Mars Investigations 16: Betty and Veronica
9 min read

Mars Investigations 16: Betty and Veronica

Screenshot from S1E16 of Veronica Mars. Veronica is standing by a bank of lockers with her left hand on an open locker door. She's wearing a pink cardigan and speaking into a flip phone.
Betty of Pan High

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🔍  Intro and housekeeping (above, already happened)
🔍  Synopsis of S1E16 "Betty and Veronica" from
🔍  Stray thoughts and observations on cultural references (📝) music (🎼), and tech (🚀)
🔍  Next time in Mars Investigations

🔍 Synopsis of "Betty and Veronica"

"In this episode, Veronica investigates the mysterious disappearance of Neptune High's mascot, a parrot named Polly, and eventually goes undercover at Neptune High's rival, Pan High. Meanwhile, in flashbacks, Veronica deals with the aftermath of finding her mother." (source)

🔍 Stray thoughts and observations

Screenshot from S1E16 of Veronica Mars. Veronica and her mom are at a bar sitting in a booth and hugging.
Veronica and Lianne reunited at Sagebrush Cantina in Barstow
  • As my driver's ed instructor liked to say: "Water will make you healthy drunk, fresh air will make you a refreshed drunk, coffee will make you a wide-awake drunk. The only thing that sobers you up is time." This is what he would've said to Veronica when she ordered her very drunk mom a coffee in an effort to sober her up.
  • Man, Veronica lives that parentified life, huh. We already know she's kind of co-head-of-household and co-business partner with her dad. But in this episode, we're seeing how even those things are small potatoes considering how much her mom needs her right now.
  • I always wonder if Veronica messing around with the bug—taking it out of the panda bear and putting it back, for example—would alert Wiedman to the fact that Veronica had found it? Like, would he hear the sttttchhhchhh sound of the little mic being handled and moved? Surveillance experts, sound off!
Screenshot from S1E16 of Veronica Mars. Veronica is wearing pink and standing at an open locker looking at a flip phone. To her left there's a sticker on a locker with the Dead Kennedys' logo. It says "Teedeekay Surfboards."
Teedeekay Surfboards
  • Wallace's reaction—disconcerted, disapproving shock—to Veronica saying "Who's the hoochie?" about their classmate Nadine is exactly right. Good on you, Wallace.
  • Vice Principal Clemmons is pretty accomplished. On his wall, we see a degree from the State University of California/College of Educational Management, Higgins University/College of Administrative Education, and a Humanitarian award. I like that he's the kind of dude who frames and displays his accolades.
  • The snappy dialogue between Clemmons and Veronica is a sheer delight. For me, this is when Veronica Mars is at its best: two characters, each a joy to watch in their own right, exchanging dialogue that feels snappy and clever but not studied or overwrought. This goes for a lot of Wallace-Veronica conversations, too.
Screenshot from S1E16 of Veronica Mars. Veronica is standing in the busy hallway of Neptune high looking forlornly into the distance
Tfw your only friend is going to sit with his other friends at lunch 
  • So Wallace lives at the corner of Pleasant Valley and Marigold and Veronica is growing her hair out. Just keeping track of details!
  • I like the worldbuilding detail here; it's succinct but evocative:
"Pan High, the Un-Neptune. Just 15 miles away but when those miles are heading inland, there are no yacht clubs and no $5 million homes with coastal views. The parking lot is full of American-made cars from the nineties and the vending machines don't carry Orangina."
  • Veronica seems surprised and delighted to learn that Wallace is known outside of Neptune High for being really good at basketball. And she's finally starting to appreciate him as a person and friend, not simply as someone whose office aide access she can exploit. She finally seems to be realizing what we, the audience, have known since the pilot: Wallace rules. Better late than never!
  • I don't know what goes into an actor crying convincingly on screen but I feel qualified nevertheless to crown Kristen Bell MVP of crying in character. She can cry in lots of different ways and when she does, it always seems natural, not phoned in, and true to the character and moment. Another great on-screen crier: Alyson Hannigan as Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Listen, call me a prude or whatever but Deputy Leo's constant sexual innuendo is just off-putting. Also doesn't their flirty banter get exhausting? I get that it's part of the courting ritual but as my grandpa would say, genug iz genug.
