Mars Investigations 11: Recycled tropes (but also Mac!)
10 min read

Mars Investigations 11: Recycled tropes (but also Mac!)

Screenshot of S1E11 of Veronica Mars. Max Greenfield playing Deputy Leo in his beige deputy uniform holds a slice of pizza in one hand and with the other is gesturing at an off-screen Veronica.
Deputy of flirting

This episode is not one of my favorites but it's the one that introduces Deputy Leo, gives us a bunch more Mac, and throws in some Sheriff Lamb. So, altogether pretty much a win. And don't forget to check out the reader survey results!

As a reminder, you can get in touch with me by replying to this email or contacting me

Also please note: The start and end of any potential spoilers are marked with this emoji: 🤐

🔍  Intro and housekeeping (above, already happened)
🔍  Synopsis of S1E11 "Silence of the Lamb" from
🔍  Some thoughts on THE READER SURVEY!
🔍  Stray thoughts and observations on cultural references (📝) music (🎼), and tech (🚀)
🔍  Next time in Mars Investigations

🔍 Synopsis of "Silence of the Lamb"

Originally aired January 4, 2005

In this episode, Veronica helps Cindy "Mac" Mackenzie find and reconnect with her birth parents and siblings. Meanwhile, Keith is temporarily reassigned to the sheriff's department in order to help with a case involving a serial killer. (source)

🔍 Reader survey results!

Screenshot of S1E11 of Veronica Mars. Veronica is standing in the bathroom at Neptune High and holding an open folder, looking at it and reading from it.
Veronica telling a student about their parents' weird past / Me reporting reader survey results

I am so excited to share the results of the reader survey. I have learned such cool things. Namely, you all are VERY close watchers of this show and have very strong, cool opinions.

  • First of all, the vast majority of you first watched season one of Veronica Mars between 2004 and 2010. Early adopters, all of you!
  • Gigantic shoutout to everyone who has watched season one between THREE AND FIVE TIMES, which is 2/3 of you!
  • Only three episodes even ranked as your faves and I respect it. Almost half of you said your favorite episode was "The Wrath of Con." Coming in second and third place respectively were "You Think You Know Somebody" and "The Return of the Kane."
  • As far as your least favorite episode, 80% of you said "The Girl Next Door." I know right!
  • Most of you said your favorite character is Veronica but two of you said Veronica is your least favorite character. 👀
  • Duncan was most people's least favorite character but there were also a couple of votes for Logan and Lilly.
Screenshot of S1E11 of Veronica Mars. Veronica is wearing a brown sweater and red shirt and she's talking to an off-screen Leo. They're at the sheriff's department.
Don Francisco's coffee: check. Pepto Bismol: check. The coffee station is ready!
  • As far as secondary characters go, Ms. Dent and Cliff were favorites. Principal Clemmons also got some love, which I appreciated. Troy and Aaron Echolls were most people's least favorites, with a couple of Sheriff Lambs in there, too.
  • Sunset Cliffs was a favorite by a big margin for best location in Neptune.
  • Similarly, 60% of you said that Keith is both schlubby and a hunk. I rest my case!
  • For our student council election, we'd need to have a runoff between Wanda Varner and the write-in candidate, who each got 40% of the vote. And btw, most people who chose a write-in candidate chose Wallace!
  • In the race for who you'd want to be best friends with, the majority of you chose Mac, but Veronica and Wallace are tied for second.
Screenshot of S1E11 of Veronica Mars. Mac is wearing green glittery eyeliner and looking at an off-screen Veronica
Is anyone cooler? (No)
  • And almost half of you said your sworn enemy would be Troy, with Logan and Duncan coming in second and third place respectively.
  • Some of your favorite style choices: Logan's puka shell necklace, Mac's blue clip in hair, and Veronica's entire Gamegirl look (including the wig) from "The Wrath of Con"
  • I asked why Logan is familiar with and regularly references Barbra Streisand, the Beatles, Brigadoon, etc., and got some incredible responses. Here are a couple:
He had a grandmother who died when he was aged 7-12, but he has fond memories of sitting with her and watching her stories, because she was a family member who treated him kindly and didn't hurt him.
I assume it's bc he has grown up so steeped in the culture of Hollywood and pop-culture/stardom. Or maybe due to his absent/abusive/struggling parents he was partially raised by a beloved older nanny or grandparent who introduced him to these things? He does mention his mom's father — could he have been a lover of musical theatre perhaps?

