Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "Wichita Linebacker" (season 3, episode 3)

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Veronica Mars - "Wichita Linebacker" (season 3, episode 3)


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 17, 2006/written by Phil Klemmer & John Enbom; directed by Harry Winer): Veronica's is forced to put the Parker case on hold in "Wichita Linebacker" (neither Mac nor Parker appear) but its impact is still felt throughout. The episode is bookended by a school newspaper's coverage of a provocative feminist campaign ("Rape Me" the nude activists proclaim via handwritten signs) and another assault reported by one of their members (whom frat boy comedians jokingly threatened in the campus Lampoon). Veronica will probably be following up with Claire Nordhouse (Krista Kalmus) now that she's overheard the revelation on Piz's new radio show ("It's like Jon Stewart meets Crossfire," he declares, "if Jon Stewart didn't hate Crossfire"). Until then, however, she's preoccupied with four separate, ingeniously intersecting matters. Fallen football star Kurt Fenstermacher (Armie Hammer) lost his team's playbook and needs to make sure he doesn't lose his scholarship; Dean O'Dell (Ed Begley, Jr.) wants to expel Veronica if she doesn't turn in her sources on the pot story; Logan's partying, gambling, and traveling habits - but, mostly, female students' interest in him - encourage Veronica to break out her spy skills; and Weevil, who plea-bargained down from murder to assault, can stay out on parole as long as he holds a job...except, unfortunately, he can't hold a job.

Veronica's answer to that last issue is brilliant if risky. She convinces Keith to hire him as an assistant and Weevil proves a natural detective. Unfortunately he's also quick to intervene with fists when stealthy surveillance is preferred, so Keith has to let him go. In the end, though, Veronica gets Weevil to fix the dean's car (fake-vandalized by his son to cover up an accident and make it look like angry feminists did it), leading him to hire Weevil to a maintenance position and let Veronica off the hook. Her discovery of Logan at a makeshift blackjack table leads her to a gambler who (helped) steal Kurt's playbook although his too-zealous girlfriend Trish Vaughn (Lindsey McKeon) is the prime culprit. And Trish's sad epiphany - her obsession with helping Kurt get out of the team he hated led her too far - triggers Veronica's own circumspection as she decides not to bug Logan's car before he heads to Mexico and the two get all kissy in the library where Veronica now works at the information desk. With trouble on the horizon, these two at least have learned to settle down.

My Response:
The dean is a new character with lots of potential, but my favorite element of Veronica Mars this week is a cinch to determine: I love Weevil's short-lived partnership with Keith. While I kinda wish it could continue - maybe it will resume eventually - I'm glad he's found a way back into the plot through his maintenance position. And his ability to provide some insight into the working-class backbone of the elite college is a promising development, potentially exploring Neptune's perpetual class system even inside the sequestered environment of Hearst. The football plot is less riveting, although the twists and turns are as clever as ever, and it's fun to see the always enjoyable Hammer play a too-honorable-for-his-own-good jock with a funny last name four years before The Social Network. (When does Facebook gets its first name-drop on Veronica Mars, I wonder? Someone mentioned MySpace a few episodes back but by the fall of '06 the torch had already been passed.) Veronica's somewhat tedious crisis with Logan calls attention to a problem that has haunted their relationship since season one: despite their chemistry and amiable banter they tend to be much more compelling when they're starcrossed than when things are going smoothly. And this feels like a slightly desperate attempt to ratchet up the drama rather than a situation with genuine pathos.

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