Hey gang! Before we dive into the glittery waters of 1980's nostalgia, I want to share something a reader wrote about last episode (Mars vs. Mars, S1E14). They said that at the time they watched the episode, their take on it (and on Veronica's trajectory in particular) was the following (everything in italics is a direct quote from the reader's email to me) :
- You would expect better from Veronica than that she would side automatically with the cool teacher over a mean girl
- but Veronica used to hang with the popular kids and we consistently underestimate how much socialization fucks with us, and
- upon ostracization she has leaned into being The Cool Girl instead, made more stark by her tendency towards black and white morality
- which generates its own sorts of misogyny and Not Believing Women, so
- this episode teachers her that her instincts are not always correct
I thought this was a smart take (especially pointing out the The Cool Girl trope) and one that was more generous than I was with both Veronica and show's writers.
As a reminder, you can get in touch with me by replying to this email or contacting me at email@example.com.
Also please note: The start and end of any potential spoilers are marked with this emoji: 🤐
🔍 Intro and housekeeping (above, already happened)
🔍 Synopsis of S1E15 "Ruskie Business" from veronicamars.fandom.com
🔍 Stray thoughts and observations on cultural references (📝) music (🎼), and tech (🚀)
🔍 Next time in Mars Investigations
🔍 Synopsis of "Ruskie Business"
Originally aired February 22, 2005
"In this episode, Veronica is hired by a Russian mail-order bride who requests her help in finding a long-lost love. Meanwhile, Veronica must help her friend, Meg, deal with a secret admirer while simultaneously guiding Logan through the possibility that his mother, Lynn, may still be alive." (source)
🔍 Stray thoughts and observations
- In the first scene, we hear a couple of snippets of background conversation at Neptune High: "So did you guys hear about Danielle and Marcos" and "Look at those arms. He's only like the number one rated wrestler in the whole federation." I didn't hear about Danielle and Marcos but I want to! As for the number one wrestler in the federation, I have no trouble believing he has great arms.
- Lynn's maiden name is Lester and she had 14 (fourteen) credit cards. And from Logan's reaction, it seems plausible that she'd rent herself a red convertible Benz after faking her suicide and absconding with her no-limit platinum card!
- We continue to get a more vulnerable Logan here. When he thanks Veronica for her help, he puts his hand on her arm and smiles shyly. Logan! Smiles! Shyly!
- Give us more Meg. We deserve more Meg. She's undoubtedly one of the best minor characters on the show and Alona Tal who plays her is similarly awesome. I'll just mention that when we first see her in this episode she's wearing Veronica's signature color palette: baby pink with green stripes. This is a leading character palette, give her a leading character role! 🤐 Oh, note her crucifix necklace. 🤐
- Veronica has been getting calls "all week" from someone who breathes into the phone and then hangs up and yet she hasn't been investigating it. Doesn't scan!
- "I think UR kewl" is the message from 619-555-2398 that pops up on Meg's cell phone. It pains me to point this out but we can't shy away from the truth—there was a time we talked like this via text.
- I was curious about the name Caz and was trying to determine if it's perhaps a nickname so I turned to one of my favorite subreddits, r/namenerds, and asked them what Caz might be short for. I got a bunch of great and plausible answers. It was also pointed out to me by one user that the actor who plays Caz is Zachary Ty Bryan. His character's name could simply be Zac backwards. Whoa!
- But just for fun, the most popular guess (and the one with the most upvotes) was Casimir. Other options suggested by commenters: Carl or Charles, Castor, Cassidy, Cassius, Casper, and Casey.
- "Nothing soothes the nausea, headache, and occasional dizziness of a romance overdose like a glimpse of the aftermath. The custody battles, the affairs, and what I'm guessing is a trophy wife looking for her golden parachute." Veronica stays being a misogynist, ya know?
- Mars Investigations charges $75 for a half-hour of online searching. I think that's a decent deal considering the year is 2005 and most people really wouldn't be as good at using the internet or knowing how to access various database as a PI.
