Mike's Delayed Reaction Review #400 - Season Four in Review

(Fade into a distant shot of a tropical island at sunset.)

Mike Quinn: (voice over, as the shot starts to zoom in) A tropical island, filled to the brim with mysteries and intrigue. Can a group of anonymous and hastily made up people with little to no personality that were only created as a gimmicky way to abstractly represent episodes of a popular animated cable television series survive there? I don't really care, either, but we're about to find out on Daria Episode Survivor!

(Cut to a shot of each "contestant" in front of some random island backdrop - each is wearing a shirt with the appropriate number and each has a serious expression on his or her face.)

#1: I am number one, Katherine. I'm all business and I love to create conflict and tension.

(Cut to #2.)

#2: I am Mega, number two. I am the less interesting cousin of a contestant from a previous season of this show.

(Cut to #3.)

#3: My name is Velma, I am number three. I don't even know what to make of myself.

(Cut to #4.)

#4: Number four is me, I am Muddy. Not a whole lot of it, if you really must know what, is about how much sense I make.

(Cut to #5.)

#5: I am number five, Oprah. (yawn) I'm fairly boring and predictable.

(Cut to #6.)

#6: I am Leo, number six. I may be destined for greatness.

(Cut to #7.)

#7: I'm Jerry, number seven. I might have gotten lost in the shuffle, but I don't suck.

(Cut to #8.)

#8: I am number eight, Sigmund. I am insightful.

(Cut to #9.)

#9: I am Marty, number nine. What is my point?

(Cut to #10.)

#10: I am numero ten, Molly. Not quite legendary, but I am a funny gal.

(Cut to #11.)

#11: Eleven is my number, Gabe is my name. I really need a miracle.

(Cut to #12.)

#12: I am Freddy, number twelve. I'm a complex bundle of emotion and deceit.

(Cut to #13.)

#13: I am Di, number thirteen. I am Freddy's younger and maybe even more complex twin sister.

(Fade into a shot of a tropical beach.)

Mike Quinn: (voice over) There you have it, the field is set. Who will survive? To help us find out, here is your host Daria Morgendorffer.

(Cut to the "tribal council" area, the "contestants" are all seated as Daria enters to address them.)

Daria: (to the contestants; reading first part off an index card) Hello everyone, welcome to the island. (They all murmur "Thanks.") In case you weren't paying attention while the producers talked to you before the show, here are the rules. I'm going to make you guys do crazy stunts and then kick you off without necessarily taking into account the outcomes of those stunts. So, don't make me mad and you might have a chance. Any questions?

Oprah, #5: Yeah, doesn't that seem a little unfair?

Daria: As a matter of fact, it does. But they've already decided who's going to win (Bt; looks at another index card) and you didn't. Please leave now.

Oprah, #5: Wha...?

Marty, #9: Hey, she didn't even do anything!

Daria: I know, but I am the host and as far as any of you are concerned, I'm the queen of the island. (Bt) By the way, you can go with her, you didn't win either. Neither one of you really ever deserved to be considered the best of this group anyway.

(Number nine looks like she's going to talk back but doesn't.)

Daria: (to the rest of them) Everyone see how that works? (They all nod.)

(As those two walk off, cut to an office, Mike is sitting in a big comfortable chair in front of a wall full of books.)

Mike Quinn: Hello everyone, now it's time for me to tell you why #5 and #9 got kicked of first. First let's talk about #5, The F Word. Relatively, The F Word just didn't cut it when compared to most of the rest of the season. Probably the worst "ensemble" episode in a while (at least it was spared from having the same plot as the others), the story was destined to fail from the beginning, even Mr. O'Neill shouldn't be dumb enough to set up the whole class to be miserable. We did get some delightful moments out of The F Word, though, like Jane's cheerleading "tryout," but that didn't help the fact that we all knew where the whole thing was probably going to end up about two minutes into the assignment. The F Word failed to flunk, but was fatally flawed by following a flimsy formula to the finish. Now let's get to #9, Mart of Darkness. Where to begin with this debacle? Mart of Darkness begs one question; why should I care? The problem was that no reason to care was ever given. Basically, this episode had all of the worst problems of season four bound up in one gigantic mess. A mess that probably could be bought at a bulk store. There was no real direction here, too many gratuitous references masquerading as continuity and various other gimmicks that we've seen many times before. We have a product that tried too hard to do too much but never really got anything done. Not to mention that it was never really interesting in the first place. I'll be back after each group of exiles with my comments, so stay tuned. Now back to Daria on the island.

