While there, naturally, had to be a lot of exposition and character introductions in the first two episodes, “Keep Calm And Party On” is the first episode where things can just be. And in being, a lot happens. In fact, despite only being the third episode of the season, this is also the turning point: Not just because it ends with a second bomb going off but because it introduces Veronica’s theory that Big Dick and Clyde are “using their Chino connections to kill spring break” for NUTT purposes. It’s also the episode where the Weevil, the PCHers, and Veronica’s trusty taser come back into the picture, a proper reminder of a simpler time before cartel members came to town, looking to behead whoever was responsible for the Sea Sprite bombing. But most importantly, this is the episode where Veronica Mars takes ecstasy, a memory we should all cherish forever.
Before getting into the meat of the episode, let’s talk about the partying montage at Comrade Quacks. Yes, it’s atypical for Veronica Mars and Veronica Mars, but it’s arguably one of the show’s most necessary scenes—outside of the context of getting closure on a mystery or case—especially at this point in time. We know that the combination of the ‘09ers all turning their backs on her and Shelly Pomroy’s party turned Veronica off from socializing in high school, but it’s not like Veronica has ever explicitly been against mindless fun; she’s just anti-roofieing and anti-rape. Veronica was then in loner and Wallace mode for so long that those things never really came up. So when Nicole suggests that they all do some E, while it’s surprising that Veronica jumps at the chance, it’s not a betrayal of the character but a chance for her to let loose around people she trusts—Logan, Dick (begrudgingly), Nicole (who she’s immediately drawn to). It’s a fun montage that also leads to the most realistic human moment in the history of the Veronica Mars character—other than her freezing out Meg after giving Meg her “blessing” to date Duncan—her being so white girl wasted that she tells the DJ to play “No Scrubs.”
Of course the follow-up to the night before is a hungover Veronica puking her guts out. Logan’s response of “That tracks.” is absolutely appropriate: We don’t know Nicole’s partying history, but we do know Logan, Dick, and Veronica’s, and we also know the first two have a tolerance Veronica can’t possibly have. And not just because she’s petite. (As Dick notes before the montage, he’d already been rolling for 72 hours straight.) Keith getting to tease Veronica about her wild night out is just the icing on the vomit cake.
Speaking of Keith, in the season premiere, we got the extremely depressing montage of his regular routine living with his injury. From pills to disappointing physical therapy to a crowded doctor’s office that’ll see him when it sees him to him realizing he can’t even afford the help he’ll need. You know, what the 99% has to deal with. Here, with the “It Could Happen To You” montage, it’s like Keith won the lottery, as he gets the chance to see how the other half lives—something he’s never quite gotten the opportunity to do in the series, unlike Veronica—on Big Dick’s dime. This is where potential conflict for Mars Investigations comes in, as Keith and Clyde pretty immediately hit it off, all while Keith has to look into Veronica’s theory that the Clyde and Big Dick are responsible for the bombing and the chaos and destruction the PCHers are currently causing on the boardwalk.
Veronica Mars certainly plays up the idea that something’s up with Clyde, even if it’s not the bombing. This is the man who conned his way into Big Dick’s pocketbook—without having to look like Kendall Casablancas to do it—and has absolutely no problem riding that money train. Whether it’s putting 10 mini-bottles of the good cognac on Big Dick’s tab at the country club or using Big Dick’s medical retainer to get Keith a consultation or robbing banks, Clyde so far exists as a guy whose “crimes” are simply taking from the rich. And especially in the case of Big Dick, it’s not like he’s a good or moral person, as much as he’s trying to pretend that’s what NUTT is all about. The added point that Clyde apparently didn’t even use a gun when he was robbing banks would make setting off a bomb that killed four people quite the escalation.
“Keep Calm And Party On” acknowledges just how thin Veronica’s theory (especially considering the “everyone in prison knows each other” component) is in the first place, of course contrasting Mars Investigations with Penn by not having them go all-in on presenting this particular theory until they have actual evidence and no obvious holes. The other difference between Veronica and Penn is that Veronica’s hunches are based on years of experience—as well as of being right. Penn doesn’t have that. And in this episode, prior to the Big Dick/Clyde theory, Veronica, Keith, and Matty do actual detective work to initially pin the bombing on Matty’s “Mole Man,” Perry Walsh (Philippe Bowgen)—all while Penn continues to hold onto his Daniel Maloof accusation, despite the number of holes in his theory, even if he’s later actually onto something about Perry (who ends up accidentally blowing himself up when the cops come, leaving behind a misogynistic manifesto) being a patsy. In true “true crime” buff fashion, Penn is a character that thinks he now has the skills to solve a crime himself—with his “beginner’s mind—but he keeps proving he doesn’t.
