Mars Investigations 20: M.A.D.
7 min read

Mars Investigations 20: M.A.D.

Screenshot from S1E20. Carmen is smashing a cell phone with what looks like a trophy.
YES Carmen yes

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🔍  Intro and housekeeping (above, already happened)
🔍  Synopsis of S1E20 "M.A.D." from
🔍  Stray thoughts and observations on cultural references (📝) music (🎼), and tech (🚀)
🔍  Next time in Mars Investigations

🔍 Synopsis of "M.A.D."

Originally aired April 26, 2005

"In this episode, Veronica investigates a situation involving a girl, Carmen, who is being blackmailed by her boyfriend with an explicit and revealing video. Meanwhile, Veronica and Logan's relationship slowly becomes public, and Veronica receives some important information regarding her sexual assault case." (source)

🔍 Stray thoughts and observations

Screenshot from S1E20 of Veronica Mars. A closeup on Tad's face. His mouth is open and he's staring intently at Carmen who is offscreen.
This fucking guy dot com
  • As I mentioned in my previous email, I really hate this episode. I think it sucks. The show is punching way, way, way above its weight (and not landing any blows at all) trying to explore: the DARVO shit Tad is doing and the issues of race and class they think they're highlighting with Carmen's character. They're also trying to have it both ways by showing how much Tad sucks for being anti-gay and how cool Seth is as a gay character, while also having Veronica engage in some seriously anti-gay behavior to destroy Tad. Do less, Veronica Mars!
  • To reiterate, the show is trying to get points for showing how shitty it is to be anti-gay while also showing how cool Veronica is for...being anti-gay?
  • No thank you!
  • The only thing I like about "M.A.D." is the Garfield with suction cups on someone's car window about 30 seconds into the episode.
  • This is our first intro to Cassidy who shows up in the very first scene with Dick while, it should be noted, Logan is eating a Red Delicious apple by cutting pieces off it with some kind of knife. Not much more to say at this time. All we know is that his nickname is "Beaver."
  • What repair is Veronica doing to her car and is it real? Gearheads sound off and LMK!
  • I hate Tad :)
  • Veronica and Logan have a kickass makeout sesh in the girls' bathroom. They're hot 'n heavy despite Logan wearing a puka shell necklace.
  • Their vibe as a couple (LoVe-heads stand up) is already so much better than whatever was happening with her and Leo.
  • "Force equals mass times acceleration. Light is a particle that can exhibit properties of a wave." There's no way for me to know if these are true but it's very realistic sounding.
Screenshot from S1E20 of Veronica Mars. Logan and Veronic are sitting on the couch looking at each other. Logan has his right elbow on the couch and Veronica has her left elbow on the couch. They're each leaning on their hands.
In this house we wear neutrals
  • The anti-gay epithets we hear in this episode: queer bait, fairy, Boy George
  • Logan picking up Veronica after she drops her car off for repairs—this is a very boyf move. Seems like they're moving from secret hookup pals to relationship territory...?
  • "We call it symbiosis. That literally means 'living together.'" This is the narration from the movie that's playing in Wallace's sixth-period class.
  • This is the first appearance of Mr. Wu (played by Martin Yu), who will show up a bunch more times throughout the series.
  • 🤐 The tiniest bit of foreshadowing about Cassidy: Aaron can't seem to remember his name even though he clearly knows who he is. 🤐
  • I couldn't find a Silvio Pirelli, who's a master of old-world crystal. But I did find a Silvio Pirelli who's a character (a swordfighter!) in the BBC TV series Leonardo (which came out in 2021 so probs not the same dude).
  • That said, Aaron comes home and says that Silvio canceled class so he's going to make dinner--SWORDfish. Coincidence???? Probably
  • I love any time we get a mention of movies from the Aaron Echolls oeuvre. This time around we hear about Breaking Point and Beyond the Breaking Point.
  • Veronica says she's making Chicken Kiev for dinner. Chicken Kiev is chicken fillets rolled in cold butter, coated with egg and bread crumbs, and either fried or baked, which sounds really good.
Screenshot from S1E20 of veronica Mars. Tad is taped to the flagpole naked. "SCUM" is written on his chest in black. Veronica is about to cut him down from the flagpole with a knife.
No notes
  • The Loretta Cancun storyline was brought up in the pilot and it was shitty then and it's shitty now. Some good ol' fashioned racism mixed with jokes at the expense of a sex worker. Cool stuff.
  • Most of the content about and references to Mexico and Argentina, like Keith's "Mexican accent" and the Flamenco music stinger are annoying and glib, and offensive and could've easily been done way better.
  • We have a new hotel in the mix: The Dunes Hotel
  • And the marina is the Albacore Club
  • We're back to hearing about the Shelly Pomeroy party, an important moment in Veronica's backstory that we haven't heard about it since very early in the season.
  • Keith and Alicia are wearing matching outfits for their dance class. VERY cute. Best couple of the episode? Maybe!
  • The boys hassling Carmen at school once her video is out are Black. Cool stuff.
  • At the end of the episode we see that Logan's got yachting whites.
  • So things with Keith and Alicia are getting pretty real, which I love for them but obviously is very complicated for Veronica and not just emotionally but logistically, too. Remember, Lianne is in rehab and Veronica's plan is that once she's sober, she'll come back to the family.
  • This bullet point will mention rape. Meanwhile, Veronica has just found out that the person at Shelly Pomeroy's party who had GHB (and therefore could be responsible for Veronica being drugged and raped) was Logan. As the season wraps up, we're coming back around to this big mystery and this is quite a twist.