(Cut back to the island.)

Daria: Thanks, Mike. Why didn't you come and host this thing yourself?

Mike Quinn: (v.o.) You're kidding, right?

Daria: (shakes her head) Anyway, our first challenge involves eating. Lots of eating. More specifically, you guys are going to eat these individually wrapped servings of my mom's lasagna here being prepared by the tribal chef of the indigenous people of the island that we didn't know about until we picked this island and disturbed their home in the name of high ratings. Hey chef!

Tribal Chef: Hola. (makes some loud clicking sounds)

Gabe, #11: (sort of interrupts) But, there are eight hundred of them?

Daria: That's because you'll be split into two groups, those of you with even numbers versus those of you with odd numbers. Of course the odd team will be at a disadvantage.

Gabe, #11: Oooh, that's too bad.

Daria: You have thirty minutes to eat all four hundred. It doesn't matter how many each of you eats as long as they're all swallowed by someone. The amount that the losing team ate will somehow determine who gets booted.

(Both teams move to their "dining area," and they start stuffing the lasagna into their mouths. We pick it up with a few seconds left and both teams just about ready to heave.)

Daria: (looking at her watch) Three... two... one... time's up. Now let's see how we've done. (close up on one tables) The even team has twenty of their servings left, while the odd team has eighty-nine left. The even team wins.

(They kind of sort of cheer a little.)

Daria: Now, how can this be used to eliminate some of these dimwits? (Bt) I know, since the losing team only ate three hundred eleven servings, number three and number eleven are eliminated. (to #3 and #11) Bye, now.

Gabe, #11: Darn.

(Cut back to Mike in his chair.)

Mike Quinn: The next two episodes on our list are A Tree Grows in Lawndale and Groped by an Angel. First for A Tree Grows in Lawndale, now here's an episode that is tough to figure out. First, the entire idea centers on Kevin and Brittany, which usually spells some kind of trouble. That trouble came in the form of confusion. We move from Kevin getting hurt to the Fashion Club worrying about the date-ability of the football team to the cheerleaders trying to conjure up the spirit of Tommy Sherman. This confusion hurt the episode throughout. The story probably should have been more focused on Kevin "getting through" his injury. This, along with the perpetuation of the "Tom is perfect" stereotype (that, fortunately, got ripped to shreds later in the season), pushes A Tree Grows in Lawndale towards the bottom. However, as far as season clunkers go, it wasn't too bad. Now for Groped by an Angel. It took almost fifty episodes, but Daria finally dealt with spirituality with Groped by an Angel. However, for the most part, the issue of the existence of the divine was oversimplified into a black-and-white issue with Daria taking the "I need proof" route and Quinn feeling that every good thing that happened to her was due to her guardian angel. Of course, the point of the episode was to bridge these two positions, but the way that went was less than smooth, more like forced (just an aside: polarizing issues like religion, guns, abortion, etc are things I like to call "no brainers," no one on either extreme seems to be using them). This is proof to me that Daria shouldn't focus too much on these types of things.

(Cut back to Daria on the island.)

Daria: (looking at an index card that has the next challenge on it; chuckles) This ought to be good. (Bt) The next challenge is the island spelling bee. You'll all get one word or phrase and if you spell it correctly, you get to stay. If you don't, then you leave. No more than three will be ousted during this challenge. We'll go in numerical order, expect that I feel like staring with number ten. Molly, number ten, your phrase to spell is "mythical promenade."

Molly, #10: Uh... m-i-t-h...

Daria: Stop right there, genius. You were already wrong, just want to save you the embarrassment. Bye now.

Molly, #10: Uh... OK.

(Cut back to Mike in his chair.)

Mike Quinn: Legends of the Mall never tried to be anything more than it was intended. It was a fun filler episode with a format more like a Simpson's Halloween episode than an episode of Daria. We were treated to three "urban legend" type stories about things that supposedly happened in Lawndale's past. They all had their strong points (the "Metal Mouth" story was my favorite) but this was an episode best left unanalyzed.

(Cut back to our intrepid spellers on the island.)

Daria: Number one, Katherine, your word is "gripe."

Katherine, #1: G-r-i-p-e, gripe.

Daria: Good to see we're all not brain-dead here. Mega, number two, your phrase is "misanthropic ascent."

