OPEN CASE: VERONICA MARS

 

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Season 2

Episode 7


Nobody Puts Baby in a Closet, Cupboard, Corner:

 

By Sue


 

 

Neptune: The Next Generation

 

Raise your hand if your parents punished you by making you stand in a corner. I suspect answers will vary with the age of the reader. Despite the evidence of the comics' page (particularly Marvin and Dennis the Menace) I suspect that standing in the corner has morphed into the more politically correct "time out chair." Either way I'm pretty sure that being locked in a closet and waiting to be "tested" is not on even John Rosemond's list of acceptable behavior modification techniques.

 

What is it with parents in Neptune? By now you'd think we'd seen it all: alcoholics, thieves, liars, adulterers, murderers. In this episode we get the invasion of seriously obsessive-compulsive mothers with a side of control freak, and their (in)significant others.

 

Mrs. Fuller schedules her son's "free" time in 5-minute increments. He is so robotic that even when Veronica offers him an out he sticks to the program, like a good little Stepford son. Veronica likens him to a marionette. But it's not his own head he shows exploding---it's Veronica's. Is that because she doesn't stick to the program, or because Veronica has serious control issues of her own? Meanwhile, Mr. Fuller appears to gently mock his wife's obsessions ("we have every phone number....") but doesn't contradict her. Then he blatantly propositions Veronica behind her back. Nice guy.

 

Ms Hauser, the health teacher, carries Albert's permitted snacks with her and allows nothing unhealthy to pass his lips. At least Albert reacts more normally once Mom is out of sight (and earshot)---he screams like a little brat and demands all things forbidden. Veronica gives in immediately. Crazed murderers and motorcycle gangs don't faze her, but Albert/Alfalfa brings her to her knees. Currently Ms Hauser has no significant other but hopes to purchase one at a bachelor auction. (Good use of Dad's invitation, Veronica. I assume Keith wasn't planning on attending.)

 

Mrs. Take-Off-Your-Shoes-In-My-House Goodman almost needs no further comment. But Gia does observe, "You wouldn't believe the stuff you bring in from the outside world." Personally, I'd be more concerned about what is already in their house. Is she really trying to protect her family---or her floor? I'd be a "little weird" and "intense" too if spilling water on the floor was treated like a federal offense. And Woody? The man who is mayor of the entire county? He skulks away in the background, clearly not king in his own castle.

 

Finally we come to the two Mrs. Casablancas. Bettina is no control freak. In fact, she really wants nothing to do with either of her sons, lest they intrude on her life. She makes a small show of being concerned about their future welfare, but really can't wait to sign the papers and leave town. Then there is Kendall. What is a deserted trophy wife without funds supposed to do? Her "job"---which apparently has always been to trade sex for financial support from men (and I use the word loosely). Dick Sr. divorced his first wife and used his second wife to carry bribes, then left her behind when he fled prosecution. Look at their sons: Dick Jr. is quite entirely immoral and creepily disturbed. Cassidy is just plain sad. Emotional abandonment certainly is a form of child abuse.

 

It almost makes me yearn for the kinder, gentler mothering of season one: Celeste Kane, Lynn Echolls and Lianne Mars. I wonder if babysitting might actually soften Veronica's attitude toward her mother. I mean all she did was steal from and abandon Veronica. In the cesspool of parenting in Neptune---that's not so bad, is it?

 

And, although we haven't the pleasure of meeting their parents, in addition to Stepford Edwin; bratty Albert; "intense" Rodney; poor, neglected Cassidy; skeezy Dick; and abandoned Logan and Duncan; we have Gia's fine young female friends: obsessed with the size of their breasts and butts, they view Vivian the prostitute from Pretty Woman as a "hero". Are there no fine, upstanding, good children in Neptune? Well, there is sweet little Grace Manning. We know Lizzie has rebelled against her parents big-time. I wonder whether Meg went through the same hell as Grace while growing up?

 

Concerned about job stability? Get a degree in Child Psychology and move to Neptune. You'll be set for life.

