Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Patreon update #21: Twin Peaks season 3 rewatch (public video) - Parts 1 & 2 / film in focus: Radio On (+ Josie Packard as a character, my video essay Learning to Look & more podcast recommendations)

After months of hype, the Return rewatch series has begun! From now through September 3, I will publish a new podcast entry every Monday on Patreon at 6pm in honor of the third season's first anniversary. I knew that "Twin Peaks Reflections" would become a more ambitious segment  with the dawn of this approach, but I was surprised by how lengthy, comprehensive, and structured the new section ended up being. My coverage of the two-hour premiere - Parts 1 & 2 - runs for over an hour. It explores every nook and cranny of the show, and does so through a format I will follow week to week: looking at the feel and structure of each episode, breaking the plot into story sections (New York and other random locations, Twin Peaks, the FBI in South Dakota, Mr. C, Las Vegas, and the Spirit World), analyzing statistics (characters introduced or re-introduced, ranking screentime, and determining a plausible timeline for the out-of-order scenes), and finally digging into three different areas: coffee/pie/donuts, Lodge lore, and Laura Palmer. It's going to be a blast re-visiting the Showtime series this way.

Despite the overwhelming dominance of Twin Peaks at this point, the rest of the podcast chugs along at its normal pace, making this by far the longest episode so far. From now on, each episode will run closer to two hours than just an hour. My Film in Focus is the second in a row from the UK, the third in a row from the British Isles, the fifth in a row from Europe, and the ninth non-American film in a row, if we discount exile Stanley Kubrick's last film (next week's Hollywood classic will break this streak!). It's also yet another movie, following A Man Escaped and Spirited Away in the past few months, that I first reviewed in the summer of 2008, the earliest days of my blog, but haven't seen since then. Radio On is a captivating musical journey from London to Bristol, and I focus on its strangely political apolitical outlook, its German influence (and possible influence on Jim Jarmusch), and even its early use of video games.

In the "other topics" section I dig into several really absorbing podcasts I've listened to recently, and in listener feedback I hear from one patron who had their own thoughts going into season 3 and another whose take on Josie Packard is at least as comprehensive as what I shared in my biweekly preview last week. Apologies for the strange audio quality in these sections; I think once again the phone itself, rather than my headphone mic, was picking up my voice - hopefully it's still listenable for you. Finally, in "Opening the Archives" I move into the post-Journey Through Twin Peaks era on my site (which feels like a step into the present), when I kicked off my viewing diary approach with True Detective, resumed the Evangelion episode guide, and began creating regular video essays for Fandor. My archive highlight this week is an exploration of eye contact in an iconic sales film, resulting in one of my favorite video essays that I created.

Finally, I've also decided to post the Twin Peaks part of this episode publicly on YouTube for non-patrons to enjoy. If you like it, and can do so at the present moment, consider becoming a patron so that you can hear the rest of my series coverage. Only three more patrons to go, and I'll hit fifty!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Kanes and Abel's" (season 1, episode 17)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on April 5, 2005/written by Carolyn Murray; directed by Nick Marck): Here we have an episode very much devoted to the murder mystery, as will be - I suspect - most of the remaining four before the finale. Almost all plotlines relate to this core concern; even the A-story Veronica high school investigation, a query into who's been harassing academic star Sabrina Fuller (Megan Henning), involves a Kane family scholarship. The case is also only taken because Veronica needs a cash infusion to keep a key witness sequestered away in a motel. That witness is Amelia (Erin Chambers), Abel's daughter, but by lying about a couple key issues (that she's involved with Abel's legal team and that Abel is doing well rather than dying) Veronica eventually loses her trust. Clarence enters directly into the Mars' lives, outwitting them in a game of cat-and-mouse as Keith realizes how deeply his daughter has gotten involved with the Lilly case and commits, by episode's end, to helping her out.

