TW: This review contains references and discussions of sexual violence (including rape, harassment, assault and revenge porn) – please read with care if you have experienced any of these directly or indirectly
Mutually Assured Destruction is a war tactic where both parties are involved in a stalemate to avoid both parties losing. Basically, nothing happens and if one of the parties attacks, everyone loses.
This episode was way ahead of its time! Just the other episode, Norris was talking about being one of the first homes with wireless internet so who could have known how the internet would play into the prominence of revenge porn and online harassment.
I love how watching Veronica Mars makes me feel like the writers went around the room naming taboo topics and deciding who would write the episode on it.
A Veronica Mars staple and one of the most commendable things about the show is how it approaches sexual violence (and the fact that it approaches it at all).
This season alone, we have talked about rape (multiple times), slut-shaming, victim-blaming, not believing/ silencing survivors, harassment and this episode, we delve into the ugly subject of revenge porn.
We don’t start off quite that heavy.
Veronica’s car is broken down and gets spotted by Logan, Dick and Beaver (Dick’s brother). Dick and Beaver do their best to mock Veronica but Logan tries intervening. Veronica expertly picks up his slack to avoid giving the game away while also fixing her car and doing some non-verbal flirting.
Despite the whole thing lasting under a minute, it is one of the best moments in the show because of how Veronica Veronica is in this scene – witty, resourceful, sharp and a complete boss!
Neptune student, Carmen Ruiz, is trying to break up with her boyfriend, Tad Wilson, for sensible reasons in a respectable and compassionate way. Tad is upset but accepts that their relationship has come to an end–
Hahahaha. Yeah, nope! He is a complete ass and shows Carmen a video of her drunkenly doing suggestive things that she doesn’t remember doing.
A couple of things:
Carmen’s breakup was probably the best you could expect a break-up to be. She explained her feelings clearly, she didn’t get petty, defensive or aggressive and she had every right to break-up with him. She didn’t place blame and she didn’t give him any false hope of getting back together.
Tad, on the other hand, a) should have accepted that a relationship is a mutual thing (if one person doesn’t want to be in it then that’s it), b) should have taken some time to himself if he was feeling sensitive about it, c) shouldn’t have tried to emotionally blackmail Carmen and when that failed, go for straight-up blackmail.
We don’t know how explicit the video is so I am not sure how far into bad this is (i.e. revenge porn) but I am going to state it as such for the rest of the review for the sake of clarity.
So Tad’s first instinct when to his longterm girlfriend decided to break-up with him was to blackmail her into staying with them. That is disgusting!
Based on his reaction and the fact that he had the video saved on his phone, I don’t think it is unreasonable to assume that this was premeditated – he saw the break-up coming and rather than coming to terms with it, aim to be a better person or end things with her first (that is the petty option), he decided to used his saved video to force the person he claims to care about to stay in their relationship.
Veronica agrees to help Carmen retrieve the phone but Veronica has a make-out break with Logan before getting things started.
Logan seems a little ashamed of how Dick and co. treated Veronica earlier and Veronica seems to be a little smitten (we haven’t seen Veronica offer anyone else one of her get-out-of-jail-free slips) so character growth for both.
Veronica purposefully gets her disposable phone and Tad’s phones confiscated so that when she picks her phone up, she can grab Tad’s phone.
I love how at this point in the series, something weird happens and everyone assumes that Veronica has a plan in motion. Tad doesn’t worry that his phone is lost or accidentally taken. He knows exactly what has happened.
Keith notices that there is a cash reward for finding Duncan so Keith and Veronica set about getting the money with Veronica’s info on Duncan’s hiding info.
Carmen stops by Mars Investigations to smash Tad’s phone but not long after, Veronica receives the video to let both of them know that he has another copy (he’s probably pissed about having his phone broken for no reason then).
Mac is hired to help Veronica track down Duncan.
Tad and Carmen get back together under duress (Tad is apparently delusional about Carmen’s ability to forgive and forget).