- Catherine Lenova/Yelena Sukarenko is played by Cynthia LaMontagne who is doing a Russian accent that could give Alison Brie's high-camp Cold War-era send up Zoya the Destroya (from Netflix's GLOW) a run for its money. Just watch Brie as Zoya here and see for yourself.
- Bratsk is a city in Russia on the Angara River. The Bratsk Reservoir is a major employer for the city, which has a population of about 246,000. And, according to Wikipedia, "Bratsk has attracted attention due to the reported presence of bitcoin operations in the city." Cool!
- I think the Tom Cruz/Cruise jokes throughout are pretty funny, sue me.
- The casually obnoxious joke I could live without of the episode: Veronica's "An aboriginal tribesman" thing
- Wallace has a lot of great lines in this episode including, "You can 'B' your own 'FF.'"
- By the way, why does Wallace pick up the jockstrap in Caz's bag? Can't he just move it aside or, better yet, ignore it completely? Wallace, you brought this jock sniffer reputation upon yourself.
- Veronica is the kind of p.i. who finds the time to make that wedding album to bring to the hotel
- I know we're supposed to think Manny (of Manny's Flower Hut, a business that deserves a much better name) is kind of a ding dong but his description of Duncan as just having "that look, that look, you know...high school kid look" along with his little impression of Duncan combine for an extremely accurate portrait of Duncan.
- I find it sorta funny that at Pine Animal Health Center they answer the phone "Pet Hospital!" It just sounds extremely generic. "Hello, food store!" or "Hello, movie theatre!"
- The Sunset Regent is a hotel in Hollywood. Is it me or is there a new luxury hotel mentioned just about every episode?
- Well well well, if it isn't Alyson Hannigan as Trina Echolls! I have nothing but love and admiration in my heart for Hannigan because she played Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which ended its seven-season run about 21 months before this episode of VM aired). Seven months after this episode aired, the sitcom How I Met Your Mother premiered. That show, along with the American Pie Cinematic Universe are the three big bullet points on Hannigan's resume. However, she will always simply be Willow Rosenberg, queer Jewitch, to me.
- We get another little glimpse into the abuse visited on Logan by Aaron when Trina mentions cigarette burns and broken noses. So far, Logan himself has only mentioned his abuse once (to Aaron). We always learn about it from other characters.
- Wow so Lianne Mars is alive and day drinking at a dusty desert bar called Sagebrush Cantina in Barstow, a town about two hours north of Neptune. And Clarence Wiedman is creepily hanging out there, too! Things are heating up!
- Russian mob from Chicago and witness protection feel like A Lot for a VM storyline but OK.
- Also, Tom Cruz is in witness protection yet Veronica found in him like two days? Yikes!
- So Veronica and Leo seem happy together even though Veronica does look a bit yearn-y or maybe just wistful watching Duncan dance with Meg. To be fair, Duncan seems to return that yearny wistfulness a bit even as he slow dances with Meg (who looks like she's fully taking a nap in Duncan's embrace which is pretty intimate for a first date).
📝 Cultural references
- The title is a reference to the 1983 Tom Cruise (!) movie (also where Logan's costume comes from): Risky Business.
- On a banner for the spring dance, we see the following band names: Pet Shop Boys, Genesis, Van Halen, Erasure
- "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler is one of the best songs ever written or performed
- The way Veronica says to Wallace "Come on, don't you want us to be BFF?" made me think "BFF" was still pretty novel in 2005. I checked Wikipedia and learned that a 1997 episode of Friends popularized the acronym.
- Monkey Face Orchids are a real flower and it really can't be overstated how much they look like monkeys' faces.
- "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." - Eleanor Roosevelt / Logan's voicemail / a caption on an influencer's insta post, surely
- Hamburglar, the notorious thief of the McDonaldsverse
- The Love Boat, which ran on ABC from 1976 to 1990. The show is best summed up by the title of its top review on IMDB: "It was what it was, for better or for worse."