The more Penn gets a chance to go on about his theories, whether it be on TV or at the Murderheads meetings or at Mars Investigation or to Matty at Cho’s Pizza, the more apparent it is that Penn is what Langdon—and even the Lambs before her—sees when she sees Keith and Veronica. A nuisance which only prevents law enforcement from actually doing their jobs. Only, in Penn’s case, it’s actually true. Keith and Veronica actually solve crimes, but they still get no respect from Langdon (who cites “diligent police work” in pinning Perry Walsh as the bomber, instead of Mars Investigation’s legwork). Penn, on the other hand, gets no respect because he’s a goof. Matty even describes him as “flaky,” and she actually likes him. The two members of the Murderheads club that are physically there—social media expert/reference librarian Carol (Dannah Phirman) and forensic expert/rent-a-cop Herc (J. Francisco Rodriguez)—at least seemingly have something to offer in this hobby. One assumes Perry is just the leader because he started it, as that’s very much the energy Don (Clark Duke) sends his way over Skype.
At the Murderheads hivemind meeting, Veronica and Logan are—understandably—rockstars, as Veronica Mars continues to show just how skewed perception of reality can be for characters in Neptune who are on the sidelines. (16-year-old Matty had never heard of Lilly Kane, and she had to go to her physics teacher—Wallace—to get confirmation that Veronica and Keith were legit.) With the Murderheads, Veronica Mars makes its thoughts on true crime junkies pretty clear, as these characters—even the ones who seem nice enough—are so far down the rabbit hole that they can’t show a sliver of respect to Veronica and Logan at all when they talk about dead people who were actually part of their lives, like Lilly Kane and even Aaron Echolls. But getting past the social awkwardness, Penn and the Murderheads still provide insight into what others in Neptune must think of Veronica, Logan, and Keith. Don’s tasteless “The Notorious DLK...Dead Lilly Kane” comment. Penn’s “so say some” when Logan—someone who would actually know—calls his own father a murderer. (They even argue about the Lilly Kane murder right in front of Veronica and Logan, bringing up the Duncan scenario is mentioned and Don actually pointing the finger at Veronica.) Thankfully, at least one key piece of the puzzle comes out of this, with Carol informing Veronica that Gabriel’s uncle is El Despiadado.
At this point, Mayor Dobbins (Andrew Friedman) believes the Neptune Police Department is spread too thin and wants to call in the FBI for help on the bombing case. And he’s not wrong, as he points out that two liquor trucks were hijacked last night, the muggings, PCHers causing a ruckus with their motorcycles on the boardwalk, sexual assaults, and the missing King Pagursky. Veronica’s voiceover at the beginning of the episode even notes how there was even a pre-bombing crime wave, making Spring Break worse than usual. The police couldn’t even get Matty back for questioning after she slipped out of the precinct. While the Lambs would immediately jump at the chance to bring in the FBI (to try and fail to show off), Langdon runs things in a way where she has to be the one to solve things. She has to be the one to throw the book at the perp. While that doesn’t make her corrupt, it does hinder the Neptune police department; just like Keith practically having to force her to look at the Perry file does.
I haven’t written much about the Maloofs yet, despite them hiring Mars Investigations and them seemingly having multiple targets on their backs. Or really, just Daniel’s back. While the previous episode revealed that Alex is angry over losing both his fiance and three of the fingers, this episode goes further into how Daniel could actually be responsible for this, without detonating the bomb himself. Keith and Veronica don’t believe he’s the bomber, of course, but this episode introduces blackmail emails he’s been getting that suggest the blackmailer’s responsible (which Keith and Veronica also don’t believe). It’s kind of a shame that Daniel only just now exists in the series, because the idea of this particular character—one compared to both JFK and Obama—always existing in the background of this world would probably add more oomph to this story. The first two episodes do the best they can in this condensed format though. And with this episode, it’s surprisingly Daniel (in all of nicotine-craving irrationality) that not only fully brings the cartel more into the story but makes things more interesting for those characters by giving them another mission. The facade of Daniel being a dignified, respectable man completely disappears in this episode, and Mido Hamada plays the escalation of his desperation and fear tremendously. It’s a very heightened place to go only three episodes in, but again, this is a season on a mission.
And while Daniel enlists Alonzo and Dodie as a way to stop them from killing him and to get them to kill the Carr brothers, it’s not like these two characters hop from their story separate from everything else and then just exist in this one story now. As we also find out here, Alonzo has started a thing with a housekeeper at the motel they’re staying at, Claudia (Onahoua Rodriguez)—who happens to be Weevil’s sister. A brief interaction between Alonzo and Weevil—with Weevil realizing Alonzo has “business” to handle in Neptune that’s possible bomb-adjacent—is far more interesting than the out of place scenes of just Alonzo and Dodie together. This cartel business is a part of the season, like it or not; so the least it can do is keep up with the rest of the show.
But it’s understandably hard to keep up when an episode ends as this one ends. Based on the promos, it was obvious what was going to happen, but the important part is the aftermath of this bombing. The image of Veronica walking toward where it happened while everyone (including her friends) scatters is Veronica Mars in a nutshell, heading toward the danger despite all signs pointing the opposite direction. And it’s followed up with as appropriate a voiceover (the perfect one-two punch of writing and directing from Heather V. Regnier and Joaquin Sedillo, respectively) as you’ll ever get to end the episode: “Holy shit. I was right. Why do I always have to be right?”