The academic harasser mystery is a very solid story (albeit a bit dismissive of the unlikable Sabrina's nonetheless serious harassment). This plot keys into the series' class concerns by pitting the snotty, insufferable Sabrina against honorable, hard-working Hamilton Cho (Leonard Wu), who turns out to be innocent - but his father Jim (Nelson Mashita) isn't. To make sure that charges aren't pressed against his overeager dad, Hamilton gracefully sacrifices his valedictorian status as well as the scholarship (which he needs, while Sabrina doesn't). The drama also introduces Mars Investigations rival - and hopefully recurring character - Vinnie Van Lowe (Ken Marino), who was hired by Mr. Cho to conduct the academic warfare campaign and is also eager to collaborate with Keith. I love his little speech about Keith entering the P.I. field, which further fleshes out the social dynamics of Neptune. A comically egotistical dick, he provides a lot of potential going forward.

On the more serious side, Veronica is giving serious consideration to which Kane killed Lilly. Experiencing a hallucination just like Duncan in the apparently haunted Kane abode, she's taunted by the dead girl for suspecting her family members, but Veronica nonetheless persists in doing so. We see vision-conjectures of Celeste fatally slapping Lilly around for bringing up Veronica's parentage, Jake shoving her down when she's caught making out with Weevil, and finally a convulsing Duncan, in the throes of his mysterious illness, attacking Lilly in a fit of insane violence. The last is clearly the speculation we're meant to take to heart, especially when Logan sneaks a peek on Veronica's computer and tells her that, while he didn't know about Duncan's condition, he did once witness him attacking his father in a furious, later forgotten, rage.

My Response:

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Betty and Veronica" (season 1, episode 16)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on March 29, 2005/written by Diane Ruggiero; directed by Michael Fields): Veronica discovers her mother was with Jake at the time of Lilly's murder (a storyline that mostly unfolds in flashback) and eventually checks Lianne into rehab. She also poses as Betty from Riverdale (har har), a new student at Neptune's downscale arch-rival Pan High, to figure out who has stolen Neptune's mascot, a parrot named Polly (in return, Neptune's athletic elite steals the Pan goat). Although personally disgusted with the cult of school spirit, and far more amenable to Pan's social milieu than that of her own school, she gets some perks from her principal for taking the case. More importantly, she is personally invested in tracking down Polly after the kidnapper releases a video threatening Polly unless Wallace - Neptune's star player - sits out the big game. Veronica notices a "13" on the masked figure's sneakers, leading us to suspect Pan's #13, Richie (Kyle Searles). In fact, the real culprit is Neptune's own #13, Wallace's supposed friend Jack (Christopher Babers). The conniving gambler is perhaps partially motivated by jealousy of his teammate, but mostly by more mercenary considerations. With Wallace out, he can control the flow of the game and ensure a loss to Pan, paying off on bets he's made (and following a tradition of cheating for profit that goes back years).

Meanwhile, romance complicates Veronica's social life while simplifying her work: she's clearly discomforted by Meg's blooming relationship with Duncan but greatly appreciaties new boyfriend Leo for sending Lilly Kane evidence her way. Veronica listens to recordings of her father interrogating the Kanes about a hotel date at the time of Lilly's death (the then-sheriff doesn't know that in fact his wife was there too), and she figures out a way to even the playing field in her ongoing surveillance war. The reason Clarence spotted her in Barstow wasn't that he was watching her mother - he was watching, or rather listening to, her. She finds the bug in her bedroom but rather than destroy it she decides to keep it installed, letting him continue to listen in as she feeds him what she wants him to hear. Having planted a bug in his office, she's able to spy on his own response when, for example, she states that Abel Koontz must have taken a payoff in order to confess, and that therefore the payoff must be benefitting someone else. Clarence orders his secretary to call Amelia DeLongpre, whom Veronica quickly discovers is Abel's daughter.