And now for YOUR stray thoughts and observations:

I just like the divide in social structure. And the high school motorcycle gang.
For being a show that I felt was very feminist upon my first watch, there are SO MANY plot lines involving violence against women. It’s fascinating to me because the characters still feel very rich and complex, despite every woman having basically the same backstory.
The first time I watched, because of the way Logan was depicted in the first few episodes, I thought I was *not* supposed to like him. Period. Ever. Even after he and Veronica get together kinda sorta for the first time. I thought I was having a rebellious streak when I preferred him over Duncan. Rewatching, the seeds that the writers plant for the Veronica/Logan ship are so much clearer.
For some reason I'm trying to figure out how Veronica and Keith take care of Backup in that tiny apartment (condo?). You can see water and food bowls around and I think there's a dog bed behind the arm chair so I guess he can just always be hanging out of site there, but that's a LOT of dog for such a tiny space.
I'm always surprised by how much this show actually does hold up. I was also thinking that I can now look back and see how Kristen Bell was just such a perfect fit for this role. Veronica could have so easily been annoying as a character, or unbelievable as such a good detective — but she manages to be both charming and formidable, which feels like it's a real tough balance. Like any sympathetic hero, she certainly has frustrating qualities and is sometimes problematic (her righteousness often slips into arrogance), but the show is at its best when it calls her on those aspects of her personality and then she grows from it. Looking back with a 2022 lens, it would be great to see that happen more often.

Thank you so, so much to everyone who responded to the survey and shared your feelings about Veronica Mars as well as your feedback for this newsletter! I hope to do another survey for the end of season one.

🔍 Stray thoughts and observations

  • I know we're talking about 2005 here but that seems a tad late to be referring to women as "co-eds."
  • I'm not big on serial killer true crime so I wasn't sure if the "Oakland Strangler" was a real thing. It's not, googling it sure did bring up a lot of horrifying other serial killers!
Screenshot of S1E11 of Veronica Mars. Weevil is standing at a desk in the sheriff's department with his hand over a bell he's ringing for service
Eli Navarro, Esq
  • The Hillside Strangler, on the other hand, was the media nickname given to two serial killers in Los Angeles in the late 1970's.
  • Am I a prude or is Deputy Leo's flirting with Veronica laced with sexual innuendo to an off-putting degree? Even after he learns that her age contains the word "teen," he continues apace (after performing a kind of exuberant disappointment about her age). Maybe Deputy Leo was a dress rehearsal for Schmidt, another guy who starts out aggressively, obnoxiously flirtatious but ends up being "sweet" and "cute."
Screenshot of S1E11 of Veronica Mars. Clarence Wiedman's hands holding an 8x10 photograph of Jake Kane staring ahead and Clarence Wiedman beside him in a dark suit and fedora facing sideways and leaning in to say something discreetly to Jake.
You've been VERONICA'd!
  • In fact, I think there's a lot of weird commentary on sex, sexuality, sexual assault, and masculinity in this episode. I was trying to write something coherent about it but to be honest, thinking about everything we see and hear in this episode, it doesn't feel coherent. It feels like a mishmash of recycled tropes. Look, when you decide to tell a story about a serial killer whose victims are "co-eds" (or "party girls") and the resulting panic about whether normatively feminine and attractive young white women are safe, you end up telling a very specific story. It's one we've heard and watched a zillion times before. It doesn't give us much that's new to think about or grapple with, either about sexual violence or about the stories we tell about sexual violence. Does it?
  • The whole switched-at-birth thing is such a swing for fences story-wise that I have to respect the choice to even try it. But I do also think they pulled it off. Mac's interactions with what her life and who her family could have been were poignant, as was her eventual letting go of it to embrace on their own terms the only family she's ever had.
  • There is a bar in Neptune called Body Shots. Pretty uninspired but also kind of a perfect name for a place that caters to college kids and spring breakers.
  • Related, there's a store called Fun Time Motors (which sells jet skis and ATVs). A really basic name for a business makes me feel like that store is so confident in itself it doesn't need a clever name. It can simply be Radio Shack. Or Fun Time Motors!
  • Every episode needs more Weevil but the Weevil we got here was [chef kiss emoji].
  • I like that we got a lot of Sheriff Lamb in this episode. Whenever he's opposite Keith or Veronica, tons of fun banter ensues from both sides.
Screenshot of S1E11 of Veronica Mars. Keith and Sheriff Lamb are standing outside an apartment door listening closely at what's happening inside. Keith has his finger in front of his mouth to indicate "shh"
Keith 'n the Lamb, a new comedy coming soon to ABC

