Helen agrees to Rita's request that she personally handle Erin's divorce from Brian, but when they reconcile and Rita shows up at the Morgendorffers, all hell threatens to break loose.
Just as Helen arrives home and announces that she's got some time off -- she and Eric had just finished a big court case, and Eric is taking a month off -- her sister Rita calls and asks her to handle her daughter Erin's divorce. Helen tries to beg off, saying that divorce cases aren't her strong suit, but she finally accepts after being pressured into it by her mother. Jake is dreading the situation, as Helen and Rita tend to fight like two wet cats in a burlap sack whenever they're together (as we saw at Erin and Brian's wedding), but he appears to be off the hook when Rita calls and tells them that she'll be in New York with her actor boyfriend while Helen handles the case with Erin... a plan that goes right out the window when Rita shows up at the Morgendorffer's instead of Erin (who's in Switzerland, courtesy of Grandma Barksdale). This causes Jake to basically go AWOL to avoid the inevitable arguing between Helen and Rita, a course of action that Daria and Quinn can hardly blame him for when the two women do start feuding. Daria and Quinn react to the situation differently: Daria starts avoiding Tom as a defense mechanism, while Quinn tries to smooth over a dispute in the Fashion Club (concerning Stacy and Tiffany wearing the same dress) every time things threaten to boil over. Strangely, Quinn also starts being extra nice to Daria, who can only figure that her sister wants something from her. As relationships all around continue to crumble, Daria finally calls in the cavalry: Aunt Amy. When Amy arrives, Daria catches her up on the situation, and Amy in turn helps Daria realize that Tom wasn't trying to interfere; rather, Tom was trying to be supportive. Amy then wades into the middle of Helen and Rita's battle... and gets caught up in it herself. Fed up with the whole situation, Daria and Quinn start imitating their mom and aunts arguing with each other, which finally shows them just how silly they were acting, and they make up with a group hug (for which Amy blames Daria, of course). The same-dress situation between Stacy and Tiffany is also resolved, in a weird way: Stacy accidentally ruins Tiffany's dress by spilling grape juice on it, and offers to give Tiffany hers to show how sorry she is; Tiffany, overcome with emotion, hugs her friend, which in turn gets grape juice on Stacy's dress. Other situations are resolved as well: Daria and Quinn watch Gone With the Wind together and promise to never become like their mom and aunts, Daria apologizes to Tom for brushing him off all week, and Brian and Erin reconcile in Switzerland. Only poor Jake gets the short end of the stick, as he continues to camp out in the garage because he's afraid that Rita is still there.
Just when Helen thought she was going to get a month off while Eric "rested" (or came down off a coffee high) after a grueling eight-month long case, Rita calls asking her to handle divorce proceedings for Erin (who was the blushing bride from "I Don't," for anyone that doesn't remember). Helen didn't want any part of it. She was looking forward to having time off to "spend with [her] family." Also, as she tried to explain to Rita, divorce cases aren't exactly her specialty. Unfortunately, Helen got herself roped into it taking the case after her mother called and charmed her. The original arrangement was for Erin to come and help prepare the case. However, Rita showed up instead (and ended up staying over) because Grandma Barksdale decided that Erin needed a relaxing visit to a spa in Switzerland. Of course, Helen resented that because her mother (in Helen's opinion, anyway) favors Rita and, by extension, Erin (she did make at least one disparaging under-the-breath comment about Erin getting things from grandma that Quinn and Daria don't). Not to mention the fact that it's probably harder for any lawyer to build a case without the main litigant.
Just as Sandi got done venting to Quinn about her failing grade for her "Dracula" paper, and they both finished complementing Stacy on her new polka dot dress, Tiffany walked up in (gasp) the same polka dot dress. So, Stacy and Tiffany were "copying" each other. Anyway, they tried to work it out with a debate (which, no doubt, rivaled Lincoln-Douglas or Nixon-Kennedy) but it didn't work for some reason. Then they tried to return the dresses, but it was too late. Finally, the unthinkable happened: they left their respective houses without a "wardrobe check" and wore that same dress on the same day. Sandi promptly suspended them for their negligence. The whole issue became a moot point once all that grape soda got all over the place. That pretty much sums up this D-story plot. It was a waste of valuable time and was neither interesting nor funny. The only possible significance it could have had was in the "Stacy's new backbone" department, and the message on that was mixed at best. Sometimes she acted assertive and others she was her old doormat self.
