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It’s the end of the school day, just before Christmas vacation, and Veronica Mars is severely lacking in holiday cheer. Not even the cafeteria’s Christmas Cake has the power to lift her spirits. Who could blame her? She’s dating Duncan Kane, again. I kid, but seriously, little Miss Mars has good reason to be all “Bah, Humbug!”
Her friend Meg is in the hospital. What’s more, the bed-ridden girl is pregnant with Duncan’s baby. It’s a long story. Meanwhile, Veronica’s gumshoe Dad, Keith has been assigned by the Mayor (Steve Guttenberg. That’s right.) to investigate Neptune’s finest. It seems someone broke into the evidence room and stole some incriminating video footage. The tapes feature a roll in the sheets between Aaron Echolls, the movie star Father of Veronica’s previous boyfriend, and Lilly Kane, Veronica’s dead best friend and Duncan’s Sister. That’s an even longer story.
All of that pertains to the continued, over arching mystery of the season proper. However, the real treat of this episode comes in the form of a subplot involving Veronica getting stuck with Jury Duty. Once she is bestowed the title of Foreman, it’s off to the races. In a smart, delightful tribute to Sidney Lumet’s classic film adaptation of Reginald Rose’s TV play, 12 Angry Men, One Angry Veronica deals with a curious case about two stoners, a hooker and her pimp. This side story takes place in just one room, and is completely dialogue and character driven, making it my favorite episode of the entire second season. In fact, one could almost edit everything else out and safely watch just these scenes in the jury room.
Though Christmas first seems like a simple, inconsequential backdrop, the holiday setting does actually manage to have relevance to the episode, one of two scenes in particular actually directly influences the jury room B-plot. First, in what is my personal favorite scene of the episode (as Father/Daughter scenes in the Mars household usually are), Keith comes home from his investigation at the precinct, having not much luck. He opens the door to a “Winter Wonderland” of colored lights, candy canes and tinsel. At the center of it all, Veronica has prepared a feast fit for a family of two with a middle-class income. The both of them decide to spend this important time together, before they go back to dealing with violence, sex and theft during Christmas. I love it when Keith refers to Veronica as simply, “Elf.”
This scene is crucial in that it not only provides much needed warmth and positivity for the characters and the audience, but it also helps Veronica save the day in the jury room. Her Dad upgrades her computer’s hard drive and processing power as an early Christmas present, but he also conveniently leaves substantial information on the screen that leads Veronica to later solve the case. Mars Investigations strikes again.
The second instance of Christmas magic comes at the end of the episode, when Veronica needs it the most. Though she solves the case, she learns some devastating news about one of her dear friends. Fed up with the recent events of this depressing holiday, Veronica accepts defeat and settles for New Year’s pizza with her Dad. That is, until a Christmas miracle happens and Veronica gets a surprise visit from a long-lost best friend. This finally renews her sense of Christmas spirit, and Veronica looks ahead to the new year with hope.
I bet that Christmas Cake would be much more appreciated now.
(Photo: Warner Brothers)