Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Veronica Mars: The stench of bread

"Veronica Mars" spoilers coming up just as soon as I check the resolution on my camera-phone...

Wow. For the most part, I've been perfectly happy with seasons two and three, but it's episodes like these last two that remind me of what this show looks like when it's really cooking. We got comedy, we got tragedy, we got a pair of mysteries that are actually interesting as both puzzles and as drama. We got it all.

Rest in peace, Don Lamb. I'll miss you for all the goodness that you brought to this show: as an irritant, as a plot device, as comic relief, as a classic noir character, and as one of the most likable jerks in primetime. Trying to find out whether this was entirely plot-related as an excuse to put Keith back in office, or whether Michael Muhney wanted to do a pilot or something else, but the guy gave his all in every limited appearance.

I love that the show didn't try to humanize Lamb in his final appearance. He went down as just as big an ass as the day we met him -- including an appropriate call-back to his "Go see the Wizard" moment with Wallace way back in the pilot. At first, I thought the reddish liquid oozing from underneath him was paint, and that this was going to be a fakeout like Desmond at the start of his flashback on "Lost" last week, but as soon as he said that he smelled bread, Marian (who's worked in lots of hospitals) said, "Oh, he's going to die." Damn.

Keith as sheriff has obvious implications for the conclusion of the O'Dell arc, but I'm curious to see how this will affect the show long-term -- assuming there is a long term. It's one thing for him to skirt the rules and help Veronica do the same when he's a disreputable PI, but now? Veronica just gave him material evidence on a murder case about 30 seconds before he was offered the job; does he sit on that? Can it be a noir world if the heroine's virtuous father is the head cop? Will Veronica and Keith find themselves on opposite sides more often now?

On the O'Dell case, I have to put my money on Tim the TA. He's obviously the one who put the bug in Landry's phone, and the odds of Landry the criminology genius killing a man while wearing a monogrammed shirt -- or, if he did so, not disposing of said evidence in a foolproof manner -- are slim. Tim also graded Veronica's perfect murder paper that was used as the premise for Cyrus' murder, though of course it was also posted on-line. At this point, I feel like it's down to him or Mel Stoltz, who keeps being treated like an ominous figure even though he never does or says anything. But I could be wrong; I was convinced Guttenberg did it last year because I felt like Rob was trying too hard to make us forget he existed.

Other things to love:
  • Mac finally gets some sexual satisfaction after the bad hand the writers have dealt her in the past;
  • The gang goes on an all-night scavenger hunt that actually feels like fun college hijinks;
  • Logan can immediately recognize that they're doing the wrong Kama Sutra pose;
  • Veronica goes even butchier than usual while locked up in stir, countered by her incredibly girlish, hilarious, "I do! I do!" at the prospect of release;
  • Cliff F'in McCormack getting one killer line after another, from the "Caged Heat" joke to his repeat encounter with Richard Grieco (the second "Don't I know you?" moment of the hour);
  • The lighting and photography of the furnace scene with Weevil, which was very noir;
  • Keith's takedown of Mrs. Coach;
One thing I'm ambivalent about:
  • Parker and Logan's now inevitable hook-up. I suppose it's preferable to Veronica and Piz, and it's good to see Logan just enjoying himself instead of his recent emo spiral, but it feels like a TV contrivance to delay the inevitable reunion.
Still, so, so, so pleased by the last couple. What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

Put me in the collumn of people who believe that this is only going to make life harder for Veronica. This episode alone she committed many crimes - aided and abbetted a wanted fugitive, helped him flee custody, and even helped to commit insurance fraud. As a PI her father can turn a blind eye to these cases, but as the Sherrif? Lamb was always an idiot, and never really a threat to her derrings-do. But if someone really wants to press charges against her - Keith will find out the truth. Or else he'll break laws as the Sherrif to protect his daughter.

velvetcannibal said...

Copying and pasting from me elsewhere:

I was shocked by Lamb's death, no doubt about it. I'm still stunned. I feel like this throws the whole noir universe on tilt, because he was the nemesis we could always count on. At the same time, he wasn't a true nemesis, because he was always too concerned with his own ego, and found himself outwitted by the Mars family right up to the end.