My Response:

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Ruskie Business" (season 1, episode 15)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on February 22, 2005/written by Phil Klemmer & John Enborn; directed by Guy Bee): Veronica Mars has a penchant for punny episode titles, but this one's a real keeper, tying together the nationality of the Mars' new client Yelena Sukarenko (Cynthia Lamontagne), the celebrity soundalike name of the man she's seeking (one "Tom Cruz"), the 80s-themed dance that serves as a dramatic centerpiece, and even the storyline of Logan, who, devastated after he learns who has actually been using that suspicious credit card, shows up at said dance in his undies ala...well, you get the picture. It looks like the several-episode arc Lynn Echolls case has ended; Logan's sister Tina (high-profile guest star Alyson Hannigan) is back in town and taking advantage of the parental checkbook - hence Logan's confusion. Meanwhile, another storyline may be beginning; Veronica spends much of the episode trying to find out who friendly Meg's secret admirer is, only to learn it's Duncan. She's a bit devastated but fortunately Leo shows up in the nick of time to catch the rebound.

The titular investigation, meanwhile, has its own surprises in store. Veronica is stunned when a run-of-the-mill client wants to reunite with a lover rather than dig up some dirt on him. She dedicates herself to tracking down the mysterious Mr. Cruz for the Russian immigrant who realizes too late what she had. As in the previous episode, Veronica butts heads with her father out of misguided empathy, but this time he pulls out ahead in the end, stopping her just as she's about to turn a man in the Witness Protection Program over to the mobster's wife who's been tracking him down. Oops. Veronica also struggles with Meg's case (both finding her answer and deciding whether or not to reveal it) and leads Logan into a devastating revelation. Perhaps worst of all, she realizes her mother has been calling her from a pay phone in Barstow, drives out to a dive bar, and finds the drunken parent in the early morning hours, only to realize at the last moment that good old Clarence Wiedman has spotted them together, with potentially disastrous consequences.

My Response:

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Mars vs. Mars" (season 1, episode 14)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on February 15, 2005/written by Jed Seidel & Diane Ruggiero, story by Rob Thomas; directed by Marcos Siega): As is often the case, Veronica and Keith Mars are working on the same case: popular history teacher Mr. Rooks (Adam Scott, later of Parks and Rec) has been publicly denounced by student Carrie Bishop (Leighten Meestor, later of Gossip Girl - this show really was a springboard for the following decade of hit television). She says he seduced, impregnated, and abandoned her. This time, however, there's a twist - father and daughter are working for opposite sides. Keith has been hired by the girl's parents to take down the teacher so that they can file a lawsuit. Veronica, on the other hands, believes Mr. Rooks, Neptune High's resident "cool" instructor (who leads finger-snapping trivia sessions in class and presents U.S. history from a leftist perspective) when he says that he's never had the slightest romantic or sexual contact with Carrie. Perhaps just as importantly, she doesn't believe Carrie, whose reputation as a self-centered scandalmonger precedes her - not just from others' lips to Veronica's ears but through Veronica's own experience. A flashback reveals Carrie and fellow gossip-hound Susan Knight (Christine Lakin) snickering about Duncan's mental breakdown and trashing Veronica herself as she listens from a bathroom stall.

While Keith warns Veronica that Carrie's documentation is sound and Veronica begins to successfully poke holes in Carrie's story (she saves the teacher's job at a school board hearing by proving that it's easy to fake text messages and convincingly confronts Carrie with the fact that she was winning a track meet at the time of one of her supposed rendezvous with Rooks), there are other ongoing investigations. Veronica sneaks into the office of Duncan's doctor to pull his medical records, discovering that he takes medication prescribed for violent epileptic episodes featuring blackuots. In the same file cabinet, she serendipitously comes across Abel Koontz's diagnosis and returns to the prison at episode's end to confront him with the fact that he's dying and is serving as someone else's patsy. And she's also fulfilling her duty for Logan, tracing down every hint that Lynn may have faked her own death: discrediting a supposed witness who claims to have seen the jump, discovering that someone who supposedly saw her shoved into a van is actually just a megafan indulging in wishful delusions, and finally turning up a freshman who accidentally caught Lynn's suicide on video. Then, in a shocking twist - just as Logan's hope seems completely crushed - Veronica learns that Lynn's credit card has just been used.

