(Montage teaser sequence. Music: Splendora -- "You're Standing On My Neck".

Lynn at her locker, converged upon by Stacy and the other cheerleaders [huddled into a protective knot formation] on one side and Brittany [dressed in a pink skirt and white T-shirt that looks like her cheerleading uniform but isn't] on the other.

Jane surrounded by a mid-sized group of children aged six through twelve, standing in front of the Lawndale Elementary School sign. She holds up a bag -- it is full of cans of spray-paint, a few tubes of Crazy Glue and several containers of glitter. The kids grin and reach into the bag.

Daria, Jane and Lynn walking down a Lawndale street, talking. They stop and turn as they hear a noise, and then a screaming AP staggers quickly past them, being dragged by a number of dogs -- a giant Rottweiler, a German Shepherd, a Great Dane, three Corgis, a Chihuahua and a pair of sickeningly cute Lhasa Apsos.

Jake on a used car lot, talking to a dealer. He pats a black 1982 two-door Toyota Tercel that looks like a good kick might reduce it to its component parts. Jake turns, grinning, to Daria, who is standing at a slight distance from the car, arms folded. She just shakes her head in something that's on the emotional scale between despair and disgust.

Daria and Jodie in a makeshift broadcast studio, talking into a mike. Visible through the soundproof glass behind them is Caldwell, looking strangely agitated. After a moment, his expression takes on a more worried look and he jogs out.

A deserted factory. Tiffany, dressed in white, peering blankly into a birdcage. Lying at the bottom is a dead bird. Upchuck approaches from behind her, his hair slicked back, dressed in black in best post-makeover tradition. He turns her around and they kiss deeply.

A men's room. O'Neill huddled into a ball on the floor, sobbing his pathetic little heart out. Four familiar pairs of boots walk into shot and stop in front of him. Pan up to the confused-looking Daria, Jane, Lynn and AP.

Daria and Lynn, side-by-side, looking at each other and giving the traditional Mona Lisa smile. Pan in and out to change to the TLAS logo. Writing in Daria font underneath reads...)


(Scene: Cullen living room. Music: Korn -- "A.D.I.D.A.S" [from the stereo]. Daria is sitting on an armchair watching as Lynn, standing on the sofa, attempts to hang a "Serial Experiments -- Lain" poster. There's at least three cardboard tubes containing other posters propped up against the arm of the sofa.)

Daria: Do you mind if I ask what brought on the sudden animania?

Lynn: It's not sudden, exactly. I just decided that Jane shouldn't be the only one putting my personality-prints on my own house. (beat) Speaking of Jane, any idea why she wanted to get together?

Daria: That's what's puzzling me. She said that it was a "girlie-thing" and that she needed our help.

Lynn: (incredulous) A "girlie-thing"? She couldn't have called Quinn or something?

Daria: Come on, Lynn. There are limits.

(Doorbell rings; Lynn turns and nearly falls over; the poster falls down over her head and she sighs. Daria gets up and goes for the door. She comes back with a puzzled look on her face a moment later ... and behind her is Mara, in a short red velvet skirt, black tights in a silver spiderweb pattern and a low-cut black top with silver trim.)

Mara: What's the Cas-Goth want with me, anyway?

Daria: I could ask the same question myself.

Mara: God, she'd better not be about to dump Guy or anything. I mean, some of the lyrics he tries to come out with when he's been dumped ... he just gets so demanding!

Lynn: Well, she did say "girlie-thing". And is there anyone here who hasn't dumped anyone before?

Daria: On the other hand, Jane's made breaking up with guys into as much of an art form as she makes everything else.

(Doorbell goes again. Lynn steps off the sofa and gets the door. After a moment in which Daria and Mara look at each other warily, Lynn leads Jane in. Jane looks a little tense and is dressed in her jogging gear.)

Mara: You cannot dump Guy. I mean, at least let him down gently! Give him some and then tell him he's lousy -- he accepts that a lot better than most other stuff...

Jane: Whoawhoawhoa! Who said anything about dumping?

Daria: You said "girlie-stuff". That usually means dumping or... (beat) Jane, you don't want or need me for this conversation.

Lynn: And given that my first ... was your brother ... do you really want...?

Mara: So this is why you wanted me here...

Jane: Okay, instead of sitting here analysing my life by what I use as lead-in, want to listen to the actual thing you're supposed to be analysing?

Mara: It's no fun that way, kid. (to the glare) Oh, fine, go ahead, spoil my fun.

