Episode Guide

Life in the Past Lane
Episode #509 - May 28, 2001
Written by Anne D. Bernstein

Song List Entries For This Episode
Oops! List Entries For This Episode
Transcript For This Episode
"One J at a Time" (#508)
"Aunt Nauseam" (#510)

Regular: Daria, Quinn, Helen, Jake, Jane, Trent, Tom, Brittany, Kevin, Upchuck, Sandi, Stacy, Tiffany, Ms. Barch, Mr. DeMartino, Ms. Li, Mr. O'Neill

Guest: Nathan

Non-Speaking: Mrs. Manson, Ms. Morris, Dawn

Summary: Jane meets and begins dating a guy named Nathan, who is into the whole retro scene, and seeing them have fun cause Daria and Tom to wonder if they've fallen into a rut. Meanwhile, Upchuck's prowess with magic and sleight-of-hand intrigues one member of the Fashion Club, who agrees to assist him in a magic show at school.

Full Synopsis: On a jaunt down Main Street with Daria and Tom, Jane spies a good-looking guy enter the office supply store and follows him. There, she strikes up a conversation and he introduces himself as Nathan. He explains that he loves the style and elegance of old-fashioned things, and when Jane concurs, he asks for her phone number. As it turns out, Nathan is really into the whole "swing era" thing, complete with period outfits and visits to speakeasy clubs. Jane starts getting into it as well, even going so far as to dress in period fashions (which she found in the attic of her house), but Daria is openly contemptuous and mistrustful of Nathan, which upsets Jane (possibly because it's a replay of when she met Tom). Meanwhile, Upchuck is busy demonstrating his prowess at magic and sleight of hand, with occasional help from Mr. DeMartino (who plays the shill to help scam the ever-gullible Mr. O'Neill). When he demonstrates the old "tear the money to pieces and magically restore it" trick to the Fashion Club, only Stacy is intrigued -- no, make that obsessed, and yearning to know how it's done. Upchuck promises to bring her into the fold, in return for her assistance on the ultimate magic trick, and she agrees (though secretly, as she would be risking her standing in the Fashion Club otherwise). Back on the Nathan front, Jane manages to convince Daria to give the guy a chance, and she agrees to a double-date with them. On the way to their destination, she and Tom strike up a conversation with Nathan, who slowly starts to demonstrate that he may be a little too into the whole swing thing, though Jane still doesn't seem to realize it. Even though the date (to an abandoned drive-in theater for a get-together with other swing couples) is a bust for Daria and Tom, she decides to keep her opinions to herself for Jane's sake, and even agrees to give the guy another chance when Jane buys four tickets to Upchuck's big magic event. Unfortunately, when Nathan comes to pick Jane up, they get into a fight over Nathan's overly obsessive behavior -- Jane saying it's just a fad and all she wants to do is have some fun, while Nathan insists that it's not just a fad but a way of life -- and they call it quits. At the magic show, the Fashion Club is horrified to discover that Upchuck's assistant is none other than Stacy, who helps him with the "escape from the air-tight trunk" trick. Unfortunately, the trick goes awry when Stacy appears to forget what to do after locking Upchuck in the trunk, and while Ms. Barch and Mr. DeMartino attempt to free him, Stacy breaks into a crying fit. Sandi then smugly lords it over her... until Stacy reveals that she was only acting, and Upchuck appears at the top of the auditorium stairs moments later! The crowd applauds, Quinn and Tiffany are impressed, and Sandi is left to stew in her own juices once again. Outside, Daria and Tom meet up with Jane, who admits that they were right about Nathan all along.

Interesting Tidbits
Historical & Cultural References:
  • The title of the episode is a pun on the phrase "life in the fast lane," but could also be a pun on the Eagles song of the same title.
  • Nathan's car is a 1957 Ford Fairlane Sunliner convertible.
Memorable Quotes
Nathan - I mean, the '60s are over.
Trent - The '40s were over first.
Mike Quinn's
Delayed Reaction Review

New Rubber, Indeed: As Daria, Jane and Tom walk towards the post office, on an eerily quiet Main Street (for 4:40 in the afternoon, anyway), Jane spots a well dressed man entering a nearby vintage art store. Jane goes to meet him, as Daria and Tom continue on their way, and finds a guy named Nathan that seems to share a few common interests with her -- they both seem to like the obsolete things sold at the store -- even though he dresses really retro. Later, Jane catches back up with Daria and Tom at Pizza King and tells them all about the great guy she just met. Daria and Tom then proceed to make fun of him. First, Daria questions why Jane would go and pick up a guy. That was foiled when Jane pointed out that if she didn't pick up guys, Daria wouldn't have a boyfriend (which precipitated the first of three "hey, what did I say?" exchanges). Tom says he "hates the present, but not enough to wear a zoot suit." When Jane tries to explain that he's a "snappy dresser with good manners and impeccable wit," Daria questions his sexuality. Of course, Jane is upset by this; her friends were passing judgment a bit too quickly on someone they never met in her opinion, something she probably wouldn't be expecting.

Upchuck the Magnificent: Upchuck was practicing his own brand of magic outside the Lawndale Mall, and he seemed to be very good at it. He pulled off the card trick with Kevin very well (as well as it can be done when Kevin is the subject), and even got Brittany to do what she did (I can't think of a good way to describe it). He also used the time-honored tactic of having a plant in the audience to convince a sucker to play a crooked game, in this case, a form of the shell game, though Mr. DeMartino didn't learn his lesson on gullibility and trust well enough to notice that Upchuck only gave him back the original money that he put up himself. Anyway, as with all of Upchuck's schemes, he was doing it to try to get chicks. His best opportunity was to woo the Fashion Club the one time they walked by his stand. Luckily for him, he got their attention long enough to do the tear-the-money-into-little-pieces-then-magically-restore-it trick. At first, they gasped in horror at the demise of that ten, but were less than impressed when it was restored. As Sandi stated, "it was obviously done with mirrors, or something." However, as we found out later, he did catch one of them in his web.