There's a less welcome breakthrough in the Rooks case. A visit to the recklessly horny teacher's home reveals that his bedsheets and music choices are exactly as Carrie describes, and Veronica's keen eye for detail determines that another student was at an event the night he allegedly hit on Carrie. The "S.K." who received the text messages shown on the disciplinary hearing wasn't "Sweet Knees," Carrie's supposed nickname, but...good old Susan Knight from the restroom gossip squad (the flashback makes sure to drop her name, in a plant reminiscent of the Triton leader's otherwise random appearance a few episodes earlier). Veronica tracks Susan down and discovers she's pregnant, disowned by her parents, and still hesitant to pin statutory rape on Mr. Rooks even though her diary and anecdotes inspired Carrie, who was attempting to do a good deed for a friend (hence the discrepancies in her story). Rooks is fired, Veronica apologizes to Carrie, and Keith, humbled by his daughter's prowess and perhaps contrite that he was so hesitant to share information with her, pays his respects.

My Response:

Monday, May 21, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Lord of the Bling" (season 1, episode 13)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on February 8, 2005/written by John Enbom; directed by Steve Gomer): Suge Kni - er, Percey "Bone" Hamilton (Black-ish's Anthony Anderson), a rap producer with a reputation for violence, discovers his daughter is missing. When he visits Keith ("I don't like police, and the feeling is mutual," he tells the private eye, "I think you'd understand"), Veronica is inclined to help out for a few reasons. For one, she always like to involve herself with her dad's sleuthing; for another, his back problems mean that he needs assistance...most importantly, however, she palled around with Yolanda Hamilton (Jowharah Jones) a year ago, and feels guilty for abandoning her. As we learn through flashbacks, Yolanda briefly kissed Logan at a party and was cast out from her new social group by a jealous Lilly. Veronica and Keith get to the bottom of the kidnapping when they discover it wasn't a kidnapping at all. In a Romeo and Juliet scenario, Yolanda ran off with Benjamin Bloom (actor unlisted), son of wheelchair-bound attorney Sam Bloom (Bruce Nozick), who was nearly killed in a drive-by attributed to Bone. In a Big Lebowski-esque move, the "kidnapping" cover story was concocted by Yolanda's nerdy brother Bryce (Jermaine Williams), who resented Bone's constant refrain that he was too "soft."

Elsewhere, Logan and Aaron stumble through Lynn's funeral, Aaron a mess of self-pitying nostalgia and Logan a bitter cynic mocking the whole affair. As it turns out, though, Logan isn't simply infuriated that his mother has died. In fact, he believes she hasn't. Logan reveals to Duncan that she left a lighter - engraved by her Korea POW father with the words "Free at Last" - on her dresser, an indication that she was running away, not killing herself. And at episode's end, Logan, the person Veronica least expects to see, shows up on the young detective's doorstep, asking her to find his mom.

My Response:

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Clash of the Tritons" (season 1, episode 12)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on January 11, 2005/written by Phil Klemmer & Aury Wallington; directed by David Barrett): Three stories dominate "Clash of the Tritons," to varying degrees of seriousness. The lightest plot is the one Veronica is most directly involved with. She is framed - even forced to do a perp walk - for manufacturing fake IDs. Rick (J.D. Pardo), the student who was busted when he dropped his now-comatose friend off at an ER, claims that Neptune High's elite secret society the Tritons forced him to (pardon the expression) ID her as the culprit. Through surveillance, clever deduction, and dedicated investigation, including a visit to a karaoke bar to belt out Debbie Harry, Veronica determines that the mysterious but ultimately goofy Tritons were never involved with this conspiracy. Rick got caught out on the town with a friend on his own prerogative, blamed the Tritons out of resentment that they wouldn't induct him (despite past family members getting initiated), and chose Veronica as the patsy because her father exposed his own dad for fraud when he tried to get revenge on a hedge fund that had treated him poorly.