📝 Cultural references

Screenshot from S1E20 of Veronica Mars. Logan is leaning on the mantle in the living room smiling. Veronica has her back to the mantle is smiling sheepishly.
LoVe is in the air
  • Before the idea of a meme or a viral video were widespread, Carmen said this: "I gonna end up a downloadable national joke. You know, right up there with Paris Hilton or that Star Wars kid. I-I'll be the video that everyone emails their friends, you know, just google 'popsicle girl' and there I'll be for the rest of human history." This is the Star Wars Kid in question. And the reference to Paris Hilton is about the 2004 sex tape 1 Night in Paris, which was filmed and released without Hilton's consent. A theme!
  • Okily Dokily! is the catchphrase of Ned Flanders from The Simpsons
  • eBay
  • Boy George feels pretty outdated as an anti-gay epithet, even in 2005? I guess at that point there weren't so many openly queer celebs that you might have to choose from deep in the catalog when you needed an insult.
  • The PSATs, which is like the SAT but you take it in 10th grade? Totally seems like the College Board has a little racket going.
  • "X" is ecstasy (the drug)
  • "Bow chicka wow wow" is the onomatopoeia of the soundtrack riff from pornographic movies that signals sex is about to happen. According to Wired, a stand-up comedian named Justin Brady was the guy who brought that phrase into popular parlance.
  • Don't Ask, Don't Tell was Defense Directive 1304.26, issued on December 21, 1993 by the Clinton administration and stated that military applicants were not to be asked about their sexual orientation.
  • "Mutually assured destruction" (from which this episode takes its name) is the "principle of deterrence founded on the notion that a nuclear attack by one superpower would be met with an overwhelming nuclear counterattack such that both the attacker and the defender would be annihilated." From here.
Screenshot from S1E20 of Veroncia Mars. Keith and Alicia are standing the doorway. Keith is smiling at an offscreen Veronica. Alicia is looking down and smiling. The vibe is flirtatious.
It's gettin' flirty in here
  • This bullet point will mention sexual assault. Rohypnol (a.k.a Roofies) is a benzodiazepine and has the same pharmacologic effects (sedation, muscle relation, etc.) as that class of drugs. It also causes memory loss. In the late 1990's it got a reputation as a "date rape drug" because of how commonly it was found to be used to facilitate sexual assault. It's immediate acting and about 7-10 times stronger than Valium. (Info from here)
  • This bullet point will mention sexual assault. GHB (Gamma Hydroxybutyrate) is a party drug but when mixed with alcohol causes sedation and incapacitation, which is why it's also considered a date rape drug.
  • Catalina Island is an island off the coast of Southern California in the Gulf of Santa Catalina. According to, the number of motor vehicles allowed on the island is limited by the municipality, and as a result the wait to have a car on the island is 20 years. As a result, people get around by golf carts.
Screenshot from S1E20 of Veronica Mars. A grinning Garfield stuffed animal is stuck by suction cups to a car window.
Five stars

🎼 Music

  • Lots of musical moments worth noting in this episode but I'd like to focus on "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James & The Shondells. It's the song we hear while Logan waits for Veronica on his yacht as it dawns on him that she might not show up. I truly madly deeply love the cover of this song by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and didn't know it was a cover till now. Both versions are great and the original version has a warbly, dreamy quality to it. But afaic, the cover—with its distorted guitar, a touch of melancholy, and a heaping helping of yearning—is Where It's At.
Screenshot of S1E20 of Veronica Mars. Mr. Wu is sitting at the head of the class at a teacher's desk talking to Veronica who is off screen. Sitting on the desk is a German flag and a small busy of a soldier.
Sorry but what the hell is up with the German flag and soldier bust on the desk here

🚀 Tech

  • Flip phones
  • Tad makes a mix for Carmen on a CD
  • Instant messaging software
  • mpeg
  • Veronica tells Carmen that just because a phone is destroyed, it doesn't mean a digital file will not live on. Of course, nowadays that's something everyone knows in their mind, body, and spirit. But back then it was likely a new-ish concept!

🔍 Next time in Mars Investigations

I am so glad to be done with this "M.A.D." Let's move on to episode 21, "A Trip to the Dentist," the penultimate of season one!

Tech support by Jen DeMarco