Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "My Big Fat Greek Rush Week" (season 3, episode 2)

Friday, July 5, 2019

Veronica Mars - "My Big Fat Greek Rush Week" (season 3, episode 2)


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 October 10, 2006/written by Diane Ruggiero; directed by John Kretchmer): Athough I noted last time that it doesn't quite fit the out-of-nowhere murder mystery mold of previous full-season storylines, so far Veronica's hunt for Parker's rapist (or rapists) is being treated as if it will be the ongoing case for season three. Certainly Veronica's episodic investigation stems from this: she goes undercover as a wannabe sorority girl for the school newspaper. Theta Beta has all the markings of precisely the sort of scene Veronica despises, but as she gets to know some of the girls, she sees beyond their prim-and-proper facade and beyond the party-hard image just below that surface. In fact, she learns one crucial detail - about the benevolent den mother Karen's (Mary Chris Wall's) cancer treatment - too late, after she's already photographed a room full of marijuana plants and handed these snapshots over to her editor Nish Sweeney (Chastity Dotson). Although she's able to warn the sorority quickly enough to destroy the evidence, she is deeply troubled by what she's done and thus ends her journalism career, over - she narrates for us - before it began. As for Parker, she's almost pressured into abandoned her college career before it began, but Mac sympathetically advises her to stick it out. After Parker's superficial buddy-buddy chatter in the premiere, the two begin to genuinely bond.

Wallace and Logan participate in a variation of the classic "prison guard" sociology experiment, which has - in reality - been decried as both abusive and poor science. Although on opposite sides, they are united both by their use of clever mind-tricks and their discomfort with the Lord of the Flies-esque sadistic relationship between Rafe and Samuel Horshack. Those two, by the way, are played by notable guest stars Rider Strong, of Boy Meets World, and Samm Levine, of Freaks and Geeks - switching roles from his domineering frat overlord in the also Judd Apatow-produced Undeclared a few years earlier. Meanwhile, Keith is able to escape through the desert as much by wit as perseverance, baiting Cormac with the bugged pen-cap and then slicing his leg with a hidden trap. Turns out Cormac was definitely not working with Liam, who shows up to gleefully execute his sibling now that Keith has helpfully set him up. Back in Neptune, Keith breaks down in Veronica's arms, realizing that he has screwed up. And we learn that what Kendall offered him in the season two finale was actually a highly valuable painting, not cold hard cash. He donates the proceeds of its sale to the South Neptune food bank rather than take it for himself. If anything can be salvaged from this bloody mess, it's that gift.

My Response:
If season one expertly used its weekly mystery format to explore various aspects of the high school experience, season three appears to be committed to a similar M.O. for college. The first episode covered moving in, this second emphasizes Greek life (probably not for the last time), and the third episode's title hints at an athletic theme. How many of these characters will become series regulars, and how many will pop in for one episode - after all, the Hearst campus offers an even broader pool to draw from than Neptune High. And what of our old series regulars? Lamb gets a cameo, accusing Veronica of crying wolf a second time - so I guess she didn't tell anyone about at least one of Beaver's revelations. Maybe she'll have reason to as the season carries on; whether or not Parker's rape is going to be a mystery for the rest of the show, it does seem like sexual assault will be a recurring theme. I vaguely recall reading some criticism once of how Veronica Mars handles the "Take Back the Night" crowd; certainly it paints an unsympathetic (and seemingly anachronistic) portrait of Fern Delgado (Cher Ferreyra), one of their very judgmental members. The episode's take on the prisoner experiment is intriguing; for all the cruelty and debasement, Wallace and the other guards ultimately win through an act of generosity - allowing the prisoners to escape for a meal, they are able to change the clock so that the captives will think the experiment is over before it's time to reveal their secret. Is this class project a one-off, the creators' chance to riff on a famous scenario, or does it portend some deeper developments? Only time will tell.

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