Jane: Thank you. (beat) It's not breaking up and it's ... well, get your head out of the gutter, all three of you. It's ... (sigh) He asked me on another date.

Daria: Oh yeah. That's the death knell for a relationship, all right.

Mara: Okay. Explain ... a date?

(All three of them stare at her.)

Daria: Lynn? You delivered a particularly eloquent summary some time ago.

Lynn: Yeah, but that was AP, the man for whom an average date involves a double cheeseburger and a couple of rounds of "Vampire Night". (turning to Mara) From a conceptual standpoint, a "date" is an outing, traditionally paid for by the gentleman of the equation, to spend time with the one with whom they are in like or love.

Mara: Sounds like a big fat waste of time to me. I mean, Jeez, you meet him in the back of the B.A.N.D.wagon, you do what comes naturally; you like it, you go back for seconds. Men ... are like your personal buffet table.

Daria: It's like Quinn with a libido.

Jane: I need help! I do like him and everything, and if it's a casual, non-date atmosphere, we're fine talking! It's just that when the pressure's on, he can't perform! (to Mara's snigger) Oh, shut up, Nympho-Goth.

Daria: Then the problem's already solved. We just arrange a triple-date.

Jane: (flicking her eyes to the poster on the wall) I knew anime warped the mind, Daria, but...

Daria: Just think about it a second. It's been pointed out to us in a pretty conclusive manner that we don't have a lot of guaranteed time to spend together before we go to college. What better opportunity is there to spend some time together than to get an en-masse date going? You and Goat-boy, Lynn and AP, me and Trent.

Lynn: Hmm. It's as sound an idea as anything else we could come up with on short notice. If it was anyone else, I wouldn't speak for them, but I think it's safe to say AP's in.

Jane: So where're we going to go? I mean, we can't just all raise hell at Pizza King...

Mara: Hold it a sec! How do I get in on this date-thing?

(And yet again, they all look at her oddly.)

(Scene: O'Neill's classroom. Music: Blink 182 -- "Time to Break Up". Jane and AP in their seats, chatting. O'Neill's desk is empty.)

AP: Well, she was right; I am in. And I think we'd better do Chinese -- it's easier sharing-food. And Purple Peril likes that Wan Foo place on the highway.

Jane: I see you with platters of food. I see ... Pollack.

AP: Well, I'll be careful! And if I can't be careful ... hey, y'think Purple Peril'd be my serving wench for the evening?

Jane: And I still see Pollack. And I also see "Fight Club".

(Bell rings. O'Neill's desk remains conspicuously empty.)

AP: You want "Fight Club", you get Mara and Flavour of the Week in there.

Jane: I tended to see that as more of a "Deep Throat" thing. But she really wants to try the dating experience and she did come when I called so I feel I kinda owe her. Problem is, I'm not sure that any guy at Oakwood would actually date her.

AP: Well, if you want, I can work something out with that Bill whatsisname from the radio thing. He's spoilin' for a gloomcookie.

Jane: Y'know, what I see when I think of that pairing makes me wonder where the hell O'Neill is. He may not be much distraction, but...

Barch: (OS) Oh, all right, stop your snivelling! I'll go! But I'm warning you, Skinny, if you think taking me to dinner is just some pitiful quid pro quo thing, you've got another thing coming!

O'Neill: (OS) B-b-but Janet...

Barch: (OS) Get into your classroom, you irresponsible male!

O'Neill: (OS) Eep!

(Enter O'Neill at a stagger that suggests he's been either shoved or thrown. Jane and AP share a look.)

AP: Distracting enough?

Jane: Mmmhmm.

O'Neill: I ... apologise for the ... disruption. She's ... well, her divorce finalised a few months ago ... and ... oh, dear, I shouldn't be discussing her private life ... although it does have some bearing on our work on Gatsby. Now, Daisy has this loveless marriage...

(By now, the whole class is exchanging glances.)

(Scene: Barch's classroom. Music plays on. AP and Daria sitting in the front of the classroom. Barch, at the head of the class, is handing back papers.)

Barch: As I hand back your last homework assignment, I want all you ignorant men to consider just how lucky you are to have a male principal. If you little weasels didn't all stick together in some misogynistic bond that doesn't take into account that women have feelings too, you would never have managed to get into an advanced science class.

(She slaps a paper on Mack's desk; he frowns at it.)

Mack: But Ms Barch, this is a D-plus. I worked on this paper for...

Barch: SHUT UP!

Mack: Eep.

Barch: Only one of you unevolved neanderthals managed to get anything above a C-minus.

(She slaps a paper on AP's desk. He frowns at it.)