Meanwhile, Ms. James has not left Veronica's life simply because she stopped dating Keith. She is interviewing all Neptune students about Lilly's death as part of grant-funded study of adolescent grief. This is quite convenient for Veronica, who sets up a recording device (disguised as a stapler) on Rebecca's desk and listens in to the various interviews. Most alarming is Duncan's, as he describes not being able to remember the days surrounding his sister's death, and confesses that he's taking an array of different medications. Death and medication coincide most toxically in the third story, which initially seems to just be a gossipy soap opera tangent. Logan's parents may be headed for a divorce; someone has leaked Aaron's affairs to the tabloids, causing extensive humiliation for Logan at school. Eventually, that person is revealed to be Lynn herself. She flees the school after her son confronts and threatens his angry father, hopping in a car and popping a pill before tearing off. The last shot of episode 12 reveals her convertible on the edge of a high bridge, police helicopters whirring overhead. The vehicle is empty.

My Response:

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Patreon update #20: My questions before Twin Peaks season 3 & film in focus: The Devil Rides Out (+ making Journey Through Twin Peaks)

For the last time - at least for a while! - I'm releasing a podcast at the very end of the week. I've already got a lot of the next one down, which is good, because from now on the episodes have a hard deadline of Monday at 6pm (these updates/round-ups will continue to post on Saturdays). My Return rewatch begins in a couple days, just in time for the first anniversary of the May 21 premiere. The last "Twin Peaks Reflections" before that rewatch is an epic countdown of questions I posed both before the third season and before the finale last September. I go down the line and answer each one as best I can, determining how accurate my assessment of Cooper's direction was, whether the elements coalesced in Parts 17 and 18, and if the Frost/Lynch dynamic played out in new and interesting ways. I had a lot of fun revisiting these questions, most of which I hadn't looked at since writing them - this was pretty much a "live" response to that speculation.

My film in focus this week has a bit of Peaksian charm about it, as many have: a "drawing room horror" movie from the sixties, with Christopher Lee as the good guy battling a Satanic cult, The Devil Rides Out plays with social conventions in interesting ways while also being occasionally too straightforward for its own good. "Other topics" this week include several films and TV shows I've been watching, including Isle of Dogs, Downsizing, and Homeland, while my archive series finally reaches Journey Through Twin Peaks (my selected highlight, however, may surprise you).

See you Monday night on Patreon.

Line-up for Episode 20

INTRO: longer than usual - invitation to submit memories of "Twin Peaks in-between years, announcement of rewatch schedule

WEEKLY UPDATE/recent posts: Veronica Mars series (were the 00s a distinct era?)

WEEKLY UPDATE/Patreon: 2nd Tier biweekly preview - Josie

WEEKLY UPDATE/work in progress: Twin Peaks characters runners-up (the New Mexico townspeople)

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS/Pre-s3 questions, part 1: Cooper, before the premiere

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS/Pre-s3 questions, part 2: Before the finale

FILM IN FOCUS: The Devil Rides Out

OTHER TOPICS: Isle of Dogs, Downsizing, Homeland (Russia episode), Ferdy on Films ends its run

OPENING THE ARCHIVE: "Journeying into Twin Peaks" (July 2014 - February 2015), this week's highlight: Opening the Door - interview w/ Lynch scholar Martha Nochimson


Friday, May 18, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Silence of the Lamb" (season 1, episode 11)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on January 5, 2005/written by Jed Seidel & Dayna Lynne North; directed by John Kretchmer): The E-String Strangler strikes again! An old case brings Keith (temporarily) back to the Neptune police force when a dead body washes up on shore. The guitar chord wrapped around her neck suggests the work of a serial killer who had supposedly been captured; in need of Keith's expertise in the area, Sheriff Lamb swallows hard and partners up with his nemesis to track several suspects. They seem particularly close when they detain an amateur pornographer (Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad's Jesse making a second appearance in my spring viewing diaries), but Keith - constantly butting heads with the arrogant but insecure sheriff - has doubts about all the circumstantial evidence. Sure enough, just in time to save a suffocating victim locked inside a safe, Keith discovers the real murderer: a jovial guitar store owner (Steven Monroe) who was right there in front of them all along.

