2.18 "I Am God"
Aired Apr 11, 2006
Inigo: I caught the preview for this one and wasn't looking forward to it. I didn't like the "ghost of Lilly" scene in "Normal Is the Watchword" and it seemed like this would be more of the same. I was relieved that the preview was misleading.
topanga: I dug this episode. Weird, but very enjoyable. I like to see Veronica being vulnerable every once in a while, and she was for most of this episode.
Polter-Cow: It wasn't as balls-out weird as I was expecting from having seen other dream episodes, but I still really liked it. It was a very packed episode, with the various plots interconnecting so that there was always a sense of momentum.
wilecoyote: Good episode, with mystery, intrigue, red herrings, visual flair, and a nice B plot. The only problem (and I'm not sure it's even one) is that it's so dense that it's almost impossible to get all of it in just one viewing; you have to watch it twice, once with pen, paper and a cold detachment, disregarding everything except the facts relevant to the mysteries...and then once again to groove on the plot, the characters, the dialogue, the emotion...basically, to do what you usually do when watching a TV show.
misskiwi: You're right, wile: it was packed. Everything we were told/shown in the first ten minutes should have been an episode by itself. Period. But despite all the complaints about timing and execution I'm getting ready to dive into, I loved this episode — I was alternately riveted and laughing my ass off (kudos to Diane Ruggiero and Cathy Belben for some great zingers). I enjoyed the episode even more on second viewing, and I suspect its merit will only rise when I look back on season two as a whole.
grim squeaker: I liked it. Not exactly over the moon with it, but there is definitely affection.
misskiwi: Now, with the praise out of the way: the episode really got off on the wrong foot with me. You do NOT build up a mystery for an entire season and then PUT THE MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS IN FLASHBACKS THAT HAPPENED BETWEEN EPISODES AARRRGHLKJFSDFH!! We've been saying Veronica didn't seem invested in the bus crash mystery, and...it all happened off screen?
I think the way this episode should have been tackled would have been to have the teaser with Veronica encountering Michelle and the yearbook thing (or have it planted a couple episodes previously), then have the nightmares start, then go from there. Let the tension build — don't try and fill it in behind you and pretend it was there all the time.
Polter-Cow: I have a similar but different complaint, misskiwi: episode 18 is way too fucking late to be learning about the goddamn bus crash victims. It's way too fucking late for Veronica to suddenly begin being "haunted" by their deaths. This should have been, like, episode 3.
wilecoyote: Oh yeah, baby. WORD on that.
misskiwi: Oh, word, word, a thousand times WORD. It was such a great concept, just...too late and poorly excecuted from a directorial standpoint. Of course, if you'd done this in episode 3, we wouldn't know a fraction of what we know now, but...if you'd set this sort of thing up in episode 3, you could have bookended it here, adding in all the information we've gained throughout the season. Kind of like Lilly appearing to Veronica in "The Wrath of Con" and then again much later in "Kanes and Abels."
wilecoyote: But we could have known the same that we know now. This could have been episode 3, except less dense, and they could have spread the information more through the season, perhaps repeating the trick of Veronica dreaming about being on the bus (of course, then it would have looked too much like S1...).
funky-donut: This coming this late in the season didn't bother me as much as it seems to bother everyone else. I mean, we'd go weeks in a row without getting anywhere on Lilly's murder last season. Veronica's rape got barely any mention between the pilot and "M.A.D."
Polter-Cow: I was more of a fan of the first half of the season than some fans, but now that I see the things they've been keeping in their pockets, I'm wishing they'd done a lot of things differently. The audience was supposed to care about the bus crash because Meg was in a coma, but that whole idea was mishandled, and we got a few names here and there, which was cool for a while, but these are the victims, here. These are the kids whose deaths we're supposed to be interested in, the people someone was apparently trying to kill. We should have met them before now. I am sure there are people (like, for instance, Rob) who could make a compelling case for doing it this way, but I think the decision to keep this from us for so long was made before the first half of the season didn't engage the fans as much as Rob thought it would, so there's not much he can do about it now.