His death was ugly, clumsy, and lacked nobility. I felt that was exactly the ending his character deserved. People don't always die in grand acts of heroism and beauty. Sometimes it really is as simple as a junkie taking a baseball bat to a person's head. I was horrified, but I didn't cry or anything. I don't feel it's justice at all, but I can't mourn a guy who told a rape victim to "go see the wizard."

With that said, I will miss me some Michael Muhney. He made the character interesting, and it's sad that Lamb was not given anywhere else to go. They had been making him much more cooperative with Keith and Veronica this season anyway, so I'm not sure why this had to happen. That's death, I guess. No reason. No warning. Just the smell of bread.

Thanks, Michael, for all you contributed to the show.

In other news, I'm wondering if Landry's clothes were actually worn by Landry at the time of the shooting. Would Mrs. O'Dell have plotted so elaborately as to wear the clothes herself? Or is it possible that Tim Foyle broke into their hotel room during the hour Mrs. O'Dell's car was missing (perhaps with O'Dell and Landry in it) and stole Landry's spare shirt, which he then wore while killing the Dean? He's certainly capable of creating an elaborate ruse to lead an investigation in the direction he wants it to go. Then again, he learned from the best, Landry. And what motive would Foyle have? His name is a foil, after all. So maybe I'm reading too much there. I just have a weird feeling that Landry's bloody clothes were not actually worn by him, as a murderer, but by the murderer attempting to set him up.

Anonymous said...

Still too little Wallace, and I could have done without most of the relationship stuff, but I agree that this was one of the best episodes they've done in a long time. I laughed out loud several times, enjoyed the pacing of both mysteries and kudos to whoever directed it (forgot to check the credits). Kristen Bell went a little over-the-top in the jailhouse scenes, but that's preferable to the phoning-it-in that she was doing earlier this season. I'd also like to know how Veronica's going to get in with the FBI now that she's not only helped two fugitives escape justice but aided insurance fraud as well.

Killing Lamb was a nice shock but a mistake and points to one of two things: either Muhney's got another project or Rob Thomas sees the writing on the wall and is getting the show wrapped up. Corruption at the top is the definition of noir and while Lamb often seemed to suffer from laziness as he did from evilness, without him as a counterpoint the Marses are no longer fighting the system. Keith becomes top dog again, Veronica and Logan will eventually get back together, and she'll have her perfect, pre-Lily's-murder life that she seemed to want back in S1, (however unlikely it seems that the person she is now would still want that life), and that's how the show will end.

R.A. Porter said...

Just an awesome episode, except for the loss of the brilliance of Lamb. Michael Muhney's fan appreciation community is buzzing tonight, though there's been no word from the man himself yet. I know he was auditioning for a role in a pilot and it was down to two actors, but no idea what that is or if he got it.

I'll second on Logan catching the wrong pose as being hilarious.

Here's my final guess: It's definitely Lucky (can't bring myself to call him Tim) who did it to frame Landry. Landry's bi and the two of them were lovers; Lucky was pushed aside for the Dean's wife. This explains why we had a whole episode effectively to demonstrate that Lucky was straight.

Anonymous said...

Excellent episode. I am going to miss Lamb a lot - and I didn't truly think he was gone until they confirmed it. The "friend of Dorothy" line was great, because he knew he was being insulted but didn't know why (even if that seems like an obscure reference for Wallace.) And I like that the audience is laughing at him shooting the mirror when it all suddenly goes wrong.

Was that a shout-out to NYC viewers having the basketball game push back the programs on Channel 9? I think it was. Although, is Space Ghost really syndicated?

I don't think that the way that the Lamb/Grieco situation went down was a reference to a classic Dennis Miller joke ("If Looks Could Kill", let's get Grieco a mirror.), thouigh. Too obscure.

As for next week (preview spoiler) - Tim seems too obvious to me, especially with Veronica saying she doesn't think Landry did it in the preview. I think it will turn out to be Landry after all. As for the monogrammed shirt being too obvious, I think the murder was not planned out ahead of time, but a response to Dean O'Dell showing up at the hotel that night.

