A cheating scandal in Mr. DeMartino's class is fodder for Daria's nightmares, where she dreams that she's accused of killing Kevin, the suspected ringleader, and endures one weird scenario after another based on various TV murder mystery shows.
While handing back his students' tests, Mr. DeMartino informs the class that the impossibly high scores obtained by the members of the football team (sans Mack) could only have been achieved by cheating, and he names Kevin as his prime suspect. Kevin adamantly denies having stolen the test, and Mr. DeMartino tells the class that if the culprit does not come forward, he will give every student an "F" on the test. Naturally, this upsets Daria and Jane, as a "F" would wreck Daria's GPA and would void Jane's highest-scoring test to date. For once, however, the partners in crime have no plan to change the situation. At home, Daria stretches out on her bed and channel-surfs, passing several cheesy detective shows and TV movies (and, of course, Sick, Sad World), and then slowly, quietly, drifts off to sleep...
At school, Daria opens her curiously enlarged locker, and out falls Kevin's lifeless body. Mr. DeMartino points out that the perpetrator usually returns to the scene of the crime to admire his/her handiwork, and Ms. Li immediately (and without any shred of evidence) points the finger at Daria. Mr. O'Neill and Mr. DeMartino attempt to play "good cop/bad cop" in order to make Daria confess to the crime, but she doesn't crack. Faced with the prospect of prison time for a crime she didn't commit, Daria decides to find out exactly who killed Kevin, but since no one else around her is any help, she has to turn to the one source of last resort: Upchuck's Angels (aka the Fashion Club), a group of highly styled but barely brainy detectives. Predicably, they aren't any help. At Kevin's funeral, Daria confronts Mack, who gets very emotional when she brings up the subject of his hated nickname, "Mack Daddy." When Daria finds a gun in her locker, Ms. Li attempts to have her arrested for Kevin's death, until Daria points out that Kevin was attacked with everything except a gun (which, as it turns out, belongs to Quinn). Daria fleshes out the guilty parties by claiming that her locker was coated with a time-activated paint, and the hoax nabs four people: Jane, Brittany, Mack, and Mr. DeMartino. Of course, that ultimately doesn't matter to Ms. Li, who's already had an electric chair custom-fitted for Daria, so she has police officers Jake and Helen lead Daria away...
... and she awakens to the sound of her alarm clock blaring in her ear; it's 7:30 in the morning. All of the proceeding events had been nothing but a TV-influenced dream. At school, Mr. DeMartino has a change of heart -- sort of. He's going to give the students a make-up test, the scores for which should reveal who cheated and who didn't. Suddenly, Kevin barges through the door wearing a fake arrow on his head and pretending to be dying. This cracks up the football players, but doesn't exactly cheer up DeMartino, who's barely able to hold back his homicidal impulses.
I Didn't Do It:
Who did Kevin and the football team think they were fooling by all getting 100s on that test? DeMartino isn't stupid, he's crazy (probably because of stuff like this). The evidence points right to at least one of them. I'd say that Kevin probably did it at the urging of his teammates -- it's good to have someone that can claim ignorance without automatically being called a liar to do the job. By the way, if you must cheat by stealing a test, get some of the answers wrong on purpose. It's much less suspicious (not that I would know).
Unintentional Ironies of the Week:
There were two that I'd like to point out. First, was Brittany's "What's that 'A' doing on you paper?" The second was Helen's "It's a clear cut case of abuse" after she blew Daria off.
Do the Right Thing:
Mack and Brittany rightly go to Kevin to try to convince him to confess. He maintains that he knows nothing and feels persecuted for being a brain. Then Ms. Li overhears Daria and Jane joke about killing him. Then...
... you know <yawn>, I'm getting a bit tired, time for a <yawn> nap...
... Kevin somehow ended up in Daria's locker, dead of at least an arrow wound.
Everyone was a suspect in the case of Kevin's murder. That's probably because almost everyone had a viable motive. Jane didn't like losing her high grade that she worked so hard for. Mack never did like being called Mack Daddy, and DeMartino never liked Kevin period. Brittany didn't want to be relegated to somewhere off the sidelines. But Daria turned out to be the prime suspect, despite having no specific motive (there was that little matter of the body being in her now oversized locker, though).
Oh No! Is Trent dead?
No, just sleeping.
So, Who's Done It?!?!
All of the detective work really paid off. <sigh> In dream-ality all Daria had to do was tell everyone about some radioactive dye to get some confessions. It seems that Jane poisoned Kevin, then Brittany shot him with an arrow as Mack clubbed him with, well, a club. Finally, after he was probably already dead, Barch kicked him and declared that it would be a "great day" and DeMartino strangled him before stashing the body in Daria's locker.
Each of the murderers drop some hints that they knew some of what happened to our poor QB. Jane sent her complements to the chef on the cyanide. Mack kind of lost it when asked about that Mack Daddy stuff. Brittany was a little too eager to start looking for a new boyfriend. Finally, DeMartino was quick to point fingers at Daria and Jane. All that, and the series of close-ups on the guilty parties (complete with the shady eye shifts) after Ms. Li announces that she knew who did it.
... wow <yawn>, that was a great nap, and I got a lot done with my head on the keyboard. <yawn> ...
More Subtle Clues:
The fact that most of this episode was one of Daria's dreams wasn't immediately obvious, at first, but in retrospect, there were several clues that stuck out like sore thumbs. First, Daria's large locker. Second, the fact that a high school was conducting a murder investigation. Third, the fact that people Daria knows started acting like famous TV detectives. Finally, but most importantly, I don't think they (meaning the writers) would really kill off everyone's favorite whipping boy (but I had my fingers crossed).
Paging Dr. Freud:
Daria's dream can give us some insight into how she sees people and what she really thinks about them. For instance, she sees the Fashion Club as stupid, shallow social poseurs. DeMartino is seen as more overstressed and bitter, while Jake and Helen are seen as haphazard and overly motherly, respectively. However, the most interesting thing about it is how she sees herself. The impression that I got was that she feels she is above, or maybe even superior to, everyone else and almost always gets screwed anyway (as seen by her "execution" at the end of the dream).
Shipper Tease of the Week:
Another thing about Daria's dream that deserves special consideration is the part about Trent being dead. If I were to try to analyze this portion, I would say that she doesn't think she has or wants to have feelings for him anymore. This leads to him waking up, which tells me that she still has some feelings for him that are buried way down. The whole scene, taken together, tells me that she is trying to move on past this whole situation but that there is part of her that doesn't quite want to yet.
At first, I wasn't quite sure what I thought about this episode. But after watching it again, it grew on me and I think it's probably the best of the season so far. At this point, I guess I'm going to have to explain why I like this episode and not like "Depth Takes A Holiday." There are two reasons, ultimately. First, the dream was presented as part of the flow of "normal" events in Lawndale. In other words, dreams weren't even attempted to be passed off as reality. Second, the dream itself was remarkably similar to what a real dream might be like in that it took events from Daria's life and her perceptions of the people and things around her and twisted them into coherence. Even all of the references, which were many, were well placed and unobtrusive (and I know that a whole lot of them went right over my head).
Daria as a Whole #1, Alter-Ego of the Week (in episode division):
I liked Daria and Jane as Magnum P.I. and the guy that helps Magnum. [ed: His name was Higgins.]
Daria as a Whole #2, Actual Alter-Ego of the Week:
Two words: Britney Barch.
Copyright © 2000 Mike Quinn [All Rights Reserved]. Used with permission. The views presented here are those of the author, and may or may not necessarily be those of Outpost Daria Reborn.