Michael Muhney as Don Lamb
|Last appearance||"Mars, Bars"|
|Created by||Rob Thomas|
|Portrayed by||Michael Muhney|
|Significant other(s)||Madison Sinclair|
The character, considered by many to be the character fans "love to hate", is one of Veronica's main enemies, and one of the most prominent adult characters, after Keith Mars. He was a recurring character during Seasons 1-2 and promoted to series regular status Season 3.
Very little is known about the background of Sheriff Don Lamb. Due to cryptic comments about his father said by Lamb himself, it seems that he was emotionally and/or physically abused by him. Lamb went to college in Texas where he played ball, but had to drop out after a knee injury. On his office wall was a wooden United States Marine Corps Eagle, Globe and Anchor plaque, suggesting that Lamb once served as a Marine. Lamb is 34, a Cancer and his hometown is Neptune, California.
Relationship with Keith Mars
What is known is that Lamb joined the Balboa County Sheriff's Department and quickly rose through the ranks through the patronage of then Sheriff Keith Mars. As one of Keith's deputies, Lamb looked at Keith as his mentor, but the two had a rather violent falling out over Keith Mars accusing software mogul Jake Kane of murdering his daughter Lilly. When Keith Mars was forced out of office due to an emergency recall election, Lamb quickly maneuvered himself into the job as Sheriff with the support of various members of the 09er community, who felt that Lamb would be a much more controllable figure than Keith Mars.
Arrest of Abel Koontz
Lamb's tenure as Sheriff was quickly solidified when he arrested Abel Koontz, a disgruntled former employee of Jake Kane, for the murder of Lilly. Unknown to Lamb at the time, the arrest was secretly manipulated by the Kane family themselves, as they believed that Lilly's younger brother Duncan had murdered Lilly. The Kane family paid Abel to confess to the crime, planted evidence at his home (evidence that would later be revealed to have been photographed to look like it was inside Lilly's room the night of her death), and had their head of security Clarence Wiedman anonymously call in the information regarding Abel Koontz being the murderer, information that was crucial in leading the oblivious Sheriff Lamb directly to the Kane family's patsy and his arrest.
The arrest of Koontz helped raise Lamb's profile and standing in the community as Keith Mars' reputation fell drastically. It also caused Lamb to develop an oversized ego. His relationship with Keith Mars further worsened, with Lamb taunting Keith over how he caught the man who murdered Lilly Kane.
But Lamb's biggest action of controversy would be several months after the arrest of Abel Koontz, when Keith's daughter Veronica arrived one morning at the sheriff's office. Veronica had been drugged and raped and sought to report the crime. Sheriff Lamb agreed to take Veronica's statement personally regarding her rape, but Veronica quickly found that Lamb had ulterior motives, in what has become one of the most controversial scenes in the series:
- Lamb: [sarcastically] Is there anyone in particular you'd like me to arrest, or should I just round up the sons of the most important families in town?
- [Cut to Veronica, who's absolutely speechless.]
- Lamb: [dead seriously] I've got not a shred of evidence to work with here, but that really doesn't matter to your family, now does it?
- [Veronica starts to cry.]
- Lamb: [mockingly] Look at this! She cries! I'll tell you what, Veronica Mars — why don't you go see the Wizard. Ask for a little backbone.
Veronica was then forced to leave, with Lamb unintentionally creating an enemy for himself.
Tenure as Sheriff
Portrayed as a bureaucrat, Lamb is shown to care more about the fact that he is Sheriff of Balboa County than he does with actually carrying out his responsibilities as sheriff. His actual competence as sheriff is generally very poor because Lamb is a firm believer in the notion that, in any criminal matter, the obvious suspect is always the person who committed the crime. Whenever an obvious suspect appears, Sheriff Lamb will quickly arrest the suspect with little to no effort spent trying to confirm said suspect's alibi.
Indeed, it has been implied on numerous occasions that his record at solving crimes without the aid of Keith and Veronica Mars is rather abysmal. However, it has been argued that statistically, crime has dropped in Neptune since Lamb assumed the position of Sheriff. While Lamb himself was the one who made that statement, it was not refuted by his chief critics Veronica and Keith Mars.