Mega, #2: Can't I get an easier one, like Katherine?

Daria: No.

Mega, #2: OK, m-i...

Daria: Sorry, there's no 'k.'

Mega, #2: But...

Daria: But nothing, bye now.

(Cut back to Mike in his chair.)

Mike Quinn: The first of at least three purely filler episodes, Antisocial Climbers didn't bring anything new to the table, except maybe the whole weather thing. Oh, wait, we did have that before (see Daria!). Anyway, as I've said a gazillion times before, this plot has been done to death. The students go to some disastrous school event/field trip, a couple of funny things happen, no one learns anything and someone gets stuck somewhere at the end (usually some variation of Kevin and Brittany, but it was Sandi once). Not bad strictly on its own merits, but the fact that we've seen the same episode, with some slight tweaking, at least three times before didn't help at all.

(Cut back to the fun on the island.)

Daria: Muddy, number four, your word is "dream."

Muddy, #4: D-r-e-a-m.

Daria: Good, number six your spelling assignment is "march."

Leo, #6: M-a-r-c-h.

Daria: Great, now number seven, your phrase is "oedipal complex."

Jerry, #7: O-e-d-i-p-a-l space c-o-m-p-l-e- (Bt) c-k-s?

Daria: I can't believe you got that part wrong, bye now. Well, at least that brings this spelling bee to a close now that three of you have goofed up. Now let's take it back to the studio, where I'm sure there aren't nearly as many carnivorous insects, for some more commentary.

(Cut, once again, to Mike in his chair.)

Mike Quinn: Actually, there are no bugs in here at all. Ah, the beauty of the climate controlled studio. Of Human Bonding is probably the neglected, or at least forgotten, child of season four, being sandwiched between I Loathe a Parade and Psycho Therapy (not to mention the midseason "drought"). However, Of Human Bonding didn't go entirely unnoticed, even though the I Loathe a Parade talk continued well into the second half of the season. It was a fairly decent Jake episode and was the first to focus mainly on Daria's relationship with her dad. They have almost bridged the gap, and hopefully this will be developed more in season five. While only slightly above average, Of Human Bonding is nevertheless a fairly strong season four outing.

(Cut back to the start of the next challenge.)

Daria: Now that were more than halfway to crowning a champion and only six of you remain, it is time to make things difficult. See that rock formation over there (she points and then pan to some jagged rocks)? It is approximately twenty feet high. Each of you will have five minutes to climb as high as you can, the person that stays the nearest to the bottom will somehow determine the next two people that get kicked off.

(Highlights of each person's attempt are shown.)

Daria: Now that that piece of thought provoking discourse is over, it's time to figure out who goes. (Bt) Muddy, you only got a quarter of the way up the cliff. One quarter, (Bt) I've got it, one over four is a quarter, so numbers four and one can get lost. Bye now.

Katherine, #1: That's not fair, I got all the way to the top!

Muddy, #4: I'm going to put a beating on someone!

Daria: Great, take it up with the guy back in the studio.

(Cut, once again, to Mike in his chair.)

Mike Quinn: The original review for Murder, She Snored was probably the most controversial of the whole season. Here we have this fantastical episode, and it gets a good grade. How can that be? Well, for the specific reasons, you all can go back to the original review, but let's just say that it did all of the things that Depth Takes a Holiday probably should have. Daria's dream did give us a glimpse into thought processes regarding her life. Finally, the pop culture references didn't really help or hurt. So, I guess I liked MSS as a matter of principle, and I've probably overrated it as a result, but I can live with that.

Muddy, #4: (rumbles in) Hey, why'd you kick me off like that?

Mike Quinn: This is my show remember, I can do that if I want.

Muddy, #4: I don't care! I should have won! (he rushes toward Mike)

Mike Quinn: No you shouldn't have. (Mike gives him the Vulcan neck pinch and Muddy falls to the ground) Partner's Complaint is, in many ways, the prototypical Daria episode. All of the tension and angst is there. Daria and Jane didn't get along. Jodie fought with Daria about using her father's name to help move along their economics project. Kevin paid cash for a car. Cash! But, overall, other than starting the early season "Daria sold out" storm, which, I think was a little overblown, and barring a few over-the-top scenes (like almost everything involving Wally or the car dealer), this was a good episode. It was mostly meat with not a lot of filler.

(Cut back to the start of the next challenge.)