Although, since Landry was staying at the Grand under a pseudonym, it seems odd that he'd wear a monogrammed shirt. And the planted fingerprints on the computer do argue for pre-planning, but they could have been added later, the storage room did not look well-monitored.

(What do I know? On the last TWoP poll, I voted for Grieco.)

Mac said...

I had actually figured out that Lamb was going to die (just from next week's episode description when I was setting my DVR -- it says that Keith makes an arrest) but it was still shocking to see it.

Leave aside letting the kid flee the country, and forget the insurance fraud, what's the statute of limitations on kidnapping Mason?

K J Gillenwater said...

I was so happy to see Logan have a normal person as a possible girlfriend. That's what he needs...a regular college co-ed as a girlfriend. Not the hijinks of Veronica. I'm really hoping Parker and Logan stick together for awhile.

As for the clothes in the incinerator...why would the T.A. guy even bother doing that? If he was going to burn the clothes, there would be no point in using the professor's shirt with the monogram. If the T.A. wanted the clothes to be used as evidence against the professor, he would have disposed of them in a different way. It was just chance the bag got stuck and didn't burn up.

R.A. Porter said...

Blocking the flue like that, and in an old furnace too, makes it likely that the bag would be found by maintenance. There wasn't much chance of combustion being maintained long enough or hot enough to burn the bag of clothes with the flue closed off.

Anonymous said...

Given VM's past history of pointing to peripheral characters--people who don't even seem remotely connected for a long time to the murders--I think that Tim, Landry and Mrs. O'Dell are too obvious. Having said that, I have no clue as to who actually did it or why. But it's getting good--the Veronica from season 1 is back.
Oh, and am I the only one who thinks Keith looks ridiculous in the sherrif's uniform--the look alone makes him almost as comedic as Lamb.

Anonymous said...

I doubt Mason's going to press charges since the gun he had was probably illegaly obtained.

Keith does look sorta squat in his sheriff's garb. Or maybe it's just my TV :-)

I don't like Parker & Logan hooking up. It's bad enough he slept with one of Veronica's enemies, but now he's going after her friends, too? And Parker should know better. Some friend she is, hmph. She's totally breaking the Girl Code.

R.I.P., Lamb, you magnificent bastige.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Lamb. RIP. He was a jerk, but I will definitely miss Muhney, because he did bring a charming oiliness to the role. But I just don't understand how Veronica is going to be able to keep with the detectiving without Keith at the helm of Mars Investigations. I can't imagine he is going to stay sheriff for long.

Anonymous said...

Alan, thank you for writing such a great piece about last night's episode. Have you heard anything about VM's future on the CW? I keep hearing the always floating rumors of cancellation so I'd prefer to hear it from someone who might know what they be sayin'! ;)

Cancelled or not, I really liked last night's ep. I knew someone was going to die, but had no idea it would be Lamb. I'll miss him. I actually wondered if they did it to free up more room in the eps for characters that fans are asking to see more like Wallace and Mac? Did anyone else think this? Alan, is that possible?

The Logan/Kama Sutra pose was great. Our fave is how V yells, "I do! I do!" when asked "who wants out of jail?" My husband made me rewind Tivo so he could see it again. Methinks he has a wee crush....

I can't say I like the idea of Logan with Parker. What I really don't like is that Mac didn't pick up on what was going on and not like it. It doesn't seem realistic to me that she would not care about Veronica's well-being just b/c she's getting some sweet nooky (finally!)

I agree with Alan about the TA. That's who I think did it, but I don't know why. The bisexual theory is interesting and provocative. Last night I was just thinking he was an utter sociopath. If it's not Tim, I have no idea who it could be.

Alan, can you remind us how the rest of the season breaks down in terms of number of eps/arcs left?

Anonymous said...