misskiwi: Yeah, I agree. I liked their conversations with Veronica — I loved how she was basically building their personalities and responses based on what little information she was able to piece together. Meg's reaction to Duncan's emails, the t-shirts they were wearing. It was all very pieced together, which makes sense and was awesome. But why couldn't Veronica have gone around asking about them back at the beginning of the season? Instead, it seemed like all roads led to the bus crash. Mystery radio broadcaster? Ta da, it's Marcos! Gay student who threatened "the outing of all outings"? Ta da, it's Peter! It all went...backwards. Most of the information we have about the victims — particularly Marcos and Peter — we came upon completely by accident during the course of unrelated MotW investigations. That doesn't sell Veronica's emotional involvement and current nightmares.
topanga: Yes, it would have been helpful to learn about the victims and see Veronica's emotional involvement earlier in the season. Rob made us love Lilly and understand Veronica's need to find her killer from the opening minutes of the pilot — the minutes following Wallace's flagpole
hotness humiliation, that is. We also learned early on that she still loved her mother intensely and was determined to find her. We accepted it, even, if we didn't completely understand it.
But I agree with funky — it didn't bother me per se that this episode came so late. I've enjoyed this season very much. But Polter-Cow and misskiwi are right. More viewers would have been engaged in the bus crash mystery (and Felix's death, for that matter) if these revealing flashbacks had come earlier in season 2. And we had learned early on about Veronica's passion for the bus crash victims.
Inigo: Huh. I disagree with all of you on these points. I'm going to start with Veronica. Veronica may be a marshmallow but she is not, and never has been, the type of person to take on the weight of the world on her shoulders. Except for Meg, who initially survived, Veronica did not have any investment in the victims of the bus crash, nor is there any reason that she should, except for the general sympathy anyone has on hearing of such a tragedy. And Meg wasn't Lilly. She was an occasional friend who had basically ditched her. This is something I actually like about the show. We don't get the Hollywood pat response that everyone feels deeply about things that don't immediately affect them. We also don't get the standard mystery response of "Oh, here's our mystery of the week/season for our heroine to sink her teeth into." Veronica has a human response to the crash, is sad about it, but she doesn't initiate an investigation into it precisely because she doesn't have the motivation to do it at that point. Jesse draws her in but once Veronica has exonerated Doyle, at least to the satisfaction of his daughter, she does nothing more. Again, there is no reason why she should. Her name on Curly's cold dead hand draws her in again and it's not until the end of episode three that she has even the inkling of a reason to investigate for herself, albeit that being the target doesn't make her responsible. So, for me, this episode would have made no sense at all as episode three. Couple that with Veronica's need, as she sees it, to return to a normal life after the events of the previous season and it makes perfect sense to me that she should shy away from taking on that burden of responsibility, hence her not acting on it in episode four. In episode five, she comes across evidence which she hands over to Keith and that is pretty much all she does of her own initiative. But the smaller mysteries and Meg's death keep forcing the victims at her, leading her inexorably back to the crash. That's what this episode was, the culmination of that exposure on her psyche, triggered, finally, by Michelle's poster display. So whilst it could have been a few episodes sooner, it certainly couldn't have come before "Donut Run," when she was still living "normal" and a few episodes thereafter for Veronica to be faced with yet another victim in Peter. I understand the point about the viewers caring about the bus crash although I find ironic the idea that it's okay for us as viewers not to care about the bus crash because we haven't seen the victims, but it's not okay for Veronica feel the same way. On the structure of the episode, I liked it. It was a variation on the usual linear style of clue leads to x leads to y which perfectly suited the subject of the episode of how thoughts swirl and coalesce, creating new connections.
misskiwi: You make a good argument as usual, Inigo, but the one thing that still stands out for me is how Veronica consistently blamed herself for the crash. I think they could have had her repress and try to get back to normal since, yeah, only one person she knew was in the crash and didn't even die until several months later...but when she was being all "It was me!" that doesn't work, for me at least. They could have left out all her "The rat! It was meant for me!" and I would have been fine.
wilecoyote: What misskiwi said. She goes all guilt-ridden "they all died because of me!", then does some half-hearted attempts at solving several tangents of the case... and then basically forgets about it for several episodes. WTF?
misskiwi: And let's not forget that one of the goals here is audience investment, which, if your protagonist doesn't care, why should we?
