Veronica Mars 4×01: “Spring Break Forever”

Welcome to Veronica Mars Season 4! Fair warning: this is not going to be some objective critique-y recap. Your recapper, who Was Watching Veronica Mars Before It Was Cool, is basically just a big old fangirl who’s excited for her favorite show to come back.

Anyway, I’m getting started on this a bit late because I decided at the last minute to marathon the entire show before watching Season 4, which I’m very glad I did: it made me realize that all the fandom complaints about season 3 were honestly kind of unfounded. The mystery was twisty, the jokes were still great, and Veronica was an ever-more-layered and interesting character. Yeah, Piz was a drag, but Veronica was in college: most people have a Piz in college. (And most people, at one point or another, are the Piz.)

And with that brief apologia for Season 3, we’re off to season 4!

Just in case you didn’t catch that we’re on Hulu now, and it’s not a dinky little network show anymore (if you wanna feel old, consider that Veronica Mars started out on freaking UPN, which I bet you’d forgotten existed), we open with a big flashy aerial shot over the darkened Pacific, zooming in towards the beachside town of Neptune. Why grandma, what big production values you have!

Veronica’s trusty voiceover reminds us, just as it did at the end of the post-season-3 movie, that she spent her life trying to get out of Neptune, but eventually decided that Neptune needed her.

“I was wrong on both counts,” she informs us. We see her now, standing behind police tape at a huge crime scene outside of a motel. This is “the Maloof case: the mad bomber of Neptune.” The first bomb–remember that; there will be more–killed four people at the Sea Sprite, the most popular spring break motel, during spring break.

Now we’re two days before the bombing, on a classic sunny California day. Veronica, while she waits outside for a buzzer to let her into a gated property, tells us in voiceover she’s just trying to pay the rent. Finally she curses (Toto, I have a feeling we’re not on network anymore!), hops the fence… and is immediately confronted by a scary-looking dog running towards her.

Evidently it only poses the briefest of threats–I imagine even the meanest dog is powerless against Kristen Bell’s supreme cuteness, even at nearly forty–because she soon appears poolside, where a blonde woman in expensive clothes (Eliza Coupe, who I’m a big fan of from her gig as the sexually liberated neighbor in Mindy Project) is sunbathing. Veronica teases the woman, Carsyn, about her incompetent watchdog, who apparently likes the “Snausages” Veronica carries around with her for such occasions.

Once they’re inside, Veronica explains to Carsyn that the reason her gate isn’t working isn’t that her house hates her, but that her ex-husband is messing with her smart house. Here, she rattles off a list of expensive devices that belong in the modern one-percenter’s or, in VM lingo, “09er’s,” smart house. The ex has been turning on her dead mom’s favorite song on the radio, messing with her wi-fi, etc. Carsyn, the client, calls him a “cock waffle.” That’s a new one. I kind of like it. 

Carsyn wants to report her husband, but Veronica warns her that it’s hard to prove harassment like this. So Carsyn says she wants to garrote her ex and cut off his dick. Yikes. Meanwhile Veronica stalks her apartment smashing various devices that the husband has compromised. She also smashes a nice-looking photo frame to get the camera out of the back, like hey Veronica, I’m pretty sure you could’ve just… unlatched the back cover like any normal photo frame? But of course, this makes more of an exciting noise.

Finally Carsyn asks Veronica if there’s nothing she can do. “I didn’t say that,” says Veronica with a Cheshire-cat smile. And we go to credits.

Gotta love that intro, especially Veronica being a total bad-ass (and rather morally compromised) at the end there!

The credits are yet another cover of the old Dandy Warhols confection (the original, peppy version was replaced by a Dark and Angsty cover for season 3), this one with a female voice–which seems fitting. The credit shots themselves are… kind of bizarre, with busts of the main characters apparently spinning slowly against a backdrop of dark water or outer space or something. I kind of like it, but I don’t really get what it says about the show–except, of course, that it’s Dark.

Back in Carsyn’s kitchen, Veronica shows off some video of the ex getting a flower delivery, supposedly from a business contact, but actually from Veronica. Complete with camera and audio of the ex and his new squeeze. “Oh, my God, they’re going to do it on our Himalayan marble kitchen island!” Carsyn realizes. Veronica gleefully sets off the ex’s smart radio with some very un-mood music, to interrupt the proceedings. “Tell me we’re recording this,” Carsyn says. “’We’re recording this’ is my middle name,” Veronica says seriously. Hee! (Uhoh… I just realized this recap is going to take a very long time if I quote every awesome thing Veronica says.)

