“Charlie Don’t Surf” is a much better episode than “Wichita Linebacker” and matches for quality the second episode of the season, which doesn’t come as any surprise given both had the hand of Diane Ruggiero-Wright involved in their scripting. However, it still happens to leave one wondering at the intent of the writing and storytelling at the heart of Veronica Mars’ third season.
Everything this week makes up for a really solid episode; Veronica’s hunt for the campus rapist ratchets up the tension nicely, and even gives us some intensely brilliant scenes between Bell and Julie Gonzalo, while the B and C storylines involving Logan and Keith don’t merely play out as a filler and are engrossing and involving in their own right.
Keith’s storyline even finds time for a Don’t Shoot You reunion that you didn’t know you need, with the first of several appearances this season from Laura San Giacomo that, if it had been cast with a different actress, might have played more boring or less engaging, but which work so well thanks to the fact that Enrico Colantoni and his former sitcom sparring partner actually share good chemistry.
It even plays into that oldest of film noir tropes (falling in love with the woman whose spouse the private detective is trying to catch in an affair), and it really shouldn’t be good at all, but in casting Giacomo, the series and the story actually have more fun and levity than it really should.
Even the Logan storyline involving the psychotic dreamboat finding his long lost half-brother (in which we say hello to Matt Czuchry who was actually doing Gilmore Girls at the same time as this) goes beyond mere filler to something actually substantial and interesting, with its own little twist at the end to throw a wrinkle into things.
As always with season three, the real meat and bones is with the hunt for the campus rapist, and while it’s clear the series is never going to handle this storyline with anything resembling subtlety at this stage, at least it has its moments of being engaging and suspenseful, even if it still leaves one a little unsure, as always, at the series using sexual assault as a means to further a multi-episode storyline in this manner.
While the episode’s (and, by extension, the series) unfortunate portrayal of campus feminism is coming off as somewhat wrong yet again – it essentially boils down to the series saying: “How dare they protest for their right to be safe” – it does feel as if Ruggiero’s and co-writer Jason Elen’s teleplay is trying to deal with those themes in a somewhat intelligent way. If the series was actively asking the question, as it does touch upon on this episode, on both sides of blame culture when it comes to such a horrible and emotive crime, every week, then I think the hysterical portrayal of feminism might actually work, but it’s hard to decipher if this is just a bad portrayal or an actual message.
Storytelling confusion aside, this is still one of the season’s better efforts for sure and leaves one a little more hopeful going forward that the season, or at least this stage of the season, will be better.