Inigo: Because we still see the world through Veronica's eyes, so like her, we don't get too invested in the people, although our watching a mystery still makes us interested. It's dangerous not to engage your audience in the usual way, I'll grant, but it's something different from what one would see on any other show, which gives it credit in my book.
misskiwi: I hate to admit it after last week's return of the fabulous blue flashbacks, but what was with those dream sequences? They had some hilarious elements (shirts proclaiming "Baby on Board" and "I [heart] Dick Casablancas") and were an interesting look into Veronica's subconscious trying to solve the mystery with the information she had handy, but I found the style very distracting.
topanga: I liked the weird sequences. Initially I got confused deciding which sequences were dreams and which were flashbacks, but I finally figured out the lighting-color thing. It reminded me of the complicated color-coding scheme funky-donut has designed for updating our website. I want a funny t-shirt, funky!
grim squeaker: I didn't really have that many problems keeping the dream and the flashback scenes apart. I mean, the former were scratchy and horror-movie-like with their ominous music and the general underwater feeling — I especially loved Meg's fishtank sequence — and the flashbacks were all blurry and blue. They also featured Michelle, Dick, Logan and Beaver, who all weren't on the bus when it went over the cliff, which seemed a pretty good indicator that they were not dreams. (I sincerely hope Veronica does not dream of Michelle. But then again, I also hope that Michelle gets some therapeutical help. Quickly. And that Beaver discovers the joy of sandwiches, since, for someone who likes pizza, he is scarily scrawny. And I'm seriously off-topic again.)
wilecoyote: I specially liked the creepy elements, like Veronica suddenly seeing her name written on her palm. I actually yelled out loud when that happened.
Polter-Cow: I thought the dreams themselves were really cool. I loved the visual style: they weren't the blue flashbacks, but they had scratchy lines like old film, and they felt very underwater.
misskiwi: See, I didn't like the scratchy film. It made no sense for a dream. Duncan's dream of Meg and Veronica, while perhaps cliché with its washed-out white, actually felt like a dream. And the weird jumpy effect when Veronica listened to Keith's interrogation tapes in "Betty and Veronica" made sense because she was piecing together the visual from the audio. This...just didn't feel aesthetically right. Scratchy film does not equal dream to me.
Inigo: I assumed the aim was illustrate dischordant dreams, hence the harsh scratchiness of it.
misskiwi: So, I jumped to several conclusions during the episode, most of which turned out to be wrong. First, I thought Dick had been on the bus, but had somehow gotten off before the crash after planting the bomb. OMG! ...Wait, then Duncan would have known Dick wasn't in the limo from the start. Then, I thought someone in the limo (i.e. Dick, again) could have detonated the bomb when they saw the bus nearing the appropriate turn in the road — which, by the way, a neat twist I hadn't anticipated. I still stand by this possibility: that someone in the limo, not excluding the driver who obviously works for Big Dick, could be responsible since they were in the perfect position to detonate the bomb at the right time.
Inigo: The only problem with that — which was a possibility we raised back in mysteries for "Normal Is the Watchword" — is that this would mean the limo somehow got immediately behind the bus after the bus stopped at the petrol station. It seems unlikely that one person in the limo could have accurately tracked the bus — to the exact point that it was vital to the scheme to be behind it — without drawing the attention of the others in the limo.
misskiwi: Well, true, but how did the limo end up behind the bus anyways, after it stopped? I'm just saying, the limo was behind the bus, so they would have known when the bus neared the cliff. Also recall that I noted way back when that Dick and Beaver didn't run to the edge of the cliff when the bus went over.