AP: B ... minus?!? This is not a B-minus paper!

Barch: Oh, isn't that just like a man; never trust a woman with anything! That paper says B-minus; that paper is B-minus!

(She stalks off down the aisle and Daria and AP look at each other.)

AP: First Wimp-in-the-Willows, then Bitter Pill ... is there something in the teacher's lounge coffee?

Daria: O'Neill and Barch have been dating. And now you tell me they're both acting strangely. And you don't see any connection here.

AP: Hmm. (beat) Uh... (beat; *ping*) Ooooooooooh riiiiiiiiiight.

Barch: (appearing behind him) Ah, finally a man gets an idea!

(Daria and AP exchange another look and AP slumps in his seat, reluctant to call any more attention to himself.)

(Scene: LHS corridor; AP's locker. Music: Bash & Pop -- "Making Me Sick". Stuck to the locker door [over the Tux poster] is a sheet of paper marked C -- his math paper from "The Prisoner of Zelda". He takes it down and puts up his B-minus science paper. Daria, Jane and Lynn are watching him, bemused.)

Jane: Y'know, when I get a C, I just sort of throw it in the wastepaper basket with the others. You get a C, you put it up like a badge of honour.

AP: Well, only the math and science ones. And I use it to ... uh ... well, when I get a C in one of those two classes, it means something's up. It reminds me that the bad thing's there and to work around it.

Daria: I don't think the resurrection of Ms Barch's version of the Belle Curve is something that can be worked around. Even giant redwoods can be tunnelled through to make a road, but her...

Lynn: Am I going to have to remind her about Operation Bag-a-Hag? Because I would really rather not go there.

Jane: I think she remembers. She gave AP a halfway decent grade, didn't she?

Daria: There's obviously some problem between Ms Barch and Mr O'Neill. Maybe instead of blackmail and extortion, we can just try to identify the problem and fix it?

Jane: But that involves us being nice to someone.

Daria: It also involves us being nosy, secretive and manipulative ... without resorting to criminal behaviour.

Jane: Well, if you put it that way...

Lynn: I'm in. But let's talk about it at Wan Foo Mai Tai out on the highway tonight. We're meeting at seven?

Jane: Yeah; and thanks again for doing this for me, you guys.

Daria: That's okay. I think Mom and Dad will be glad that it won't be me and Trent alone this time.

AP: And I could use out-of-the-house-getting. Dad's not big on me since the 'puter job thing. So sorry in advance for how he acts at you.

Lynn: I and my riot shield will pick you up at quarter to seven, in that case.

(AP picks up the last of his books with a sheepish grin and shuts his locker.)


Mars -- "Car-a-oke". These guys rival Ben for bad puns.

Muller Rice -- Can you really use a Polaroid as a spoon?


(Scene: Wan Foo Mai Tai out on the highway. Music: Regurgitator -- "I Love Tommy Mottola". There's a large table in the centre of the room with a "Reserved" placard on it. A waitress leads Jane, Guy, Mara and Bill to that table -- all four of them are semi-dressed up [Jane's in a skirt instead of her shorts, Guy and Bill are in shirts with collars and Mara's skirt nearly reaches her knees]. They sit down and there is a moment of slightly uncomfortable silence.)

Jane: Soooo ... how's ... uh ... the band?

Guy: Meh; y'know. I seriously need a new guitar, no shit.

Mara: Well, if you're so off Casey making you one, we just gotta get another gig or something; something paying.

Jane: Well, I could talk to Trent or Lynn if you wanted; see if you can't get a support gig with the Reformed.

Guy: Hey, whoa; support act? If anything, they'd be support for us, the rockers-come-lately...

Jane: Hey, they've been out there as one band or another years before you guys even started! And there wouldn't have been a band for you to join if it hadn't been for Lynn!

(Enter Lynn [grey blouse replacing grey T-shirt under jacket] and AP [no change to speak of], led by waitress. They hesitate at the tension around the table. Then they sit down.)

Lynn: Are we ... interrupting something?

Jane: Yes. (beat; fervent) Thank you.

(As AP picks up his chopsticks and looks at them very nervously, Trent and Daria arrive next -- neither of them have dressed up. They sit down as well, and Guy elects to change the subject.)

Guy: So why the group-thing anyway? (turns to Jane) Kinda wanted it to be a you-n-me thing.

Jane: (shamefaced) Well ... uh ... I...

Barch: (OS) Typical male; always late without so much as a call!

O'Neill: (OS) Eep...

