In the seventeenth episode of Veronica Mars, THIS SHOW WAS TOO MUCH TO BEGIN WITH BUT NOW IT’S TRULY TOO MUCH FOR ANY SINGLE HUMAN TO DEAL WITH. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Veronica Mars.
This is TOO. FUCKING. UNREAL. There is just so much to unpack here, my friends, and I’m in love with the way the writers deal with things like cultural advantages, the complicated nature of privilege, the pitfalls of paranoia… oh god OH GOD. Let’s talk about the two main plots here.
Look, let me add a bit of personal validation to what you see here. I was valedictorian of my high school (AND DAMN PROUD OF IT) and faced a near-identical bout of wrath, resentment, and jealousy because I was one of the few folks who was abjectly poor and still managed to pull fantastic grades. It was frustrating and disheartening at times to know that I was competing against people who didn’t have to pay rent, who didn’t have to have jobs after school, who didn’t have to worry about where their next meal came from, who had the money for professional tutoring… you get the picture. That doesn’t mean I gave up, and let me tell you: SPITE GOES A LONG WAY TOWARDS PERSONAL MOTIVATION. But in hindsight, it’s a little sad to me that I didn’t view that situation as more of a chance to support and cheer on the people around me, many of whom weren’t well-off by any means and were just as resilient as I was. On a personal level, there’s a distinction between what I was going through my last two years of high school and what a poor or lower class student went through, but in the grand scheme of things? Most of us were in the same boat, competing for our own piece of hope amidst a sea of… well, hopelessness. For many years, most of the area around my high school was inhabited by poor immigrants, and their children made up the bulk of the population of the school. (In recent years, where I grew up has drastically transitioned to a cute suburban neighborhood; it was full of drugs, crime, gang activity, and less desirable qualities when I lived there.) These weren’t people who were, traditionally speaking, offered many opportunities for upward mobility. So when you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you fucking sprint for it. A lot of the desperation the other potential valedictorians exhibited? I shared it, too, and it’s because we knew that our opportunity for another life – whether that was an escape from the hellhole of Riverside or to make our families proud and pull them along with us – was rooted in those chances for scholarships and full rides.
It’s brutal, and as brutal and ridiculous as the events in “Kanes and Abel’s” may seem, I wish I could say that truth is not stranger than fiction. Oh my god, the shit I have seen. People cheating on exams. Petitions to get a grade on someone else’s essay lowered. Violence. A drive-by water ballooning, and I can’t even begin to understand how that person thought that throwing water balloons at someone’s house was a good distraction technique? The water dries up, THAT’S THE END OF THAT PRANK. (Hey, I can’t say the valedictorians were actually all that smart.) I ended up being salutatorian and valedictorian, because my school ultimately decided that we would have like TWELVE valedictorians at once, and I won the run-off to give the speech at graduation. I gave a fairly bogus speech that *~very subtly~* poked fun at everything, and at one point, I made a horrific pun I was proud of, and no one laughed for like three seconds, and then my friend Eric guffawed so fucking loud that it echoed throughout the stadium and then everyone laughed at that. Anyway, yeah, one of the other valedictorians (I still don’t know who) spread the rumor that I cheated during speech tryouts BY SLEEPING WITH THE TEACHER WHO CHOSE THE SALUTATORIAN.
People can be brutal.
That’s at the heart of Sabrina’s struggle. Someone is doing everything they can to relentlessly pester, annoy, irritate, and distract her so that she’ll slip and screw up her chances of winning the illustrious Lilly Kane Scholarship. Initially, it seems easy to believe that Caz, Sabrina’s super creepy ex-boyfriend is the one responsible. I did like that despite that he wasn’t the culprit, the writers weren’t afraid to say HEY. DUDE. YOU’RE REALLY WEIRD AND CREEPY. YOU NEED TO STOP. It’s a nice touch. And it was also clear that this wasn’t some weird case of self-sabotage, which I suspected when we saw the SUPER INTENSE studying set-up Sabrina had.
That’s when the writers give us Hamilton Cho, a resentful (justifiably so) potential valedictorian who was born without the same opportunities and chances as Sabrina was. And as much as Hamilton didn’t like Sabrina, and as unfair as it was that the system of inequality in our country meant that Hamilton would have the deck stacked against him, I was so worried that he was the person responsible for the horrible things happening to Sabrina. The issue here, though, really is one of privilege, but it didn’t unfold as I thought it would.