- Ashton Kutcher
- Teen People
- According to the American Kennel Club, The Catahoula Leopard Dog "is a medium-large, short-coated dog, known for its many varied coat and eye colors and patterns. The word is of Choctaw origin and is translated to mean 'sacred lake.' Catahoulas are the only breed of dog to have historically originated in the state of Louisiana."
- The Rockford Files (1974-1980, NBC), the detective drama starring James Garner
- Big Bad Wolf
- Veronica says, "The game is afoot." This phrase first appeared in Act 3 Scene I of Shakespeare's 1597 play Henry V. However, it also famously appeared in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1904 short story "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange." Sherlock says the line to Watson.
- Jeeves is the quintessential English butler and also the inspiration Ask Jeeves (1996-2006), a search engine where an English valet would google things for you. According to Wikipedia, the original Jeeves was "Reginald Jeeves...a fictional character in a series of comedic short stories and novels by English author P. G. Wodehouse. Jeeves is the highly competent valet of a wealthy and idle young Londoner named Bertie Wooster."
- The "Brat Pack" was a bunch of actors who starred in coming-of-age movies in the 1980's. They were: Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy.
- Veronica dresses up as "Lucky Star" era Veronica for the dance. Meg and Duncan are dressed up as Andie and Ducky of Pretty in Pink. Costume-wise Leo is serving Detective Sonny Crockett (played by Don Johnson) of the TV series Miami Vice (1984-1989). These are all great costumes—almost as if this is what you'd look like if a wardrobe department for a TV show put together your Halloween costumes.
- Logan looks at Leo and says "Crockett or Tubbs?" Detective Ricardo Tubbs (played by Philip Michael Thomas) was Crockett's partner on Miami Vice.
- Some '80s vernacular being dropped in this episode include: Grody to the max, stoked, spaz (note that spaz is considered ableist and we shouldn't use it)
- "Manila Whore Barbie" is a tasteless and glib reference to cultural stereotypes of Southeast Asian women and sex work. As recently as 2013, Kristen Bell tweeted in reply to a fan about that line and didn't seem to see any problem with it. Inexplicably she ended the tweet with "boys rule girls drool." 🙄
- Assorted '80s refs: "Love Stinks" by the J. Geils Band, "I love the 80's!," "Everybody Have Fun Tonight," "party like it's 1999," Kajagoogoo
- Entertainment Tonight
- The only piece of music that matters—nay, the only sound cue that matters—in this episode is "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper
- The fax machine at the Mars' home plays a significant role in this episode. The ol' family fax machine!
- It's funny that Veronica and Pet Hospital have a brief conversation about caller ID because you'd think that would've given Veronica the idea to google the phone number of the person calling her and texting Meg (instead of tracking down a florist and hiring a sketch artist, for example)?
- *69 is the exact kind of cultural artifact I started this section of the newsletter to talk about. In the 1990's, *69 was a pretty freaking cool thing to be able to do and something you had to do sparingly because the phone company charged you every time you did it, making it even more rarefied and special. Of course, by 2005 with more people using cell phones and fewer using landlines, it wasn't as necessary and as a result, not as cool. But that's actually one of things I love about *69 is how of its era it was—very cool for a short time and wildly obsolete very quickly. Maybe "seemed so cutting edge, went on to become obsolete" describes any relationship to technology over time but I know for sure it's a feature of growing up right around the time the internet and email came into wide consumer usage, and being in my 20's when cell phones started to be more ubiquitous. Not-really-related: Shout out to R.E.M.'s 1994 song "Star 69" from their album "Monster." They get it.
🔮 Next time in Mars Investigations
It's finally time for "Betty and Veronica." We'll get more Wallace, which is great. We will also get some more info about what Lianne's whole deal is. We're in the last third of the season and nearing that finale!
Tech support by Jen DeMarco