(They all turn towards the other side of the restaurant, where Barch has got out of a booth and is facing O'Neill in a way that gives whole new meaning to the phrased "Hell hath no fury". O'Neill is approaching her timidly, hiding behind a huge bouquet of flowers. Back to the gang; Mara, Guy and Bill look at them oddly.)

Jane: Well, we need to talk about that.

Bill: Gonna mess with the teachers' heads some more? Right on.

Daria: Don't get your hopes up. We're actually going to try to solve that little problem.

Guy: You're gonna do good things for teachers? You're shitting me, right?

AP: Nope; we're gonna try to help make that ... thing they're in work. See, if we don't, Ms FemiNazi over there's gonna flunk us all and tell me you want that, Mr "even my best science work gets me Cs".

Bill: Yeahwell. How're you gonna make that happen?

Daria: That's part of why we shanghaied this date. We could use all the ideas we can get.

Lynn: Well, if you'll forgive me for reading at the table...

(She pulls out a copy of "1001 Ways to Manipulate the Radical Feminist" and one of "1001 Ways to Manipulate the Sensitive New-Age Man". She hands the latter to Daria and they start flipping through.)

Mara: This is a date? Even I do more romance when I don't go anywhere.

Guy: (to Jane, mock casual) While the bookworms do the read-thing, wanna ... order? And maybe talk some?

(Jane's face takes on a "save me help me free me" look.)

(Scene: Men's room, Wan Foo Mai Tai [most ladies' loos in Chinese restaurants are pink, but can't be right for men, so let's say beige]. Music: Def Leppard -- "Hysteria". There's an odd whimpering sound coming from the corner stall. AP barges in; he's covered with plum sauce and bits of spring onion.)

AP: Gaaaaaaaaah stupid crispy duck... (stops; hears the whimpering) H-h-hello?

O'Neill: (OS) Oh ... oh, hello, AP.

AP: Uh ... Mr O?

(The stall door opens and O'Neill steps out; his eyes are red-rimmed and he's clutching a piece of toilet paper that hasn't been separated from the roll yet; it trails along behind him.)

O'Neill: I didn't know you were here. A-are you having a good time?

AP: I'm wearing the starter. Does it look like I'm having a good time? (he knows O'Neill wants him to ask and is therefore reluctant to do so, but...) And ... you? I mean, you're here with Ms B, so...

O'Neill: (crumpling) Oh, AP... (bursts into tears) I-I'm having a horrible time! I can't do it; I just ... can't ... do it!

AP: (nerves personified) Would it mess with the student-teacher thing if I suggested those little blue pills? (this reduces O'Neill to a gibbering little ball on the floor) Uh ... they do natural kinds...

O'Neill: It's ... not ... oh, it's just horrible...

(O'Neill dissolves into hysterical sobbing, curled up foetal on the floor. AP stands there poised on the verge of flight, wearing Jane's "save me help me free me" look from earlier.)

(Scene: the table. Music: Amanda Ghost -- "Cellophane". Lynn and Daria flank AP's empty chair; Daria is picking a cucumber sliver out of the hinge of her glasses and Lynn is combing bits of spring onion out of her fringe. Mara's got a licentious smirk on and Bill looks uncomfortable in a pleasant sort of way -- his date's obviously up to ructions under the table. Guy and Jane sit talking.)

Guy: ...And so the guy sits there and tells me to go for agricultural college cos obviously I must know lots about breeding stock with the goat thing I pull on tests. Stupid freak.

Jane: Could be worse. They told me I should consider advertising, and that kind of put me off that whole college thing.

Guy: So you aren't going? What're you gonna do, go food service? Gonna be a counter-jockey?

Jane: No, I'm gonna take some money and move to New York. Try to get some stuff sold there. At the very least I'll be closer to the MOMA.

Guy: You're movin' to be near your family? Man, that's death.

Jane: I said MOMA, not Momma. It's an acronym.

Guy: So she's old. Most parents are.

Jane: "Acronym", not "anacronism". (beat) My God, I'm dating AP.

Lynn: So where is AP, anyway? He went to the bathroom ten minutes ago.

Jane: (*ping*) Hey, Guy, why don't you go check on him? Then I'll explain what M-O-M-A stands for.

Guy: Yeah. (getting up) Uh-huh. Right.

Bill: (springing up with a relieved look) I'll go too!

(Trent shrugs and gets up as well. They all wander off in the direction of the bathrooms. The girls look at each other.)

Daria: I thought it was only girls who went to the bathroom in packs.

