This one starts at school, where a guy named Justin Smith is comparing notes on local hotties with the rest of his nerd posse. Justin gives Veronica a 9, but I doubt if he’s ever said two words to her in person. Troy kinda asks Veronica out for the weekend (to go sailing in his fancy boat) and when Veronica drops her books, her ex (Duncan) picks them up for her, which is slightly awkward. We later see Duncan at home, zoning out in the pool while his dad tries to talk to him about responsibility and putting in for an internship in Washington next summer. At home, Veronica’s dad tells her he got a call from her guidance counselor asking him to come in. Veronica says she has no clue what it’s about, then abruptly asks why her mother (who walked out on them almost a year ago) was meeting Jake Kane in a motel room a couple episodes back. Keith tells Veronica to stop digging into the Kanes and her mother.
At the Kane residence, Jake is still going on about Duncan not having passion for anything. Duncan’s mom (Celeste) tries to reason with him, but both of them talk about Duncan like he’s not even there, although he’s sitting two feet away. Veronica’s relationship with her father is a bit tense at the moment too, but at least they still talk to each other. That night, Veronica has a hot dream about getting to second base with Duncan. Later, Veronica and her dad go to the video store where Justin works; Keith is renting Slapshot for the fifth time. There’s a woman there named Julia (played by future Oscar winner Melissa Leo) who’s being very friendly with Justin, talking about his recommendations and all that. Maybe it’s just my perverted mind, but it almost seems like she’s interested in him. Anyway, Justin tells Veronica he might have a case for her and she says to talk to him at school tomorrow.
The next morning, Duncan’s mom reminds him to take his anti-depressant pill, but he accidentally drops it down the sink and ends up saying to hell with it. (I have to say, Celeste Kane looks a lot better here than she did in the pilot; I don’t know if it’s the lighting or a different hairstyle or what, but she’s pretty hot here, especially in her workout clothes.) At school, Veronica tells Troy they should go out … an overreaction to her dream about Duncan, maybe? Meanwhile, Duncan has been dating some other girl but tells Logan she’s a “talker”, which is such a drag. Missing his anti-depressant starts to catch up to Duncan and he gets a bit weirded out, but soon bounces back. Veronica drags Justin into her office (the girls’ bathroom) and asks what he needs help with. Justin says he wants her to find his father, who took off a decade ago. It won’t be easy, since Justin has no photo, no personal info, and his dad’s name is John Smith.
Keith comes in to see the counselor (Rebecca) about Veronica. Rebecca says Veronica’s changed in the last year, becoming moody, talking back, and being isolated socially. Keith thinks that’s pretty normal, considering Veronica’s best friend was killed, he was turfed out of his job as Sheriff, and all Veronica’s friends started shunning her. When Rebecca suggests he might need someone to talk to about being a single parent, Keith gets a bit defensive and says he can handle things alone. Rebecca’s pretty good-looking, so I’m predicting these two will end up getting together. At the Kane family dinner table, Duncan’s parents are arguing again when he stands up to deliver a heartfelt toast to their dog, who was sold years ago because she pissed in the flowerbed. I guess not being on anti-depressants is really starting to show, although Duncan seems more manic than depressive since he missed that pill.
At school, Justin brags to one of his friends that he’s been hanging out with Veronica. When he mentions she’s looking for his missing father, his friend reminds him his dad died years ago, but Justin says it doesn’t matter since Veronica will never figure that out. After school, Keith meets Wallace for the first time at the detective agency. Wallace is helping Veronica find Justin’s missing father (in exchange for some answer keys) by stuffing envelopes. Veronica has narrowed the John Smith field to 400 or so and now she’s sending out fake scholarship notifications about Justin to all the John Smiths, hoping if she hits the right one, he’ll send the letter back telling her she has the wrong address. While they’re working, Veronica asks Wallace (who works in the school office) if he can get a copy of her permanent record so she can see what the guidance counselor is saying about her.
The next day, Duncan misses taking his anti-depressant again … this time on purpose. At school, Wallace shows Veronica her file, which is both embarrassing and flattering. Justin gives Veronica a mix CD and she starts to wonder about his motives, so she asks Wallace to get a copy of Justin’s file for her. That night, Veronica’s date with Troy goes pretty well, but when he goes in for a kiss, she pulls back. He’s not a dick about it and she feels kinda bad afterwards, but I guess she figured she already had a rep for being a slut and didn’t want to play into it. After she gets home (where she tells her dad “the conversation was lousy but the sex was great”), she wonders why she isn’t letting herself go for Troy, when he clearly checks all her boxes. Elsewhere, Duncan is making out with his current girlfriend and accidentally calls her Veronica … awwwkwaaard.
At school, Wallace shows Veronica Justin’s file, which says his father is dead. She gives Justin shit for wasting her time (and $150 in postage), but before she can really lay into him, a school secretary brings him a letter. It’s a response to Veronica’s fake scholarship thing and it’s from Justin’s father … who’s apparently not so dead after all. That night, Justin comes over to ask Veronica to find his dad. When he confronted his mom, she freaked and told him he was better off not knowing anything about his father, but Justin says as long as he knows his father is out there somewhere, he has to try and find him. That hits home with Veronica and she says she’ll try to help. After Justin leaves, Keith tells Veronica her mother isn’t necessarily the villain in her life just because she took off. Veronica says the hero is the one who stays and the villain is the one who leaves. Keith points out that’s not the healthiest perspective to have, but Veronica says it’s better than pining away for someone who’s not coming back.
