Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "Like a Virgin" (season 1, episode 8)

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:
While searching for some actors' names, I ran across a review which was fairly critical of the episode for plot holes and the exclusion of Logan, a character who would have been perfectly suited to the "How Pure Are You?" storyline. Fair enough, I guess, though it still worked pretty well for me. The stuff I have more questions about involves Abel Koontz. I still don't quite buy that Veronica is Jake Kane's daughter, although obviously the series plans to run with this possibility (which promises a lot of dramatic potential). What's most baffling - and intriguing - to me is why Abel would lie about being a murderer. Only a few possibilities emerge: he thinks he killed her, but in fact someone else did (not sure how this would work - he injured her somehow?); he is mentally unstable and doesn't actually know what he did or didn't do (his behavior with Veronica suggests something is off with him); or, and this is the one I'm betting on, he was blackmailed/threatened into confessing in order to protect someone else, much as Veronica's mother was chased out of town by threats to her daughter.

There's also some possible set-ups for Veronica's character development. A few episodes ago Wallace was given a potential girlfriend who provided plot fuel and a preoccupation for a character who was starting to fall through the cracks. She's nowhere to be found in "Like a Virgin," or, indeed, any episode since the fourth. Instead there are subtle suggestions that perhaps Wallace and Veronica have some chemistry. This would be a change of pace for the show, and a Wallace relationship would not be nearly as disposable as the Troy romance was. The characters are effective as platonic friends - anything more has potential but also risks capsizing Veronica's only solid friendship in the series. Still, the cutesy flashing gag (whose payoff made me laugh out loud) and some awkward tension when Wallace stays over (played off as Veronica being unhappy about her reputation, but it felt like there was more there) suggest a possible storyline in the offing. Meanwhile, as it forces Logan to walk a more ambivalent line, the series is cultivating a fresh villain with Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen), setting him in direct opposition to Veronica. I doubt we've seen the last of him.

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