Carsyn is very happy with Veronica’s work, and jabbers on about her ex stinting on the alimony by offering only ninety thousand dollars a month. Veronica’s eyes bug out, but by the time Carsyn tunes back in, she’s recovered: and has upped her price. “Wasn’t it 300 a day?” says Carsyn. “An hour,” Veronica says smoothly. Carsyn just shrugs and writes a check. You go Veronica! Stick it to the (wo)man! Just then there’s one more beep, which Veronica says is a fire alarm with a dead battery. She even kindly provides Carsyn with a battery she carries in her purse… and Carsyn, without even making eye contact, orders Veronica to install it herself. Whoa.

For his part, Keith is on a slightly less glamorous mission: investigating a rat problem at a grocery store called Hu’s Reduced. Keith–who was hit by a car in the movie–still walks with a cane. We also learn that he and Veronica are having some kind of competition to see who can go on without swearing the longest. Cute, but kind of a waste of the freedom of Hulu, no? Also, I said cute, but really it stops being cute very quickly and veers deep into annoying territory.

On the other hand, I bet whoever breaks the pact first will come up with some kind of epically clever use of the F-word.

In the back, Hu shows him a video of a mass panic caused by a giant rat; it’s been happening every few days. Keith repeats a question he already asked about whether Hu has called an exterminator, and Hu gives him a concerned look as he repeats that he already called several. Keith apologizes and says it’s brain freeze, though the audience obviously knows that no character has a random brain freeze unless they’re about to be diagnosed with some kind of dire health problem. Poor Keith! His next suggestion is that it might be a prank and Hu says that he only can afford this one camera. “Truthfully, I’m not even sure if I can afford you,” he says. Keith says they can work something out. Aw, that old marshmallow!

To drive home the contrast between Hu and Carsyn, Hu informs Keith that most of his clients can’t afford groceries anywhere else, so he doesn’t know what they’ll do if he has to close. And there’s a group called the “NUTTS” that is trying to shut him down. We’ll learn later that it’s “Neptune United for a Tidy Town,” essentially a group of NIMBYists.

When Keith arrives back in the office, he and Veronica exchange a sort of inscrutable set of jokes about a safari for hunting homeless people (possibly a satire of Neptune? I don’t really get it) and then Veronica shows Keith her big fat check. She says it was for “feminist stuff.” Hee. When he presses, she says it’s between herself and her maker, and Keith’s somewhat gross comeback is, “I’m your maker!” Well, it’s an improvement over “Who’s your daddy?” Maybe.

Following more adorable father-daughter banter, Keith asks Veronica to set up cameras at the grocery store tomorrow. She rattles off some very silly internet-speak, calls it “millennial-speak” (hey Veronica, YOU ARE A MILLENNIAL, MILLENNIALS ARE OLD NOW) (also she’s not even old; based on the fact that she was in high school until ‘06, she’s maybe thirty-one years old now, even if Kristen Bell is in her late thirties), and exposits that Logan’s currently in Somalia so she’s going to be hanging out with Pony tonight. Aw, I guess her old dog Backup has gone to doggy heaven. But, now we know that Veronica and Logan are still together!

Keith invites her to see the NUTTs “try to destroy Neptune” tonight at a town hall meeting. Veronica declines with another series of internet slang, and Keith, trying to keep up, adorably parts with “Bye Felicia!” used in the completely wrong situation. Hee! Dads.

Veronica arrives home to see her new dog, Pony, who is pretty much the same as Backup as far as I can tell. (What? I’m not a dog person.) Just then she sees Logan’s suitcase in the hall. Next thing you know, she’s out on the beach with all the spring-breakers, completely conspicuous in her striped sweater and leather jacket. We get it, she’s a badass, but isn’t she boiling? Everyone else is walking around in bikinis!

The first thing she sees is a ridiculously cut Jason Dohring walking out of the water super slowly, with just a surfboard and a pretty tiny bathing suit. I guess now that it’s 2019, prestige TV has started pandering to the female gaze, too! Veronica overhears two women lusting after him, and joins in their conversation, pretending not to know him. “You don’t get lats like that from reading,” she agrees when the girls theorize that he’s hot but dumb. (And, to be fair, even before the lats showed up, I don’t think Logan was really the brains of… any… operation.)

