1.03 "Meet John Smith"
Aired Oct 12, 2004
topanga: This episode is one of my all-time favorites. I don't care that it wasn't a crucial one in terms of the two big mysteries. I love the relationship issues it so sublty addressed: Veronica and her mother. Veronica and Duncan. Duncan and his parents. Wallace and Veronica. Troy and Veronica. Keith and Veronica. Justin and his
father other mother. The writing was excellent, and there were no preachy messages about love or forgiveness to bog things down.
grim squeaker: This was the first episode that really convinced me that the show was handling things differently from "normal" TV. The your-father-is-transgendered storyline practically screams After School Special, but then it simply wasn't a big deal. John Smith's love for his son was what was important, not whether he still had the same sex, and this was told in a very down-to-earth, non-preachy way.
But apart from the A-plot, I really loved the B-story, which was one of those precious few early-first-season forays into the life of the Kane family, where the dog gets
put down sent away when she turns over the flower beds, and your dead sister turns up with a very ugly head wound in your dreams.
wyk: I'm also intrigued by the Jake-and-Duncan dynamic. When he tells Duncan to apply for an internship with Senator Rake, Duncan figuratively and literally tunes him out. I loved the way that scene was shot. The camera angle and increasing volume of the music puts the audience right into Duncan's point of view. We think Jake is an overbearing dad because that's the way Duncan views him. But then during dinner, Jake says all he wants is for Duncan to be passionate about anything. Then we find out that Duncan has been on antidepressants for six months. So is Jake really an overbearing father, or is he just a concerned dad who sees his depressed son slowly fading away?
The interesting thing about the Jake-is-a-terrible-father sentiment is that in the teaser, Keith behaves much worse than Jake, but Veronica and the audience don't demonize Keith. He lies about the Camelot photo. He doesn't tell Veronica that her mom is in Arizona. And he completely shuts her out when she asks about her mom. Compared to Keith's refusal to tell the truth, I began to wonder if the audience was too hard on Jake's little pep talk.
I love how they end the Mars kitchen scene with Veronica kissing Keith as she heads out to the library. It shows that even though those two fight and keep things from each other, they still love each other.
grim squeaker: Wyk, I find your reading of Jake as an ambiguous father figure interesting, because I never had any doubt that he was simply concerned about Duncan and his lack of interest in his surroundings. I saw the scene at the pool as further proof that Duncan simply does not want to deal with anything outside of himself and that he has to literally drown out Jake because of that. I found the dynamic of all three Kanes — Duncan still depressed from Lilly's death, Jake wanting him to get out of his funk by being active, Celeste wanting to give Duncan more time to get himself together and not pressure him — fairly "typical," and in the behavior of the parents clearly divided after what we might expect to be the reaction of a mother and a father respectively. Of course, Celeste's behavior could be read as slightly more sinister since her insisting that Duncan takes his pills might also be a means of controlling him.
funky-donut: This was actually the first episode I ever saw, and I was hooked almost immediately. I had read the recaps of the first two episodes, and I was totally engaged. I do remember that I figured out the twist a while before it was revealed, but that didn't bother me. I found Veronica engaging and charming, I thought Troy was cute, and I was intrigued by how weird Duncan was. When Lilly showed up in his subconscious with the big bloody wound on her head? That's the moment, I think, when I was totally owned by this show.
wyk: Previously on RTR, I mentioned I wasn't sure if Troy was good or not. In this episode, I still wasn't sure. Prince Charming: he was a nice and charming date. Horn-dog leech: he programmed Veronica's phone for a booty call. Good guy: Veronica trusted him enough to cry on his shoulder. Bad guy: he looked awfully pissed, and not a bit concerned, when Duncan cracked open his skull. I think the great thing about the character is that you can read him both ways.
Inigo: In one of the reviews for the 2005 TV year round up, a reviewer defied anyone to watch three consecutive episodes of Veronica Mars and not get hooked. This, the third episode of the series, was a real hooker.
topanga: You're calling Veronica Mars a prostitute?
Inigo: I'm calling it a thing that hooked.
alliterator: I'm sure she meant that Veronica Mars was one of those high-class prostitutes. You know, a hooker with a heart of gold? I, uh, didn't watch this in its first run (I had a late class! So sue me!), so I read the recaplet before seeing the actual episode, so nothing was a surprise. But still it amazes me to see how well the show develops characters — Duncan especially in this episode. Previously, we've seen him as the cold ex-boyfriend who suddenly dumped Veronica, not a very sympathetic character. In fact, I think people were mixing him and Troy up in "Credit Where Credit Is Due," so this was his episode to shine, and I think Teddy Dunn hit it out of the park. I think this episode really showed where Duncan was coming from in respect to not only his family (the dinner scenes are great), but also his state of mind. The green-tinted scene with a bloody head-wounded Lilly talking to Duncan is one of the best scenes of the season.
wyk: Speaking of tinted scenes, that blue makeout scene at the end of the teaser...holy smokes! Why, why, why did the alarm have to ring just then? Imagine what would have happened if this show was on HBO.
And when Duncan accidentally drops the pill down the sink...
persnicketier: He definitely did it on purpose. Look at the way he looks at Celeste to make sure she's not watching. He's very intentional in how he drops it down the sink. Not an accident at all. He does it twice and talks to Dr. Levine about going off the antidepressants and says it's worth it. Plus at the end, he takes some time in deciding whether to take the pill or not.
topanga: I always thought it was an accident. When the pills fall from Duncan's hand into the sink, his facial expression seems to say, "Oh, shit." But then he raises an eyebrow or something, as if to say, "Hmm. No pills today. That could be cool." Then he looks at Celeste to see if she noticed. If she had, she would have made him get more pills from the bottle. I could be wrong, but this is what I garnered from Teddy's performance in this scene. This was one of his strongest episodes, in my opinion.
persnicketier: Huh. I never heard that before. But I still don't think it was an accident.
Polter-Cow: Dude, Duncan totally dropped those pills in the sink on purpose. I didn't even realize it was ever under contention.
alliterator: Yeah, I think he was tossing the pill on purpose, so he could drop it into the sink. Then, if his parents found out, he could just say it slipped.
grim squeaker: I agree, he did it on purpose. That devious little sneak!
wyk: I agree that the second time was deliberate, but I still contend the first time was accidental. He was just bouncing the pill around, and on the second bounce, it happened to fall into the sink into the sink.
Inigo: It was an issue for me when I did the transcipt. I actually thought it was very well done in making it ambiguous — it could be read both ways. This is what I did there:
Duncan juggles the tablet standing over the sink. Unseen by Celeste, the tablet drops down the plug hole.
topanga: I like the way you described it, Inigo. It leaves the interpretation up to each person's strong opinion. Persnicketier and Polter-Cow sound ready to fight. Bring it on, cow boy and party girl!
Inigo: Thanks, topanga. It took me a while to come up with something suitably neutral at the time.
I am more inclined to the idea that it was a bit of both: Duncan did not do it deliberately, but he was deliberately reckless, letting fate decide. Certainly, the second time, it is clearly deliberate.
wyk: I don't know about you guys, but I totally squeed when Paula Marshall appeared on screen. I'm a huge fan of Cupid and seeing Paula once again playing a shrink on a Rob Thomas show...*sniffle*
grim squeaker: I squeed, too, but mainly because I mistook her for Carla Gugino, whom I fondly remembered from Spin City...
wyk: Speaking of actors that look similar, did anyone else notice Backup 1.5 when they watched the episode? I wish we knew if that was a shoutout to Backup 1.0 or if it's just a coincidence. And look, Veronica has a huge photo of Lilly on her desk. I love little touches like that. And look again, Veronica's bed isn't in the nook in this episode. Who knew Veronica was such a decorating nut?
Inigo: I have considered what sensible things I can say about this episode but I have been rendered senseless in awe of ohimesamamama's analysis. Anything else would amount to me babbling incoherently.
MI.netters: *rush to read and are struck dumb*
Inigo: See what I mean?