  • Keith says to Veronica, "You'd tell me if there was a problem right?" This is an example of phrasing a question in a way that makes it perfectly clear what answer you want in return. It's a relative of "Things have been good?" or "How are things; good?" in place of "How are you?"
Screenshot from S1E16 of Veronica Mars. Wallace is sitting at a counter wearing his green and yellow Neptune jacket and looking with intensity at an off-screen Veronica
One cookie into snickerdoodle spirit box and he gives you this look
  • Veronica says of the money she had saved, "I had enough for four years at San Diego State, a year at Stanford, and a semester at the Sorbonne." According to, tuition for state residents at UC schools in 2005 was $6,802 annually. Yearly undergrad tuition at Stanford in 2005 was $31,200. So maybe Veronica has about $30k? That's a lot of money to have saved up by junior year in high school/at all, ever. One thing to note is that Sorbonne does not charge tuition for either French or international students.  
  • Lianne says she was "Puttin' up the laundry" when Celeste called. I guess this a way of saying "putting away laundry" but it's not an expression I'd heard before.
  • Some new info about events leading up to Lianne leaving town: Celeste called Veronica and left a message on her answering machine saying she had important information about Lianne and Jake which led to Lianne threatening Jake with a paternity test which, it seems, led to Clarence Wiedman surveilling Veronica and Lianne leaving town.
  • Whew, we also find out that Lianne at least suspects Jake Kane could be Veronica's father—enough to threaten to get a paternity test. Lianne is not doing amazingly well in the mom-of-the-year race.
  • Deputy Leo provides a bit of a 101 on sports betting for Veronica and also for the audience which is very handy. I've had sports betting explained to me many times and never, not once has what I have learned stuck in my mind. Even now as I write this I no longer remember what I came to understand while watching this episode.
Screenshot from S1E16 of Veronica Mars. Weevil is standing in the foreground with his hand on the scruff of Wilson's neck, looking menacingly at him
Weevil and Wilson (New buddy comedy coming this fall to ABC Family)
  • The kid who pretended to kidnap Polly is named Wilson Stablers. I can't hear his name without thinking of Benson and Stabler of Law & Order: SVU.
  • Richie is kind of a test run for Piz, you know? Cute, nonthreatening, floppy hair.
  • While Veronica is rifling through Wilson's locker at Pan High you can see a sticker with what looks like the Dead Kennedys logo with the wording "Teedeekay Surfboards." Turns out that is a real surfboard maker! (Or he was in 2012 when that article was published.)
  • Rest stop 15 is LIT.
Screenshot from S1E16 of Veronica Mars. Meg, Duncan, and Duncan's parents are sitting at a table in a dimly lit restaruant. They're all looking at an offscreen Veronica and Leo.
World's most awkward triple date
  • How do we feel about the portrayal of alcohol dependence we see with Lianne? I get the feeling that the show really wants us to experience her alcoholism as abject. I'm getting lots of loose-woman-needs-to-be-punished energy from her portrayal.
  • The line I could've lived without in this episode: "Please tell me that's not filled with Polish hookers" (said by Veronica, of course).
  • Students Against Animal Cruelty (SAAC): a pretty good send-up
  • Content note: This bullet point has a brief mention of rape. "Grab your lip gloss and your pepper spray sweetheart; your date's here." Keith says this in an old-timey voice and it's obviously meant to be funny. But when you think about it, the joke is about rape.
Screenshot from S1E16 of Veronica Mars. A boy with floppy hair and a Pan High varsity jacket looking sweet
Nice guy Richie
  • Veronica finally does some nice things for Wallace. She makes him the spirit boxes, brings the goat back, rescues Polly, and stays to watch his game.
  • "My boots aren't butch." So what if they are Veronica? What's so bad about being butch?
Screenshot from S1E16 of Veronica Mars. Veronica is handing Wallaca a big potten houseplant. They're in her house and she is wearing an apron. He is wearing his green and yellow Neptune High jacket.
A plant that's also a bug
  • The "13" on the kidnapper's sneaker is supposed to make us think Richie (#13 on the Pan High basketball team) took Polly. Good misdirect!
  • This episode is a time capsule of how baggy basketball uniforms were worn in the early 2000s.

