Normal Is the Watchword
|"Normal Is the Watchword"|
|Veronica Mars episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||John Kretchmer|
|Written by||Rob Thomas|
|Original air date||September 28, 2005|
"Normal Is the Watchword" is the season premiere of the second season of the American mystery television series Veronica Mars, and the twenty-third episode overall. Written by series creator Rob Thomas and directed by John Kretchmer, the episode premiered on UPN on September 28, 2005.
The series depicts the adventures of Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) as she deals with life as a high school student while moonlighting as a private detective. In this episode, Veronica reveals the events that transpired over the summer after the resolution of the murder of Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried). Meanwhile, Veronica investigates a scam involving students' forged drug tests, and a school bus mysteriously goes off a cliff.
It is one day before senior year. Veronica is working a job at a restaurant. Soon, a boy named Kelvin (Charles Duckworth) comes into the restaurant and says that he failed his drug test, even though he has been clean for ten months. Veronica sees an interview with her father (Enrico Colantoni) on TV, and it is revealed that he wrote a book about the Lilly Kane case. We then flash back to the romantic cliffhanger at the end of season one, and it is revealed that Logan was at the door. Logan reveals that the biker gang beat him up after he kicked Weevil (Francis Capra) in the face. Next thing Logan knew, he woke up with a knife and one of the gang members was stabbed, although Logan says that he didn't stab the gang member, and Veronica believes him. However, Leo (Max Greenfield) comes and arrests Logan. Wallace (Percy Daggs III) says that he failed his drug test too and that Meg (Alona Tal) also failed her test. Wallace informs Veronica about the details of the drug test, and we flash back to show the details of the love triangle between Logan, Veronica, and Duncan (Teddy Dunn). Logan and Veronica started dating over the summer. Veronica talks to all the students who were framed in the drug test, and they all say that they have people who would do this to them. Veronica talks to Meg, with whom she has had a falling out. Veronica reveals that Logan was released from prison soon after he was arrested.
Veronica connects the five people who were framed to an incident where a student was publicly harassed in gym class. Keith is still dating Alicia Fennel (Erica Gimpel). Veronica talks to Butters, the victim of the bullying in the gym class, and he is also the principal's son. Veronica and Wallace spend the night investigating students, and Veronica eventually deduces that Wallace ingested a small amount of an illegal substance, most likely in a gift basket earlier that year. In a flashback, Veronica and Logan make out in the car until the PCH bikers shoot out the car's windows. Veronica asks Keith for help in finding out the names of a company's shareholders, who were the parents of the people who would take the victims's places as starters. Veronica believes that one of the lab assistants was paid off to forge the results. The previous summer, Logan was involved with an arson crime. Logan hangs out with Dick (Ryan Hansen) and Beaver (Kyle Gallner) poolside, and they ogle at the brothers's stepmother, Kendall Casablancas (Charisma Carpenter). Veronica sets up the parents and has Principal Clemmons listen in, and it is revealed that Duncan is now dating Veronica. In a flashback, Veronica breaks up with Logan. When Logan starts to get angry, Keith barges in and makes him leave. Logan is carrying on a relationship with Kendall.
On a field trip, Veronica meets Gia (Krysten Ritter). On the bus home, Veronica talks to Meg one more time, but she is still passive-aggressive. Veronica explains to the audience that she and Duncan became closer over the summer after he visited her place of work every day before they got together. At a rest stop, Veronica sees Weevil and they talk to each other angrily about the stabbed gang member. Meanwhile, Veronica's bus drives away without her. Instead, Weevil takes Veronica on his motorcycle before they run across the limo with Duncan, Gia, and other in it. They tell Veronica that the bus full of students drove off the cliff and into the sea, and they look over at the crashed bus.
The following cultural references are made in the episode:
- Veronica jokingly mentions Encyclopedia Brown.
- During an interview, Keith's original position during the Lilly Kane case was compared to Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith Show.
- Veronica says "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!", referencing a line said by Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part II.
- The nickname of a character in the episode, "Butters," references the character Butters Stotch from the television series South Park.
- As a threat, Dick tells Beaver to get out of the pool or else he'll "go all Ordinary People on [him]," referencing the drowning that takes place before the film begins.
- Kendall was a Laker Girl.
- Duncan compares the class tensions in Neptune to West Side Story.
- Weevil compares Veronica's investigation of Lilly's murder to The Year of Living Dangerously.
- On the bridge after "Leave It to Beaver", Logan was beaten up by the PCHers. When he woke up, Felix was dead beside him and he was holding a bloody knife. He threw the knife in the water and went to Veronica.
- Leo D'Amato came to Veronica's to arrest Logan. There was a long trial, during which Veronica supported Logan, and eventually the charges against Logan were dropped because of a lack of evidence.
- A major conflict escalates in Neptune, with Logan and Dick Casablancas burning the community pool.