Veronica uses her dad's return to the sheriff's station, and young desk officer Leo D'Amato's (Max Greenfield's) flirtatious overtures, as an opportunity to sneak into the evidence room and retrieve a CD with the anonymous tip about Lilly Kane. With the help of techie friend Mac, she figures out who left the distorted phone call that identified Abel Koontz - it was Kane employee Clarence Wiedman (Christopher B. Duncan), who took those threatening photos of her (and whom she implicitly threatens with photos as well by episode's end). Mac is returning a favor for Veronica, who looked up her parents (part of a thriving side business which Mac would like to launch as a global web service), discovering that Mac was accidentally switched at birth with spoiled rich girl Madison Sinclair (Amanda Noret). Crashing the 09ers' birthday party, Mac discovers a family as interested in art and literature as she is, and a little sister who looks and acts like a junior doppelganger. She makes her peace with the painful truth, but before leaving on a family trip with her adopted parents (who have no idea what she knows), Mac finds her biological mother (Carlie Westerman) watching her from a parked car. The melancholy teenager places her hand on the window longingly, and the teary-eyed Lauren returns the gesture, both of them wishing for something that never was but should have been.

My Response:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Veronica Mars - "An Echolls Family Christmas" (season 1, episode 10)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on December 14, 2004/written by Aury Wallington; directed by Guy Bee): The Echolls estate anchors both big storylines this week. Weevil joins an elite poker game at the 09 mansion and wins, only to discover the pot has been mysteriously stolen. The other players strip down to demonstrate their innocence, but the money’s gone somewhere, so Weevil vows to terrorize them until the culprit is revealed. Veronica's on that case, while her father is hired by the elder Echolls to identify a stalker - first he's mostly in touch with Aaron's wife Lynn (Lisa Rinna), and then with the movie star himself, once Aaron realizes the gravity of the threats (and the possible scandals intertwined with it). Reluctantly admitting that he's had multiple affairs, including a fling on the night of the family's Halloween party, Aaron insists that none of his mistresses is the jealous type. Both Keith and Veronica must narrow the culprit down from a small but convincing stable of suspects, while keeping their eyes open for personal motivations and visual evidence.

Keith realizes who the stalker is at the last minute - a server whom Aaron had fired when she came across him and another woman making love at the party - and he attempts to crash the family's Christmas party, only arriving in time to tackle the woman (Alexandra Fatovich) after she's already stabbed Aaron in a rage. Mostnof the guests miss the violent altercation, as they've already filed outside to enjoy carolers under an expensive fake snow shower - a Hollywood touch from a Hollywood star (or, one could say, a phony gesture from a phony guy). Veronica's investigation has a less bloody but no less clever conclusion; she is able to identify specific reasons why each player didn't steal the money before revealing that "the butler's son did it" by stuffing the cash in a recyclable bottle and picking it out of the trash the next morning. The surprise isn't just his guilt but the fact that he's a butler's son at all...he pretended that his family owned the house his father worked at. There’s a racial component to all of this (highlighted when Logan continuously slurs Weevil) - the Latino isn’t the only one at the table from the wrong sides of the track, but the white guy is able to pretend otherwise and use his appearance to both fool his peers and rob from Weevil.

Finally, before the "Echolls Family Christmas" climax, Veronica confronts Jake, asking why he hired someone to take photos of her (a confrontation Keith witnesses on his way to rescue Aaron). Jake denies any knowledge, but Veronica sees him angrily demand answers from his wife a minute later - it looks like perhaps the Kane behind Veronica's many woes (and perhaps more, besides) may actually be the wife, not the husband.

