Episode Guide

Quinn the Brain
Episode #203 - March 2, 1998
Written by Rachel Lipman

Song List Entries For This Episode
Oops! List Entries For This Episode
Transcript For This Episode
"The Daria Hunter" (#202)
"I Don't" (#204)

Regular: Daria, Quinn, Helen, Jake, Jane, Brittany, Kevin, Jodie, Mack, Sandi, Stacy, Tiffany, Joey, Jeffy, Jamie, Mr. O'Neill

Guest: Corey

Non-Speaking: Andrea

Summary: When her English essay becomes a surprise hit, Quinn basks in her new status as an intellectual, leaving Daria to question her own identity.

Full Synopsis: When Quinn is informed by Mr. O'Neill that she's failing English and needs an "A" on her next assignment in order to pass, she gets a pep talk from Helen and Jake on the virtues of a solid education. It doesn't work, but Daria's words of wisdom -- she'll be the oldest freshman in Lawndale High if she's left back -- kick her into gear. Quinn tries to get Daria to write her essay for her, succeeding only in making her mad with insensitive comments, so she ends up writing it herself. "Academic Imprisonment," an essay expressing her frustrations with school life, is singled out for individual achievement by Mr. O'Neill, who eventually gets it published in the school paper's "Smart Thoughts" column. Daria, who was initially stunned by the good grade, is now delighted at the attention Quinn is receiving, as it means her sister will finally know what it's like to be considered a "brain." Unfortunately, the effect is quite the opposite, as "Brains" Morgendorffer manages to turn being smart into a fad and becomes more popular than ever. Buoyed by the sudden surge in popularity, Quinn starts dressing in black and writing poetry in an attempt to act intelligent, but while this helps her popularity with her fellow students, the Fashion Club puts her on probation when other girls start dressing like Quinn instead of following Fashion Club trends. During all of this, Daria becomes more and more concerned for her own identity, because if Quinn is now known as "the brainy Morgendorffer girl," then where does she fit in? Jane tries to reassure her friend that she's still the same old outcast she always was, but Daria can only find one way out of her dilemma, one that she'd been saving as an absolute last resort. Her opportunity comes when Joey, Jeffy, and Jamie beg Daria to bring the "old Quinn" back, so she comes up with a wicked plan: the three boys will come over to her house and ask her out, then she will become Quinn -- makeup, jeans, pink midriff T-shirt, the works. The goal is to convince Quinn that if she's going to take Daria's identity, then Daria is going to take hers... as well as all the cute guys she loves to date. This finally does the trick and causes Quinn to renounce being a "brain" and go back her old self.

Interesting Tidbits
Historical & Cultural References:
  • Albert Camus (1913-1960) was a French essayist and Nobel Prize-winning author who became best known for his existential writings.
  • Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) was a Russian scientist who, in his most famous experiment, was able to train a dog to salivate at the sound of a bell, whether or not food was actually present.
Memorable Quotes
(coming soon)
Mike Quinn's
Delayed Reaction Review

Not a Clue: Did Mr. O'Niell actually go to school to become a teacher, or did Ms. Li just find him on the nearest street corner? First, he gave Quinn a good grade when she used words that don't really exist (like "imprisoners"), then he didn't even know that Daria and Quinn were sisters (how many different Morgendorffers could there possibly be at Lawndale? My guess: 2). The only non-idiotic thing that he said was that he was sure that Quinn didn't copy the essay that got her into trouble.

Backup Singers: Who has more experience at parenting (this stuff about parenting seems to be a running theme of the series) - Jake or Helen? It doesn't really matter here since neither of them can get through to Quinn about the importance of doing well in school. A little bit of constructive threatening from Daria ("you'll be the oldest freshman at Lawndale High") lights the proverbial fire under her ass. Maybe she was held back before and didn't like it too much.

Unapproachable: The Fashion Club, as well as Quinn's fan club, treat Daria like she's the Wizard of freakin' Oz. They are all supposedly so tough (especially Sandi), but none of them could get off more than a sentence before they give up. Spineless jellyfish!!! At least they were using their "brains" in trying to solve their own little problems.

A Scary, But Necessary Evil: Daria knew all along how she could stop Quinn's new-found "braininess" but couldn't bring herself to do it until the very end. I wonder why. If she thought it would work like it did (maybe she didn't, but based on the way she counted and waited for Quinn to run out, I think the scheme went exactly as planned), then no one else would ever see her dressed up like Quinn.