(Scene: Men's room. Music plays on. AP's tentatively patting a still-sobbing O'Neill on the shoulder -- in much the same manner as one would pat a growling dog. Enter Trent, Guy and Bill, and they stop short when they see this.)

Guy: Y'know, Lynn's gonna kick you around the restaurant when she finds out you're batting both teams, geek-ball.

AP: Shut up, Goat-boy! (beat) Y'wanna tell 'em, Mr O, or should I?

(O'Neill makes some whimpering, sobbing and squeaking noises from his foetal position on the floor.)

Trent: Why don't you do it, punk? Even you talk better than that.

Bill: (nudging Guy) And y'know, this guy's an English teacher.

AP: He wants to propose to Ms B.

Trent: Like, marriage? Isn't she already married to that guy who digs the Broncos?

AP: The divorce came through over Thanksgiving. And Mr O gave it what he thought was a decent wait between then and handin' her a ring, y'know, but now the problem is that she's bein' really female-doggish and Mr O's worried that she doesn't like him anymore. So he asked her here and she's still being female-doggish and even more so and he can't make himself ask and so he hid in here and is makin' with the waterworks. (beat) I couldn't just leave him here...

Guy: Why not?

Bill: 'Cos the way O'Neill cries, he'd have flooded the place by now without a little help on mop-up.

AP: Yeah, and we're here on kinda a mission and this is not the mission! This is the anti-mission! Now Sir Naps-a-Lot, could you please go get Purple Peril and Erudite Emerald 'cos they're better at talkin' to ... well, people who speak with words ... than me.

Trent: Well ... this is the men's room...

AP: You care about rules now? Think about the bathrooms at the Zen! Just go!

(Exit Trent. AP looks at Guy, who's hoisting himself to a sitting position on the sinks and watching O'Neill sob. Bill just stands and watches the whole thing from near the door.)

Bill: Glad I got outta there. That Mara chick was, like, taking measurements down there.

Guy: (to AP) Y'didn't warn him, didja?

AP: How do you warn about the Nympho-Goth?

Bill: Tellin' me she's known as the ... "Nympho-Goth" is a good start. (to Guy) And what's the deal with you and that Jane chick? She couldn't get you away fast enough.

Guy: (sigh) I dunno. I kinda talk and she kinda talks but she's got ... walls.

(AP goes wide-eyed -- "I don't got enough problems without him figuring Art-Smart Scarlet out too?!?" Then enter Daria and Lynn. They assess the situation in a very businesslike manner that we all recognise.)

Lynn: Trent, Bill, Guy; this doesn't have anything to do with you guys. Go back to the table.

Daria: Mr O'Neill? Try to breathe.

(Guy and Bill exchange looks and head out. Trent hesitates a moment, but follows when Daria nods at him. AP flutters in the girls' wake.)

(Scene: the table again. Music: Tonic -- "You Wanted More". Mara's sulking -- boots on table, arms folded. Two waiters are putting plates of food down and they're obviously not impressed with someone putting footwear on their tablecloths. Jane's fiddling with a pair of chopsticks and she looks kind of mad at herself. Guy and Bill approach with varying levels of trepidation. Trent trails behind. )

Jane: So what's going on? Ms Barch looks really pissed off.

Guy: Could be 'cos that English teacher who wants to marry her's curled up in a little wet ball on the bathroom floor.

Jane: O'Neill. Wants to marry Barch. (beat) And I thought teaching at Lawndale was the biggest sign of masochism out there.

Guy: So what's the deal with the Barch woman? Do all guys speak her name in fear, or what? (beat) Or is this something else you'd scare me off before telling me?

Jane: (wry) No, this one I can tell you.

(Guy raises an eyebrow at the seriousness of her tone, but settles in to listen.)

(Scene: the bathroom. Music plays on. O'Neill seems to have calmed down. Daria and Lynn are seated cross-legged on the floor near him so he doesn't have to look up at them.)

O'Neill: Oh dear. I really shouldn't be telling any of this to a student. You ... won't be gossiping about this to anyone, will you?

Daria: (to Lynn) He thinks we gossip.

Lynn: (to Daria) He thinks we have friends to gossip at.

(They both turn around and look at AP, who's sitting on the sinks. AP shrugs in a "you got me" sort of way. Then they turn to look at O'Neill with solemn eyes. He looks a little sheepish.)

O'Neill: Oh, Daria, Lynn, what am I going to do?

Daria: Could you please explain the problem to me one more time?

