”Veronica Mars”: Gay-straight alliance
Among the plethora of primo moments in last night’s Veronica Mars, the Spider-Man one might have been my favorite. I speak of the scene where our friendly neighborhood high school supersleuth nabbed herself a supervillain — okay, a real third-tier loser, a masked bandit named Arturo, who was mugging pizza delivery boys in hopes of earning his stripes in Thumper’s gang — and left him taped to a lamppost for the police to find, just the way a certain wall crawler tends to leave his criminal prey webbed up for the cops. Once again, Veronica proved herself to be geekdom’s coolest dream girl since a certain Slayer hung up her stakes.
Welcome back, Veronica. And in more ways than one. It seems like forever since we last saw Ms. Mars in action; this show is about as repeat plagued as Lost. (Is the Wednesday 9 p.m. time slot as cursed as Hurley’s numbers or something?) I had to chuckle when I heard Mr. Announcer Man plug next week’s episode by saying, ”Every week, a new clue….” Mister, I can barely remember the last new clue, it’s been so many weeks since the last new episode! I’m worried we might be able to already declare this season’s bus-crash mega-mystery a slight bust, just because UPN’s scheduling has killed its momentum. Not good when you’re dealing with a plot as complex as this one. It would be helpful, at least, if next week Veronica and Keith could swipe the drawing board from Dr. House’s office over at Fox and diagrammatically recap the whole thing, just to make sure we and they are on the same page.
That said, I thought this episode, titled ”Versatile Toppings,” was a welcome return not only literally but figuratively as well — as in a welcome return to form. I wasn’t wild about the previous two episodes, especially the last original outing, that sluggish stolen-cashbox caper at the school fair. ”Versatile Toppings” was smart and witty, twisty and dense — sometimes overwhelmingly so — but I loved getting lost in its maze of mystery.
The central focus of the episode was Veronica’s investigation into the blackmailing of Neptune High’s closeted gay teens. Seems they all hung out in a clandestine chat room called The Pirate S.H.I.P., but some scallywag plundered the list of members and was now threatening to out them all unless they paid him. Natch, the website’s manager (some pizza delivery dude we’ve seen before; his name eludes me, thanks to the fog bank that has rolled in from all those repeats) and that relatively uncommon gay teen stereotype, the Dumb Blonde Cheerleader/TV Reporter Lipstick Lesbian (played by Kristin Cavallari, of MTV’s Laguna Beach and UPN’s already canceled Get This Party Started), hired Veronica to investigate. Initially, Veronica suspected a connection to that aforementioned rash of pizza-delivery-boy muggings. But after the Spider-Man moment with Arturo, Veronica realized there was no Gay Hate conspiracy afoot: It turns out one of the S.H.I.P.pers was blackmailing the others in order to pay off someone who was blackmailing him, a someone who turned out to be…Dumb Blonde Cheerleader/TV Reporter Lipstick Lesbian. Her plan — follow me here — was that she wanted to come out of the closet (which she did, in hysterical fashion, during one of her news reports on Neptune’s in-school TV network). (Man, high school has gotten so much cooler since I was a teenager! My school could barely crank out a newspaper.) But she didn’t want to come out of the closet alone, so she engineered this conspiracy in hopes of creating a crisis that would allow her to out her girlfriend too, which she did, during said news report.
[Thanks, readers, for pointing out that the cheerleader had already outed her girlfriend by distributing the poem she wrote, and that the jock who was being blackmailed wasn’t blackmailing the others. Sorry, but as I said above, I loved getting lost in the maze of this mystery.]
A little forced? Yes. A little far-fetched? No doubt. But the twists within twists within twists were well handled. What’s more, I think the episode made a sophisticated little statement about intolerance. Things started promisingly, with Veronica arriving at school and noticing small instances of homophobia that added up to a larger culture of hostility, from the baseball jocks mocking Dick for his recent encounter with a he-she hooker (and Dick dishing it right back with gay-tinged insinuations, tastelessness begetting tastelessness) to Logan busting ambiguously on a guy for buying a fruit-flavored drink. ”Strawberry soda — fine choice,” he said, sarcasm dripping off the ”fine.” The rude banter was juxtaposed with equally rude yet not equally threatening expressions of outré heterosexuality, from Veronica’s ironic ”Dick! You totally nailed me!” to Logan’s messy PDA with young girlfriend Hannah — the kind of flippancy and freedom that only straight people can engage in without fear of cruel looks and comments or worse. ”Dude! Why are lesbians so angry all the time?” asked Dick at one point. ”Let your freak flag fly!” If he was actually interested in the answer (which he wasn’t), he only needed to look in the mirror.
Meanwhile (and there were a whole host of meanwhiles in ”Versatile Toppings”), Logan pursued his dastardly plan to intimidate plastic surgeon Dr. Tom — the deceitful ”secret witness” who allegedly saw Logan knife Felix — by dating his daughter…or does Logan actually like the girl? The episode gave us reason to suspect both, or that at least one has led to the other. Clearly, Logan doesn’t deserve the girl, and the brilliant way in which he manipulated her into letting him into her house with his hangdog, guilt-tripping passive-aggressiveness was proof of that. The scene was trumped only by Logan’s subsequent confrontation with Dr. Tom and how he both exacted his revenge and applied pressure by playing the role of boyfriend from hell, complete with creepy intimations of corrupting Hannah’s virtue. Still, by the end, it seemed Logan was truly smitten with the young woman. (Help me: I’m still confused about what Hannah learned about her father, and how exactly she learned it. Can anyone fill in the blanks for me?)
Meanwhile (again!), on the bus crash front, Keith nailed down a plausible alibi for Terence by obtaining proof that the baseball star was in a casino at the time of the accident, but then, in the final scene, Veronica discovered a reason to suspect Terence all over again when she found detonators in his car garage.
My question to you is: Do you care? Has this story line been undermined by UPN’s scheduling and the show’s too-intricate plotting? And where do you think the whole Logan/Hannah romance/manipulation is headed?