I had my doubts about "Quinn the Brain" during the first few minutes of the show. I was thinking things like "How is this 'Quinn as a brain' thing going to hold up an entire episode?" and "Is this enough plot?" However, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of the episode as a whole. Not a classic but definitely better than last week (a test pattern would have been better than "The Daria Hunter").

Grade: B

Daria as a Whole: A trend that (in my eyes) has been present in the second season is that of Daria and Quinn "finding common ground." Quinn is becoming more like Daria in some respects and Daria is realizing that Quinn isn't all that bad (but she isn't really becoming Quinn); they're staring to become more empathetic to each other. I am well aware that this trend has turned some people off to the show (you know who you are, but you probably aren't reading this anyway), but I see this as growth, and at least I get the impression that they are going somewhere, that the characters aren't static and are always changing (and, ergo, more interesting from my point of view). This all ties into my Quinn and Daria ladder theory, which is way too long to get into here.

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.

Quinn's Essay:
"Academic Imprisonment"

This is the essay that Quinn turned in, the one that started all the ruckus:

No light shines through these four brick walls. For the school is my prison, and its teachers my imprisoners. Like a hamster on one of those wheel things, school runs us around and around until we yearn for the food pellet -- but only more homework awaits.

Do we not have lives of our own to lead, with vital decisions we must make everyday concerning hair, clothes, socks, shoes -- and the list goes on! And with all the decisions we have to make on these topics that I list, so then have our brains been cruelly crowded with such things as the square root of some stupid adverb. This is one stress too much. Does the torture never stop? Until home, anyways.

So go ahead! Lock me up with your homework and your tests! Rob my freedom with your reading and your thinking. As far as I'm concerned, the only difference between school and prison is the wardrobe. Or do you want to take away my outfits, too?

(Originally from Planet Daria. Contributed by Chris Majors.)

This is an alternate version of the essay:

No light shines through these four brick walls. For the school is my prison, and its teachers my imprisoners. Like a hamster on one of those wheel things, school runs us around and around until we yearn for the food pellet -- but only more homework awaits.

Is school not in fact a form of discrimination against teens? For there are no laws that say adults have to go to school. And why not? Because adults made these laws and then passed another law saying we couldn't vote and take back their laws! And so we are kept from the malls all day, only to get there in the afternoon when they're really crowded and we have to wait in long, long lines for the dressing rooms. The kind of lines that form at the dessert counter during lunchtime... IN PRISON!

Yes, we're like prisoners, forced to break rocks in the hot sun without sunscreen nor lip balm. Why is ours the sole land where school is mandatory? In other nations, children have the freedom to get a job in the clothing industry or whatever. Why are we not allowed the same liberties? No, we must learn to add and divide even though the world has tons of accountants. We must learn to spell, even though we have spell-check. And all this history stuff. Who cares? It's over! (Although I like those gown that French queen wore -- the headless one.)

So go ahead! Lock me up with your homework and your tests! Rob my freedom with your reading and your thinking. As far as I'm concerned, the only difference between school and prison is the wardrobe. Or do you want to take away my outfits, too?

(From The Daria Database by Peggy Nicoll)

Daria's Reference Photo

These are the notes on the picture that Daria used to turn herself into Quinn. In clockwise order, from top left:

Midriff flesh exposure: check navel for lint

Hair: bouncy, shimmering highlights, oh, just try to do something

Jeans: cute
Posture: fun
Attitude: happy
Prognosis: hopeless

(Originally from Planet Daria. Contributed by Chris Majors.)

Mr. O'Neill's Letter

This is the letter that Mr. O'Neill sent to the Morgendorffers regarding Quinn's poor performance in English class:

Dear Mr. Morgendorffer, Mrs. Morgendorffer and/or caregiver,

As your daughter/ward Quinn's Language Arts teacher, it is my sad duty to inform you that Quinn is not working up to her potential and is in danger of failing Language Arts, which I teach. Now, I use the phrase "working up to her potential" deliberately, for it is my belief that all students have the potential to soar like eagles (metaphorically) when their imagination and interest are engaged, and in fact, Quinn's imagination and interest are engaged, only not by school or anything having to do with learning in any shape or form. Ironically, I myself have learned quite a bit about current shirt styles and materials by listening to Quinn and her friends, but unfortunately, this does not help her grade. Would that it could. In any case, I thought you should know about Quinn's poor performance so that together, we can help her bring her grade up. When teacher and parent work as partners, look out world, nothing can stop us now!

Sincerely yours,
Timothy O'Neill
(Quinn's Language Arts teacher)

(Originally from Planet Daria. Contributed by Andrew Platzer.)