O'Neill: Well ... you see ... I keep trying to ask her ... I mean, it's a big question and I'm trying so hard to get her in just the right mood so she'll say yes. And ... and ... (quivering) every time I try, the words won't come and I get so ... so terrified...

Daria: A sensitive male frightened of the original bitter divorcee. Someone call Ripley's.

O'Neill: Oh, it isn't that. Well ... it is sort of that. But it's also ... well, I'm terrified that if I don't say it in exactly the right way ... she might say no.

(Daria and Lynn look at each other, trying to think of the right things to say ... and then AP speaks up.)

AP: Well, Mr O, it's like this. It doesn't really matter what you say. See, I don't know a whole lot, but if she's been goin' with you for that whole time, she's gonna know what you mean and think it's great whatever. So it doesn't matter what you say but that you say.

(O'Neill looks at AP in wonder and shock. Daria and Lynn glance at him, Daria with a wry smirk and Lynn with a smile that agrees entirely with what he's saying.)

O'Neill: How ... did ... you...?

Daria: (still with the smirk) He knows what it's like to pursue a relationship with someone he's scared of.

(Now O'Neill shoots a look at AP, who nods at Lynn with a grin. Then he looks at Lynn, who blushes.)


Mary Kate and Ashley in Action! -- Cartoon Olsen twins disturb me. What disturbs me more is that these look-alikes have a geeky red-headed cohort called "IQ". Too much like TLAS for comfort.

Next on TLAS -- Jane gets an unusual lesson from her subconscious and a Buffy marathon in "Stake of the Art".

(Scene: the table. Music: Papa Roach -- "lovehatetragedy". Bill and Mara are currently sucking face; a couple of waiters are watching in the manner of someone watching a porno film. Guy is listening to Jane with something like awe on his face.)

Guy: And you got her to stop that crap she was pullin' with the grades?

Jane: Not alone, but yeah.

Guy: That's some kinda brave, no shit.

Jane: Not really. You want brave, you should hear how we got the principal ... (the happy look leaves her face) arrested.

(Guy looks at her a little oddly, but masterfully skims over the subject.)

Guy: No, that we heard about. Mara won herself a big chunk of change on that one. But never heard about this teacher blackmail thing.

Jane: Well, obviously; it wouldn't have been much of a blackmail job if anyone'd known about it, right?

Guy: Looks like it wasn't so much of one anyway, if she's still bein' such a bitch. And the English teacher-guy wants to marry that?

(Jane looks over at Barch, who's sitting there quietly steaming with rage, and then gets up.)

Trent: Janey ... where're you going?

Jane: To find out if the feeling's mutual.

(She stalks off towards Barch's booth. Guy looks at Trent for a long moment.)

Guy: Can I ... ask a few questions about her?

Trent: Three questions. No betrayals. Immunity from prosecution.

(Guy gives him a "what the hell?" look.)

(Scene: Men's room. Music: Avril Lavigne -- "Things I'll Never Say". Daria, Lynn and AP, a captive audience, are watching O'Neill as he gets down on one knee.)

O'Neill: Janet ... I would be grateful if...

Daria, Lynn, AP: No.

O'Neill: Oh. All right. (beat) Now see here, Janet; we've been together a long time and I think...

Daria, Lynn, AP: No.

O'Neill: Yes, it is a little forceful, isn't it. (beat) Janet ... I've got something to say. I really love ... the skillful way...

Daria, Lynn, AP: (Lynn with particular fervence) No!

O'Neill: Oh my... Let me think...

(Daria, Lynn and AP share that same "save me help me free me" expression.)

(Scene: the table again. Music plays on. A waitress -- small matronly Chinese woman whose demeanour suggests that she's just a fireball with feet -- has grabbed Mara and Bill by the collars and is forcibly herding them out the door. Pan to Barch's booth. Barch is grumping while Jane just takes her in, probably thinking about the painting she could get out of this.)

Barch: So you're here with yet another useless lump of testosterone who's probably only interested in you for your bankroll and your assets and how well you cook!

Jane: Well, for those last two, I'd be a big disappointment and he doesn't know about the first, so I doubt it. (as Barch blinks loudly at this) Anyway, what are you complaining about? You're dating someone too. Hell, you've been using O'Neill as your ... ooh, it surprises me how much I don't want to go there ... for months.

Barch: Well, Skinny's ... different. (beat; bitter) Or at least I thought he was...

(This, not surprisingly, gives Jane some pause.)

Jane: So you're saying ... 'Skinny' ... is just as much a ... "low-life male" ... as the rest of them?

Barch: Of course he is! He just took a lot longer to show it, that's all!

