Episode Guide

The Lab Brat
Episode #107 - April 14, 1997
Written by Peggy Nicoll

Song List Entries For This Episode
Oops! List Entries For This Episode
Transcript For This Episode
"This Year's Model" (#106)
"Pinch Sitter" (#108)

Regular: Daria, Quinn, Helen, Jake, Jane, Brittany, Kevin, Jodie, Upchuck, Joey, Jeffy, Jamie, Ms. Barch

Guest: None

Non-Speaking: Mack, Andrea

Summary: Daria and Kevin are forced to work together on a science experiment, causing Brittany to become jealous and prompting Quinn to do whatever she can to attract the Q.B.'s attention.

Full Synopsis: Behavioral conditioning via positive or negative reinforcement is the lesson in Daria's science class, with Ms. Barch lapsing into man-hating diatribes whenever she thinks of her ex-husband (who left her for a younger woman). After Daria provides a particularly colorful example of the topic, Ms. Barch pairs up the students for experiments involving the conditioning of a mouse. Kevin and Brittany naturally expect to wind up as partners, but it is not to be: Daria gets partnered with Kevin, while Brittany winds up with the lecherous Upchuck. Upon hearing this news -- and Helen's admonishment to Daria that this opportunity could propel her up a few rungs on the school's social ladder -- Quinn schemes to nab Kevin for herself. When Kevin arrives, Quinn turns her flirt circuits to full power, but Daria puts her plan into motion by distracting him with the Pigskin Channel. Getting Kevin out of her hair, and safely male-bonding with Jake, leaves Daria free to work on the project without interference from the scatter-brained Q.B. Meanwhile, Brittany arrives at Upchuck's house in full disguise, wanting nothing more than to get the project over with as quickly as possible. Upchuck, however, has other plans, which he swiftly puts into motion. He reveals that he has photographic proof of Brittany's dalliance with Sam Stack, quarterback of the Oakwood football team, which quickly turns the horrified cheerleader into Upchuck's personal servant. Humiliated, angry, and insanely jealous, Brittany schemes to sabotage what she thinks is Daria and Quinn's attempts to steal Kevin away from her. She does this by stealing Daria's mouse and giving it to her sadistic little brother, Brian, who proceeds to torture the poor creature. When Daria finds out, she backs Brittany into a corner by telling her that without the mouse, Daria and Kevin will have to work on a make-up project... which would mean Kevin spending even more time away from Brittany. The two girls make a deal: Brittany hands over the mouse, and Daria hands over Kevin (who she never wanted in the first place). Unfortunately, Daria discovers that Brian has ruined the mouse's conditioning; all it does now is hide in a corner of the maze and quivver with fear. Unable to train a new mouse in time, Daria makes the best of the situation by angling her presentation at Ms. Barch's hatred of men. This earns Daria an "A", and the lazy Kevin a "D" (which he naturally celebrates). Brittany and Upchuck, however, each earn an "F" for their lame project (consisting of a maze, and a tube running straight from the starting point to the cheese). After class, Kevin informs Daria that he's having a party, and decides to ask her... to ask Quinn if she would attend.

Interesting Tidbits
  • This is the only other time in the series that Quinn shows an interest in Kevin, the first time being "Sealed With a Kick" (the crude, unaired "concept" episode that was developed to help sell the series to MTV).
Historical & Cultural References:
  • The Pigskin Channel is a pun on the myriad number of sports-related cable TV channels like the Golf Channel, Speedvision, and the many flavors of ESPN. In 2004, however, life imitated art with the debut of the NFL Network, a cable channel devoted exclusively to NFL football.
Memorable Quotes
Ms. Barch - And like a husband going home to his noble and self-sacrificing wife, the rat keeps returning to the food box. That is, the positive reinforcement. Huh, if only men could be more like rats. Oh, sure, they come home at first. You feed them, you wait on them, and then, after twenty-two thankless years, they just up and leave. No note, no phone call, no nothing! (slams pointer on desk) Just... like... that!
Daria (sotto voce, to Jodie) - I wonder why he left.

Daria - Hmm... to make a child stop crying, a mother might say, "That's it! I'm sending you to El Paso to live with your real father." Whenever the child gets upset, the mother might wave an airline ticket in her face, or maybe even frame it on the wall by the clown picture. The ticket stops the girl from crying, or showing any emotion... ever.
Ms. Barch - Right, that's...
Daria - Years later, seeing an airplane or just hearing one fly overhead can unleash a Pandora's Box of repressed anger, shattering the grown child's fragile psyche and triggering a psychotic and possibly deadly episode.
Ms. Barch - I like the way you think.