Ultimately, privilege isn’t always a deliberate or malicious thing. Sabrina and her mother didn’t set out to spite Hamilton and his family. They didn’t force Mr. Cho to hire Vincent Van Lowe to harass Sabrina. Sabrina honestly got better grades than Hamilton did, and she deserved that scholarship! At the same time, the writers don’t portray Hamilton’s situation as one to be despised. Instead, we’re meant to sympathize with him because the odds really were stacked in his favor. I think it’s a brilliant way to show how inequality manifests in increasingly subtle and quiet ways, how that affects two very deserving and good people, and how, when you get down to it, the world is just bitterly unfair for some people by no virtue of their own. What happens to Hamilton isn’t fair at all, and yet, he doesn’t hate his father. He doesn’t think his life is over. Because dads. I’ll touch on DADS in the next section, but I wanted to add a personal touch to my reasoning for liking this story, even if it was REALLY SAD. I mean… ugh, so many feelings already.
I also just need to state, in writing, that no one other than Ken Marino could have played Vinnie. That “Private Eyes” scene is SO AMAZING. Oh, you better believe I need to re-watch Party Down once I have some time because IT’S SO GOOD. Also, I had no idea that Rob Thomas once wrote for Space Ghost Coast to Coast and was once offered the position of showrunner on Friday Night Lights. Thank you, Wikipedia, for not inadvertently spoiling me when I was Googling Party Down. (Googling is a dangerous game for me, y’all.)
Oh my god, how is this going to be resolved? HOW?!?!?!
“Kanes and Abel’s” picks up where the previous episode left off, and it’s not long before Veronica is able to locate Amelia DeLongpre at LMU before Clarence does. Veronica walks on thin ice through most of this episode, relying on Amelia’s trust while trying to prevent Clarence from discovering where Abel’s beneficiary is. This also depends on Amelia not learning the truth about her father, that he’s got only months to live. Which doesn’t help, obviously, and then there’s that oh-so-casual reveal that Jake Kane once cheated Abel out of patent money, and this whole thing is a hive of bees that Veronica is gently prodding every five seconds. It’s precarious!
It’s made all the worse (initially) by Logan, who ends up taking a peek at the file Veronica has on her laptop regarding Lilly’s case. He’s got a strange role in this episode, and I’m referring more to his behavior than anything else. He’s not… hmmm. He’s not as cruel as he would have been say… ten episodes ago? No, he feels so muted, as if recent events have left him without the motivation to be sarcastic and quippy. (I have no idea if quippy is an actual word, but TextEdit is not giving me those red lines, so I guess it is!) HE THANKS VERONICA AND PAYS HER. Look, I know it’s kind of ridiculous that Logan exercising basic decency warrants commentary at all, so I’m aware of how absurd I am right now. I’m just a sucker for any sort of character development, and it’s surprising to me when someone I didn’t like is… slightly more likable? DO YOU FEEL ME ON THIS. I mean, I think his growing acceptance of Veronica, no matter how small it may be, is the reason he decides to confide in her regarding one of Duncan’s bouts of bizarre behavior, perhaps linked to the Type IV epilepsy he has.
Which is a weird plotline that I’ll get to in the end. Before Veronica suspects her ex, this episode features two UNBELIEVABLY DISTURBING scenarios that posit how possible it is that one of the Kanes murdered their daughter. Truthfully, as uncomfortable as the thought is, Veronica has to consider that it’s true given Clarence’s relentless pursuit of Amelia. What the hell was in those papers that could have been so damaging, y’all? I DON’T GET IT!!!! Clarence was willing to BREAK INTO THE MARS HOUSEHOLD. NOT OKAY.
Of course, it’s because of this that Keith finally has to sit Veronica down, as he’s put it together that she’s still pursuing the Lilly Kane case. I actually liked that scene the most in the episode because it demonstrated that Keith was willing to work this with his daughter to pursue the truth. He wants to protect her, but he recognizes that she needs closure. Well, I also think it’s validating to him to have someone else agree with him that the details in the case don’t match up. But it ends up not being enough. Clarence – that genius who makes me so mad – proves that he can be one step ahead of the Mars team, too, and he uses Veronica’s flaw against her. He tells Amelia about her father’s death, which is a damn good reason for her to distrust Veronica. Damn it, Kane Software won, and it’s so INFURIATING. What is Clarence protecting???
OH GOD, THEN KEITH REVEALS ONE OF THE WORST DETAILS OF THE CASE YET. (Casual reminder that he does so with his daughter to comfort her. Oh my god, they are the most adorable family in the history of noir.) The Kanes were washing Duncan’s soccer uniform just after Lilly’s murder. JUST… NO. CAN THIS PLEASE NOT BE IT? I mean, first of all, I’m worried about the unfortunate implications of someone being the murderer because of a mental illness, but also because NO. NO NO NO PLEASE NOT DUNCAN. Sweet mother of pearl, this show is doing things to me.
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