Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "Hi, Infidelity" (season 3, episode 6)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Veronica Mars - "Hi, Infidelity" (season 3, episode 6)


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 November 7, 2006/written by John Enbom; directed by Michael Fields): The lingering question at the end of the previous episode is dealt with right away: Claire lied to create a rape hoax, Veronica has proof, Claire is expelled. And Nish - who is removed as editor of the school newspaper for declining to publish Veronica's report - is none to happy about any of this. For that matter, neither is Veronica, even if she's convinced justice has been served. Her investigation of the Parker incident, however, continues; Parker recognizes the cologne of Mercer Hayes (Ryan Devlin), the guy who runs the student casino, and when Veronica infiltrates his room, she finds clippers. And for once, Lamb doesn't give her grief when she comes to him with information...he recalls that mixed in with the cash stolen from Mercer in the previous episode were samples of a date rape drug (the same that both Veronica and Duncan drank at the infamous Casablancas party). Only one person seems to disbelieve Mercer's guilt: Logan, who informs Veronica that he was with Mercer when the crime supposedly occurred...but he can't tell Veronica what they were doing together. Once again, an episode ends with a cliffhanger.

Veronica is mostly consumed with her own personal problem throughout "Hi, Infidelity": highlighted as the star pupil by Professor Landry, who wants to become her mentor, she's framed for plagiarism. Sleuthing through school and hotel alike she finally realizes the name used on the email belongs to the professor's alias: he stays in the hotel a few times a month as "Rory Finch" with various women - the latest being the Dean's wife. And it turns out that jealous and/or concerned T.A. Tim set up this little mystery to warn Veronica of what his own former mentor was really like before she replaces him as protegee; should she be grateful? Wallace's storyline turns out ot be less minor than it originally seemed: he chooses his desired career of mechanical engineering over basketball when increased study time cuts into his readiness for practice, taking the season off from sports so he can pursue his dream despite the professor's admonition that he's not cut out for this work (he and Veronica have an alternately heartfelt and amusing interaction around this dilemma). Keith meanwhile lends the episode its title by nervously socializing with Harmony, his client from a few episodes back, while her husband is out of town. They attend a noir festival and sip martinis in the hotel lobby but when she outright tells him that she got a room, he leaves. Then he gets into a (genuinely shocking) accident. He laughs with amazement at being alive, at the fact that had he said yes to Harmony he wouldn't have nearly died, at the randomness of the universe, or perhaps at all of the above. And he returns to Harmony's room, passionately kissing her the moment she opens the door.

My Response:
The show - I think, anyway - has cultivated an effective little universe around the Hearst community by now, generating situations and storylines from a surprising amount of new characters and environs while retaining some roots in the old world of the series. I know not everyone shares this view; though I've generally avoided reading too much about the shape of the show, I get the sense that season three is not as well-regarded as the others. One friend advised me, before I resumed the series earlier this year, that the second season remained strong but the show began to falter in its third. And while looking up cast info for this episode on IMDb, I couldn't help noticing some middling ratings and disappointed review titles. I get it to a certain extent, as moving a high school show to college almost always yields diminishing returns. It represents a change from a series' original premise, most obviously, but also I think for all the hype it receives in popular culture as this wonderful, life-changing/affirming experience, college life often comes off as tawdry and ephemeral vs. the more mythic qualities high school narratives evoke. However, the episodes themselves are often quite well-executed - setting up, managing and intersecting different storylines and characters as deftly as anything in the first two seasons. This one was particularly satisfying, introducing us to new aspects of the Dean, the professor, and the T.A., while creating an interesting dynamic between Veronica, Piz, Parker, and Logan.

And I found Keith's drama effective (although I'm sure many viewers hated seeing him betray his moral sense like this), not only luring him into a common trap of the P.I. - Harmony seems utterly genuine, but could there be more of the femme fatale about her than he suspects? - but recalling, via the effectively shot, edited, and sound-designed crash, Keith's recent scrape with death in the desert. With his daughter out of the house, and the need to develop his own separate sphere of the narrative, Keith may be drifting from what defined him but so far I find interest in what the creators and Colantoni are doing with that drift. Wallace, on the other hand, still seems to get dramatic short shrift; there's a struggle to convert a great supporting figure into someone who can carry his own stories. I can't help but feel they could do more with him than they are (at least they hint at a meta-awareness of the situation with that great scene between him and Veronica in which, as always, he gets some of the best dialogue). As for the big picture investigation, I was glad to see Parker come back into the ensemble especially in a way that allows her to be both sympathetic and human (her cluelessness about Piz's obvious indifference is kind of endearing). It's also necessary in an episode that actually dares to play the "making up a rape for (presumably) political reasons" card, albeit a bit less harshly in its portrayal of Claire and Nish than I expected when the last episode started going in this direction. As the season has unfolded, I've remembered more and more of what I read about this storyline years before I started watching Veronica Mars (I'm not sure it was outright spoiled but I'd forgotten how much I'd read until recently). So I'll save more general reflections on how the show handles this until it resolves this material - soon if it plans on housing different mini-arcs throughout the season, much later if in fact this is to be a season-long narrative.

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