The Mystery: Where is Justin's Dad, John Smith?
Justin, a young video store clerk (ah, the halcyon days of the early 2000s...) develops a crush on the mysterious Veronica Mars who goes to his school. His friends insist he's way too young and uncool to score a babe like her, but Justin has a plan. Veronica's dad's a PI, right? He'll just pretend he needs help finding his deadbeat dad and enlist her skills. Sure, his dad's been dead for years - but it'll take weeks for Veronica to figure that out. After all, his name is John Smith.
Unfortunately, Justin falls victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is, "Never get involved in a land war in Asia," but only slightly less well-known is, Never underestimate Veronica Mars. When Veronica sends out a series of letters to John Smiths in the area - one person actually responds. As it turns out, Justin's dad is alive. Now Justin has to convince a very pissed-off Veronica to continue the case.
But Veronica's got enough on her plate. Digging up Justin's dad wakes up her own issues regarding her absentee mom. Using the license plate number she nabbed in the pilot episode, Veronica's tracked her mother to Arizona, although she's not sure she wants or is ready to contact her yet. On top of that, Veronica's taking tentative romantic steps with Troy, even though she's still not completely over her relationship with Duncan.
As for Duncan, it turns out he's been on anti-depressants since his sister Lilly's murder, and he chooses this week to go completely cold turkey on them. Yeah, Duncan's not the smartest guy ever. His behaviour becomes erratic, he nearly cracks his skull open jumping recklessly off the bleachers, and he has sex dreams about Veronica while he's with other girls. Looks like he's not over Veronica, either.
The kicker? He starts hallucinating about his dead sister. Aaaaaaand it's time to go back on the pills!
Whodunnit: Veronica discovers why Justin's dad's been so hard to find - she's now a transwoman named Julia living in San Diego, a woman Justin recognizes as a frequent visitor to his video store. Justin reacts very badly, but as Veronica's driving him home, she points out that his dad regularly travels ninety miles every week just to see him for a few seconds at the video store. Justin soon changes his mind and calls his father to arrange a time to meet.
"Meet John Smith" isn't my favourite episode - mainly because there's an increased focus on Duncan, who is about as exciting as a block of mozzarella cheese. However, it's also a very emotional, introspective episode. Veronica has very conflicted feelings about her mother - she's extremely bitter about her abandonment, but she also misses her mother - and this, in turn, makes her angrier. She doesn't want to feel anything for the woman who walked out on them.
"The hero is the one who stays, and the villain is the one who splits" - she takes comfort from that black and white statement. Her father advises her that that's not a healthy mindset, but Veronica coldly points out it's healthier than pining away for a wife who's been gone for eight months - as Keith has done. Both Keith and Veronica then start taking more active steps to deal with their unresolved issues with Mrs. Mars - Keith begins a flirtation with Veronica's guidance counsellor, and Veronica stiffens her upper lip and drives to Arizona.
There, unfortunately, she discovers her mother has already skipped town - but uncovers clues that indicate her mother may be hiding for a very good reason.
- I really liked how they showed Justin's transwoman father as a successful professional in a loving relationship.
- All dramatic irony aside, Troy is absolutely adorable to Veronica in this episode and takes being let down like a champ. But keep watching.
The Lilly Kane Case Files
- Nothing new to report in this episode - although a bloody Lilly does make an appearance in one of Duncan's hallucinations