Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "You Think You Know Somebody" (season 1, episode 5)

Friday, May 11, 2018

Veronica Mars - "You Think You Know Somebody" (season 1, episode 5)


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 October 26, 2004/written by Dayna Lynne North; directed by Nick Gomez): The good vibes of the previous episode overflow into this one...at least initially. All is well with Veronica and Troy, even after he "misplaces" his dad's car on the ride back from Tijuana with Logan and Luke (Sam Huntington). He's freaked out that his father will probably send him away when he discovers the theft, but not so much that he doesn't still grin and joke his way through his "last days," trying to get frisky with Veronica while she attempts to do her detective thing and locate the stolen vehicle. The stakes are raised when she learns that Luke was transporting a pinata full of steroids across the border. But, of course, everything will work out in the end, right? Right? Things seem less rosy with Veronica and her dad; he's trying to warm her up to his new girlfriend (no dice, and he eventually dumps her due to Veronica's hostility) and she's suddenly concerned about her mom after seeing her as the villain for a long time (a visit to a safety deposit box yields photos of herself with a target painted onto her head, suggesting that Lianne may have fled for her daughter's safety, rather than selfish pride). Indeed, the episode ends with Veronica, her hearing blocked by a Discman (every episode manages to remind us that the world has changed a lot in fourteen years!), receiving a call from her mother, hinting at an explanatory (and exculpatory) secret.

Meanwhile both Mars provide background checks on each other's partners, and so Veronica learns that Troy was kicked out of many previous schools for drug trafficking (which he dismisses as some minor dope-dealing). She confronts him and he offers the plausible excuse that he wanted to wait before telling her, denying that he knew anything about the steroid deal (a claim even Luke backs up). After a number of episodes where the central investigation is neatly settled in the end, Veronica fails to find the car or the drugs, Troy's dad follows through on his threat, and Troy is shipped off. If that seems like an unexpected turn of events, what follows goes much further: a cocky Troy arrives at the border stop, retrieves the pinata he stole from his own backseat, and roars away in his car, calling up his old girlfriend to let her know everything went according to plan. Or did it? When Troy tears open the pinata he discovers a bunch of candy and a note from Veronica letting him know how she found out and what she's done with his stash (somewhere between her toilet and the Pacific Ocean). It's a hell of a kiss-off for a character who turns out not to be a recurring part of her circle at all, but simply another opponent to be bested.

My Response:
Well, there's a surprise for you. The funny part is, during the credits sequence I found myself wondering why Veronica's boyfriend wasn't included. Ok, maybe they crafted that montage for the pilot and weren't prepared to update it as new characters were conceived for an ongoing series. Then again, by the time the show aired they must've had time to make any necessary updates. There was something slightly...suspicious about the omission. And as I noted in the previous episode entry, Veronica's happy relationship - especially with an 09er! - threatened to upset the show's social dynamic. So here we are: you think you know someone indeed. Looking back on Troy's introduction, I didn't take to the character at first. He seemed slightly smarmy and a bit pushy. He grew on me though, and kudos to Ashmore for selling the character's sincerity despite some red flags. Then again...I'm not totally sure I buy it, and I feel slightly betrayed. Was there really that much to suggest this twist until the last moments of this episode? Sort of like the reveal about Justin's father a couple episodes ago, it seems a bit like writerly contrivance, with a surprise layered on top of material that didn't really pave the way for it (the way Troy turns on a dime feels slightly manipulative). Or maybe I'm just smarting from being taken for a ride! Gullibility definitely fosters defensiveness.

With the big Troy reveal, the investigation yields an important plot point but until then I was noticing a recent trend: the supposed "A" story taking a backseat to the "B" not only in thematic relevance but actual screentime. Veronica's search for her mother, played out directly as she opens the safety deposit box and receives that voicemail, and more indirectly as Keith dates and drops Rebecca, definitely feels more weighty than the Tijuana/steroid hijinks. It's also interesting to note that the Kanes are pretty much absent from "You Think You Know Somebody"; Lilly's murder gets its obligatory references here and there but we're reminded (explicitly at one point) that the departure of Veronica's mother was as much a trauma as her friend's death, her father's humiliation, and her own rape (which notably has not come up since the pilot). At some point, I'm certain the storylines will intersect - as indeed they already did in the first episode. For now, however, there isn't just one ongoing story but several, as well as several smaller arcs that last for, say, four episodes. So long, Troy. We barely knew ye.

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