, keeps the video, and immediately focuses an investigation on Woody.
Really, at this point, the show is making it fairly clear that we should be focused on Woody as the villain behind the bus crash. He has secrets, power, odd behavior, and a possible connection to the mob—as the audience, but none of the main characters, discover. He also fits the same actor/role model as Harry Hamlin/Aaron Echolls last year, in addition to becoming steadily more important, just as Aaron did. Really, the only reason I’d think that Woody didn’t do it at this point is that he’s too obvious for just that reason. Of course, I’ll prepare to eat crow if I’m wrong, but it seems more interesting for the “hows” and the “whys” at this point.
We see that Woody may have a connection to the mob because he’s not fazed at all by the discovery that Thumper’s motorcycle is in the stadium which is about to be demolished. The motorcycle is also there because Thumper is there, and presumably dead, at the end of this episode. That motorcycle was also the key discovery of Veronica’s plotline, as she helps Weevil pin the deed on Thumper, just a little bit too late for her slow justice to take precedence over Weevil and the Fitzpatrick’s much faster form of justice.
There’s an odd plot hole here. Veronica asks Logan for help identifying the man who drove him home, and Logan provides enough information for Veronica to find the guy fairly easily. One would think that Logan would have been dispensing this information to private investigator friends/girlfriends long before this episode—but no, apparently he just now remembered. Even still, it’s something of a red herring, since Weevil does what he wanted to do regardless of the witness’ change of heart.
It’s amusing that last week I was complaining that Veronica Mars wasn’t ramping up its tension as it headed towards the end of the season. Clearly I jumped the gun slightly, since both of these episodes did exactly that. “Plan B” was a little contrived—you could see the strings being pulled with Logan’s memory and Wallace’s breakup—but strong enough to take us into the home stretch.
- “Smoooth.” “Hey, some things I can’t change.”
- “You’ve got my vote.” Cliff… probably not lying.
- “So you figured creepy skulking was a better use of your time?”
- “It was 210.” “You undercounted the sassy.”
- “Slutty is your word. Worldly is mine.”
- Veronica turns to Logan for comfort at the Sadie Hawkins dance. It’s kind of understandable, but possibly also a tease. Wait, if I call it a tease, does that lead me towards shipperdom?
- Alyssa Rosenberg at ThinkProgress has been doing a series on Television’s Great Women. She invited me to write an entry about Veronica Mars (published yesterday) focusing on the show being outside the “canon” because of certain elements.