Inigo: Yep. That's true. But could they rely on it, in the planning-it-in-advance sense? That's the rub.
misskiwi: Oh, and speaking of which, "Cervando's" accusation of Weevil is total bullshit. Right? Since Veronica was with Weevil, he had no opportunity to detonate the bomb and he was too far back to be in the right position, because the limo got there well before they did.
Inigo: Yep. Remind me. Was Curly bald?
misskiwi: What does being bald have to do with it? I didn't get that comment of Cervando's.
Inigo: In Veronica's brain, she's linked Cervando's "He's bald" accusation to Weevil. Or rather, she's wondered about Weevil, why he was there at all, and this has manifested itself as Cervando's accusation. But as all the facts are swirling around in her head, she hasn't yet make the connection that Curly is also bald. So her brain is obliquely telling her that Curly is worth looking at as well, she just hasn't recognised it as such.
misskiwi: Yeah, but I don't get Cervando's accusation. What does being bald have to do with the culprit? Unless that circle he drew is meant to represent a bald head, I have no idea.
The third leap I made was, of course, when they mentioned Big Dick's buying life insurance on Dick and Cassidy. OMG, Big Dick did it! He tried to kill his own sons! ...Wait a minute, he sent the limo. He knew they wouldn't be on the bus. So, unless the bomb on the bus was actually meant for the limo, that's a no go either.
Actually, my theory of the moment is that the bomb was in Dick's memorabilia package that he gave to Betina along with the tickets he grabbed after Peter threw them in the trash. Big Dick could have been trying to take out his well-insured children, maybe had them in his limo so as not to take out the whole bus, but Dick ruined the plan by giving away the bag — which, by the way, would have contained a cell phone along with baseball fragments later pulled out of Driver Ed. And Betina, having put a CD in the player that was presumably at the front of the bus, could have left the oh-so-thoughtful gift next to the driver. The limo was right behind the bus, so the timing still works out.
Inigo: You know, the one thing that has really confused me is this mysterious bag. It did in "Ain't No Magic Mountain High Enough" and it does again now, to the point where I'm wondering if it is deliberate. I don't know if you remember, misskiwi, but we had a bit of a discussion about Terrence's dialogue in 213, about whether he said "back" or "bag" when he said "Lamb's forensic specialists found cell phone and baseball fragments embedded in the driver's body. He thinks I planted a bomb in the bag, that I detonated by calling the cell phone." My problem was that he said the bag, like it was already established. But it wasn't. This was the first we'd heard of it. Plus, if the phone and the baseball was in this bag, why weren't there bag fragments in Doyle's body? Granted, "back" didn't make sense either, so I let it go as just one of those things. But it has happened here too. We get:
Dick: Well, she had nothing to be scorned about. I even gave her a little gift that day, a Sharks premium ticket package, my Sharks memorabilia gift bag.
Veronica: Tickets they raffled off? You didn't win the tickets.
Dick: Well I saw that gay kid who won them toss them in the trash, and I thought Betina might like them. Or she could sell them for grocery money or whatever. Pissed-off white trash booty buddy, free tickets, it's a no-brainer.
So what did Dick actually mean? Was there a Sharks memorabilia gift bag or is he just using it as an expression to describe the tickets? If there was a bag, which he didn't win, then why did he have one and not the others? If the others did, that would include Betina, so why give her another one? And moving onto the bag's supposed position, Betina would have had the CD with her on the way to Shark Field, so what, did she transfer it out of her original place of carrying it to put it into the Dick-gifted bag at some point, and then take it to the front to leave it by the driver? It's all...very screwy. I think the bag may be a phantom. Or something.
misskiwi: I maintain that everyone got a gift bag, and that one of these gift bags had something to do with the bomb. First, Dick there distinguishes between a ticket package and my gift bag, and Veronica asks him about the tickets. That says to me that the gift bag didn't raise her suspicions since they all got one, but there was only one set of tickets raffled off and Dick didn't win them. Either that, or Dick won the only gift bag up for grabs, but it makes sense that Woody would give all the kids some memorabilia.