In spite of his flaws, Lamb does at his core attempt to be a good police officer. This was made most evident at the end of season one, when, without any arm-twisting from the Mars family, Lamb arrested Jake Kane for obstruction of justice after it was revealed that his manipulation of Lamb regarding Abel Koontz allowed the true murderer, Aaron Echolls, to avoid arrest.
Another example was the situation involving the Manning family and their abuse of their daughter, Grace. When Veronica Mars and Duncan Kane were caught in the Manning family home, after discovering the hidden prison cell that the Mannings locked their youngest daughter Grace in to punish her, Lamb was called in to arrest the two. As Lamb dragged the two out of the house, Veronica pleaded with her arch-rival to listen to her as she described the location of the hidden prison cell. After placing the two in his police vehicle, Lamb returned to the Manning home and following Veronica's information, discovered the cell. As he walked out, Lamb responded coldly towards Mr. Manning's claims of being a victim of Veronica and Duncan and left the house again. He then gets into his vehicle and after driving several blocks down the road, silently pulls over to the sidewalk and releases Veronica and Duncan from the car. Returning to the Manning family's home, he parks his car and watches the house, to let the Mannings know their secret is out. This, as he was powerless to officially arrest them for child abuse, due to Veronica and Duncan's involvement tainting any sort of investigation.
A large amount of Sheriff Lamb's power base comes from the wealthy '09er community, who arranged for his rise to power after Keith Mars was forced out of office. As such, Lamb shows favoritism towards the wealthy citizens of Neptune and is often reluctant to arrest people of power and wealth without concrete evidence and even then will only do so under public pressure.
Lamb does privately harbor a great deal of contempt for the wealthy 09er community. In season one it was shown that Lamb was prone to breaking up parties thrown by teenage members of the 09er community, confiscating the kegs of beer from the party which Lamb would then serve to his fellow police officers via impromptu parties he would throw at his place.
In season two, Lamb's relationship with the 09er community took a more complex turn. Lamb was revealed to be carrying on a secret relationship with the barely legal 09er Madison Sinclair, an affair that both Veronica and Keith Mars ultimately discovered. It was also shown that Lamb had blackmailed Terrence Cook, a retired '09er baseball player, who had thrown an ALCS game to help pay off a rather large gambling debt he had owed.
With regards to Sheriff Lamb's general disdain for the people of Neptune, the Sheriff's anger is most visible when dealing with those who Lamb feels are cowardly, weak-willed, or who generally wallow in a sense of victimization in terms of being unwilling to stand up for themselves. This was established in the pilot episode, through the establishment of the catchphrase "You need to go see the Wizard..." (a reference to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz). The phrase was used by Lamb to show his contempt for those who he feels wallows in their own helplessness and self-pity.
In some ways, this may help explain his seemingly paradoxical vehemence in preventing child abuse while, at the same time evincing enormous callousness for adult (or near adult) rape victims. Evidently he feels that, while children can't protect or defend themselves, older people are contemptible if they cannot.
In the third season episode "Mars, Bars", Wallace reminds Lamb of a time when Lamb told Wallace to ask the Wizard for courage. Wallace replies that the Wizard considers Lamb the only true Friend of Dorothy.
Relationship with Veronica Mars
Out of all of the characters of the series, Sheriff Lamb is one of the few characters whose relationship with Veronica Mars is firmly planted on the side of rivalry. Lamb's public displays of contempt for her father and his treatment of her when she tried to report being raped has resulted in Veronica hating Lamb with a passion unmatched by any of her other enemies on the show. Sheriff Lamb meanwhile sees Veronica as a troublemaker of the highest order and while he won't openly admit to it, is one of the few people in Neptune who recognizes the depth of her skill as an investigator. Indeed, Lamb considers Veronica to be a continuous threat towards him and his standing as Sheriff of Balboa County though he is not above taking credit for Veronica's investigation work if he can.
In spite of their hatred for each other, their sparring is kept on a strictly verbal level. Veronica often taunts Lamb by mocking his inability to close big cases and the foolish way that he jumps upon the first suspect he sees in an investigation as the guilty party. Lamb meanwhile often responds by verbally attacking Veronica's father or Veronica's friends (all of which Lamb has had run-ins with in his capacity as Sheriff).
