Veronica Mars Recap: She's a Marshmallow

Veronica Mars Season 1 RecapIn advance of Veronica Mars’ forthcoming big-screen adaptation, TVLine is offering occasional recaps of key episodes from the series’ three-season run. Go Pirates!

Let’s start off this endeavor with a little disclaimer: I am the gooiest of Marshmallows.

I’ve been high on Veronica Mars, both the girl and the former UPN/CW series, since their debut in 2004. Thank goodness (and Rob Thomas) that a savvy pal turned me on to the pilot, which blended noir and sharp writing and mystery and then poured them all over a high school drama. The colors were garish. The central murder case was messy. The heroine was snarky.

I was hooked.

So as we wait for the drama’s cinematic debut in March, I’m goin’ back to Cali – Neptune, to be precise. Join me?

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GO PIRATES! | As the episode opens, we see a pixieish blonde pulling into her high school’s parking lot. This is Veronica, and as she’ll do for the rest of the episode, she offers crucial exposition via voiceover. She’s from Neptune, Calif., a town of extreme haves and have-nots, and we learn that when Veronica’s dad was Neptune’s sheriff, she was a prepster who dated tech scion Duncan Kane and rolled with his very privileged crowd. She was also good friends with his sister, Lilly. But that was before Veronica’s pop Keith tried to put Duncan and Lilly’s dad, Jake, in jail for life. (More on that later. And can we chat for a second about how, throughout the episode, Veronica looks like a walking, talking Delia’s catalogue? And how I totally tried – and failed — to nail this look at the time?)

Veronica cuts through a throng of student gawkers to find a naked new kid duct-taped to the flagpole with the word “snitch” scrawled across him. Later, that kid – he’s Wallace, who’ll become Veronica’s bestie – sits across from her at lunch and ignores her initial bitchiness to thank her for helping him out. We learn that Wallace is in trouble with the local biker gang because he sicced the cops on two members who stole beer from the Sac-n-Pac where he works. When he freaked and tried to recant, the douchey new Sheriff Lamb (who replaced Keith) wouldn’t listen.

Impelled by her hatred of Lamb (when she suspected she’d been rufie’d and raped at a party, he dismissed her claims and sent her away), Veronica devises a plan that will help rid Wallace of the gang threat and that will clear up a few other problems in her way. How is she so good at coming up with these detailed, well-laid plans? Well…

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ON THE CASE | Turns out, Veronica’s a budding private eye. At her dad’s office, she runs into a charmingly weaselly lawyer named Cliff who wink-wink-nod-nod wonders how Keith manages to handle so many cases when he’s so short-staffed. Though V is noncommittal, Cliff makes sure to leave her with a file on his current case: a stripper who wants to use her knowledge of police impropriety to get her out of a legal jam. (Side note: Various adult characters’ acknowledgement and acceptance of Veronica’s wise-beyond-her-years nature is one of my favorite things about this show. Girlfriend gets stuff done.)

After Cliff leaves, Keith’s office door opens and Celeste Kane – Jake’s wife, Duncan and Lilly’s mom – leaves. She thinks Jake is cheating on her, and though Keith tells Veronica not to pursue the case while he’s away catching a bail jumper, he knows she will. “Take Backup,” he advises, referring to their super cute attack dog. So she does.

TWO HOUSEHOLDS… | As Veronica stakes out the motel room where Jake is visiting an unknown woman, Veronica fills us in on the rest of the Kane-Mars saga. Jake’s tech firm invented streaming video, which made everyone who worked there hella rich. But just Jake had his greatest professional success, he and Celeste also suffered the worst thing a parent can face: Lilly was found dead by their pool, her head smashed in. (Very nice corpse acting, Amanda Seyfried!)

Veronica tells us that the crime scene footage was leaked online, and between that and Keith’s “bungling” of the case, Daddy Mars was soon out of a job. Veronica’s mom, Liane, left soon after; consequently, V hasn’t seen her mom in eight months. And now one of Kane’s former employees, Abel Koonz, is on death row for Lilly’s murder.

So why did Lilly tell Veronica she had a secret – “a good one” – the day she died? And why is Duncan catatonic at the crime scene? And why, when Keith sees the photos Veronica captured during Jake’s visit to the Camelot motel, does he abruptly (and somewhat angrily) warn her to stay away from the case? Could it be because, as Veronica learns, the car parked outside is registered to Liane?

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OH, LOGAN | I’ve saved the best, most so-wrong-it’s-right for last. Early in the episode, we meet Logan Echolls, a pooka-shell-wearing, incredibly cutting, rich young jerk. Or, as V puts it, “Every school has an obligatory psychotic jackass. He’s ours.” He’s also Duncan’s best friend, and he was Lilly’s boyfriend.

Through a complicated, pretty awesome plan about which I won’t go into detail here, Veronica manages to get Logan busted for drug paraphernalia that isn’t his, switch some damning evidence in the Sac-n-Pac investigation (which gets the PCHers off Wallace’s back) and help Cliff’s exotic dancer client with her case – with a bonus of making the Neptune Sheriff’s Department look like a pack of horny imbeciles.

Wallace and V have a cute moment at the beach – it’s where he delivers a speech so fitting for their budding friendship, I’m going to reproduce it in its entirety here:

“Underneath that angry young woman shell, there’s a slightly less angry young woman who’s just dying to bake me something. You’re a marshmallow, Veronica Mars. A twinkie.”

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I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M GOING TO ROOT FOR THIS GUY IN A FEW SHORT EPISODES | But Logan is not as impressed with Veronica’s genius as Wallace and I are, so he takes a tire iron to her headlights… until Weevil, head of the biker gang (known as the PCHers, which I’m not entirely sure we learn in this episode but we all know that’s what they’re called so I’m just going to go with it) shuts him down with a few punches to the gut. (Side note: Logan, having that urrgly Fisher-Price Xterra taken away from you is a privilege, not a punishment.)

With all of the episode’s other loose ends capped, Veronica sneaks into her pop’s office after hours and opens his secret safe… where she finds evidence of his ongoing investigation of Lilly’s death – including Veronica’s Camelot photo. What the?

Now it’s your turn. If you’re new to the series, what are your initial thoughts on the episode? If you’ve been a member of Mars Investigations for years, what about the pilot piqued your interest? Sound off in the comments!