Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "Plan B" (season 2, episode 17)

Friday, June 28, 2019

Veronica Mars - "Plan B" (season 2, episode 17)


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 April 5, 2006/written by Dayna Lynne North; directed by John Kretchmer): Relationships are central to "Plan B," often foregrounded but also occasionally lingering in the background, motivating major stories or carving out memorable moments that could pay off later. Let's start with the most mild: Mac is perplexed and a bit dejected over Beaver's approach to romance - kisses, holding hands, and...well, that's it, really, even after four months. He won't provide a reason for his nervousness but when he discovers that Mac has talked to Veronica about him, he dumps her (most likely some combination of guilt and humiliation stemming from what happened at the party in the penultimate episode). In the coming episode, Veronica is probably going to have to explain some things to Mac. The Jackie/Wallace/Jane triangle - which wasn't really even a triangle until now - emerges as another major source of tension. This isn't a case of two girls chasing one guy but one guy chasing two girls, or, by the end, a chain in which each person is chasing the next. As much as Wallace likes Jane, he has to admit he's still drawn to Jackie, kissing her at the school dance and breaking up with Jane the next day. But Jackie, who sweetly agrees to take the mentally disabled Charlie (Caleb Steinmeyer) to the dance, is trying to shake her reputation as the spoiled, man-eating scion of a murderous dad; she won't even let Wallace sit at her lunchtable - at least not yet.

Elsewhere, although Hannah is nowhere to be seen this episode (far from taking her absence as a serious moral crisis, Veronica only half-jokingly high-fives Logan for being a player), Logan does have a romantic moment...with Veronica. Is it a teasing placeholder, reminding us of their connection while postponing a reconciliation for now? A wistful callback to something forever finished? Or the quiet declaration of a renewed narrative between them? For now, Logan's primary role is in Woody's office - where his plagiarized school essay earns him a ceremonial "deputy" role (which mostly consists of sorting mail). This brings us to the last two, offscreen relationships. The first may not even be a relationship...but something is going on with Woody (who hires Keith to figure out who took a video of his home and then backs off rapidly with a lame explanation). Given his uncomfortable gesture toward Logan in the gym, his constant what-me-hiding-something cheerful facade (amplified by the contrast with his stern wife), and the fact that this season has had an entire case-of-the-week devoted to closeted gay students, I certainly have my suspicions.

Anyway, part of Logan's prize involves detonating the old stadium and indeed he really has no idea what a prize this is for him. In that moment, he kills the person who framed him for murder: Thumper has been chained to a urinal for cheating the Fitzpatricks (he didn't, but Weevil set it up to look like he did). And the path that led him here was initiated by perhaps the most serious relationship all episode - and certainly the one with the most serious, broad-ranging implications. Weevil and Veronica discover that the Fitzpatricks got Thumper to kill Felix (indifferently using Logan as cover) precisely because he was seeing Molly. When they take this discovery to Sheriff Lamb, however, he couldn't care less and Weevil is convinced to take matters in his own hands. Only when Veronica returns the next morning with an eyewitness - a trucker (Jon Michael Souza) who was hesitant to come forward until Veronica reached out to the wife he was trying to protect - is Lamb willing to listen. By then of course it's far too late for Thumper and probably Weevil too.

My Response:
This is an excellent episode, weaving together several down-to-earth stories while building to a dramatic conclusion - one of the season's biggest moments (in a season with lots of big moments). I particularly enjoyed how each story contained mystery and intrigue - aside, I suppose, from Wallace's return to Jackie, engaging as that was for other reasons. Interestingly, there's no real standalone, enclosed investigation this time; the closest thing is Veronica's and Weevil's quest to find out if the Felix/Molly romance motivated Felix's murder, and that's obviously part of a much larger arc. Keith's case, for the second episode in a row, is left open-ended (could the two be related?) while the Mac/Beaver situation escalates far beyond its initial premise.

There's a lot of great character work here too, particularly for Weevil who dances on the line between legal remedy and vigilante justice before Lamb (a more profoundly obstructive and destructive force this season) provokes his embrace of the latter. On a lighter note, Weevil has some wonderful banter with Veronica; in a show full of unique "Veronica & ____" dynamics, their exasperated but mutually respectful engagements are among the easiest to underrate (but they always come off beautifully). Beaver, who didn't seem like much of anything last season, is being pushed into deeper territory. Wallace, whose season - so often promising big things - has frankly been pretty unfairly rough, is allowed some room to find his groove, and Jackie's path continues to intrigue. I'm also really curious what makes Woody tick; Guttenberg is brilliant casting on a show full of a familiar-but-haven't-seen-them-in-a-minute faces. The character's smarm is so aggressively phony that it becomes perversely sympathetic, the insincere smile barely distracting from the flop sweat.

And amidst all this, the bus crash is barely even mentioned! Nonetheless it all feels subtly related, doesn't it? A certain excitement is emerging as we approach the season's final stretch although I imagine there are some B stories and mini-arcs remaining before we're fully immersed in a climactic groove. What's particularly noteworthy here is that, unlike the classic whodunit of season one, we're not even really sure what the big mystery IS in season two. Was the bus (incidentally not a major plot element in this particular episode) blown up, derailed, sabotaged? Was it a conspiracy of common interest or primarily the work of a single actor and their hired help? Was this a financially motivated crime, an act of vengeance or cover-up, or was it actually an accident caused by the community's negligence and irresponsibility: the cover-up occurring after the fact? That the show's core is such a chimera has been frustrating at times - it allows a million ADD threads to tease us into thinking they may be related. It's also rewarding - it allows a million possibilities to bloom, cross-pollinating separate but interconnected tales of this community. Season two could be either fun or disappointing to re-visit, but its wondering, wandering nature provides an engaging first-time whirlwind.

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