Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "Of Vice and Men" (season 3, episode 7)

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Veronica Mars - "Of Vice and Men" (season 3, episode 7)


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 14, 2006/written by Phil Klemmer; directed by Harry Winer): Veronica is feeling betrayed by the men in her life. Her boyfriend refuses to provide his and Mercer's ablibi for the night of one of the rapes, and then finally admits that they burned down a hotel in Mexico and ran away with waiting to see if everyone was okay (Veronica, as it turns out, doesn't need this explantion; Mercer is cleared by the logs of his radio show.) She's seen her would-be-mentor heading to the Dean's wife's hotel room with a bottle of champagne, and now he's apparently trying to buy her off by hooking her up with a summer internship at the FBI. And her father is carrying on an affair with a married client, and when she confronts him he offers every lame rationalization that they've heard a million times from the other side. Actually, Keith gets to hear it from both sides in this episode because Vinnie shows up with an envelope of photos; he's been hired by Harmony's husband to prove she's having an affair. He offers to destroy the evidence for $4000, double what Mr. Chase would pay him for it and Keith resigns himself to the cost and breaks up with Harmony as much due to Veronica's admonition as Vinnie's blackmail. Actually, Vinnie shows up with two requests - the first is that Keith tell him where Kendall is hiding, so that they can split the Fitzpatricks' money (although the clan also wants to know where Keith is keeping what she paid him). Keith denies any knowledge, but Vinnie and the Fitzpatricks intersect with the Mars clan elsewhere in "Of Vice and Men" when Veronica, quite against her will, ends up back in the River Stix bar. Liam torments Veronica, lifting and swinging her around from behind, until Vinnie pretends to drunkenly take and text a photo to Keith, forcing Liam to back off.

Veronica is there to help Meryl (Amanda Walsh), an out-of-towner checking up on her absentee boyfriend Sully (Michael Grant Terry). All the evidence suggests that he is cheating and purposefully avoiding her to facilitate a break-up, but in fact he was just taking advantage of the Fitzpatricks when he stumbled drunkenly into the wrong bar the other night and wound up sleeping it off in jail. Meryl never doubts him - even preferring to believe he was on the run with a top-secret space laser rather than the more obvious answer. When Veronica apologizes for assuming the worst, Meryl forgives her by noting "If I'd never been in love, I wouldn't have believed it either" which is certainly chastening. Before she can reconcile with Logan, however, Veronica takes a routine trip to the cafeteria and discovers a hair in her food. When she exchanges the dish, the camera lingers ominously on her soda, and when she returns to takes prominent sips, well...we know what's coming. She begins to hallucinate, recognizes the feeling from the first time she was given GHB, and stumbles into a parking garage before collapsing when she sees a black-clad figure approaching. With barely enough time to activate her car alarm, and with the extreme good fortune for Logan to be randomly passing by, she is saved before the would-be rapist can do more than clip a few locks of hair. She ends the episode back at the Mars homestead (she'd been staying in Wallace's room for a few days), with Keith and Logan taking care of her.

My Response:
If initially this storyline seemed like it might be a more short-term thing, it feels clear by now that the season is committed to following this thread for the rest of, as it would turn out, the series. And now the investigation more directly involves Veronica herself as she becomes a target and nearly a full-on victim of the rapist. We even get a glimpse of him through her trippy vision; he looks fairly big. He seems to have targeted Veronica randomly - she just happened to be a girl in the dining hall who left her drink unattended, not something he probably could have predicted (unless he figured a way to place the hair on her plate which seems like a stretch).  The drugging-and-collapse sequence is also intercut with Logan looking for Veronica in Wallace's and Piz's room, and we know Mercer is being held over in jail, so it can't be either of them. Mercer has been cleared anyway, but Piz was slowly emerging as a suspect for me (then again, he wasn't on campus the previous year, when the head-shavings began; could there be groups or copycats involved?). Something about his aw-shucks-I-just-have-a-harmless-crush persona is ringing alarm bells in a way that Aaron and Beaver did in previous seasons and I'm not sure why the season has elevated him to such a position of prominence given what we've gotten so far. But it looks like he's probably cleared after this.

Veronica will also have more to go on now. Is there surveillance in the cafeteria? That might be too easy; perhaps she'll watch the video and find that in fact no one interfered with her drink while it was on the table. So if she was specifically targeted, it probably wasn't by someone placing a hair on her plate - why add an extra step - but by someone drugging the drink in the first place, when she was served. (In which case the lingering shot on the soda is a red herring.) Who works in their kitchen? I expect this plot to dominate the next episode, but I think some of the other threads, which could theoretically be over, will evolve into something else. Is the dashed Harmony romance going to launch into full-on noir territory, with her showing up at his office and him gently asking her not to visit before she tells him she's there for another reason this time? How will Logan's and Mercer's involvement in the hotel fire come back to bite them (I highly doubt this was just a one-off anecdote)? And what of the Fitzpatricks, lingering, colorful presences since mid-season two who still feel like they're being held in reserve for some grand deployment? If they really think Keith has what they want, I'm not sure yet why they aren't playing hardball, but then I've always wondered this. Liam almost killed Keith one time but never followed up - it's not as if they don't know where to find him. That said, there is something dramatically effective about keeping them confined to their serpent's den, a looming threat only striking if you get too close.

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