So. What does this mean? Well, if Woody planted something, that would explain his warning to Gia, but I'm not sure on his motive unless he's the "outing of all outings" and wanted to take out Peter. If Big Dick planted something, it could have been to collect on his well-insured spawn, a plan that was foiled by Dick giving away his gift bag. If Little Dick planted something and knowingly gave his bag away, it was to take out the bus while ensuring that him and his buddies were safe in the limo. Either way, I've got a nagging feeling that this information about the gift bag(s) will come back to haunt us.
wilecoyote: Well, if it's not Big Dick, then it's obviously Kendall, isn't it? (Unless the whole thing is a red herring.) Anyway, here's some nitpicking: Veronica says that she got Dick's phone recordings from the CD player on the bus, right? Let's see: a CD that suffers a 20-metre fall, and then several hours of inmersion in sea water...and still plays perfectly? Time for a real life test...
(Not to mention: Veronica sneaking into the bus and discovering the "I am God" drawings? What a great scene, and a plausible trigger for her nightmares...and it happens offscreen too. Grumble grumble).
misskiwi: You must have missed an episode, wile. You know, the one where Veronica had some sort of PTSD reaction to photos of the victims, broke into the sheriff's department, snuck onto the bus that killed them and nearly her, and retrieved important evidence? ...Wait a minute, I think I missed that episode too.
Inigo: This is actually a good example of what I liked about the structure, as I've mentioned above. Whilst I acknowledge that budgetary reasons may well have been a factor, I actually thought having the scene with Keith was a lot more interesting that seeing Veronica sneak onto the bus and get the CD. It allowed the information to be communicated to us with a side dish of a lovely father/daughter moment.
misskiwi: I was actually more bothered that the scene with Keith was in flashback than that we didn't see the sneaking onto the bus itself. I don't know why, but I was. It felt like I got cheated. Like, this wasn't important enough to show in real time? WTF, guys?
The Stanford thing caught me off guard, but, as usual, Kristen and Rico sold it as nobody else can. That was a great scene. Of course, we all know Veronica isn't going anywhere but
Sunnydale U Hearst, but still. Great scene.
Polter-Cow: I almost felt like I had gotten into Stanford. Except I didn't. Fuckers rejected me. Dirty bastards.
misskiwi: Clearly, they must die. I know I've made this complaint before, but if they would have us believe that Veronica is at the top of her senior class, got accepted to Stanford, and is kicking the ass of every rich kid who doesn't have a nearly-full time "job" as a P.I.? It might be nice to show her, you know, doing school-related stuff every once in a while. Remember the pilot, where Veronica had her calculus textbooks with her on a stakeout? That's what I'm talking about. I don't need to see her, you know, actually studying for a midterm, but some acknowledgement that she's juggling her extracurricular activities and still kicking some major academic butt would be nice.
wilecoyote: Well, but it's already been established that Veronica is so awesome that she can deal with schoolwork effortlessly. See the pilot and Pope's "Essay on Man." It's like canon, so I'm not really bothered by it.
topanga: What sold me was when Veronica tried to solve the math problem on the board. Yes, it was a dream sequence, but whatever. Even though she'd been sleeping and had no clue what was going on in class, the way she stared at the problem and began to write out her answer on the chalkboard — with hesitancy but not cluelessness — convinced me that she at least understood the concept of the problem. I sure as heck didn't. I haven't had to use math like that in years.
misskiwi: No, I get it. She's smart. She can recite Pope within seconds of waking up from a mid-afternoon nap. But it would just be nice to see a reminder every once in a while. Have a textbook open. Be studying with Wallace. Have an essay to finish. Anything.
wilecoyote: One thing I didn't like was the fact that the obstacle to her dream appeared again in the form of a random 09er that we had never seen before. The "privileged 09ers get away with anything and crush everybody else" trope is part of the show, of course, but it was used too mechanically here, almost like the "everybody is a little corrupt" trope when they used it to write off Leo. I'd have preferred it if they had introduced her (or whatever circumstance that will prevent her from going to Stanford) earlier, and if they had fleshed it out more a few episodes before this one.