Tad decides to express some homophobic harassment so you have yet another reason to hate him.
The harassment also serves as a reminder that during the time of this episode Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was in effect.
For those of you who don’t know what that is… a rule in the US military used to be that LGBT+ people could join the military but if they confirmed or expressed their sexuality or gender identity, they would be discharged (in other words, gay people could risk their lives for a country that didn’t accept and appreciate them).
Veronica and Carmen set about finding blackmail material of their own so that Carmen can live her life away from the creep.
Weevil informs Veronica that Duncan bought a car before leaving in the hopes that he can get in on the cash reward when the Marses inevitably find Duncan.
Meanwhile, Logan and Veronica are enjoying their secret rendezvouses. They get in another makeout session before being interrupted by Aaron. Veronica goes to the bathroom while Dick and Beaver come to hang out. Aaron immediately understands the situation and in his most supportive and sensitive moment yet, Aaron doesn’t rat out Veronica and Logan’s relationship and helps sneak Veronica out of the house before driving her home.
In all seriousness, this scene genuinely took me by surprise and I found it rather moving. Aaron has been talking about being a better father to Logan and Trina and turning over a new leaf but I believed that as much as Logan did. So far, he has talked the talk so to actually see him try and be a decent human being/ parent was rather touching and made me wonder if maybe Aaron could change.
I mean… who is this stranger asking about Logan’s well-being and thanking Veronica for looking out for him?
Carmen and Tad have a date at the boardwalk where they take cutesy couple photos, get Tad a tattoo and discuss taking some drugs on prom night. Tad buys some drugs off Seth (the guy he harassed earlier) and Veronica takes misleading pictures.
Later, Tad and Carmen have a conversation that is almost too convenient if I am being picky.
Meanwhile, Keith gets a lead on Duncan’s car in Tijuana.
Veronica asks Mac to create a Teth/ Sad (whatever their couple name would be – Sad seems fitting) appreciation website, complete with photoshopped images and an edited phone conversation.
Veronica and Carmen show Tad the website and threaten to send it to the Naval Academy which would ruin Tad’s career plans if he doesn’t delete the video and accept the break-up.
Also, Tad gets his broken phone back.
Logan invites Veronica on a date… like a date date. While Logan is being cute, he mentions something about Veronica’s parents in the papers.
Veronica notices an ad seeking Lianne Mars in regards to a legal matter – likely a divorce.
Veronica tries fixing things for everyone (or maybe just keeping her family together for herself). She tracks Keith down in the hopes of persuading him to do something but him happy dancing with Alicia complicates things.
At school the next day, Veronica and Carmen learn that Tad released the video despite basic human decency.
Veronica suggests that Carmen sends the email since Tad sent the video but Carmen refuses.
Carmen is a better person than I.
Veronica interrupts some people enjoying the video and notices that the background details indicate that the night Carmen doesn’t remember is also the night Veronica doesn’t remember anything. Mac is able to confirm the date of the video as the same date that Veronica was raped (at the same party). Mac also manages to find Duncan’s potential alias.
Keith comes clean about his situation with Lianne and Alicia.
Clarence Wiedman confronts Alicia about her relationship with Keith, the company’s history with him and the fact that Wallace was used to plant a bug on Clarence’s assistant’s desk.
Throughout the episode, there has been mention that Weevil liked and may still like Carmen. He is also one of the few people to react like a decent human being when the video is released. That tied with the fact that Tad is found almost naked, duct-taped to a flag pole with SCUM written on his chest, makes it pretty obvious how and why Tad got himself into this situation (even without the verbal confirmation).
Veronica offers to get Tad down if he tells her about the roofies he had on the night of Shelly Pomroy’s party. He says that Logan gave him GHB. Veronica rewards his honesty by revealing the Seth love-heart tattoo on his shoulder.
At their date, Logan waits alone.
Non-heavy stuff out of the way first (but there isn’t much).
