This is the first episode of Veronica Mars second season, where we find out what’s happened since all the fireworks in last season’s finale. There are a lot of flashbacks in this episode, revealing the new status quo a little at a time. That’s a device that sometimes works, but it can get annoying too. it’s not too bad here, although there’s one reveal they save until later in the show that makes it seem like they were bending over backwards not to give it away. Anyway, this starts at the coffee shop (with the adorable name of Cute as a Bug) where Veronica now works as a hostess. She’s trying to have a normal life—best friend, boyfriend, regular job—instead of being a detective and getting in trouble all the time. A classmate named Kelvin Moore comes in and says he failed his drug test for the football team and wants to know why. He swears he’s been clean for almost a year, but Veronica tells him she doesn’t do investigations anymore (and recommends Encyclopedia Brown). Kelvin says she’s gone high society since she got herself a rich boyfriend and all her posturing last year about being one of the have-nots was just bullshit. His words hit home a bit, but she’s still comfortable with not helping him since Kelvin is known to be a bullying asshole. Veronica sees her father on TV (with Julie Chen), promoting his book about solving Lilly’s murder. Keith wasn’t enthusiastic about the book, but between hospital bills and his ex stealing the reward money, he went along with it.
Veronica thinks back to last season’s finale when she opened the door to find someone standing there. I predicted it would be Duncan, but it was Logan and he was beat to shit. She brought him in and took care of him and he told her about his fight with Weevil and the bikers on the bridge. (We get a flashback within a flashback here, like in Cloud Atlas.) Logan actually knocked Weevil out right away with a kick to the face, but the other bikers dragged him down and kicked the shit out of him. When he woke up, he was lying next to one of the bikers (Felix), who was dead … and Logan had a knife in his hand. A bystander was there and called the cops, so Logan tossed the knife and took off. He heard about his father being charged with Lilly’s murder on the way over. Leo came by looking for Logan and Veronica let him in and arrested him.
The first day of school (senior year), Veronica is shocked to hear Wallace failed his drug test just like Kelvin. Wallace says a bunch of poor kids failed their tests, while the quarterback (a rich kid) passed, even though he smokes up all the time. Wallace says one rich kid did fail their test … Meg. Veronica asks how the tests are done and Wallace says after he pisses in the cup, they seal it and he signs the seal before it’s sent to the lab. If the seal is broken, the sample is ejected, so there’s no way anyone could’ve tampered with the tests or switched samples. Veronica says they’ll have to figure out what all the failed test people have in common. Wallace tells her he’s not working in the office this year, but did manage to swipe a master key and some administrative passwords as a going away present. Wallace also mentions Veronica’s boyfriend and she says he took the first couple days off school to go visit his father in prison. She muses that she can no longer keep her relationship secret.
We get another flashback to Duncan coming into the coffee shop months ago and being friendly to Veronica, but getting weird when Logan showed up; apparently, they stopped talking when Logan and Veronica’s relationship became public. Veronica talks to Kelvin and asks who’d want to screw him over. He mentions a kid named Butters who Kelvin pantsed in gym class. She talks to other people (Jilly and Viet) who failed the drug test and gets some other leads: Jilly’s parents are being sued by another kid’s parents; Viet’s tennis rival took him to court to get him thrown off the team. Veronica tries to talk to Meg too, but she blames Veronica for Duncan breaking up with her, so she’s not too cooperative.
The school now has metal detectors because tensions in Neptune between the haves and have-nots (09ers and non-09ers) are boiling over after Logan’s trial for killing Felix. Logan’s high-priced lawyers got the case dismissed before it even started, but that pissed off all the poor people in town, who just saw it as another 09er getting away with murder. Veronica and Wallace compare notes and figure out that Wallace, Jilly, Viet, and Meg were all in the gym when Kelvin pantsed Butters … and they all laughed. Butters swore he’d get back at all of them. We learn that Keith and Alicia (Veronica’s dad and Wallace’s mom) are still seeing each other. Veronica talks to Butters (whose real name is Vincent) and he’s certainly not sorry all his tormentors got in shit. Veronica points out that Kelvin will kill Vincent if he thinks he’s the one who got him kicked off the football team, but Vincent isn’t too worried; turns out he’s Principal Clemmons’ son.
That night, Veronica and Wallace sneak into the principal’s office to check the files. Turns out the test results weren’t altered, so Veronica wonders if someone slipped Wallace (and the others) some drug-laced cookies. She suggests they get a home test from the drugstore and see for themselves. Veronica flashes back to the summer when someone blew the window out of Logan’s car while he and Veronica were making out (and no, it wasn’t Keith). Apparently, the tensions in Neptune are so high, nobody wants to walk the streets alone anymore. At home, Wallace takes the over-the-counter drug test (after a little bladder shyness) and comes up clean. So the cookies weren’t laced and the tests weren’t changed.