- Juan Diego: “How did you know that I was a PCHer?”
Veronica: “Your voice told me teenager. Your stranglin’ hand is encased in a motorcycle glove. PCHers are a young motorcycle gang. It’s pretty easy math.” Also easy math is Veronica’s thought process once she notices the “six crisp $100 bills” in his wallet. That she takes, along with his knife, his picture, and the wallets he stole.
- The Hu’s Reduced storyline seemed like the type that would usually be an episodic one-and-done. In fact, it seemed like the kind of thing someone would’ve hired Vinnie Van Lowe to do, a la“Kane and Abel’s.” The anticlimactic nature of the reveal of the “rat king”—both as an offscreen uncovering and one with a ridiculous excuse—is very much the point, as it’s all a means to ultimately falling in line with the Chino theory.
- Pretty much clocked that Penn’s fans were making him the spokesperson for the alt-right as soon as I saw their tiki torch-less get-ups. At least he was uncomfortable and left as soon as he got the chance.
- Aww, baby’s first stakeout. Veronica even lets Matty snap the pictures of “Mole Man,” because she knows that taking control is what she needs.
- Alex didn’t know that his family tried to pay his fiance off until he found out about it from Penn on the news. His mother, however, remains cold-blooded as ever: “We were doing you a favor.” Logan later confirms the payoff was all Amalia, not Daniel.
- We knew a little in advance that Mac wouldn’t be in this season, but now we know why: She’s in Istanbul. (And yes, Logan chimes in with “Not Constantinople.”) That makes Naval Intelligence Officer Logan Veronica’s go-to for a hacking situation, but he can’t get things done as quickly as Mac would have.
- Naval Intelligence Office Logan speaks Arabic, meaning that every time the Maloofs try to hide something from him, he understands.
- Veronica: “A cam girl. So what? It’s not even in pussy-grabbing range. You know, who even cares anymore? I thought that’s what we’re all learning. Nothing matters.” Veronica truly does thrive in a world where everything’s the worst.
- Logan: “Einstein said you cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for death. No, wait. That was war.” Logan may be a bit rusty on the inspirational quotes, but he’s still got it.
- Dick’s text to Logan: “9-1-1. Can you bring me pants? P.S. This is Dick.”
Veronica: “Why does Dick need pants?”
Logan: “Why does he need to tell me this is Dick? I assume any text that starts with ‘bring me pants’ is from Dick.”
- I don’t even know if it counts as fan service or Rob Thomas/Kristen Bell service, but thank god we get an elaborate dance number from Ryan Hansen in this episode. No backflip though.
- The Mars family motto: “We used to be disgusted, now we try to be amused.”
- Keith: “Said he was releasing the rats because Hu’s Reduced sold him a bad steak.”
Veronica: “That seems like a bit of an overreaction, don’t you think?”
Keith: “I do.”
- One new fun fact in the case: Law school student and creep bro Jimmy Hatfield was on a registered sex offender list.
- While Matty doesn’t know if her father had any enemies, she does know someone was shitting in the ice machine every few days. And Veronica is able to put together the pieces because Logan’s way of bonding with Keith is scatological humor.
- Realtors have been trying to buy the Sea Sprite from Matty, but so far, no offer from Big Dick and/or Clyde, which kind of hurts Veronica’s theory about the bombing.
- Logan: “Do I know you?”
Penn: “Uh, you should. I’m in the zeitgeist.”
- Keith says they know Big Dick’s corrupt but don’t know if he seems the mass murderer type. I’m surprised there wasn’t a line about Cassidy Casablancas also not seeming the mass murderer type.
- The only reason Alonzo/Dodie even learn where Daniel is? It’s on the news. Thankfully everyone constantly has the news on in Neptune. (Even though they complain about it.) Which is also how they find out Daniel didn’t set the bomb.
- Watching Keith at work to figure out “Mole Man’s” identity (and Chino connection) is an absolute treat. He’s still got it bab.y.
- Penn got forensics done on shrapnel that landed in his back. It’s a nail. He has a pretty thin (that’s the watchword) connection to Maloof from that, which no one in the meeting buys at all. And then news strikes that the Sea Sprite Bomber is dead.
- While it continues to disappoint that Weevil went back to gang life, it’s actually nice to see Hector again at the cookout.
- The Carr brothers kidnapping Daniel is no surprise. Neither is the fact that they’re happy their “bitch” sister is dead (no doubt because as the one decent member of the family, they thought she was a snob). The way they approached the Maloofs both times before the kidnapping suggested they didn’t want the engagement ring out of anything resembling sentimental value, only the money. They do feel like discount Fitzpatricks, but they leave quite a bit of damage to prove they’re not just a couple of goofs.