📝 Cultural references

  • Silence of the Lambs (1991), a movie so scary I've only seen it one (1) time
  • The string quartet hired by Madison's parents play the 1968 Beatles song "Birthday."
  • Rod Serling, creator of the television show The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)
  • "The detective will see you now" is a variation of "The doctor will see you now," a phrase whose origins I was unable to dig up.
  • Little Bo-Peep
  • Veronica tells a fellow student that their dad was arrested at an "Eagles concert in '74." Here is a list of the Eagles' U.S. tour dates from that year. I'd like to think that the parent was actually following to Eagles around and the arrest happened at, say, the Ozark Music Festival or Lock Haven State College in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania.
  • Veronica refers to IMDB as "The internet movie database" which is quaint
  • "Think global, act local" is, according to Wikipedia, attributed to Scottish town planner Patrick Geddes (1854-1932).
Screenshot of S1E11 of Veronica Mars. Aaron Paul in a tank top and open button down shirt has opened the door slightly and is looking out at Sheriff Lamb and Keith
Aaron Paul, three years before Breaking Bad premiered
  • The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR)
  • Federico Fellini (1920-1993), the Italian film director known for his distinct style "which blends fantasy and baroque images with earthiness." I don't know enough about film to say anything about him not copied and pasted from Wikipedia. But I will say that "which blends fantasy and baroque images with earthiness" sounds like a delicious wine.
  • Fievel Mousekewitz 🥲
  • Revlon, the multinational cosmetics company
  • This is Spinal Tap (1984), the rockumentary written by Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer and directed by Rob Reiner
  • In her bedroom, Mac has a poster for a production of The Glass Menagerie, the 1944 play by Tennessee Williams.
  • Girls Gone Bad is a reference to the Girls Gone Wild franchise. If you read that Wikipedia page I linked to, you'll learn, as I did, of Girls Gone Wild for Katrina, an aid effort that sent proceeds from Mardi Gras-themed GGW videos to victims of Hurricane Katrina. 🙃
  • Pig Latin, "a secret language formed from English by transferring the initial consonant or consonant cluster of each word to the end of the word and adding a vocalic syllable" (per Google's English dictionary). According to Wikipedia, Pig Latin seems to have first appeared in 1919 in a song called "Pig Latin Love" by the singer Arthur Fields, which you can listen to the song here.
  • Kevin Powell, the writer and activist who was also on the first-ever season of MTV's The Real World. Love this pull from Wallace.
  • The 2000 novel by Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Screenshot of S1E11 of Veronica Mars. Mac is standing at a car window and her arm is outstretched, her palm flat on the window. She looks serious and sad.
I'm not crying YOU'RE crying
  • The Westing Game, a mystery novel by Ellen Raskin published in 1978. This book, which I had never heard of till this episode, won the Newbery Medal, an award given in recognition of "the most distinguished contributions to American literature for children." If Mac likes it, it's probably pretty cool!
  • Monet’s "Water Lilies," (1906) which you can see at the Art Institute of Chicago
  • Cop Rock, the musical police procedural (you read that right) from Steven Bochko that lasted for one season in 1990.

🎼 Music

It brings no small amount of embarrassment to admit that I really like Amy Cook's "Fireflies," which plays when Mac is making her way through Madison's house looking at the photos of Madison from all over the world. I've watched a LOT of very low-budget queer romance indie movies in the 1990's and this song absolutely could be on any one of those soundtracks—it's sweet and sad and romantic and adolescent. Perfect!

🚀 Tech

  • Mac's bookshelf has a ton of fun programming books, including one about Windows 98 and Mac OS X for Dummies
Screenshot of S1E11 of Veronica Mars. Veronica is holding an aqua colored folder and is looking over her shoulder at Mac. They're in Mac's bedroom which has lots of posters on the white brick wall, a circular mirror, some sunflowers, and a lot of books.
Mac's room full of very cool things
  • Video rental
  • VHS tapes
  • CDs
  • A GPS device

🔍 Next time in Mars Investigations

Next up is "Clash of the Tritons." I don't remember much about this episode except that big cloaks are involved and there's a secret society. What's not to like!

Edited by Andrea Lynch
Tech support by Jen DeMarco