 

I have no window into Rob Thomas' mind or personal knowledge of his thoughts. But he is a new father, with an extensive background dealing with adolescents and a keen observer and chronicler of teenage angst. I believe he used this episode to comment acerbically on the state of modern parenting. Certainly the parent-child situations were exaggerated, but while most parents might fall short of actual abuse, a large number of parents are entirely guilty of over-scheduling (Stuart Fuller), over-controlling (Albert Hauser), and over-protecting (Rodney Goodman) their children's lives. Thomas is clearly appalled at these trends and considers them downright harmful. The Mannings merely combined all three traits and took them to extremes. In seeking to make Grace into the perfect child they have hidden her away from any outside influence which might seek to corrupt her and constantly directed her thoughts and activities toward "higher things" so that she will eventually be able to "pass the test" of perfection. Clearly they were only doing all these things for her own good. Heaven forbid she should grow up like Lizzie; or even like Meg who is not only seeing a young man, but also slipping out of their control. If Joss Whedon is the Dark Lord of ripping out our hearts, then Rob Thomas is the Demon King of bizarre parenting.

 

 

Appearances Versus Reality

 

Of course, none of this family weirdness is obvious to the world at large. That's because, like much of the rest of the world, Neptune is good at substituting appearance for reality. Residents of Neptune are consumed with costumes, role-playing, and altering reality even if it requires drastic measure such as plastic surgery.

 

Just a few examples:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look below the surface, open door number two, don't trust appearances, what you see is not what you get. That appearance has little to do with reality is a major theme throughout Veronica Mars and this episode has plenty of prime examples. Two instances, however, in which appearance actually meets reality: The shallowness of Gia's girlfriends and probably Dick's "Going Commando" t-shirt. Break out the brain Drano.

 

 

Doors, doors, doors

 

I seem to have my only little obsession---with doors, and the dark, dirty, painful secrets which they (attempt) to hide. This episode was filled to overflowing with doors being opened and closed; knocked on; doorbells rung; locked; unlocked; hiding things.

 

Right at the start Logan walks in the door. Almost immediately there is a knock on the door. "There's my room service," he announces. Well, yes, but the reality is a bit different from the expected grilled cheese sandwich. He didn't seem to be expecting Kendall, but he doesn't turn her away, just takes her through another door and shuts it on Veronica and Duncan. Awkward doesn't begin to describe it.

 

The next day at school there is an "Out of Order" sign on the girls' bathroom door. It might as well say, "The Doctor is In." Veronica of course finds someone seeking her help on the other side of the door: Logan. I've got to wonder what exactly is Out Of Order? Logan? Logan and Veronica? Logan seeking Veronica's help or Veronica agreeing to aid him? Then it's out of that door and in through another; this time with Duncan---who also needs her help.

 

Later Veronica enters into the surreal world of the Fuller household through their front door, followed by Mr. Fuller and hell spawn Edwin. Logan taps on the glass patio door to get her attention, just as....Mr. and Mrs. Fuller arrive home via the front door---the same door Mr. Fuller shuts behind him so his wife can't hear his bizarre conversation with Veronica.

 

The next day back at the school Veronica strategically places herself, holding her babysitting posters prominently displayed, in the door of Mrs. Hauser's classroom. More or less prohibiting Ms. Hauser's exit, until her goal is achieved.

 

The doorbell at the Casablancas house, and Kendall has to open it herself---in lieu of a real maid. We have no idea who will be on the other side until the door is opened to reveal: the other Mrs. Casablancas!

 

The Mars doorbell rings (and strangely Backup doesn't bark) to announce the Hauser's arrival.

 

There is the entry door at the plastic surgeon's office and the back door through which he exits.

 

The cigar shop door.

 

We see Gia approach her front door and admit Veronica; then the closet door is opened to reveal the anally retentive labeled baskets for shoes and family possessions. The door is closed on all that chaos and "stuff you bring in from the outside world."

 

When Mrs. Goodman arrives home she leads Rodney off and Woody enters his office and shuts himself in and the world out by firmly closing his door behind him.

 

Both the number of images as well as the symbolism escalates near the end: Duncan knows where to find the hidden key to unlock the door to Meg's house. Once they collect the workbook from Meg's room they exit her room, closing that door behind them. Then they open the door to Grace's room; open the door to Grace's closet; open the door to Grace's hidey-hole; open the door to Grace's imprisonment.

 

Mr. Manning bursts in through the door with the baseball bat.

 

Finally, Veronica and Duncan first go in and then out of the car doors of Lamb's patrol car.