misskiwi: I think the one-shot 09er who's Veronica's nemesis for the Kane scholarship is going to become a running thing. First there was that guy in "Ain't No Magic Mountain High Enough," now this Angie character. I think it might have been good to establish a handful of competitors near the beginning of the season, then either eliminate them one by one as the year goes on or have one or the other be in the lead. Nervous breakdown here, cheating exposed there. They could have had some sort of honor roll function, similar to the dinner last year in "Kanes and Abels" to establish the players, then had Veronica and/or her covert conspirators unmask the ones who were cheating their way to the top. Actually, I'd like to see Veronica competing against someone like last year's Hamilton Cho where, while she should have no qualms beating them fair and square, it would be someone like herself who is vying for their only shot at a decent college and not some rich 09er coasting their way through life.
I'm curious about something: if Angie was pulling the anxiety disorder scam, why was she so desperate to be excused from Mr. Wu's final exam? I get that she wanted the 'A' that went alone with the winning project (and, seriously, using helium balloons? Was not allowed in my Physics class's egg drop competition. Slowing down the projectile by parachute or other means was a no-no) but I'm not sure that comment of hers to Dick makes sense.
funky-donut: My school had those contests too, but I never participated. It always looked like a lot of fun, though. And helium balloons were definitely NOT allowed.
wilecoyote: Wait, you guys actually had egg dropping contests in Physics class? That part was...like, taken from reality? I always thought that it was a complete contrivance, typical TV bullshit because it's more dramatic to see if the egg breaks than to show the students learning formulas.
wyk: I had an egg drop contest in school. I tied for first place.
alliterator: Yep, except I had to drop mine off the roof of the physics building, which was about thirty feet. We also had to make mouse-trap cars, which was a toy car that would run entirely on a mouse-trap.
misskiwi: Yeah, ours were dropped off the roof of the gym.
wilecoyote: Are they supposed to be part of physics class? In that case, what physics principles are you supposed to learn from them? That gravity exists? I mean, if I was in one of those contests, I'd just wrap the egg with the biggest bundle of blankets and other soft material that I could find, and that would be it. What else is there to it?
alliterator: Basically, that's what everyone did. Except they tried all sorts of soft material — cotton balls, stuffing, even feathers.
misskiwi: I think the principle is that you need to be able to absorb the force generated by the egg carrier hitting the ground so that force isn't transmitted to the egg, breaking it.
Inigo: Wallace and Logan. It may have been the effects of anticipation, but I was a little disappointed in this long-awaited pairing. There was something aenemic about it.
misskiwi: I liked some of their banter, and Wallace seeing Logan's good intentions underneath his sarcastic exterior was a nice touch. If their pairing seemed off, it was probably because it was one of those "Hey! These guys have never had a scene together. How can we get them in the same room?" moments in the writers' room.
Inigo: It's a shame that Keith's little side investigation was so badly handled. EC was so funny in it. It needed so little to make it work, just an explanation somewhere that, already knowing the doctor involved, he'd worked out the easiest way to get the evidence he needed was to get it from the practice manager unawares and that he found out she was using that dating service. Thereafter, it worked. The dating agency didn't send out names or pictures so to meet her, he had to describe a woman as close to her as he could and then sit back and wait for the right date.
misskiwi: Yeah, I'm a little lost on how he knew to check that dating agency, but it was an interesting idea. I also find it funny that Clemmons is tapping Mars, Sr. for help instead of Mars, Jr. Maybe he felt this fish was a little too big for Veronica to fry? It would have made an interesting MotW for Veronica, though, I think.
wilecoyote: oh, I disagree. I loved the misdirection. Leaving behind all the details that Inigo mentions was perfect for a B-plot (which isn't supposed to take too much screen time, after all), and they managed to turn that limitation into an asset, by using it to misdirect the audience. Couple that with the return of Miss James, and it was one of the best things about the episode.