Mark Watches ‘Veronica Mars’: S01E09 – Drinking the Kool-Aid

In the ninth episode of the first season of Veronica Mars, Veronica and Keith are forced into a difficult decision when investigating a possible cult. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Veronica Mars.

Well, this was a strange one.

  • Ultimately, I think I kind of like the writing choices here, even if Casey Gant’s end kind of doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, given the timeline. Still, this episode explores our own preconceptions about cults and new age philosophy by putting us in the Mars’ shoes. We are meant to suspect the worst of these people, and yet, at every turn, they prove to be utterly harmless.
  • This is also one of the slower episodes of the show, though I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing? I dunno, I have varied feelings on “Drinking the Kool Aid,” so LET US DISCUSS THEM.
  • I suppose this episode’s pacing might feel so bizarre because things pick up in the immediate aftermath of Veronica’s discovery in “Like a Virgin.” Veronica now has to deal with a myriad of complexities in her life. Did Jake Kane threaten Lianne out of Neptune? Did Veronica have a relationship with her half brother? Was Jake getting revenge on Keith? How much does Keith know, if he knows anything at all?
  • Can we also take a single bullet point to acknowledge what a fantastic sleuth Veronica is? That whole sequence where she determines when a certain photo was taken, then determines where the photographer was, then sort of tells the truth about being stalked in order to look at the restaurant’s receipts, then following the man to KANE SOFTWARE, and finally calling the company and determining he’s head of security… shit, that was breathtaking. I love it. I LOVE IT.
  • Wait, so Keith plays baseball in his free time? That was what the whole “home plate” thing was about, right? Sorry, I wasn’t clear on that. (And as long as it’s not a spoiler, that wasn’t a rhetorical question, haha. I KNOW I USE RHETORICAL QUESTIONS ALL THE TIME, so I want to define when I’m actually asking something y’all can answer. It’s only fair!)
  • Anyway, it’s kind of sad to watch Veronica go behind her father’s back to trick him into giving blood for a paternity test, but this journey is about Veronica needing to know the answers. It’s especially heartbreaking because prior to this, we see how dedicated he is to making Veronica happy. He buys her a Christmas she asked for YEARS AGO. YEARS. And even if the timing is late, and even if it was a $10.00 find at a yard sale, and even if water beds haven’t been in style since I can’t even remember when, it’s still one of the sweetest things I have ever seen ever. But it’s also an important moment because it further establishes the fact that the Mars family doesn’t have much money left, which is vital towards understanding the moral crisis these characters face.
  • That crisis comes in the form of Casey Gant, a former jerk 09er who has given away many of his possessions to raise money for the Moon Calf Collective, which his parents are convinced is a cult. Oh, and the Gants are filthy rich, so they offer Keith a $5,000 bonus if he can uncover an illegal activity to get the cult shut down.
  • Seriously, what happens next hits every single trope standard for cults I’ve ever seen. Casey swears off material possessions! He’s interested in his lit teacher in a really weird way! That teacher, Miss Mills, appears to be luring Veronica to the cult!
  • And then that first scene in the Moon Calf Collective? GOOD GOD. It’s like the worst of Bay Area new age spirituality distilled down to five minutes, which is precisely what the writers designed. The collective has a barn Veronica is not allowed to go into. IT’S BAD, RIGHT? And Josh is for everyone? And there’s an ultimate cash crop??? COME ON, YOU’RE NOT EVEN HIDING THE FACT THAT THIS IS A TERRIBLE CREEPY CULT.
  • Which is kind of why I really like this episode. These people end up being beautifully sincere and genuine the whole time. Which kind of makes Veronica a jerk in the beginning? I mean, she fakes that poem to get in with Miss Mills, but that means that Miss Mills really thought Veronica was a great writer who needed help. 
  • OH GOD.
  • And the second visit that Veronica pays to the Moon Calf Collective only further destroys her preconceived notions about the place. Josh doesn’t hit on her or take advantage of her “vulnerability.” That cash crop? Pointsettias. They are raising money for the Collective in one of the most honest ways possible. And it’s not just that; they’re well aware of how hypocritical it is of them to do something so distinctly capitalist, but they’re trapped in a world where money is the only way to get certain things that they need. THEY DON’T WANT HER DONATIONS EITHER. These people aren’t behaving in any stereotypical manner for a cult at all. It just seems that they are the real deal: nice people! Who do nice things!
  • Which forms the crux of the problem between Keith and Veronica, unfortunately. Keith has an imperative to his business and to keeping him and his daughter fed and housed. That $5,000 bonus could get them a new apartment, one with working hot water, and it could further Keith’s reputation. At the same time, we learn that the Gants are worried that Casey will get most of an $80 million fortune, which casts their complaint in a negative light, at least to Veronica. And the creepy presence of that weird “deprogrammer” guy doesn’t help, either. What if there isn’t an actual case here? What if their own prejudices and biases, some informed by the Gants, some from their own experiences, have caused them to doubt the fact that people can get together and do nice things to one another?
  • Then, when Casey reveals his parents’ awful reaction to his grandmother’s impending death, I was convinced that even I had got this all wrong. Oh god, BUT THEN RAIN ENDS UP BEING A MINOR AND A RUNAWAY. But is this the right decision? Do they turn in these people and possibly bring ruin to the Moon Calf Collective over $5,000? What’s more important to them?
  • Things get a little shaky at this point, and I feel like a few matters are rushed so that we can get to a resolution. I mean, we go from the school to a funeral to a kidnapping to the Mars household in a matter of like… 60 seconds? Maybe two minutes? Still, I liked that Keith didn’t turn Rain or the Collective in because he recognized that Rain was in a much better place than she was before.
  • I do feel super weird about the end of Casey’s story. How the hell do you re-program a person’s brain in a matter of a day or two? Or did they just threaten Casey? Yeah, this just felt REALLY CREEPY once you thought about it.

The video commission for “Drinking the Kool Aid” can be downloaded right here for just $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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