📝 Cultural references

  • Betty, Veronica, Riverdale are all references to Archie comics
  • The Wildlife Alliance is a real nonprofit!
  • Valley Girl (1983) starring Nicolas Cage
  • "You need to jump back and kiss yourself? Because I can wait." is a reference to "Super Bad" by James Brown which has the following lyric: "I jump back, I wanna kiss myself."
Screenshot from S1E16 of Veronica Mars. A wide shot of Pan High cafeteria filled with students
Pan High cafeteria
The generic name “Pol” for a parrot can be traced back to England since at least the early 1600s. In his 1606 comedy Volpone, Renaissance playwright—and close friend of William Shakespeare—Ben Jonson assigned many of the characters animal personas which reflected their true nature. The cunning title character, for example, is a fox, while his parasitic manservant is a fly.
Two comic relief-type characters, Sir Politic Would-Be (“Sir Pol” for short) and his wife, are visitors from England who are trying to ingratiate themselves into Venetian society, and they do so by simply mimicking the words and behavior of Volpone and his associates. Because of their endearing ignorance of what they are actually saying when they repeat phrases they’ve learned, Jonson describes them as parrots.
  • "I wish I was a baller" is a reference to the 1995 hit by Skee-Lo, "I Wish." This song is, as my friend Marc says, still a bop.
Screenshot from S1E16 of Veronica Mars. Veronica and Lianne are outside in daytime, both leaning on a building. Both are looking down. Veronica has an expression of concern.
Hangin' outside while Mom has a smoke
  • "Whoever said it was a man's world had no idea how easy it is sometimes to be a girl." James Brown said this in his 1966 song "It's a Man's Man's Man's World."
  • In Greek mythology, Pan was the god of the wilds, pastures, flocks, and shepherd. Makes sense considering that Pan High is the inland "un-Neptune."
  • Cyndi Lauper
  • "Lookin' for love in all the wrong places" is a reference to "Lookin' for Love," a song from the Urban Cowboy (1980) soundtrack by Johnny Lee.
  • "Weevil wanna punch a cracker" is a play on "Polly want a cracker." The origins of this phrase are somewhat contested but you can peruse the theories (and accompanying source material) in this Quora thread.
  • Carrie the 1974 novel by Stephen King and its very famous 1976 adaptation starring Sissy Spacek
  • Air Fennel is a reference to the brand known as Air Jordan named for Michael Jordan. Check out this quick video about how the brand was born/named.

🎼 Music

  • "Pick Up the Phone" by The Notwist is the song that opens the episode and is playing while Veronica is tearing her room apart looking for a bug. I really love this song and before I started poking around, I assumed it was original music for the episode. I really recommend watching the video (linked above) which is whimsical and melancholy.

🚀 Tech

  • Google
  • Sidekick
  • Cassette tapes
  • Mention of an answering machine
  • Richie tells Zeek that Wilson has a "picture saved on his phone." Obviously, nowadays we'd just say that someone "has a pic" (or similar) and it would be assumed that photo was on one's phone.
Screenshot of a Sony D-FS601 S2 Sports CD Walkman Portable Disc Player. It's whie with an orange screen and orange buttons. There are also headphones with it.
I had this discman and I LOVED it
  • Veronica is listening to the interrogation tapes using the headphones that come with the Sony D-FS601 S2 Sports CD Walkman Portable Disc Player.

🔍 Next time in Mars Investigations

Gang, we are getting close to the end of this season! Next up is "Kanes and Abel's." As you might have noticed from reading the newsletter, there are some episodes from season one that I remember pretty well and others that are complete blank spots in my memory. "Kanes and Abel's" falls into the blank spot category. Truly no idea what to expect, so let's see what we're getting into! (I'm guessing something Abel Koontz related.)

Tech support by Jen DeMarco