TV Recap

Life on ''Mars''

In a busy episode of ''Veronica Mars,'' Keith probes the bus-crash mystery, Weevil finds the traitor in his gang, and Veronica gets Wallace off the hook

CELL DEFENSE Veronica exonerated Wallace with the help of a stolen phone
Image credit: Veronica Mars: Greg Schwartz
CELL DEFENSE Veronica exonerated Wallace with the help of a stolen phone

''Veronica Mars'': Rats and snakes

It is nearly impossible for Veronica Mars to field a bad episode. Each installment is overstuffed with so much...well, stuff that there's bound to be something valuable for the viewer, even if the whole doesn't equal the sum of the parts. That was my thought about ''Rashard and Wallace Go to White Castle,'' which scored a lot of points on substance but not as many on style, especially after last week's above-average effort. If VM is an Olympic figure skater, cast me as the austere, grumpy Russian judge — at least this week.

It was a dense outing, comprising three meaty intertwining story lines chockablock with important developments. Typical VM, the twisty helix demanded close attention and a multitrack mind to process each strand. This characteristic is one of my favorite aspects of the show, and it would probably serve our purposes best if we discussed each thread separately.

Daddy Mars and the baffling case of the easily accessible evidence room Hats off to Keith Mars for his mad-crafty P.I. skillz. Still, his whole ''I'm being audited'' ruse to sneak into the Neptune Sheriff's Department evidence room would have been a lot more impressive if the Neptune Sheriff's Department could afford more than one desk clerk — and maybe someone slightly more savvy and invested than ''I know nothing'' Inga — to keep the general public from tampering with Neptune's already precarious judicial system. Keystone Kops, indeed.

Yet I was happy to see Keith pick up the pace on VM's season-long bus-crash saga, which has taken a back seat of late to the recently concluded Meg-Duncan-baby story line. I must admit I had to strain to recall the Curly the Beached Mechanic (whom, we learned, was connected to the Casablancas family), as well as baseball star Terence Cook (a.k.a., Jackie's Dad) and former Neptune High journalism teacher (and crash casualty) Miss DeMoss (who we learned had a thing going on with Cook). Keith put forth a new theory on the dead rat: It wasn't a threatening gesture aimed at Veronica but a trick designed to flush the rich kids off the bus — an inspired notion. We also learned that the daughter of the man, the myth, the Gute! (yes, I speak of Steve Guttenberg) had been warned not to take the bus the day before the crash — which seems to portend a return engagement by the long-unseen Gute! A busy night of busy little bits on the bus front culminated with the news that Sheriff Lamb had arrested Terence, and something tells me Keith and Veronica will soon be getting a baseball star for a client.

Again, it all might have had more dramatic impact if so many of these aforementioned minor characters on which this arc depends hadn't been back-burnered for so long — a great argument for why VM is even better experienced as a watch-all-at-once DVD mystery novel, and why VM is so hard for newbies to jump aboard at any other place but the beginning.

Weevil, Veronica, and the buggable confessional Quick check of hands: How many of you out there are really interested in Who Killed Felix?

Yes, it was an ambitious choice to tell two twisty murder mysteries over the course of the season, and yes, the Logan-Weevil team-up has been enjoyable, and yes, the whole West Side Story thing between Weevil's biker boys and the Fitzpatrick clan has given VM a charged shot of edgy sociopolitics. But I still don't care who killed Felix. I think the reason for my indifference is that what began as a Logan-driven arc (Wah! Who's framing me?) has become a Weevil-driven arc (Wah! Who's the drug-dealing traitor in my gang?), and as much as I dig Weevil, I don't dig Weevil that much. I feel he's better enjoyed as a seasoning, not as a side dish.

Anyway, Veronica helped the two bad boys in her life by setting up a surveillance camera in a confessional booth at Father Fitzpatrick's church (a.k.a., Our Lady of the Drug Drop), and it's a good thing for our heroes that the guilt-wracked Catholics of Neptune are a downcast bunch, because otherwise they surely would have seen a red light on the ceiling winking at them.

Ultimately, Weevil learned the Fitzpatrick-connected rat in his camp is Thumper...and everyone else in his gang, too. The gang beat their leader up and trashed his motorcycle, and Thumper (who may be Felix's murderer — still unclear) blackmailed Weevil into silence by threatening to expose how he kicked the crud out of the suddenly ubiquitous Curly shortly before his death. Weevil is now a boss without a posse or a hog. Weevil Wobble done fall down! It'll be interesting to see if and how he gets back up.

Veronica, Wallace, and the mysterious hit-and-run hit-and-run mystery And by that, I mean this: Man, did they wash their hands of this story line lickety-split!

In last week's episode, we learned that while in Chicago, Wallace became tight with a high school basketball phenom named Rashard, and one night after a White Castle run, they ran over a homeless guy. Wallace felt so guilty he ditched the Windy City and returned to Neptune. But then, an investigative journalist showed up with a few questions, and it seemed Wallace would have to face up to his sins. Now, even last week, I was worried this story line could become tedious. Still, the thrill of having Wallace back in the VM mix, coupled with the prospect of watching him flail in a provocative moral quagmire, had me ready to follow the plotline for at least two, maybe three episodes. Instead, Wallace's mess got mopped up in just one episode! What was the rush?

The story included my favorite Veronicaism of the night — ''German chocolate nutgasm'' — but also included, for the second straight week, a twist-too-far switcheroo: The late-game revelation that Jackie was an accomplice in Veronica and Wallace's takedown of Rashard. Poorly set up, poorly executed in my opinion. (Jackie, in general, is such a hazy character, as if the writers themselves aren't quite sure what to make of her or how to use her.) (I say that now, and watch her end up being the season's malevolent mastermind.) And while I'm at it, how about a moratorium on stories that get resolved via a timely swiping of the bad guy's cell phone? Like infiltrating a police evidence room or bugging a church confessional, bringing down the diabolical should be just a little more difficult — even for our brilliant Ms. Mars.

So let me hear it: Am I being a little tough on Veronica? Who do you like for the bus crash? And how painfully awkward — or sweetly goofy — was that ''Veronica'' karaoke cameo by Spoon frontman Britt Daniel? Thoughts, questions, debate — bring it.

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Originally posted Feb 02, 2006
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