Jane: You're gonna have to explain that one, Ms Barch. If you want me to help and understand, I mean.

(Off Barch's considering look, cut to Trent and Guy, who share a plate of sweet and sour chicken.)

Guy: Okay ... uh ... we got through her music tastes ... even if I think you're shitting me that your band's her fave ... we got through what she wants to do after this high school crap... How about ... what's all this crap that she won't talk about?

Trent: (instantly guarded) What do you mean?

Guy: See, like that! You mention some stuff ... like where she went for Christmas and what she did over summer vacation -- simple stuff. And she shuts down, like you did just there!

Trent: "All that crap that she won't talk about" ... is none of your business, man. (beat) Look, she needs you, but don't go there.

(Off Guy's look of utter confusion, cut to...)

(Scene: Men's room. Music plays on. AP is very quietly banging his head against the mirror behind the sinks. Daria and Lynn are maintaining their stoic expressions and ramrod-straight postures with an effort that is starting to show. O'Neill is still down on one knee, still running through his ideas for a proposal line.)

O'Neill: Janet ... I know you've just gone through the ... well, the divorce and everything...

Daria: I'd suggest not mentioning anything that makes her more likely to empty a pot of green tea over your head, Mr O'Neill.

AP: Yeah, remember? Postal-going woman you're proposing to?

O'Neill: Uhhhhhh ... (clears throat) With this ring, I thee ... uh ... propose to.

Daria: I think it might be better to save that one for the wedding ceremony.

Lynn: That's if we ever get past the engagement practice and to the point where there might actually be a ceremony...

O'Neill: Oh, of course, how ridiculous, I ... I ... (drops from the kneeling position to a disappointed crouch) Oh, I'll never be able to do this, girls! I appreciate your help, but ... oh, there's just nothing I can say to her that will ... will truly express how I...

AP: (utter frustration) How about, "Lynn, I love you and I'd love to make it official so will you marry me?" (beat; as everyone stares at him) Uh ... Janet, I mean. I ... uh ... (sheepish grin) I practice ... sometimes. Y'know...

O'Neill: (beaming) Of course! It's just what you were saying before; keep it simple and keep the message unperverted! (climbs to his feet; offers hands to Daria and Lynn, who accept his help getting up) Oh, thank you; I know I've wasted your time and I hope I haven't completely ruined your evening but you've ... well ... it really means the world to me...

(And off he dashes. Daria and Lynn look at AP, gobsmacked.)

Daria: You ... practice...?

AP: Well, you know what I'm like! I figure if I start now, I'll be ready to propose in, like, four years.

Lynn: (blushing and desperate to change the subject) Come on; we don't want to miss the fireworks.

(Scene: the table. Music: Offspring -- "Me and My Old Lady". Jane is sitting back in her chair next to Guy, smirking widely. Guy's not that much better. Trent just looks bemused.)

Guy: You have got to be shitting me. That's what she was so bitchy about?

Jane: Yyyyyyyyyyep. This is gonna be something to see ... (frowning) If he ever comes out of there...

(Exit O'Neill; he pauses to clear his throat and get his head together, and Daria, Lynn and AP step around him and back to their table. They look at the smirks on Jane's and Guy's faces as they sit down; they look puzzled.)

Jane: So, have fun with Mr Wimpy over there?

Lynn: As mentally freeing as a full frontal lobotomy. (beat) What are you looking so smug about?

Jane: Well, while you were wasting your time coaxing O'Neill out of his hole, I was getting a few words of wisdom from the she-male of the species over there.

Daria: And what you learned seems to have really amused you.

Jane: Let's just say that whatever you told him, we're about to see a show...

(They decide not to keep pressing Jane for info when they see O'Neill reach into his trouser pocket and pulls out a little velvet ring box. Then he steps over to the booth, where Barch is still steaming.)

Barch: So you didn't take off with some blonde boob-jobbed bimbo rather than even follow through with your committment to dinner.

(O'Neill might not even have heard that; he just drops to one knee and holds out the ring box to her. She stares at him.)

O'Neill: Janet, will you marry me?

(A short pause in which everyone in the restaurant stops and waits for her reply.)

Barch: Well, it's about time!

O'Neill: (Major shock) W-w-w-what ... did ... you...?

Barch: Ever since I got the piece of paper freeing me from the pig I married, I've been sitting around patiently waiting for you to get that stupid idea about a "decent period" out of your thick male head and pop the question! And the longer you waited, the more I figured, "Well, he really is a typical man, just out for what he can get out of me with that sweet, mealy-mouthed talk and those big innocent eyes", and now you ... (getting a little teary) And now you really want to marry me!