In front of the dumbstruck women, Veronica and Logan essentially start role-playing; she asks him to carry an A/C unit into her apartment and install it for her, and in return he bargains her up from a handjob, to a handjob with eye contact, to full sex (“no back door,” Veronica specifies; um, whoa there!). Just as they’re walking away, one of the other women calls out that she lives on the first floor and doesn’t need any shelving units installed. Logan, hilariously, makes as if to turn back, muttering, “That sounds like a much better deal.” But of course, Veronica calls him to heel with, “What did I tell you about talking?”

Then they head back in to the apartment and have a whole bunch of sex. (I’m recapping this at a cafe so I actually had to skip re-watching this scene for reasons of public decency, but I do appreciate that in the first few seconds, the show committed some fairly obscure fan-service by having Logan picking Veronica up and spinning her around, which he was in the habit of doing in early seasons and which we fangirls of course loved. I’m 100% sure this was on purpose.)

Afterwards, Veronica sits on the couch snacking in her pajamas and asks him about the bruise on his shoulder. He claims he fell off a motorcycle and flew over the hood of a car, which Veronica instantly recognizes from Mission Impossible. “Eh, I tried,” he says. Hee. Naturally, she starts poking through his bag. They banter about her nosiness, and he escalates it to bantering about marriage. “Let’s get married!” she agrees sarcastically. As she keeps poking around in his bag, she jokes about how there should be a ring involved, so Logan comes back in–still topless, which is a pretty smart move on his part; I mean, those obliques would be difficult for even the most hard-boiled of noir detectives to turn down–and says in a low voice, “How many pockets have you searched?” Ugh, I’m sorry, that’s adorable. She eventually pulls out a loose ring from one of the pockets… what, he didn’t have a box? Seems risky!… and he takes it, kneels in front of her, and makes to propose.

Veronica stops him, panicked, and says she thought they were on the same page. She cites her parents, his parents, all the married people she sees in her work. “No,” she concludes–and beats a hasty getaway to meet her dad at the city council meeting she refused to attend earlier, leaving poor, shirtless Logan still kneeling on the ground.

I’m sorry to criticize my hero, but I kind of call BS on this. Obviously Veronica has had all her trust in relationships completely destroyed by the various traumas and circumstances of her early life. But, equally obviously, Logan’s traumas–from the deaths of his mom and girlfriend to his dad turning out to be a killer–basically turned him into a lost puppydog just searching for a home. And I’m sure Veronica knows this. In fact, I could even believe that Veronica convinced herself that Logan didn’t need to get married because she needed to believe that. What I really don’t believe is that Logan waited this long to try proposing! But, OK, let’s just go with it.

Over at the city council meeting, one of the NUTTS, a suited white man, is advocating for the beautification ordinances by reminiscing about how beautiful Neptune used to be. I had literally zero recognition of him even despite having just finished a marathon of the earlier seasons (actually, my first thought was, “Hey, looks like Bill de Blasio”), but apparently he’s Richard Casablancas–Dick the elder, that is: father to Dick and the deceased mass murderer Cassidy.

Veronica shows up, a bit late, and sits next to Keith. She complains that Logan proposed to her. “What an asshole,” says the ever-supportive Keith.

Just then, a local business owner, a black woman with a nose ring who we’ll eventually learn is named Nicole, comes in. She directs a hostile word or two to Dick, then says that she makes much of her profit by selling T-shirts from her bar, Comrade Quacks. She opens her jacket, showing off her “Get your duck wet” T-shirt, and accuses him of trying to put her out of business. Veronica, as charmed as I am, asks Keith who she is.

Over at Quacks, spring break is in full swing. A table of gross nerds talk about how hitting on women (“girls,” in their words) is a numbers game. The grossest one challenges them all to a game called the Rejection Game, where they just hit indiscriminately on women and whoever gets the most “no”s wins.

Nearby, a cute couple (we’ll learn later that the guy is named Alex Maloof so I’m just going to start calling him that, because it takes way too long for us to get the names of all these characters) take shots from what I believe was classically called a “shot girl” and then join a young blonde woman (who we’ll eventually learn is Vanessa) who’s joking that she’d bone anyone here. One of the nerds takes this opportunity to tap her on the shoulder and get deservedly rejected after his extremely long riff about his “strange,” left-curving dick.

Shortly after that, one of the nerds settles down next to a girl who’s basically passed out on a couch. When Nicole, the owner, sees it she calls security–but before they can even get there, the kid starts taking creepy photographs with his intended victim, so she goes over and socks the guy herself before security can come and send him home. She also, somewhat weirdly, announces that she’s sending the unconscious young woman to the “drunk tank.” Seems like a harsh punishment for almost being sexually assaulted.