One final question for everyone out there: when I heard Sheriff Lamb say "I smell bread" (great take on those last words by the way.) The first thing I thought was "that means death." I don't know why I thought that. Anyone help me out here? Was it Alan who mentioned his wife was a nurse and picked that out, too? Maybe I saw it on ER years ago, but I'd like to know why a blunt head trauma victim would say that...if anyone has any enlightenment that is. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I didn't see Lamb's death coming at all -- in fact, my brain still keeps exclaiming "They killed Sheriff Lamb!" at weird moments. This is an unexpected and interesting place for the show to go. Veronica can't be Keith's assistant anymore, and may not have access to the same kinds of resources she did when he was a PI (the background check search engines, for example). I'm cautiously optimistic but already missing the father-daughter PI partnership.

I thought Parker and Logan had great chemistry together, but dating a friend's ex is definitely a breach of Girl Code (and Guy Code too, from what I understand). It seems a bit out of character for Parker, and I hope the show doesn't go there too quickly.

Anonymous said...

I asked about the bread thing on another site, and a couple of people said it was from a MASH episode where Winchester asks a soldier what he's experiencing while he's dying. Of course, if it doesn't actually have a real-life element, then Alan got out-referenced by Marian. Heh.

My favorite part of the jail scenes were Veronica doing push-ups, but it was all good. And I also knew someone was dying, but when Lamb went in the house alone I really thought Sacks was the doomed one.

Anonymous said...

I was SHOCKED when Lamb came up dead. I had no idea. I'm not one to watch previews or commercials about my shows, so I never know what's happening. So I was very surprised about Lamb getting it. Poor guy - I loved him!

In other news, Veronica's cries of "I do! I do!" had me rewinding the Tivo a couple times because she's so dang cute. I have a total girl crush on KB.

Anonymous said...

Very sad to see Lamb die. He was one of my favorites.

Had Logan ever even met Mac before? I can't remember a scene with the two of them.

A very good episode, although I'm always disappointed by a 2-part mystery that doesn't provide any clues in part 1. Actually, as much as I like this show, the "mystery-solving" aspect is often pretty weak. Veronica tends to just stumble upon the answer at the end - in this case, the DVD in the safety deposit box. I felt the same way about the Lily Kane mystery of season 1. The entire case was solved by Veronica accidently finding Aaron's hidden camera in the Echolls pool house, right?

As to Keith's new job - this whole episode had a strange "wrapping everything up" feel to it. The stuff with Mac and her boyfriend, the stuff with Logan and Parker, Keith finally regaining his post as Sherriff. If I didn't know better, I'd think next week was going to be the series finale.

Anonymous said...

Alan, thanks for the kind words mate. Lamb lives on...if only in my dreams, and when I wanna be a jerk in real-life I can always say that it was just some more Lamb wanting to come out...

Michael Muhney

Alan Sepinwall said...

Muhney! Welcome. As I said already, you shall be missed, and I hope you get cast in a show for next season so we can raise a glass at TCA in July.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Mr. Muhney!

If you're allowed to say: Was Lamb's death dictated by story, budget, you getting a new acting job, some combination of those, or something else altogether? In any case, great work on VM and I look forward to seeing you in future roles!

Anonymous said...

It was like Old Home Week -- Cliff! Vinnie! Lamb in action! I was a little depressed Wallace had years to come up with a comeback and the Dorothy line was the best he could do, but still...Mr. Muhney, Lamb to the last, good luck with the pilot role.

I'm surprised to be saying this, but I missed Piz. In the vicinity of their breakup (just pre- and post-) Logan has had a hook-up "date," a play date, and a real date. I'd really have expected Piz to seize the moment.

But this is only a minor quibble with a truly excellent episode.


Jason said...

That MASH episode really stuck with me. Even now when I smell bread I make a crack about making sure I'm not dying. When Lamb said it I chuckled, but then realized maybe it was meant seriously...

Earlier in the episode I was thinking, it was time to either kill Lamb or make him do something competent, just to shake things up. And told my wife that I thought it would be interesting if Keith was Sheriff again. Way to foreshadow, Rob Thomas!

Mara said...

Alan - really enjoyed your analysis of one of my favorite episodes of series. My jaw was on the floor for several minutes after it ended. I really have so much love for this show. The acting and writing is so good so consistently that I sometimes find myself taking its excellence for granted. I will be crushed if the show's not picked up next season, especially if Gilmore Girls gets to continue in the shadow of what it used to be.

