Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "Hot Dogs" (season 1, episode 19)

Monday, May 28, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Hot Dogs" (season 1, episode 19)


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 19, 2005/written by Dayna Lynne North; directed by Nick Marck): After a bit of dip in the previous episode, the Lilly Kane mystery and Veronica's family crisis (and the intersection between the two) again dominate most of the subplots. Duncan is still missing, with Celeste angrily confronting Veronica before hiring her to find him. Veronica's only condition is that Celeste drops charges against Weevil for breaking into Lilly's room (Veronica eventually discovers the reason why: he was retrieving a "secret message" pen). Keith catches the end of the initial confrontation between Celeste and Veronica (including some ambiguous dialogue from Celeste), and as episode 19 ends he prepares a DNA sample to send away. Meanwhile, he's still dating Wallace's mother, a ticking time bomb situation as his wife is supposed to return soon.

A couple threads unwind outside the Kane/Mars axis. In the self-contained high school A-story, a routine missing dog case exposes a dognapping ring at the local pound, and Veronica helps the meek, awkward Mandy (Claire Titelman) become more assertive. In the other story, Logan grows protective toward his mostly disdained big sister when he realizes her loathsome boyfriend, wannabe screenwriter Dylan Goran (Jeff Parise), has been hitting her. Logan hires Veronica to track the guy down, but Aaron beats his son to the punch - literally. Inviting the young man over for a barbecue to briefly endure his pitch about a "junkie hitman," Aaron wallops Dylan with a belt to the tune of "That's Amore." Relieved and startled by this outcome, Veronica and Logan fall into one another's arms on her way out. Poor Leo is affected by both of these stories. He helps Veronica yet again by leading a search of the pound, even after she's broken his heart by dumping him for Logan.

My Response:
The second missing-animal plot in four episodes may suggest a bit of exhaustion/impatience with the show's own episodic demands as Veronica Mars prepares to climax its more serialized strands. That said, even if the parrot story was a bit more inventive, "Hot Dogs"'s title subject is still enjoyable to watch. The conceit is also relevant to the show's central concerns, given Mandy's misidentification as an 09 dog owner (she's babysitting in a fancy home when little Chester is snatched). The culprits rely on wealthy owners to pay the reward when their "missing" pets are returned, and when they learn that Mandy is from a more modest background and can't offer much of a reward they fake the dog's death and sell it to another owner. Mandy also serves as a frustrating contrast for Veronica, enduring her social stigma with shame instead of open confrontation, at least until she tases pound employee Hans (Matthew Carey) to force a confession about Chester's true whereabouts.

The end of the Leo relationship feels appropriate, despite the character's endearing qualities. Though Veronica's exploitation of his status leavened any potential one-dimensionality, it all seemed a bit too good to be true, like the matinee idol love interest in a Hallmark movie. The wounded, complicated Logan is a more compelling partner. That said, the pairing may lose of some of the tension that makes it interesting in the first place if the series continues to soften him up. Let's hope his supposedly airtight Lilly alibi raises new suspicions and keeps the drama spicy. Weevil, meanwhile, has his most prominent episode in a while - but to what purpose? As if it doesn't quite know what else to do with him, the series has been building him up as a potential suspect. His actual guilt, along with the absolution of the 09er squad (Logan a tamed lover, the Kanes flawed but ultimately good-hearted), would go a long way to subverting the strong worldview of the pilot, bringing it closer to conventional 00s teen television. And unlike the usual twists that Veronica Mars likes to employ, this would flatten rather than elevate the drama. That said, I don't think Weevil did it. But I sure am curious what was in that pen.

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