“Like A Virgin” is a great episode of Veronica Mars with so much to love. It is also an important episode, given that it introduces Mac to the show (Tina Majorino is the greatest), as well as Meg (Alona Tal) who will become even more important as the series goes into its second season.
With a plotline involving the many results of a purity test being exposed to the outside world, and it’s themes of slut shaming, the episode is relevant and brilliant with many components that make it another brilliant episode of the series, along with introductions to characters that are going to play a big part in the show later on.
However, it also features Keith pretending to be a crazy person during a key moment, and it’s a scene, with an Enrico Colantoni performance, that may just be the pinnacle of American television. If just for that one moment alone, the five-star rating its receives from yours truly would be enough, but thankfully there is so much brilliance here, it’s getting a five-star rating on true merit, not least because it brilliantly piles on the angst.
Even though it aired in 2004, “Like a Virgin” is still incredibly relevant, given its themes of cyber-bullying and slut shaming. Themes like this are probably only going to become more relevant as the years goes on, especially since we have become even more dependant on technology and social media to communicate and function in our world, but are such things good for children in a potentially toxic setting such as a high school, especially one like Neptune High which is symbolic of the already heightened class warfare that is enveloping the town it’s in?
If anything, “Like a Virgin” just reiterates the poisonous atmosphere it’s set in. It’s not enough for the subject of class to be a reason for tensions in those school hallways, but something like a purity test being used as a means to bring down the reputation of Megan (Alona Tal, one of the rare decent personalities within the elite 09-er community) is another reason for Veronica to use her avenging angel persona to bring justice to a rare friendly face within the town who has money, but doesn’t use it as a means to be a jerk about it.
On a sidenote, right away, Alona Tal as Meg is a winning performance. Rob Thomas’ next choice for the lead role of Veronica herself if Kristen Bell had turned down the role, one can see the layers of strength yet likability that would have made her a great choice for the title role, but as it is, she is wonderful as Meg and thankfully the series will make use of her more as it goes on.
Even as all the stuff with the purity test is going on, our titular heroine is still trying to figure out who killed Lilly by trying to find a way to pay a prison visit to the man in jail for her friend’s murder, Able Koontz (Christian Clemenson), and with said visit, the series finally says out what has been under the surface of the show, subtly hinted at and suggested, but never dared said out loud; Jake and Veronica’s mother Lianne (Corrine Bohrer) had an affair, and Veronica may have been the product of that affair, meaning that Duncan and Veronica, who had previously been in a relationship together, are related by blood.
It’s a daring thing to even suggest incest, at least back in 2004 (nowadays it pretty much normal, at least if you’re Game of Thrones), but here it seems likely, and thus gives an explanation as to why Duncan broke up with Veronica, and why Lilly was telling Veronica to let the relationship go.
It’s another upping of the ante in terms of drama, and ends the episode on a dark note, with the image of Veronica weeping in her car bringing the episode to a daringly downbeat close. It also means we have to contend now with the idea that Keith, the greatest television dad of all time, possibly not even being our heroine’s biological father, a desperately sad notion if there ever was one and which stings horribly after having spent the last few weeks loving the back and forward banter of their relationship.
Overall, “Like a Virgin” is not afraid to be an angsty, emotionally devastating hour of television. It brilliantly shows how flexible the series is, within the confines of this single hour, while also being a brilliant example on how dramatic, funny and emotionally devastating it can be, because even as it throws in the twists, turns and drama that it has, we have Keith helping out Wallace’s mother, Alicia (Erica Gimpel) and her troublesome tenant by basically pretending to be the craziest person in the world.
It’s a brilliantly funny sequence, and a rare piece of victory afforded to any characters this hour, or even in the series, because even though the suspects behind leaking the test are revealed, it still happened, and the toxic atmosphere within Neptune High will always be there, just waiting to boil over again the next time something horrible happens.
That it ends with our heroine breaking down sums up the darkened world we’re in, and the episode it’s a part of.