My Response:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Drinking the Kool-Aid" (season 1, episode 9)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on November 30, 2004/written by Russell Smith, story by Rob Thomas; directed by Marcos Siega): The Moon Calf Collective sounds for all the world like a dangerous cult. An agricultural commune located in the country, it's led by charismatic guru Josh (Chris William Martin) and promoted by Holly Mills (Amy Laughlin), a flaky English teacher who has roped in Neptune student Casey Gant (Jonathan Bennett). The young man has abandoned his wealthy family and now spends all his free time with Moon Calves, so his parents (Rebecca Kitt and Albie Selznick) hire Keith to dig up some dirt, bust the cult, and break their son free. They've even employed a "deprogrammer" (Ray Proscia) to convert Casey back to their way of thinking once they've exposed the collective. There's only one problem: the dangerous cult isn't actually a dangerous cult. The more time Veronica spends with the Moon Calf Collective, the more convinced she is that they are harmless, even beneficial. Besides, Casey's parents have less than pure motives. Casey is about to come into a vast inheritance from his dying grandmother, and they're terrified he'd give it all to his newfound community.

One thing's for sure: Veronica much prefers the new, improved Casey over his bratty earlier incarnation. And Keith has to admit she has a point about all of this, even though the $5,000 reward is pretty tempting. Ultimately, they decide to sit on some potentially damaging information they've acquired (a member of the collective, played by Megalyn Echikunwoke, is a minor, who ran away from abusive but legal foster care). Nonetheless, Casey is kidnapped by his parents at his grandmother's funeral; when the episode ends he's back to a more materialist "normal." Veronica has her own familial concerns, tricking Keith into drawing blood and sending their samples to a DNA-testing company. Initially convinced that she must find out if Jake Kane is her father, Veronica finally changes her mind at episode's end. If Casey's true family can be compassionate strangers rather than his much colder blood relations, then Veronica's real father can definitely be the man who loves her deeply rather than the tycoon who never raised her. The loyal daughter shreds her DNA results before reading them, confident that she's better off not knowing.

My Response:

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Like a Virgin" (season 1, episode 8)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on November 23, 2004/written by Aury Wallington; directed by Guy Bee): In a gesture possibly inspired by the Harvard scandal that launched Facebook a year earlier, a Neptune High student has created an online quiz asking students to see where their sexual and other (but mostly sexual) experience ranks on a "How Pure Are You?" scale. As a bonus twist, the myster quiz-crafter emails the student body with a follow-up: pay $10 and find out anyone else's score. Veronica, with her scandalized reputation, gets a 14. More shockingly, archetypal "good girl" Meg Manning (Alona Tal) lands somewhere below 50%. Veronica goes on the case, discovering that between the IT guy Renny DuMouy (Rudy Dobrev) and Meg's jealous friends Pam (Shanna Collins) and Kimmy (Annie Abrams), who's sleeping with Renny, passwords were stolen and quiz results were forged. Veronica is assisted in her investigation by Mac (Tina Majorno - I knew I recognized her!), a computer whiz who, it's eventually revealed, designed the quiz in the first place to fleece '09ers for new car money, an angle Veronica has to respect.

There aren't too many other storylines in this particular episode. Veronica's father gets in good with Wallace's mother Alicia (Erica Gimpel) by intimidating a deadbeat tenant (Jeremy Masterston) off her property. And Veronica gets a "meeting" with Abel on death row, posing as a Southern crime reporter from his hometown. Abel takes the meeting but reveals that he knows exactly who she is, and refuses to deny culpability for Lilly's death. Worse, he presses the point I brought up in yesterday's entry (which I didn't expect to become relevant so quickly): she's probably not the daughter of some "schlubby sheriff" but "the king and queen of the prom." This observation was so shockingly on-the-nose that I initially thought it belonged to a dream sequence. It doesn't, and it forces a stunned Veronica out into the parking lot where she weeps in her car.

My Response: