On ''Veronica Mars,'' our gal recovers guest star Paul Rudd's missing tapes -- and helps him voice his solo aspirations; meanwhile, she and Piz get closer

By Missy Schwartz
May 09, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Veronica Mars: Scott Humbert
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”Veronica Mars”: Saving the music

Okay, I’ll give last night’s episode this much: It was way better than last week’s stinking pile of can’t-we-all-just-get-along after-school-special doo. And the improvement was thanks in no small part to special guest star Paul Rudd.

The hard-working actor (seriously: check out his IMDB page — he has eight projects scheduled for 2007 alone!) popped up in Veronica Mars land as Desmond Fellows, a ”spineless, semi-alcoholic has-been rock star,” in the words of Ms. Mars. Dezzie (that’s right, I just gave him a nickname) used to be rich and famous as one half of My Pretty Pony, a They Might Be Giants-ish duo that, judging from the awesome fake video, was apparently huge back when stringy long hair for dudes was all the rage. But then his partner died, and now he’s doing benefit concerts at little nothing colleges like Hearst. I admit I was predisposed to love Rudd’s journey to Neptune from the moment I saw the teaser for this episode, called ”Debasement Tapes.” But let’s hear it for his bull’s-eye comic portrayal of a washed-up musician. His delivery of lines like ”Plax! Come on, I’m missing Night Court!” were hilarious, with just the right amount of self-important smarm. (Plax, Fez, and Puss were Desmond’s I’m-too-cool-to-bother-with-your-name variations on Piz.) And Rudd nailed the rock-star-as-wannabe-wild-boy cliché when he declared to a crowd of partygoers, ”This is my lifestyle!” while stripping down to go skinny-dipping at the beach. He ended up getting busted, which led to a delightful exchange with Sheriff Mars back at the station about the significance of the Beatles.

Of course, this being Veronica Mars, Dezzie had issues other than just clinging to his former glory — namely, that the vocal tapes recorded by his late bandmate were missing. Without them, he said, he could not perform live. Now, I accept that any mystery in the Mars-iverse will always come with red herrings. But this particular dose of dead ends felt more arbitrary than usual. Who stole the tapes from Desmond’s backpack? Was it the groupie waiting for him in his Neptune Grand bed wearing nothing but a leopard-print bra and panties? Nope. Was it that rascally hotel bellhop Jeff Ratner, whom Veronica had previously suspected of being involved in the Dean O’Dell murder? Sorry — thanks for playing. No, Desmond’s stuff disappeared simply because he and some other fan of excessive boozing accidentally swapped bags at the airport. Kinda anticlimactic. Anyway, Veronica and Piz drove to L.A., recovered Desmond’s luggage, and saved the day — but not until slyly tricking Dezzie into performing an acoustic set and showing him that he didn’t need no stinkin’ backing vocals. Aww…how life-affirming! (And tidy! Do I detect another sign of stand-alone episodes wrapping things up too quickly?)

Still, Paul Rudd can sing! In fact, he sang so well that Veronica got all lovey-dovey with Piz at the back of the club. ”Piznarski, you’re a good guy,” she said before slipping her hand into his. This after Ronnie had spent a good three-quarters of the episode awkwardly dancing around the are-we-or-aren’t-we following last week’s party smooch. And then there was Mac, grappling with a serious good-guy/bad-guy dilemma of her own. In a terrific sequence, the gal pals found themselves comparing their love interests to the cafeteria’s menu du jour. In the end, Mac went with edgy nerd Max (fettuccine Alfredo), which meant dumping poor, sweet Bronson, and Veronica opted for milquetoast Piz (eggplant parmigiana). How long she stays with him is anyone’s guess, though. ‘Cause in case you somehow missed the numerous, unsubtle clues, Logan is back to brooding, and he’s mighty jealous of the new couple. (Where was Parker during all this? Choking on that birthday cake from last week? Brushing her wig? Seriously — we still haven’t been told how she grew back a full head of shiny blond hair so quickly.)

But Logan didn’t spend the entire episode fishing for info on PiVe. (Or is it VerP? Either way, it sounds like a disease. Which would still be better than PerV, I guess.) The industrious Mr. Echolls also enlisted master hacker Mac to help him with a homework assignment: craft a business plan. (Being Logan, he opted for a ”hot asses” website. Mac ultimately deemed the end product an ”assterpiece.”) When Dick launched into his speech about being an expert on the subject of Logan’s project — because he is an ass — he once again had me exercising the rewind function on my DVR. ”Who would you ask for advice about lions — a lion or a gerbil?” he asked, perfectly straight-faced. ”By virtue of being a lion, a lion is an expert on lions.” Genius!

As for Keith Mars, he kept busy looking into a shady operation going down at the local Sports Haus, after being tipped off by none other than former deputy Leo. Alas, Vinnie Van Lowe was already on the case. Worse, Neptune’s doofiest P.I. also decided to run against Keith in the upcoming sheriff’s election. Damn that Vinnie and his sad 1984-era windbreakers!

What do you think, TV Watchers? Did Paul Rudd not steal every single scene he was in last night? Are you digging this PiVe business? (And, oof — how many of you saw Piz waxing his surfboard in that horrendous pilot for Kate Walsh’s Grey’s Anatomy spin-off last Thursday?) Are we happy that hot Leo is back in a uniform? What is up with all these uncomfortable encounters in Neptune Grand elevators? And what do you make of Rob Thomas’ recent announcements to the press that Veronica Mars is not dead yet?

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