We’re now in Tijuana (80 miles south of Neptune, the title card helpfully informs us). Two men are driving. We’ll call one of them Lawrence, since that was his name on Westworld. The passenger is named Santiago. They also have someone in the truck, banging and yelling to get out. Lawrence is happily singing at first, but Santiago accuses him of being full of shit. They drive by a police blockade, and when the cop comes by, Lawrence calmly smiles at them with his face covered in blood while the prisoner continues to scream for help. It just takes one name-drop of his boss, El Despiadado, to get them out of this situation. The cop apologizes, and Lawrence gives him some money for his trouble. Santiago barely manages not to pee himself during this whole thing.

When they finally stop in some darkened field and let their victim out of the car, he tries to fight back–but Lawrence just shoots him dead. Welp. Bye, trunk guy.

Back in Neptune, Keith takes some pills out of one of those complicated dispensers for someone on a lot of meds, and attends a humiliating physical therapy session with a millennial PT who’s constantly on his phone instead of paying attention to Keith’s agony. An indie folksy song plays in the background, turning this into the saddest training montage ever. Finally, we follow Keith into the doctor’s office, where he reports that his memory issues have increased over the last year, and makes a very sad face when he learns how much a CT scan will cost.

Meanwhile, Veronica affixes a camera in Hu’s store, and she and her dad have a silly and, as is their wont, somewhat flirtatious exchange in which they keep replacing the “f” word with “cuss.” She asks after his PT appointment, and he evades her. She also calls him out on accepting such a low fee from Hu’s out of the goodness of his heart. Aww, Keith!

Over at the Sea Sprite, a young woman we will come to know as Maddie sips coffee and reads in the lobby while her divorced dad runs the place. They’re bantering casually (do all the dads and daughters seem weirdly flirtatious on this show, or is it just me and my sick mind?) when Alex Maloof comes to check himself and his fiancee out early. Maddie gives him a devilish grin when he asks for a refund on the last five nights.

Over at the pool, some law student bros, including the creeper who Nicole punched last night, are having an obnoxious chat and one of them tries to trick the pizza delivery guy into giving him his pizza. But he easily outsmarts the gross law student and trundles on his way. The delivery guy is Patton Oswalt, so you know he’s coming back.

Back in the room, a bunch of nerdy spring breakers are playing some kind of D&D style game when the wi-fi goes out, so one of them heads to the office to get help. Meanwhile, Patton Oswalt tries to deliver pizza to the girls’ room, where Vanessa is horrible to him for no apparent reason. Turns out it is the wrong room; he was actually looking for the nerdy law students, who pay him in crumpled ones–with no tip.

From the pool, the would-be pizza thief spots Vanessa heading to the office so he goes there himself, intending to creep on her. Alex Maloof from the bar is still arguing with the owner over the tip; the nerdy guy comes to ask about the wi-fi; and the Sea Sprite owner sends Maddie out to the car to get her homework just as Patton Oswalt comes to deliver Maddie’s order to the office. Maddie goes, leaving all seven of them–Patton Oswalt, Sea Sprite owner, nerdy law student, creepy pizza thief, Vanessa, Alex Maloof and Alex Maloof’s fiance–still inside. We learn that someone in Alex Maloof’s family might be running for Senate, that his (Middle Eastern) family tried to pay off his (white) fiancee to leave him, and that Vanessa is at least a supportive friend. Just after Patton Oswalt leaves–saluting Maddie, who he’s clearly friendly with–a giant explosion sends the office into flames. Maddie gasps in horror.

Keith calls Veronica and reveals that the pizza thief, the nerd, the Sea Sprite owner, and Alex Maloof’s fiance were all killed. But Veronica can’t keep talking because… she’s hanging out with WALLACE! Hooray! Wallace looks hella good, btw. And he lives in a giant house with an adorable kid named Noah, who is currently being bounced on the knee of an adorably affectionate Logan. Ugh, I hate to be such a heteronormative cliche, but he is SO CUTE bouncing that baby. Veronica grudgingly admits he’s cute and confesses to having bought him one “ironic tracksuit.”

Over dinner, Wallace and his wife make charming chit-chat, but Veronica is distracted by the bombing. As ever, poor Wallace only gets scraps of her attention! However, when she suggests going home, Logan convinces everyone to play Cards Against Humanity instead. We don’t get to see them play, but I bet Veronica is killer at that game. Especially this new Veronica, who waxes cynical about cute toddlers and refuses adorable marriage proposals from her sweet, buff boyfriend.

