Getting too close to the people they investigate is kind of Veronica and Keith’s thing — Veronica Mars wouldn’t be much of a noir if they didn’t. But while their personal stakes in the past have mostly stemmed from preexisting relationships, this time is different: They’re knowingly involving themselves with the two people who are looking more and more like their prime suspects. And while they might tease each other about getting dressed up for dates with their new besties, they can also relate a little too much to their potential motives.
Nicole, like Veronica, is a rape survivor who turned revenge into her rocket fuel; she kicks ass at a man’s job and gets nothing but grief in return. Clyde, like Keith, screwed up and boxed himself out of the thing he does best, and now has to pay his bills by answering to the capricious whims of the rich. Noir detectives are usually compromised by sex, but friendship is a far more interesting take — and with Keith’s failing health and Veronica’s relationship issues, it’s easy to see why they’d look the other way in exchange for a sympathetic ear.
Still, the pair’s utmost loyalty is to each other, which is why they spend a lot of the episode working to prove that the other’s new BFF is the guilty party. In Veronica’s case, that means finding out whether Clyde and Big Dick are paying off the PCH-ers to cause spring-break mayhem, which looks like a pretty affirmative yes. After yet another stonewall from Weevil, she presses charges against Juan-Diego, who confesses under duress that Weevil was paying out PCH-ers for mugging college kids, with Clyde as the bank.
Meanwhile, Keith has a potent theory of his own: Victims in each of the bombings were sex offenders, including Perry Walsh and both of the miscreants at Comrade Quack’s (the law-school student Nicole clocked, and the kid drugging drinks whose obnoxious gambling-mogul dad is now dangling a $250K reward for his killer). Nicole, a onetime cocktail waitress who sued Comrade Quack’s over being raped while leaving work, has the motivation. And her family is “in construction,” which, whether it’s in the genuine or mobbed-up sense, might explain a flair for blowing stuff up.
Still, there’s a notable hole in each theory. If Clyde and Big Dick are efficient businessmen just trying to drive down property values, why would they take such pains to single out the drink-drugger for an especially gruesome death? And would Nicole’s misandry really extend to kneecapping her own business — and even blowing part of it up to maintain her cover?
There’s also the matter of the supposed “letter” from the bomber, who clearly has great taste in Black Mirror episodes. Is making the mayor run across town naked Nicole’s fuck-you to the patriarchy, or Big Dick’s revenge for delaying the big NUTT vote? Or could it actually be an amateurish attempt from Penn — who’s dumb and arrogant enough to have risked bugging the Mars offices — to keep his theory of the case alive? Seeding it with an oft-repeated phrase from Big Dick’s Twitter account seems entirely within his powers, and it wouldn’t have been hard for him to suss out Clyde’s love of duck hunting and plant a mallard corpse in his own bed.
There’s also the matter of Police Chief Langdon, whom I haven’t brought up much so far because she’s such a confounding character. We know she’s ambitious and that the bombings are screwing with her plan to level up to a better job in San Diego. We know she can be tough, effectively putting the screws to the arrogant gambling titan who comes to her office to crow about his son’s death. So why (at least, according to Leo) is she slow-rolling the case? If the incompetent Sheriff Lamb (RIP) were still with us, the lack of momentum would make sense. But from someone who’s otherwise capable, it stands out.
But ultimately, the biggest signs are still pointing to Keith and Veronica’s new besties. With an assist from Matty (who’s become a disturbingly effective pledge to the Mars Investigations Junior Scouts), they’re revisited by a familiar name: Phoenix Land Trust. The company Beaver used to buy up swaths of Neptune during the incorporation debacle is now in Big Dick’s hands, and it’s behind all the shell companies that are scooping up boardwalk real estate. That includes Comrade Quack’s, meaning Nicole has no additional skin in the game if her bar, say, gets blown up to cover her tracks.
The episode ends with Veronica reprising her favorite tune: that trusting other people is the fastest route to being let down. The case is more important to her than Nicole’s friendship, and she plants a bug in Nicole’s office before they hit the town. But with Keith’s health on the line, Veronica refuses to hold him to the same standard, telling him to break any ethical boundary he needs to if it means holding on to Clyde and Big Dick’s fancy concierge doctor. Veronica may talk a good game about not trusting people, but her marshmallow center always ends up causing the most trouble in the end.
• Veronica naming her fake twins Hakeem and Olajuwon is the deepest of Rob Thomas deep cuts; back in the ’90s, he shouted out the Houston Rockets center in the “about the author” section of his first YA novel. (Earlier seasons of Veronica Mars have also referenced the book a couple of times before.)
• This episode has a very subtle depressing moment: Wallace getting way too excited about taking his students to an aerospace museum, which he describes as the “Curtiss B-1 Robin of field trips.” Given that he’s teaching high school instead of building planes, I’m guessing his struggles with the engineering curriculum at Hearst ultimately got the better of him.
• So much good Cliff content in this episode, especially his having named his new dog the Missus. (It’s worth a rewatch at about the 35-minute mark for the guard’s reaction to him showing Veronica photos: “Here’s one of the Missus being humped by Smoky Joe, the neighborhood lothario.”)
• Keith may not know much about hip-hop, but he knows you shouldn’t punch down. “Veronica dragged me to Straight Outta Compton, I feel I’m up to speed.”