 

The episode ends with Mr. Manning noticing Lamb watching him through a window. The world is no longer safely shut out, on the far side of a series of strong, solid doors. Rather his behavior is on display, through a clear glass window. For Lamb and all the world to see.

 

So many doors, to say nothing of the existence of all those metaphorical doors---emotional and psychological barriers shutting out the world, cutting characters off from one another and the truth. Some have been thrown wide-open, revealing sordidness, pain and horror. Others, however, are still being kept firmly shut. Wallace for one is keeping his doors closed up tight for the moment. Veronica hasn't found the right key. What we really need are some more windows into the murky plotlines, which are really piling up.

 

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Speculations and Unanswered Questions

 

It's getting harder and harder to segregate episodes into neat little compartments of a Mystery Of The Week all tied in an hour and information possibly relating to longer arcs---some of which are not even clearly defined at this point. Piled on top of Felix's murder and the bus crash we now have reference to possible drug dealing, and clear evidence of witness tampering. It's hard to say if Woody's political maneuverings with regard to incorporation will also play a role, but any moves in such a direction will severely exacerbate the already simmering class warfare.

 

The suggestion that some shadowy mastermind is going to great lengths to pin Felix's death on Logan coupled with the death of PCHer Cervando Perez on bus makes me wonder if the motorcycle gang is somehow involved with the drug dealers. Have they crossed someone? Maybe the bus crash was aimed at the PCHers---not just to kill Perez but also as a warning.

 

Mr. Pope of the FBLA appears to be acting the part of a Greek chorus: both commenting and foreshadowing. Which brings up the question: What is it better than Duncan not know?

 

What was in the envelope that Duncan took out of Meg's air vent?

 

And, given that Duncan has held himself so aloof from the lives of those around him I admit to being surprised and curious at the urgency with which he treats Meg's revelations. His comment regarding "emotional abuse" is especially interesting. On the other hand he doesn't seem the least bit concerned about Veronica talking to Logan in the bathroom or feel any necessity to explain Logan's remarks about Kendall.

 

I also noticed that Keith is beginning to have some trust issues with Veronica---questioning her about the smoke smell on her jacket; and making her send him a picture of the art gallery last week. Eventually Veronica's lies to her father are going to blow up in her face. "The tragedy of life is that we grow old too soon (Veronica is 9 going on 30) and wise too late." --Ben Franklin

 

 

Dirty Dancing

 

Finally, although I have tied the title directly to the child abuse storyline and the repeated use of doors I can't pass up a chance to draw a number of direct parallels to Dirty Dancing, the movie.

 

The movie is set in a wealthy resort located in the physically isolated Pocono Mountains of central Pennsylvania. Separated from the rest of the world, it's an illusory existence, a mirage, and a way of life that is passing because it really can't be maintained in a modern world.

 

And, reminiscent of Keith's comment, "You can't buy love, Veronica. But bored wives of the wealthy, however, can," there is a rich female sexual predator in the movie. She's married, she's bored and she (in direct contradiction to Kendall's role) pays younger men to sleep with her. Coincidentally her name is Vivian, but being a whore is not her job, it's her hobby. One wonders if she would also be a "hero" to Madison, et al.

 

Finally, and most obviously, the movie is all about class distinctions and inequalities. The heroine is a flat chested young girl who manages to bridge the gap between privileged and less privileged. To quote Johnny (played by Patrick Swayze): "Sorry about the disruption, folks...but I always do
the last dance of the season. This year somebody told me not to. So I'm gonna do my kind of dancin' with a great partner...who's not only a terrific dancer...but somebody who's taught me that there are people...willing to stand up for other people no matter what it costs them. Somebody who's taught me...about the kind of person I want to be. Miss Frances Houseman."

 

Is Veronica "Baby?" She certainly fits the description. I wonder what standing up for other people is going to cost her.

 

On the other hand, although I certainly can't see the parallel, Kendall does refer to Logan in the episode as "baby." And he really is in a bit of a corner. I wonder who has put him there, and why.

 

 

The Final Word

 

Several episodes ago I was wishing for Duncan's Presidential hotel suite with maid and room service. This week I'd settle for Veronica's apparently unlimited supply of time.

 

Special thanks to Erin of The Soulful Spike Society who helped me greatly with names and quotes which I couldn't find on my own.


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