Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "Ain't No Magic Mountain High Enough" (season 2, episode 13)

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Veronica Mars - "Ain't No Magic Mountain High Enough" (season 2, episode 13)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. I will cover each TV episode (and eventually the film), several days a week; this will conclude just as the revival (which I will also cover) premieres on Hulu. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on February 8, 2006/written by Diane Ruggiero; directed by Guy Bee): When Jackie volunteered to be dunked into a tank of cold water by baseball-tossing carnival-goers, she just wanted to help fund the school trip. Now, a couple weeks later, the gig at Neptune High's winter carnival has taken on a whole other meaning. As the daughter of the man who allegedly planted a bomb on the doomed school bus, Jackie is widely reviled, and her peers delight in her humiliation. And when someone steals all of the school trip funds from Veronica's stall, Jackie becomes a prime suspect. It's up to a sympathetic Veronica to get to the bottom of this case (literally, when she drains the ball pit to find the missing box) and eventually her sleuthing - and a healthy helping of glitter - implicates Ms. Hauser (Kari Coleman), the teacher in charge of the festival and the one most outraged and accusatory about the theft. Well, partially. Having stolen the majority of the cash long before the official theft, she is not the one who planted the missing box in Thumper's locker - that, unsurprisingly, is a vengeful Weevil. Thumper gets off and Veronica decides not to turn in the real thief although she's sure to let Weevil know what she knows.

Elsewhere at the carnival, Dick and Beaver compete to embarass one another and Logan flirts aggressively with a girl named Hannah Griffith (Jessy Schram). The only non-carnival plot unfolds at the Mars Investigations office where a desperate Terrence hopes Keith can prove his innocence. It turns out Keith has been a huge admirer of the athlete for decades but between flattering anecdotes he keeps demonstrating incriminating information he's already aware of, and pushing Terrence to reveal more. As it turns out, Terrence had ample motive to blow up the bus - one of the victims was a former lover who not only became a stalker and broke up his engagement but also knew incredibly inflammatory information about his baseball career: due to extensive gambling debts, he threw one of the most important games of his career. As a superfan, Keith is crushed but as a detective he's satisfied that Terrence has put all of his cards on the table and believes he wouldn't let even his most desperate self-preserving instincts lead him to murder a dozen teenagers. Going forward, the Cook family will have both Mars in their corners.

My Response:
Continuing the wind-down from a couple episodes ago, "Ain't No Magic Mountain High Enough" is almost comically mellow in comparison to "Donut Run." The main location is a winter carnival event at the high school, the crime is (gasp!) stealing a cashbox full of school trip money, and the character subplots primarily involve puppy love. Early in the season I was disappointed when episodes set their sights so low, but I found this entry quite refreshing. In fact it felt like a callback to some of the slight but satisfying episodes of season one when the series got into a groove of character development and worldbuilding that, ironically, made the story universe feel bigger than some of the more globetrotting high-stakes scenarios, because there were deeper corners to get lost in. There's also a sense that we're picking up after a break, partly because the previous episode closed off some of the lingering threads, partly because we're fully returning to characters we haven't seen in a while, but mostly because several actors have different haircuts and this probably was shot following a long break during which the creators anxiously waited to see if the season would get extended or the show would get cancelled (just guessing).

Even the bus crash spin-off story is pared down (if still quite significant): a two-hander between Keith and Terrence in which the detective peels layer after layer away from his longtime hero to reveal both his feet of clay and, ultimately, his trustworthiness as a client. This makes a nice complement to Veronica's growing bond with Terrence's daughter, a relationship that really feels earned, evolving slowly out of their bitter enmity earlier in the season. On the other hand, the Dick gag is disappointingly low-hanging fruit after the show delivered such a surprisingly poignant portrait of transgender issues in season one. At any rate, I don't think Dick is the only one who'll be surprised by the woman he's interested in this episode. Logan's new girlfriend seems a little too innocent and the bit with her dad picking her up in the end makes me wonder if they're going to reveal that she's a lot younger than he thinks. Either way I doubt this will last - when Logan pops up behind Veronica as she mutters to herself about everyone entering the carnival in twos, like animals into Noah's ark, the show may be tipping its hand. Duncan is gone; is it only a matter of time?

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