A couple other things to love:
-V's "Thug Life" tattoo which included a picture of a (my little?) pony
-Sacks' face when Lamb tells him to wait outside
-Mindy O'Dell - props to Jaime Ray Newman for her portrayal of the femme fatale. I don't think it's an easy role to pull off.

I agree Lucky-Tim did it, but I still can't quite figure out motive. Can't wait til Tuesday!

Anonymous said...

It occurred to me last night that Keith's appointment to Sheriff was cleverly foreshadowed in "Poughkeepsie, Trams & Thieves" -- that terrific little scene where Lamb catches Keith in uniform. The mock salute Keith gives Lamb certainly carries a bit more poignancy, in retrospect.

Anonymous said...

If there were another arc coming, I'd say that it's time for Keith to be accused of murder or something, but I guess that's not in the cards.

You have to admire the 100% red-herringness of Josh's younger autistic brother, who never even got as far as any of the characters thinking he had anything to do with anything.

Anonymous said...

One more thing: if it weren't too cruel to Mac, I'd suggest her new boyfriend as a murder suspect, just because nobody's thinking about him, and there is, suddenly quite prominently. But he wouldn't get that "what are you doing here" from the Dean, unless there's more between them than we know, which is of course possible...say, suppose the Dean was sleeping with that guy's sister, who was introduced many episodes ago, apparently just to provide us with a funny-uncomfortable scene at their house, and hasn't been seen since?

Anonymous said...

I think it's pretty clear that VMars world is slowly returning to the status quo (or whatever remains). Presumably this is happening because the show is finished after this season (I will kill myself), but on the other hand the writers could just be setting things in motion to wrap up the series if need be. If it gets picked up for another season it won't be hard to remove Kieth from office - he gets caught breaking the law while helping Veronica - problem solved. Also, though, if the show really is going into a MOTW format entirely, Kieth could remain as the Sheriff and not hinder Veronica's exploits too much and would also allow Veronica access to all of the police's resources. It's also not like Veronica isn't planning to go into law enforcement. I should state now that Sheriff Mars is effing harsh!

RIP Lamb, and isn't the "Friend of Dorothy" line calling Lamb gay? Other than the cleverness of continuity I'm surprised that they would consider this a good insult.. Or I'm wrong and it doesn't mean that.

Anonymous said...

RIP Lamb, and isn't the "Friend of Dorothy" line calling Lamb gay? Other than the cleverness of continuity I'm surprised that they would consider this a good insult.. Or I'm wrong and it doesn't mean that.

That's what is means and I thought it was hilarious, especially given Lamb's perplexed expression.

Anonymous said...

As far as Keith being appointed sherif again, does this also mean the affair he had earlier in the year will come back to haunt him now that he has an official position or did it exist as only a plot device to take some of the shine off of Keith "Perfect Father" Mars?

I second the opinions that VM is hitting it's stride again after a hit or miss start to this season.

Megan said...

Well, since I've cheated and watched the "director's cut" on the CW website I can tell you that SPOILER WARNING
Keith is 'acting sherrif' which leaves plenty of room for him to go back to being the PI. Maybe Sacks will take Lamb's place? Wouldn't that be funny?

I liked the episode, but I would like to know what Butando intended-- was he really there to get Mindy? It didn't make much sense to me. I'm with ya' on Tim being the culprit of the O'Dell murder. Mostly 'cause he just creeps me out. One thing missing from this episode-- Piz. But at least we got Wallace!
Poor Lamb. He was one of my favorites. I really didn't see it coming. I'm sure Michael Muhney will do just fine for himself so I'll try not to be too sad. And he's been quite busy blanketing the message boards and responding to e-mails (Thanks Michael!) hinting that we'll be seeing him back on the small screen soon. Whatever he does let's all support (so long as it doesn't air opposite VM!). :)

Anonymous said...

"RIP Lamb, and isn't the 'Friend of Dorothy' line calling Lamb gay? Other than the cleverness of continuity I'm surprised that they would consider this a good insult."

It's a good insult if the recipient is insulted. A guy like Lamb definitely would be, assuming he got somebody to explain it to him before he checked out.