Veronica MarsI should go ahead and confess here: I've just IMed a friend to explain that I'm having trouble writing this particular Watercooler because "I literally can't figure out how to, like, grasp the awesomeness that is this show." That's about as eloquent as it's gonna get this time, folks, so consider yourselves warned.... Seven weeks between new episodes. Seven. I'd complain, but frankly I needed every last second of that excruciating stretch to dry up my delightfully unexpected holy-crap-Wallace-is-back tears of joy. (Uh-oh, I shouldn't have started thinking about it again the dehydration's really starting to take its toll.) At any rate, after TPTB pulled that yuletide shock-a-rooney on me, I figured I'd be fairly spent in the jaw-dropping department for a good long while. Silly me. Series creator Rob Thomas

pulls out all the stops with his first-ever "written and directed by" credit from completely hoodwinking us with a mock Veronica-Duncan breakup, to bringing in Xena the Warrior Princess herself, Lucy Lawless, as a no-nonsense FBI agent. Duncan's kidnapped the baby! He's in Mexico! No, he's in Big Bear! No, he's really in Mexico! And while the plot's hairpin turns made for a fantastic ride, it was the depth of the performances that absolutely slayed me; in particular, Enrico Colantoni's ability to take the basic "I'm disappointed in you" speech they hand out at Dad School and turn it into honest-to-goodness heartbreak. We thought Veronica's latest hurdle was being dumped by her beau, but it turns out the real relationship in crisis is the father-daughter one. Oh, and just to pour a little sweet, sweet honey on that open wound? Two, count 'em, two Old 97's songs in the same episode. That's the kinda pain me likey. Something to file under "Did you notice?" the Mannings called the baby Faith, but it looks like Duncan's renaming her after his dearly departed sister. Which means, at long last, we've got another Lilly Kane mystery on our hands. Chana Shwadlenak

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