Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "Ruskie Business" (season 1, episode 15)

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:
"Ruskie Business" is an especially deft episode, tying together multiple elements in witty, inventive fashion. This isn't something I've commented on a lot so far, but it's worth noting how skillfully Veronica Mars links various story points when it's willing to do so, crafting both subtle thematic echoes and overt narrative connections. Episode 15 weaves together Logan, Duncan, Meg, Leo, and Veronica in a climactic sequence that takes advantage of the show's high school nexus as well as some 00s-era 80s nostalgia (I found myself wondering if the episode was evenly placed between the "so-long-ago" era it's paying tribute to and the present day, but then I did the math and realized we're not quite there yet). It also creates correspondences between Logan's and Veronica's mommy issues, Yelena's and Meg's lovelorn investigations, and the diverging paths of the once-hot Mars/Kane romance (she seems rather flippant at this point about the possibility of their blood relation).

On another note, on my mind because of a couple years' worth of news and my own recent viewing of Homeland with its own conspiracist bent, it's worth sparing a thought for the pitiable state of American pop culture depictions of Russia for...well, forever. Sandwiched in between a half-century stint as devious, godless commies and their current status as ideologically-ambiguous but definitely anti-American Machiavellian manipulators, Russians also had to endure a dozen or so years as stereotypical gangster thugs and mail-order brides. Even as our ostensible allies, they couldn't catch a break; in comparison to this condescension, another cold war may be a relief.

No comments: