1.04 "The Wrath of Con"

Aired Oct 19, 2004

Roundtable Reviews

*topanga waits impatiently for her fellow team members and finally resorts to talking to herself*

topanga 1: So, how 'bout that ditzy Georgia?

topanga 2: Yuck. She was all right till she hugged Wallace. I hated her from then on.

topanga 1: "Hate" is such a strong word.

topanga 2: So is "bust a cap in her behind."

topanga 1: Um, that's six words.

topanga 2: What? You want some too?

topanga 1: No, no, wait. I was kidding. Please... And what's wrong with Veronica's dress? I think it's cute.

topanga 2: Lilly wanted it to show more cleavage, like hers did.

topanga 1: Cleavage? That's what she called it? Looked like those bad boys were ready to jump out and run to Cleve-land.

topanga 2: You're crazy.

topanga 1: Nah, man. I'm serious. I can't believe her mama let her out of the house like that. All loose and shaking. Good thing she and Veronica didn't start wrestling on the beach like the guys did. We would've been watching an 09er version of a Jerry Springer episode. You ever notice that about Jerry Springer? The women always end up fighting over some no-good, trifling man — and they never wear a bra — so you've got mammary glands and stretch marks flying all over the place. I wonder if they get paid to expose themselves like that. You think they get paid a lot?

topanga 2: Okay, okay. Back on topic. What I'm wondering is: where in the heck was Wallace? Veronica didn't want him to ride in the limo with them? She doesn't like to mix her rich friends with her poor friends? Her black friends with her white friends? Forget her, Wallace! You don't need her. Veronica's only using you steal permanent files and help her solve cases. Man up, brutha. She's no good.

topanga 1: Uh, T? Wallace wasn't around for last year's Homecoming Dance. Those were flashbacks. He's the new kid at school, remember?

topanga 2: Oh, uh...I knew that. I knew that. But still.

topanga 1: "But still" what?

topanga 2: Just "But still." Dang. I gotta explain everything to you?

topanga 1: Never mind.

Inigo: Stop! I'm here. This episode is entitled "The Wrath of Con." I failed to pick up any real meaning in the title of the second episode, "Credit Where Credit's Due," beyond the play on the use of the word credit, but the review I linked to for our RTR on "Meet John Smith" made me think about the titles more. "The Wrath of Con" is, of course, a reference to Veronica's wrath, and its devastating effect, on a couple of con men. It is also a pastiche on the The Wrath of Khan, the second, and, for many, the best of the Star Trek movies. Geeks, who feature this week, stereotypically love Star Trek. Does the title take us any further as to the possible themes of the episode? At first, I thought of how the past moulds the present. It is the past that drives the titular antagonist in the film, as well as Kirk, and it is the past that drives Veronica, a past into which we have our first substantive glance. (Can a glance be substantive? *shrugs*)

topanga: Did you really say "titular?" Hee.

Inigo: I did. Blame alliterator for having an orgasm on the board on coming up with it for something else.

alliterator: I just think it's funny saying the word "titular."

Inigo: On with the episode, coming more strongly to mind is artifice. In the film, Khan creates a religion around himself, a creation that is a device to serve his ulterior motive of vengeance. In this episode, artifice runs through all the interweaving plots — life with and without Lilly, the email scam, and Troy and Veronica's burgeoning romance. It is, I think, the stronger theme, as the past has little connection to the mystery of the week ("MOTW").

We appear to finally see Lilly in the flesh, but actually, we see her only through different lenses. And any lens distorts and creates artifice. For Veronica, the lens of memory has an understandably soft focus. Lilly was her best friend and has been snatched from her by the cruellest of fates. She is bound to have put Lilly on a pedestal and all of her flashbacks show her to be a vibrant and exciting wild child. However, even in those rosy memories, we see that Lilly was willful and flawed. She is dismissive of Veronica's inclination to be an obedient daughter, she demands the centre of attention and she mocks, albeit gently, the relationship that Duncan and Veronica have. Veronica "sees" this, but doesn't see it in the way that the viewer can. Logan's view of Lilly is presented entirely through screens and he is restricted by the material he has in making the video. However, that he too sees Lilly as a blaze of life is apparent in his increasing agitation with the material he is initially given, and in the temporary truce he effects with Veronica when she provides him with something that better matches his own perception. The artifice that Veronica and Logan adopt is unconscious, a natural warping that memory invariably causes. Celeste Kane's is deliberate. Celeste seeks to present a daughter to the world as she thinks she should have been. Her lie is exposed by the record of the real Lilly. Finally, and surprisingly, we have the briefest glimpse of another Lilly, one that causes Weevil to shed tears. For all that Lilly is brought to life, she is still an enigma, still a long-distance commercial, for her death will never allow us to really know her.

Troy tries to trick Keith. He fails, miserably. Keith is thus shown as someone who quickly sees through artifice, and it is a nice reminder of why Keith's judgement in the murder case is so persuasive. Troy's artifice is deliberate, if clumsy, and aligns him with Celeste in being in some way bad. This may herald something, but the fact that in the final story, the MOTW, Veronica, Keith and Wallace all actively engage in artifice, we can't jump to that conclusion. That must also therefore be true of Celeste who, based on this episode, has become the leading suspect in Lilly's death.

Finally, there is the con of the title, the email scam. All the characters actively involved, except perhaps for the naïve Georgia, are con artists. The only thing that distinguishes them is motive. In Wallace's case, it goes beyond Wallace playing his part in the sting on Grant and Liam. Wallace's motivation is to impress Georgia, a natural artifice that occurs in many courtships, although his friendship with Veronica gives him means beyond most seventeen-year-olds.

alliterator: Excellent analysis.

topanga: Wow. I won't try to top that analysis.

Inigo: Oh, do. It's probably crap and I've missed the true and obvious theme.

topanga: Let me simply add that I enjoyed the contrast between Veronica's past and present relationships.

Inigo: I found the MOTW disappointing in many respects, but I did like how they used it to showcase Veronica's strengthening relationship with Wallace. I took from it that it was a somewhat healthier relationship, more of equals. Veronica was so dazzled and led by Lilly, there was no question that Lilly was the dominant one. With Wallace, Veronica may appear to dominate, but Wallace seems better able to hold his own in the relationship. The whole of the story was in effect about his gaining a girlfriend, after all.

topanga: In the flashback scenes, which I loved, we learned about the dynamics of her romance with Duncan and her friendships with Lilly and Logan. Those were golden times for Veronica. She was happy, she was secure, and most of all, she was protected. Her best friend was big and bad and confident. Her boyfriend was cute and doting. Even Logan was friendly and kind. Her mother was still at home, and her daddy was the sheriff. No wonder Veronica could be so innocent and trusting of everyone around her — the smiling member of the spirit club. She had no reason not to be.

Now, Veronica has little reason to trust anyone. Someone murdered her unshakeable best friend, and the truth about the crime remains hidden. Duncan kicked her to the curb with no explanation, and Logan verbally torments her every chance he gets. Oh, yeah. And her mom split. And her dad got fired. And everyone at school hates her. No wonder Veronica's bitter. I'm surprised she doesn't carry a gun. I'm very anti-gun, by the way. I'm just saying.

Inigo: There are anti-gun Americans, other than Michael Moore? Colour this European stunned. *ducks*

topanga: I don't wear fur, either. But I do wear leather and eat meat. Does that make me a hypocrite?

grim squeaker: I don't know, but one thing I'm certain of: You can't be a trapper. I mean, considering that you're anti-gun and don't wear fur....

Okay, right, back to the program. I still don't know what to make of Wallace yet. Is he just the Major Hastings to Veronica's Poirot? The Hill to her Renko? Or if worst comes worst, the Pete to her Chloe Clark? I'd like the boy to get a little more depth.

topanga: So far, Wallace has just been Veronica's reliable sidekick. But this episode gives me hope that he could become more. When Veronica investigates the e-mail scam for cute but gullible Georgia, Veronica seems more motivated by the idea of helping out a friend than bringing down a heinous crime ring. The "Papa Bear" scene at the San Diego State party is one of my favorite Veronica/Wallace moments of all time. Well, I love every Veronica/Wallace moment, but this one's near the top.

Inigo: I favour the Georgia conversation, when Veronica tries to tease out Wallace's feelings. I generally refuse to use the word "cute" on principle, but dagnabbit, it's so cute.

topanga: Logan seems to thaw a little when Veronica approaches him about Lilly's memorial video. They aren't the carefree buddies they used to be, but it's obvious how much they both miss the easy friendship they used to share. Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring are wonderful actors, and their chemistry is palpable.

Inigo: Logan takes huge steps in characterisation this week. Our first glimpse of the pre-murder relationship is very telling, particularly of his relationship to each of the other three characters. This is not the same boy who taunted Veronica and damaged her car in the first episode, nor the boy who could cut Caitlin out of his life so effortlessly. It is, perhaps, the same boy from the closing moments of "Meet John Smith," when he silently grieved Duncan's brief and aborted attempt to recover his joi de vie. Lilly's death has had a big effect on Logan. Like Veronica, he has lost his closest friends. Lilly is dead, Duncan is a shell of his former self and Veronica is his enemy. That they can still bond over Lilly proves what a powerful influence she still has on both of their lives, and that they have more in common now than either might be prepared to admit. Whether this truce is anything more than temporary has yet to be seen.

grim squeaker: While you are on the topic of Logan...let's talk about the memorial for a second. The great video he cut together, which affects everyone's emotions — Celeste is embarrassed by her wild daughter's antics one last time, Jake is almost breaking down and has to be supported by a strong and affectionate Duncan, the crowd is cheering and rioting, Wallace, Georgia in his arm, is saluting this girl he never met, Veronica and Logan can find a momentary truce — and Weevil, surprisingly, is bawling just like Jake. Well, certainly, that fountain was really ugly, but do you think he could be connected to Lilly in some way? Did they know each other? Were they friends/lovers/secret siblings? What's going on here?

topanga: I have no idea. Weevil's reaction seems to come out of the blue.

Inigo: His tears come off Lilly's line, "You love me, don't you?" That suggests a fairly significant relationship.

topanga: And then there's Troy. He really wants to move into that empty place in Veronica's heart that Duncan left so cold and dry. Or maybe he just wants to move into her pants. Anyway, I can't say I'm rooting for him because I'm riding high on the Duncan/Veronica train. But I applaud his effort.

Inigo: Oh, he definitely wants to move into her pants. But then, what healthy, red-blooded boy wouldn't want to do that? They did twist it, which was cool. From that first scene, it seems to be Veronica who is the one increasing the temperature. Troy is the sensible one. Her reluctance to go to the dance isn't derived from any reaction to him, just the effect of her memories. So, I was thrilled to have been misled when Keith disclosed that Troy had booked the hotel room.

alliterator: grim squeaker and I discussed over AIM whether his actions in this episode crossed over from "horny" to "skeevy." He didn't tell Veronica about his reservation at the Four Seasons, but on the other hand, he could have wanted to surprise her. Troy's character is really a hard one to get a grasp on, since we don't see anything from his perspective, like Duncan in 1.03 "Meet John Smith." This could be because he's just a secondary character, but being Veronica's boyfriend, there seems to be very little we know about him.

grim squeaker: Let me add here that I was the one suggesting Troy wanted to surprise Veronica...I don't feel that Troy looks particularly skeevy in this situation, just like a typical teenager with his mixture of romantic — it's the night of the homecoming dance, that makes it special! — and, well, horny feelings. The room reservation also connects him to Lilly, who made the claim that Homecoming is never about the stupid dance but about the party afterwards. Keith, as Veronica's very protective father, is of course bound to see his behavior fairly critically.

Inigo: I do recall the suggestion that Troy's cheer when Lilly stuck her bum out of the window of the limo was proof positive of skeevishness. What?! Come on! It's a shout of encouragement, surely, at the sight of someone being fun-loving and joyous.

Some trivia. Did you pick up that Karl's credits on the back of his picture included "On Air: Stand In - Slave Rat Productions, Neptune, CA"? Or that Ted is Jezebel on screen, and Liam is Coppertop, even though the names Tedster and Liamator are in play? Or how Gameland became Gamelore over the course of the episode? Or that Backup had a dye job, and beefed up considerably?

alliterator: I did notice that last bit. This episode premiered Backup 2.0. I believe his characterization was excellent. His undercover work as a drug dog showed he had the acting chops to get the job done.

topanga: Everyone's been doggin' Georgia, including me, but I really like Kyla Pratt, the actress who played her. She's cute and she's a good actress, though this admittedly wasn't her strongest role. More trivia: did you know that she and Percy Daggs III have known each other since they were kids? They went to the same acting school.

Inigo: Doggin'? I don't know what that is so I don't know if that is what I am doing, but I found her a bit of a non-entity. I had great difficulty in feeling any sympathy for her for being so very stupid. That decreased my interest in her for Wallace, as I felt he could do so much better. Her role does make me question something about the show. Other than Lilly, we've really only had two other young female characters on the show — Caitlin and Georgia. I was happy to ignore Caitlin as a necessary evil of stunt casting, but with Georgia being such an airhead as well...that's just plain worrying. I love that Veronica is so fully drawn, and that we already have depth to the male characters, and that they can make interesting some of the other minor characters, even on single appearances (Cliff, Lamb). Yet they haven't done so well with the guest stars, particularly the women. Leaving aside Caitlin, which will always be a good thing, we can compare Justin and Georgia. With Justin, you understood why he approached Veronica and why he acted as he did as the case unfolded. It wasn't a huge amount of depth, but enough to make him three-dimensional. Georgia was just flat as a character, and I don't think it was down to the actress. Maybe they can't write women, outside the two key roles.

topanga: Maybe it is a woman thing. Rob obviously has issues with mothers: Celeste and Lianne won't win any Mother-of-the-Year awards, I'm afraid. And "doggin'" means to harshly criticize, usually unfairly.

grim squeaker: Georgia really came across as stereotypically passive and helpless. I'll just assume that Wallace fell for her due to his good nature and a certain chivalrous streak (not to mention her evident good looks), but she really seemed like a classic conventional "Girlfriend of the Week" who usually turns up in episodic television at some point and is instantly attractive to the male character, which was rather disappointing for a show that just a week ago displayed a much more refreshing take on gender with Justin and his dad. Maybe the writers don't have a grip on Wallace's character yet and didn't know what kind of girl he would go for?

topanga: So, grim, you're saying Wallace should have liked some ugly girl who looks like a dude? Or that he should have gone after a drag queen? I thought you were my friend.

Inigo: She is, sweetie. That's why she's wishing someone with a bit for character for His Studliness, someone more like, um, I don't know, you?

grim squeaker: That's it, Inigo. Wallace deserves more than a walking stereotype. Besides, Veronica and Lilly are feminine, too, and they are not passive or pushovers.

funky-donut: Dude, you guys got through this whole discussion and no one mentioned the skinny dipping at the end? What the hell is wrong with you people? Stop being so damn deep! Talk about the hottness!

Inigo: Had it been Logan skinny dipping at the end, this discussion may well have taken a very different turn.

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