(She grabs him and starts kissing him; they fall over. The Chinese matron scowls and starts moving towards them. Back to the table; everyone is staring at this turn of events.)

Daria: She's been so miserable and upset lately because she'd been waiting for him to do the very thing that he's been worrying himself sick over. (beat) And you knew about this.

Jane: I told you. Straight from the horse's mouth.

Lynn: Well ... some portion of the horse's anatomy, anyway.

Daria: And now those two are going to get married. (beat) There's a match made in Hades.

Jane: You think that's bad. Think about their kids.

(Everyone at the table freezes at the image ... and probably associated images ... and shudders. Then Lynn looks, notices the two empty chairs, and turns to the others at the table.)

Lynn: Um ... back to young people's business ... but where's Mara?

Jane: She's gone the way of those two.

(She gestures; they turn to see O'Neill [shirt mostly unbuttoned, lipstick all over his face] and Barch [makeup smeared, blouse partly undone] being hauled out of the restaurant by the matronly Chinese woman.)

Daria: Well. So much for the great date experiment. I guess it really wasn't her scene anyway.

Guy: Aw, damn, that means she got the B.A.N.D-wagon. Guess I'm hoofin' it home.

Jane: I'll walk with you.

(Guy looks a little stunned, but digs a heap of money out of his pocket and dumps it on the table. Then he takes Jane's hand and she walks with him out of the restaurant.)

Daria: I'm thinking of writing a piece for the Lowdown. "Dates -- overrated or just plain stupid?"

Lynn: I tend to think it was worth it just for the in-restaurant entertainment..

Daria: Do you think Jane's going to be okay with Goat-boy?

Trent: (after a thoughtful pause) Think so.

(Off Daria's slightly puzzled look...)

(Scene: Lawndale street. Music: REM -- "Why Not Smile". Jane and Guy walking in silence. Guy has his hands stuffed in his pockets. Jane's just looking around her at everything but Guy. After a moment, she glances at him.)

Jane: So you got your date. Sort of. (beat) Sorry it wasn't what you were hoping for.

Guy: Hey, s'cool. These things are supposed to make you get to know your girl, right?

Jane: Uh. Yeah.

Guy: Talked to that brother of yours. Says you've got secrets. (beat) It's cool, y'know. I got 'em too.

Jane: (probably remembering Tom) Oh...?

Guy: Nothin' big... I just get you want to keep some secrets.

(There's a slight pause.)

Jane: Doesn't mean we can't talk ... I guess.

Guy: (derisive chuckle) Nice to know. (beat) But, hey, we can still do ... (slight smirk) other stuff, right?

(Jane smirks herself and kisses him ... until they're both hit with flying objects from a passing car. Jane picks one up -- it's a fortune cookie. They look after the car -- the Merc, of course. Jane and Guy just smirk at each other.)



That enough Jane for you, Brother Grimace? If not, fret not -- there's more coming.

Divorce -- I made a mention of Barch's divorce being finalised by Thanksgiving of 2000 back in "Grating Expectations". I was probably wrong then as I'm wrong now but I might as well be consistent.

Little blue pills -- Yeah, he means Viagra. I think everyone gets that kind of spam no matter how good their mail filters are.

MOMA -- Just to let anyone know who doesn't, it stands for the Museum of Modern Art. Funky place except for the chair that looks like it's made of cowpats.

Three questions -- "Lane Miserables". I figured it ran in the family.

Something to Say -- That third attempt at proposal from O'Neill was the beginning of the Rocky Horror Show classic, "Damnit, Janet". I think the gang have gone off RHPS since ToD.


Daria Morgendorffer et al are the creations of Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn but are owned by MTV, a Viacom company, copyright 1997, 2000. [Apparently, this is possible by 'work for hire', a concept that eludes me.] Lynn Cullen, AP McIntyre, Mara Fitzgerald, and any other character you don't recognise from any ep, on the other hand, were created and are owned by me, one Janet 'Canadibrit' Neilson, copyright 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002. Touch my characters without consulting me and it will go hard with you. All cameos used with permission, though by this point they're more characters in their own rights. This is a "substantially transformative" derivative work, apparently [what a highfalutin way to say fanfic], and is protected by the Supreme Court's decision in re Campbell v. Acuff Rose Music, so keep the copyright notice where it is and don't post it for money. If you do so without my permission and that of MTV Networks, I WILL pull a Lynn Cullen on you. And then I'll call lawyers.