However, their rivalry does serve its purpose, as it was Sheriff Lamb who was responsible for saving Veronica's beloved father from a violent death at the hands of Cassidy "Beaver" Casablancas. In the season 2 finale, Beaver blew up the plane containing Keith Mars and the pedophilic Woody Goodman as it flew over Neptune during his final confrontation with Veronica. It wasn't until the next morning, when Veronica awoke to find her father alive and well in their home that she learned how he was alive. Before take-off, Sheriff Lamb had arranged for Keith Mars to be taken off the plane transporting Woody Goodman back to Neptune, so as to keep the media from giving full credit for the arrest to Keith. As a result, Lamb's act of pettiness towards his rival inadvertently saved Keith's life.
Also in the second season when, at one point, Lamb had Veronica in custody for a very serious charge of breaking and entering and was clearly looking forward to booking her for it, he came to the realization that to pursue it would serve the purposes of a pair of child abusers. At which point he very grudgingly released her and her companion so that he could return to deal with the child abusers off the record, so to speak (at which point it was revealed that in his youth he, perhaps unsurprisingly, had also been a victim of child abuse).
Ironically, the central issue of why the two characters hate each other (Lamb's refusal to believe Veronica when she attempted to report being raped) has generally been sidestepped in their verbal sparring. During seasons one and two, Lamb does not bring up Veronica's sexual assault claims in attacking her, but, with season three, Lamb cruelly mocked Veronica when she called the police when a new friend of hers from college fell victim to the serial rapist that was terrorizing Hearst College. Lamb asked if Veronica was the rape victim in question and further twisted the knife by implying Veronica "cried wolf" when she told Lamb that she had been raped in the pilot. While Veronica showed no visible reaction to Lamb's taunting, she did break down in front of Lamb when she confessed that she had walked in on her friend while she was being raped and could have stopped the rapist had she fully realized what was happening inside the darkened room.
In the episode "Mars, Bars", Lamb and Deputy Sacks answered a domestic disturbance call at the home of Mindy O'Dell. Lamb confronted Mindy's former husband and suspect in the Dean O'Dell murder case Steve Botando, who attacked him by hitting him in the head with a baseball bat and who was in turn shot by Sacks. The county commissioner informed Keith Mars that Lamb had died in the hospital from the severe trauma to his head and had asked for Keith to become interim sheriff. Veronica seemed to be shocked and saddened about his death when she found out.
Lamb's last known words were "I smell bread." This is a quote from a fatally wounded soldier (just before he died) in an episode of the television series M*A*S*H. As Lamb could very reasonably be assumed to be a fan of that show, its use here is a strong indication that Lamb knew he was seconds away from death and could not be saved but still wanted to be, as the actor phrased it, snarky.
- 1x01 Pilot
- 1x02 Credit Where Credit's Due
- 1x11 Silence of the Lamb
- 1x12 Clash of the Tritons
- 1x22 Leave It to Beaver
- 2x02 Driver Ed
- 2x03 Cheatty Cheatty Bang Bang
- 2x04 Green-Eyed Monster
- 2x05 Blast from the Past
- 2x06 Rat Saw God
- 2x07 Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner
- 2x10 One Angry Veronica
- 2x11 Donut Run
- 2x12 Rashard and Wallace Go to White Castle
- 2x14 Versatile Toppings
- 2x15 The Quick and the Wed
- 2x16 The Rapes of Graff
- 2x17 Plan B
- 2x20 Look Who's Stalking
- 2x21 Happy Go Lucky
- 2x22 Not Pictured
- 3x02 My Big Fat Greek Rush Week
- 3x05 President Evil
- 3x06 Hi, Infidelity
- 3x07 Of Vice and Men
- 3x08 Lord of the Pi’s
- 3x11 Poughkeepsie, Tramps and Thieves
- 3x13 Postgame Mortem
- 3x14 Mars, Bars
- Veronica Mars: The Complete First Season, Warner Home Video, 2005, UPC 01256972774.