Our old friend Cliff The Unscrupulous Lawyer arrives at the hospital, looking very sleek and still quite unscrupulous. He’s here to ambulance-chase the bombing victims, having apparently bribed the receptionist to give him confidential health information. He drops his card with Patton Oswalt, who is already fine and chatting on the phone, and with a bruised Vanessa.

Meanwhile, a cop named Langdon (a black woman, which will be important in a second) and her white male partner are talking to Alex Maloof’s brother Daniel, the politician, and his mother. They ask some pointed questions about why Daniel told Alex not to stay at the Sea Sprite anymore, and whether he has enemies. His mother suddenly asks to speak to the person in charge, identifying the white male cop as being likely in charge. He laughs. Langdon snaps, “Ma’am, I’m in charge.” But she leaves them alone for now, promising to come back when things have settled down. She passes a grinning Cliff on the way.

While Alex and his mother confer in (I think?) Arabic by Alex’s bed, Cliff peeks into the room. He introduces himself with, “Whenever I don’t know what to do next, I opt for suing someone!” Heh. “We’re not worried about money,” says Daniel seriously. “Good to know,” Cliff says, gearing up to try to land the rich client. Luckily, Daniel hands his opening to him, by asking if he knows anyone who can find out who did this. Why yes! Cliff sure does!

Next thing you know, Daniel and his mom are asking Veronica and Keith to investigate. Daniel makes a snide remark that he doesn’t think the police will solve it. Rude! Then his mom breaks in to demand that Veronica make her tea, like Veronica’s the receptionist. RUDE! Veronica leaves to make the tea, but as soon as Daniel brings up the rates, she calls out a sharply increased rate from the other room. So scrappy!

Over in Tijuana, El Despiadado watches a pretty, much younger lady hang out by the pool in a teeny bikini while his ex-wife demands for him to get revenge for his nephew’s death in the bombing (the nerdy student, I gather). He’s resistant at first because it’s only his ex-wife’s nephew, but eventually says, “I’ll send a couple men to handle it if you’ll stop talking.” Perhaps he’s motivated by the fact that one of his men (whose name they don’t really bother to tell us, but according to IMDB it’s Dodie) is talking to his girlfriend. The whole thing is like really weird and full of stereotypes about Mexican gangsters and I don’t really enjoy this subplot at all, but whatever.

More stereotypes: Lawrence is playing with some kids out in the driveway when a head is tossed onto the street in a bag. Jesus. That was gross, and totally gratuitous, because it has nothing to do with the plot really. It’s like, yes, we get it, this is Prestige TV. You can’t be Important unless you have at least one severed head, I guess. Whatever. Anyway, all that happens is that Lawrence and Dodie go visit El Despiadado’s gorgeous balcony and he tells them to go to Neptune, find Gabriel’s killer, and send the head in a box as a gift for his ex-wife. How sweet.

Veronica and Keith are on the case, too; they stand behind the police tape while Veronica complains that Logan is being so “emotionally mature” about her rejected proposal. “I caught him playing with a baby,” she adds. Jeez, grown-up Veronica is mean! They see the pizza guy hanging out there, and also Maddie poking around in the shadows. Keith goes to talk to her, but before he gets there Veronica sees Maddie pocket some evidence from the crime scene.

Veronica’s voiceover says sadly that she wishes that she had walked away from the case, “but there was a girl, and I started to care about the girl, and if you know anything about what I do, that’s never good.” I like that line–it could so easily be spoken by a hard-boiled male detective in a classic noir, talking about a femme fatale, but instead it’s about a hard-boiled female detective who learns to care for an actual girl, as in a teenager. Veronica does have shades of Jessica Jones these days, doesn’t she? She’s very hard-boiled–and kind of mean! She even has a leather jacket! Obviously I still love her, but it’s a very noticeable difference; she was never really very mean in the early seasons. I like that the show let everyone grow up into slightly different but still recognizable versions of themselves. It doesn’t try to make Veronica have the same personality at thirty as she did at twenty.

Anyway, despite the gratuitous severed heads and the show’s inexplicable refusal to tell us anyone’s name, I really liked this premiere. Good mystery, good use of characters from the original show, and some compelling new characters, like Nicole. Tune in in a few days (or weeks, depending how slow I am) for the next one!

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