Turns out Veronica’s not being completely honest with her dad; she traced her mom’s license place to Arizona, which is only a few hours’ drive away, and she’s been debating whether to go see her mom or not. At school the next day, Duncan and Logan are screwing around and Duncan’s lack of meds is really starting to show; he even tries to lead a chorus of “Summer Lovin” on the bleachers. One of their friends does a back-flip off the bleachers and they all freak out until they see he landed on a bunch of tackling pads. Below, Duncan notices Veronica and Troy talking and sees Veronica lay a big smooch on Troy. Duncan does his own flip over the railing, but his landing is shitty and he cracks his head open. Veronica takes him to the hospital and he asks her if she remembers the way things used to be. She can’t help wondering if this is all prompted by her dating Troy; obviously she doesn’t know about Duncan missing his meds, but she’s probably right about the jealousy thing.
At the hospital, Jake thanks Veronica for helping Duncan, but things are still weird between them since Veronica’s dad accused Jake of killing his own daughter. Jake gives Duncan shit for screwing around on the bleachers and Duncan asks to talk to the doctor alone. He asks what could happen if someone suddenly stopped taking anti-depressants. Without knowing all the details, the doctor says it could cause some pretty vivid dreams and even hallucinations. Veronica heads down to San Diego to photograph the candidates for Justin’s father, which she’s narrowed down to three. She calls Justin and asks for him to get her the family photo album, even though Justin’s mom cut out all the pictures of his dad. While Justin is talking to her, his friendly movie buff Julia comes in asking about Body Heat. Yeah, there’s definitely something going on there.
At school the next day, Keith comes in to apologize to Rebecca for being snippy with her the other day. She’s cool about it and says she’d be happy to talk to Veronica, woman to woman. There’s definitely a spark between Keith and Rebecca. Veronica shows Justin the photos of his potential dads and even though he hasn’t seen his father for ten years, he eliminates a couple of them right off the bat. He asks if they can check out John Smith #3 (who Veronica figures is some kind of scumbag, since she followed him from the racetrack to a pawn shop, then to a bar) up close. Justin is sure he’ll recognize his own father if he sees him face to face. Veronica is reluctant but finally agrees, as long as Justin remembers she’s calling the shots. Yeah, I’m sure he’ll be very obedient. He shows her the mutilated photos from the family album and Veronica notices Justin’s dad had a thing for classic cars.
They head to San Diego and pick up John Smith, following him to a strip club. Justin ignores Veronica’s warning and goes to talk to him, but concludes that he’s not the right guy either. (Justin says his mom always turns off “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man” when it plays on the radio because it reminds her of his dad, but this dude doesn’t have brown eyes.) Veronica notices a Post-It in the guy’s car and compares it to the letter Justin got; the handwriting is exactly the same. At the Kane residence, Duncan has a vivid dream (or hallucination) of his dead sister Lilly coming in to talk to him. While bleeding from her head, Lilly points out how bogus her whole death scene was and says the truth will come out sooner or later.
In San Diego, Veronica and Justin follow John Smith #3 home and Veronica sneaks into his garage to check out a car under a cover. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a Hyundai Sonata … hardly a classic. The dude catches her and threatens to call the cops, but she says she knows what he does for a living. Except she doesn’t … he’s actually a parole officer, which explains why he hangs out in sleazy places. Veronica mentions his son, but he says he doesn’t have a son and is ready to call the cops again. But he hesitates when Veronica mentions the name John Smith. Outside, Justin sees someone else pulling up in a vintage Mustang and figures this has to be his dad. He grabs Veronica’s stun gun and goes to confront him, but it turns out to be Julia, his most dedicated customer from the video store.
Justin finally realizes the truth … Julia is (or was) his dad; she admits it, although she didn’t know his mother had told him she was dead. She says going to the video store was her way of checking up on him, to see how he was doing. So I guess I was wrong about her being a sex maniac. Justin’s understandably blown away, but he’s kind of a dick too, calling Julia a circus freak. On the way home, Veronica reminds him that Julia drives 90 miles every week just to see him for a few minutes. Veronica says she wishes her mom cared enough to do that for her. The next day, Veronica reflects that disasters can sweep through your life like tornadoes, leaving chaos and destruction behind. Afterwards you have to either live in the rubble, pretending everything is the way you remember it, or rebuild and move on with your life.
To illustrate Veronica’s point, Duncan chooses to go back on his meds (and starts being a dick to Veronica again), Keith “accidentally” bumps into Rebecca at a coffee shop, Justin calls Julia and says it’s cool if she keeps coming in, and Veronica decides to go to Arizona to find her mom. When she gets there, her mom’s old friend says her mom left a couple weeks back but didn’t say where she was going. She insists Veronica’s mom really cares about her, but Veronica has a hard time believing that. When she gets back to Neptune, she goes to see Troy, looking for some comfort.