This episode has some of the best acting in the entire series. Bell and Dohring had great chemistry as enemies and it seems to be even better as secret lovers. Dohring was great playing an asshole but he plays sensitivity and apprehensive intimacy (is that a term?) in such an endearing way.
And after hit after hit after hit, I was so happy to see what little moments of bliss Veronica could have (and Bell could sell to us so expertly).
Sorry, guys. That’s really all I got of the non-triggering stuff – consider this your additional trigger warning:
We’ll get to the final revelation in a bit but for now, let’s talk about rape culture (because I’ve clearly not been having enough fun today).
Rape culture refers to an environment that promotes, encourages, undermines, maintains sexual violence.
This can involve anything from refusing to punish rapists all the way to some school dress codes.
If a school allows a male student to wear something that a female student cannot because “it might be distracting” to male students and members of the faculty – THAT IS RAPE CULTURE.
The idea that women’s bodies are objects that can “tempt” men to act violently is at the core of victim-blaming (a rape culture staple).
The main theme among all rape culture “logic” is that the victims are held accountable so the perpetrators never are.
Which brings us to Carmen, Tad and Veronica.
Throughout the entire episode Tad constantly uses victim blaming as an excuse for his hideous actions. He says that Veronica and Carmen are forcing his hand so he has no choice but to create revenge porn. He blames Veronica for his problems with Carmen. He blames everyone but himself.
Never trust someone who says “you made them” do something!
Tad drugged his girlfriend, took footage of her under the influence, blackmailed her into staying with him then turned the footage into revenge porn when he didn’t get his way – at no point in these scenarios is anyone but Tad at fault.
My head-cannon is that Tad is spending the rest of his life locked up and kept far away from society.
Moving on to a bit of a sensitive topic (for fans of Logan – this whole section is sensitive in general)…
If we are talking about accountability, we need to talk about Logan and the responsibility he plays in what happened to Carmen.
I’m not going to go into what happened to Veronica because we don’t know all the facts yet (well… I do because I’ve watched all the episodes so many times but I’m keeping these reviews as spoiler-free of future episodes as possible).
Assuming that Tad isn’t lying that he got the GHB from Logan, then does Logan have any part in what happened to Carmen (the drugging, not the revenge porn)?
GHB, for the uninformed, is gamma-hydroxybutyrate. It is a sedative that can be used in medicine to treat insomnia and narcolepsy. It is also used illegally as a party drug (because most drugs can and will be turned into a party drug by someone). And it has also been used as a date-rape drug.
All of this is to say that handing someone GHB isn’t the same thing as condoning sexual violence against your girlfriend. I see it more like a store assistant selling someone a chainsaw – it isn’t necessarily used to hurt anybody but it should be handled with care.
Since we don’t know the full story surrounding Logan, Tad and the GHB, there isn’t a clear-cut answer… and even knowing the full story wouldn’t provide any clear-cut answers for most people.
I just thought I’d throw the question out there because the next few episodes demand a discussion.
Overall, this is a great episode… a daring episode.
The episode not only mentions things like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and revenge porn but the story focuses on them and both were risky subject matters.
At the time of the writing, filming and airing of the episode, DADT was still heavily enforced and people generally didn’t like the subject being brought up (in case the name wasn’t a giveaway).
And revenge porn is still legal in some US states! It is also a pain to research so I can’t tell you if Carmen would have been able to file charges against Tad in 2005 (likely not considering how the internet in 2005 wasn’t the internet we know now) which is insane. Since Tad says he’s leaving soon and Carmen isn’t, it could be that Tad is 18 and Carmen is 16/ 17 which would also make what he did child pornography.
It is heartbreaking that despite the prevalence of revenge porn since the episode first aired, the subject is rarely discussed or represented where the weight of the crime is shown.
If anyone is interested in a story about revenge porn with a comedic protagonist, I highly recommend The Exact Opposite of Okay and A Girl Named Shameless by Laura Steven (they are great – thank me later).
But at least we have Veronica Mars (now, if you excuse me, I have to binge-watch the new season!).