Meanwhile, back in reality, Jake also really got a raw deal out of the divorce case. He could "only take so much of the fighting." Obviously, this type of conflict has come up before, though Jake didn't seem this antsy while going to the wedding that precipitated this situation (in "I Don't"). Maybe he figured he could better stay away from Helen and Rita at a hotel ballroom, or maybe the reason he was so jumpy this time was because he remembered what happened at the wedding, but I digress. Jake prepared some martinis "just in case Rita calls," and when Rita showed up instead of Erin, he downed the entire pitcher. He then went to his last resort -- running away. His plan entailed hiding out at the movies and in the garage, waiting for the pigeons to rest, or whatever, while hoping that Daria could cover up his tracks well enough. Hardly any of this causes any surprise.
Make Thy Case:
Rita ridiculously explains her presence in place of Erin by saying that they "could always call her" and by the fact that she broke up with her latest loser boyfriend and had nothing else to do. The only reason Helen ever decided to help out with the divorce was because she was convinced that it was a simple divorce. It turned out to be much more complex than either Helen or Rita realized. Brian had Erin sign a pre-nup stating that they would split everything down the middle in the event of a divorce. He lost his job (guess he wasn't "intelligent" enough) and would be, in effect, taking half of her money. Again, Helen tries to get out of it by saying it was too complicated and outside her level of expertise. Rita wouldn't hear it, and while they tried some "creative accounting," Rita blurted out that Brian's "old enough to make his own money," which sent the tensions back into a familiar firefight. They were so busy fighting that they barely noticed that Erin called and that the divorce wasn't going forward (thanks to a second honeymoon). At this point, Daria felt the cavalry had to be called, in the form of Aunt Amy.
Take Down the Wall:
It seems there was also an innocent civilian casualty resulting from the Battle of the Barksdales: namely, Tom. He couldn't get through on the phone, then he shows up to visit Daria and she sort of explains what's happening. He's sympathetic and tries to get her to vent during "a ride around the block," but she slammed the door in his face. Later, Tom makes another attempt to be there for Daria and again she blows him off, this time tersely saying that she "doesn't want to talk about it" and walking away before he can respond. He almost fights back this time but still let it slide. She "didn't have time for him." Sounds selfish, but fortunately she made up for it later.
When Will It Stop?
Helen tries to apologize to Rita and they end up trying to make cookies, but they even started a fight about that. Amy joined the scuffle, already in progress, when she arrived and, surprisingly, got herself pulled into it (at least Helen and Rita didn't ignore her). The whole thing went like this:
"Rita's mom's favorite."
"Helen is an overachiever."
"Amy doesn't want any familial responsibility."
"Rita doesn't have a job."
"Helen makes me look lazy."
"Amy blah blah blah blah blah..."
It went on like that for a few moments. Daria had to stop it by mimicking the fight with Quinn's assistance (and they did a very good job of it). That showed Helen, Rita and Amy how stupid they looked. The Barksdale sisters made up with a large group hug (I think that's how it always ends, except usually there's some booze involved) and Amy commended Daria on her ability to stop the conflict... the job she was called in to do.
Now That That Is Settled:
Something that Amy was able to do was show Daria that Tom wasn't her problem. Daria was avoiding him because Erin's possible impending divorce had her doubt the whole "boyfriend-girlfriend" thing she has with him. She was finally able to talk it out and apologize for being aloof. Tom also got to hear all about the fighting, too, which is new for him because of his repressed upbringing. The only part that "freaked him out and scared him" was that Daria and Quinn were going to watch Gone With the Wind together.
Calm It Down:
Speaking of that, Quinn was visually upset by Helen and Rita's fighting. She coped by trying to spend more time with and being nicer to Daria. There was no way she wanted to have the same fight with Daria for the rest of their lives (even though they don't really fight now, and they seem to have more of a sisterly bond than even they realize). Anyway, they ended up making a deal to ensure they won't ever fight. Daria will use her "winning personality" and Quinn will use her relentless "silent treatment," weapons they don't have (Daria doesn't give herself too much credit) to fight their war and no one will get hurt.
I can't help but feel disappointed by "Aunt Nauseam." Maybe my expectations were set too high for the long awaited Amy and Rita episode. I was just left with an empty feeling (or I'm still too far into my Abruptly Amy mindset). Having Brian and Erin's divorce as the device to bring the sisters together was nice from a continuity perspective, but it was a little too easy. I mean, anyone could have written most of this as a bad fanfic, especially all of the time (and there was way too much of it) wasted on the polka dot dress. Despite some of these troubles, Daria and Quinn's interaction was enjoyable and helped salvage some of this episode. Maybe all it needed was a funeral.
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.