Veronica switches tacks and looks at who benefits from these five people being kicked off their respective teams. Once she knows who reaps the rewards, she gets an idea and asks Keith for help looking up the major shareholders of the corporation involved in the lawsuit with Jilly’s parents. Turns out the parents of all the new starters (plus the established quarterback) are all shareholders. Veronica figures they must’ve bought off someone at the testing facility. She plans to send emails to each shareholder, implying that someone at the lab wants more money. At school, the new journalism teacher (Ms. Dumas) gets Veronica’s permission slip for a field trip to a baseball stadium the next day. Wallace is surprised, since Veronica doesn’t usually mix with people much, but she reminds him she’s trying to be normal this year.
We learn that Veronica and Weevil aren’t friends anymore, since she stuck by Logan during his trial. She remembers a day when she saw Logan, Dick, and Beaver loading jerry cans into Logan’s car; Logan claimed they were going to sabotage a rival school’s football field, but the next day the community pool burned down and was closed for the summer. Naturally, all the 09ers have their own pools. Logan is hanging out at Dick and Beaver’s place and gets a good look at their stepmom, Kendall (played by Charisma Carpenter). Logan seems quite taken with her (and she does look good in a bikini), but she just ignores him.
At Cute as a Bug, Veronica’s plan pays off as the guilty parents all show up to meet their contact at the lab but only find each other. Naturally they discuss their pay-offs to the lab tech and Veronica has a bug on the table that’s transmitting to Principal Clemmons nearby. This is when we find out that Veronica is actually dating Duncan now, not Logan. The next day, Logan is waiting by the bus to see Veronica and Duncan off on the field trip. He tells Veronica he’ll miss her and we learn that he didn’t take it well when she broke things off with him. She’d had enough of him looking for more trouble with Weevil’s gang, so she decided to dump him. Logan freaked out and Keith threw him out of the house.
On the bus, Dick tells Ms. Dumas (who he calls Ms. Dumbass) that it stinks like death in the rear of the bus, but he refuses her offer to sit up front with the nerds. Dick notices a new student named Gia (played by Krysten Ritter). Meanwhile, we see Logan is banging Dick’s stepmom, Kendall. At the baseball stadium, the team (called the Sharks) owner Woody Goodman (played by Steve Gutenberg) turns out to be Gia’s dad and basically admits he’s trying to help her make friends by inviting journalism students to the stadium, since Gia’s interested in journalism. Gia seems kinda ditzy but she does look pretty cute in her little skirt … a far cry from Jessica Jones. Woody reminds some of the students that he coached them in Little League and mentions that he’s running for mayor of Neptune. Yeah, this guy’s definitely a politician.
Veronica and Duncan notice Woody arguing with a dude that turns out to be an ex-Shark player named Terrence Cook, who’s a famous big league player now. Dick tells Duncan and Veronica that his father sent a limo so they wouldn’t have to ride back in the stinking bus. Veronica decides she wants to try again to make peace with Meg, so she tells Duncan to go in the limo with Dick (who also invites Gia, since he’s obviously got the hots for her). On the bus, Meg is still too pissed off to talk to Veronica, who reflects on how she and Duncan got together over the summer. After she dumped Logan, she and Duncan just started talking because he was at the coffee shop almost every night. Neither of them planned to get back together, it just happened organically. And since Duncan had broken up with Meg the last day of school, and Veronica and Duncan didn’t get together until Veronica’s 18th birthday (weeks after Keith threw Logan out of the house), she figures they don’t have anything to feel guilty about.
When the bus stops for gas, Veronica has a vision of Lilly and follows her around the corner, where she finds Weevil working on his bike in the parking lot. Weevil gives her shit for hanging out with the rich kids and defending Logan, who killed one of Weevil’s friends. Veronica points out that Logan was pounded to shit, so he probably didn’t stab Felix. She implies that one of the gang might’ve done it and Weevil says nothing happens in the gang without his okay. She mentions the shotgun blast that almost killed her and Logan and wonders who’s really in charge of the gang these days. When the bus is ready to leave, Meg tells Ms. Dumas that everyone is on even though she knows Veronica’s not there. The bus takes off, leaving Veronica stranded, which Weevil finds funny. It seems like he’s going to leave her, but he comes back and offers her a ride.
On the way home, they come upon Dick and Beaver’s limo pulled over and everyone freaking out. Turns out the bus went through a guard rail and off a cliff, with everyone on board. Duncan is relieved to see Veronica, but she immediately suspects foul play, since nothing happens in Neptune by accident. So, I guess the bus crash and Felix’s murder are going to be the season-long arcs this time around. It seems like they’re already tossing out red herrings; Logan was hanging around the bus before it left and Weevil was in the parking lot when the bus stopped for gas, but I’m assuming neither of them is guilty … too obvious. It’s weird that Veronica’s vision of Lilly is what kept her off the bus … maybe Lilly is her guardian angel. Anyway, we’ll start accumulating clues next episode I guess, and there are several new faces who may or may not be involved. Dick and Beaver both show up in the opening credits now, so I guess they’ll be appearing more often; there’s another new character in the opening credits (Jackie Cook) but we won’t meet her until next episode.