Brittany - But babe, we've never been separated on a lab project before. What'll we do?
Daria - Pass?

Kevin - I really like doing mazes. Those ones on the back of cereal boxes are cool.
Daria - Well, now I am excited.

Daria - So, now Kevin's my lab partner.
Jane - Next best thing to working alone.
Daria - Oh, no. He likes mazes.
Jane - Maybe you could get a wind-up toy to distract him.
Daria - His wind-up toy is working with Upchuck.

Helen - Science is fascinating. Tell me all about it, honey.
Daria - I can't. I signed a confidentiality paper. The other scientists would be mad.
Helen - (groans) Oh, forget it, Daria. Quinn, how was your day?
Quinn - It sucked. First my teacher gave my paper on Cleopatra's makeup don'ts an "F" -- like he would know. Then my heel broke. Then, like, the day was almost over and only two guys had asked me out. Luckily, just before...
Helen - Daria, please tell me about the project!

Kevin - Hey! Is this the mouse we're training?
Daria - You don't recognize him after all your hours together?
Kevin - Hey, can you make him stand on his head?
Daria - Not right now. He's exhausted from jumping rope.

Jane - If you were really good, you'd get the mouse to stay off both paths -- you know, like Dada. Everything is useless.
Daria - I wouldn't do that to the mouse, but it might be fun to try it on...
Kevin - So, Daria, we still have a lot of work to do on this maze thing, right?

Jake - My teen years... a nightmare of shame and guilt. They didn't call it self-love then, Kevin. They called it self-abuse.

Daria - This is all very touching. Brittany, a deal. The mouse for Kevin.
Brittany - Deal.
Both - (thinking) Sucker.
Brittany - Let's go, Kevin.
Kevin - Daria, I can still come over and watch the Pigskin Channel, right?
Both - (thinking) Jerk.

Daria - In conclusion, this mouse -- through no fault of my own, Brittany -- was repeatedly abused by a ten-year-old boy. As a result, the mouse's primary response to everyday stimuli is fear. Similar reactions also occur in humans. Take the mugging victim, beaten with nunchaks in an alleyway. As he, or she, recalls the attacker's face -- his scraggly goatee and cheap, dangly earring -- she learns to hate and fear all men, regardless of age, race or taste in jewelry.
Kevin - Really?
Ms. Barch - Don't interrupt, hateful scum. Excellent job, Daria. You get an "A."
Kevin - All right!
Ms. Barch - Not you, you man. You get a "D."
Kevin - All right!
Mike Quinn's
Delayed Reaction Review

Self Examples: Daria's example of reinforcement sound as if it could be something that describes her. I wouldn't even say anything, if the end of the example didn't go something like "and the grown child is incapable of showing any emotion" (that's a paraphrase). Some of the stuff she described sounded well within Helen's capabilities: tell her daughter she'll be sent to her real father and using a plane ticket to keep her quiet. Sounds like a lawyer.

Love Slaves: Quinn and Brittany both can be seen as "slaves" to "love" in this episode but their situations aren't remotely the same. Brittany is being blackmailed by Upchuck into doing his bidding by the incriminating photographs he had. She doesn't want to be near him. Quinn is trying to throw herself at Kevin but at first every time she talked to him, he inadvertently made her do something for her. Eventually, she began to bake him cakes and get him bears. She wanted to get closer to him.

Good Deal: Both Daria and Brittany thought that they got the better end of the "Kevin for a mouse" deal. There really wasn't much need for the deal, if Brittany would have realized that Daria wasn't interested in stealing her boyfriend and he only wanted to watch the Pigskin Channel. Daria told her that directly and it still didn't get through. They were both right about the "jerk" part, though.

Huh? Daria's cool exterior and self-alienation work for her now. However, there seems to be an indication that deep down inside, she may want to be popular and have a lot of friends. Notice her reaction to Kevin when it seems as if she's being invited to his party (a far cry from her reaction in "The Invitation" -- out of character? You be the judge!) and her apparent disappointment that he wanted to invite Quinn instead.

I really liked this episode. It had it all; it was funny and showed all of the characters at their "best." Kevin and Brittany are acting stupid, Quinn is trying to get a date and Daria is twisting an almost hopeless situation to her advantage. "The Lab Brat" is a keeper.

Grade: A

Daria as a Whole: This is the first episode where Jake had more of a role than "background vocalist" (he was in "College Bored" a lot, but didn't have much of a role there). He showed some of the comedic potential that has surfaced in more recent episodes. His interaction with Kevin was great, it was like he wants his own son to talk football with. "Back in my day, it wasn't called self-love -- it was self abuse...."

Copyright © 1998 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.