- Over the summer, Veronica broke up with Logan because he was recklessly destroying the town and seemed to be having fun doing so. She returns to dating Duncan, who is now Logan's enemy.
- Logan begins sleeping with Kendall Casablancas, Dick and Beaver's new stepmom.
- During a field trip, Veronica gets left behind by the school bus. However, when she next sees the bus, it has gone off a cliff and Gia Goodman, the new girl, hysterically yells, "They're all dead!"
The following songs can be heard in the episode:
- "Breathin'" by Asylum Street Spankers
- "The Change" by John Dee Graham
- "Long Time Coming" by Delays
- "Ashes" by Embrace"
The episode was originally titled "Urine Trouble", a joking pun on "You're in trouble." The episode was written by series creator Rob Thomas and directed by John T. Kretchmer. This episode marks Thomas's fourth writing credit for the series (after "Pilot", "Credit Where Credit's Due", and "Leave It to Beaver") and Kretchmer's fourth directing credit for the series. In the episode, Logan mentions that producers wanted Tara Reid to play Trina Echolls (Alyson Hannigan) in casting for the film adaptation of the Echolls' story. During casting of the role of Trina, Tara Reid was actually almost cast in the part.
In the episode, Logan makes an obscene hand gesture known as The Shocker, which slipped past the UPN censors. The episode's title refers to a phrase said by both Veronica and Wallace, indicating that things are supposedly "normal," though they are not. Before the filming of "Normal Is the Watchword", Rob Thomas informed actor Teddy Dunn, who played Duncan Kane, that he was planning to write out the character from the show. Dunn has said that he was not too upset by the news, as he almost didn't return for the season at all. On his role in the season, Dunn stated, "And so I knew going in that I had a finite amount of episodes, so it was like any other job. It was week-to-week and then I went on my merry way." Starting in the second season, Veronica Mars was moved to Wednesday nights, placing it in direct competition with ABC's popular Lost. Rob Thomas said that, "I wish the juggernaut that is Lost wasn't our direct competition." At the same time, Veronica Mars was placed after UPN's America's Next Top Model.
"Normal Is the Watchword" introduces several new characters and series regulars to the show. On casting the new season, Thomas explained that he "conceive[d] the show as a one-year mystery" and decided that he needed to introduce and eliminate several characters to be able to create an "equally fascinating mystery" for the series' second season. Thomas felt that he could not bring back the Kanes and the Echolls and "have them all involved in a new mystery"; he needed "new blood". In the opening credits, three new actors are given star billing. Two of these actors, Ryan Hansen as Dick Casablancas and Kyle Gallner as Cassidy "Beaver" Casablancas, served as recurring characters in the show's first season. In addition, this episode marks the first credit of Jackie Cook, played by Tessa Thompson, despite the fact that she does not appear in the episode.
Several important recurring characters of the show's second season are also introduced in "Normal Is the Watchword." Kendall Casablancas, portrayed by Charisma Carpenter, best known for her role as Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel makes her first appearance in the episode. Carpenter said that she wanted to play the role because "the name is really spectacular." The episode also introduces the character of Gia Goodman, played by Krysten Ritter, who would later become known for her roles in Breaking Bad and Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23. Ritter would reprise her role in the film continuation of Veronica Mars and called her role on the series "her first big acting job."
In its original broadcast, "Normal Is the Watchword" garnered 3.29 million viewers and ranked 97th out of 112 in the weekly rankings. This was an increase over both the previous season's finale, "Leave It to Beaver", which received 2.99 million viewers, and the previous season premiere (the pilot episode), which garnered 2.49 million viewers.
The episode received mostly positive reviews. Rowan Kaiser, writing for The A.V. Club, gave a glowing review, saying that it had all the components that a season premiere should have. After praising many aspects of the episode, the reviewer wrote, "What ties it all together, though, is a storytelling form that indicates complete confidence from the show about what its viewers can deal with. It's half present-day, half-flashback. But the two different halves, combined with Veronica's voiceover, combine to present the information in pleasantly deceptive fashion."
Price Peterson of TV.com also gave a positive review, writing in his episode verdict that "It's frankly amazing how much information this episode packed into 42 minutes while still feeling breezy and funny…The episode also ended with that breathtakingly horrifying ending, a multiple-death shocker that served to remind me just how murder-lute Season 1 was. Conversely, Television Without Pity gave the episode a "B+".
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- Kaiser, Rowan (November 4, 2011). "Review: Veronica Mars: "Normal Is the Watchword"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved February 22, 2015.
- Peterson, Price (June 22, 2012). "The Veronica Mars Season 2 Dossier: Episodes 1-4". TV.com. Retrieved February 22, 2015.
- "Veronica Mars Normal Is the Watchword Recap". Television Without Pity. September 27, 2005. Retrieved February 22, 2015.
- "2006 Writers Guild Awards Television and Radio Nominees Announced" (Press release). Writers Guild of America. December 14, 2005. Retrieved February 24, 2011.
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