Please Come Back to the Future: After going out with him for a while, Jane begins to try to appease Nathan by also dressing retro. They also seemed to being hanging out together a lot more since it seemed that their hanging out was taking the place of some of Daria and Jane's hanging out. Anyway, Jane tells Daria that her and Nathan were going to an antique car show and foxtrot lessons, and Daria couldn't help but make fun of it. These comments, understandably, are upsetting to Jane, and she lashes out by claiming that Daria is so critical because her relationship is in a rut (whether it is or not is beside the point). While she tries to get out of that rut with Tom, they end up talking about Jane and Nathan. She wonders aloud what Jane sees in that "pretentious jerk," but in the end they both agree that that is Jane's call to make.

Speak Easy? Nathan took Jane to one of the clubs he apparently frequents, one that specializes in swing dancing and all of the other things he would like in a club. They both seem to be having fun, but Nathan seems to be taking the "scene" way too seriously. He had to point out every inconsequential inconsistency in the dress of the other club goers. He also had to ruin the moment as he and Jane we dancing when she decided to try to run her fingers though his hair. He had to fix his hair immediately so he could live up to his own idea of perfection. He couldn't stand it.

Tell Me, Already: Surprisingly enough, Upchuck's magic act was showing some success in the girl attracting area. Stacy had to go ask him how he did those tricks, and he made her even more curious by not telling her how they were done (of course, she probably could have found out how he did it by going to the library and finding the appropriate magic books). The pull of her curiosity was so great that she even said hello to Upchuck in the hall, something that is a Fashion Club no-no, though she did end up getting close enough to use the magic to her advantage.

Get to Know Him! Daria again tried to get close to apologize to Jane for being judgmental about Nathan. She was still a little bitter about it at first asking Daria why she felt that she could "write off people [she] doesn't even know." Daria responds with a joke ("I though that's why you like me") and all seemed forgiven as they both took a ride home with Nathan. Daria endures it, even though she really seemed uncomfortable, especially when Jane invited her and Tom to "go to the movies" with them that weekend. I don't think Daria really wanted to go, but she did for the sake of her friendship. On the way to the movies, Daria didn't do a very good job of letting everyone know exactly how she felt. Tom tried to have an open mind about the whole thing, asking Nathan why he's in to all of the "post-war" fads. After he explained himself (and everyone out there was probably wondering what his deal was, too), Daria couldn't help but rip apart everything he said. The "date" started out all right -- the "movies" turned out to be an abandoned drive-in theater, which was pretty cool for Tom and Daria -- but it went south quickly when "the gang" showed up. Tom and Daria were reduced to sitting quietly while they were all having "fun."

That's Enough: Jane ultimately got tired of Nathan's antics when he fought her to go to Upchuck's big magic show. He got panicky and told her that "the gang" was expecting them. She tried to get through to him that she promised Daria and Tom that they would be there, and that they are "her gang." Jane's gang wasn't his speed, but Jane finally came to realize that Nathan's gang wasn't her speed, either. They began fighting over their looks. Jane was "mixing eras," and with that she finally figured out that Nathan was taking all of this way too seriously. She told him that it should be a "fad that you do for fun," but he wouldn't listen.

Laugh Line of the Week: The funniest part for me was when Nathan and Trent met and Nathan told Trent that "the '60s were over." Trent replied with a droll "the '40s were over first." Laugh out loud!

You Go Girl: The evening wouldn't be complete without the main event, the magic show. The crowd, which seemed unusually large considering who was performing (maybe they all wanted to see something go wrong), gasped as Stacy was introduced as Upchuck's assistant. A popular person like her shouldn't be associating with scum like him, they probably thought. The trick was that Upchuck would be locked in a trunk and would miraculously escape. However, the stunt went horribly wrong. He was supposed to signal Stacy, but she forgot what she was supposed to do and was reduced to a crying wreck. Mr. DeMartino and Ms. Barch tried as hard as they could to open the trunk, but it was almost too late. The Fashion Club, still stunned that Stacy was involved, were freaked out. Sandi tried to use the opportunity to further tighten her stranglehold on the club and break Stacy's spirit even further by telling Stacy that "at least she won't have to seek revenge for the way [Upchuck] humiliated her." It turned out the joke was on her and her own naiveté. When the crate was finally opened, Upchuck was nowhere to be found. Voila... he appeared, unharmed, at the back of the auditorium! How did they do it? There is no way of knowing, but Stacy showed that she has some guts after all (and now she'll even get to teach Quinn and Tiffany how to do that fake crying thing).

Ultimately, Jane saw the light and dumped Nathan. Daria and Tom knew he was a jerk, but didn't say anything because, as Daria put it, "it wasn't [their] place." Again, I've said pretty much all I can say, but there are a few more general points to be made. For one, Upchuck was used in an absolutely perfect way, and using him to show Stacy assert herself more was awesome. Amazingly, Stacy is one of the better-developed characters of the entire series (that doesn't sound right at first, but think about it).

Grade: A-

Copyright © 2001 Mike Quinn [All Rights Reserved]. Used with permission. The views presented in this review are those of the author, and may or may not necessarily be those of Outpost Daria Reborn.