Daria: (looking at another index card) Let's see what it says on the card, uh, this is weird, it says "Daria, I'm just about out of ideas and I want to save the one I have left for the finale, so just make something up. Be sure to get rid of two of them." Signed, "Mike." (rolls eyes) OK, here we go, (Bt) I guess I'll exercise my absolute powers as queen of the island and get rid of (Bt; ponders her predicament with a hand on her chin) the twins. Twins have always creeped me out. Bye now.

Freddy, #12: Oh well...

Di, #13: (to Freddy) I guess we just have to get back our usual task of solving mysteries.

Freddy, #12: Yeah. And we didn't have to compete with each other.

Daria: See what I mean. Anyway, we'll decide the "champion" after this. Will it be Leo, number six, or Sigmund, number eight? Simply thrilling.

(Back to the studio)

Mike Quinn: Boy it's really heating up, we will get right back to the final event after these comments on our last two exiles Fire! is the start of the mini-arc that ends up with Tom trading in his original girlfriend for her best friend. Jane and Tom's difficulties finally started to show, when she accused Daria of "monopolizing his time." At this point in the story, Daria is still caught in the middle, more than anything. Her best friend's boyfriend is suddenly showing interest in her. That would be a tough situation for anyone. Anyway, by itself (without all the context), Fire! isn't that special, but as part of the whole story, it's a strong beginning. Dye! Dye! My Darling We can't talk about Fire! without also mentioning Dye! Dye! My Darling, which is part two of the story. Not exactly a "cliffhanger" ending, Dye!Dye! My Darling set the stage for Is It Fall Yet? The major movement of the episode was the stress on Daria and Jane's friendship caused by Tom's shifting loyalties. And then there was the kiss! Love it or hate it, you won't forget it. This installment of the "love triangle trilogy" built nicely upon the first part and was much more suspenseful. Kudos to the staff of the show for pulling off this plotline without letting the whole thing degenerate into soap opera crap.

(Cut back to the tribal council setting for the final event.)

Daria: Welcome back to the island for our final event. Leo and Sigmund are the only islanders left. How do you guys feel about this last event?

Leo, #6: Well, I don't know you haven't told us what it is yet.

Sigmund, #8: Yeah. (Bt) By the way, what exactly is the prize for winning this thing, anyway?

Daria: An all-expenses-paid trip to a tropical island.

Sigmund, #8 : Sounds good.

Leo, #6: But didn't we already get that?

Daria: If you say so. The final event is the jungle obstacle course. You will race against each other through five obstacles. (each obstacle is shown while it is described) The first obstacle each of you will have to climb a tree and make a treacherous high wire trip across to another tree using only a pair of ropes. (Bt) Second, you must trek across a wooden suspension bridge. Be careful, some of the planks are loose. (Bt) For the next task, you will have to climb to the top of a cliff and jump twenty-five feet into a lake below. (Bt) After swimming to shore, you must negotiate a series of hurdles. (Bt) And finally, you must each race one hundred yards to the finish line.

Leo, #6: Let's go!

Daria:Are you now both ready for this pointless display of reality television? (they both nod as Daria notices something off camera) What?

(A guy, presumably the director, comes up to Daria and whispers something in her ear.)

Daria: Really? How embarrassing. (Bt) What should we do? (more whispers) OK, (Bt; to the contestants) apparently, we've run out of time. There's not enough time for the obstacle course, so, we're going to decide the winner by a simple flip of the coin. (she takes out a coin) Heads, Leo wins; tails, Sigmund wins.

(Daria flips the coin. It flies end over end and in slow motion and as it is about to hit the ground, we cut back to the studio.)

Mike Quinn: Thrilling, isn't it? In case you're all wondering, I can't really decide which episode was the best of the year. Was it Psycho Therapy or I Loathe a Parade? I'm not sure, they're both good. One of the few standout episodes of the season, Psycho Therapy was a strong character driven episode. All of the Morgendorffer's foibles came out. Helen and Jake's communication problems are finally tackled. Daria does her best to "see through" the whole retreat thing through some self-diagnosis (and also a little ogling of Tom's butt). In the end, everyone realized they like the way things are, which I guess is a minor disappointment, but the only one. This is one of the best of the season. It's hard to write about the good ones. I Loathe a Parade was the episode that started a lot. It set up much of what happened at the end of the season and the movie. The main premise was the misadventures of Daria and Tom while looking for Jane during the homecoming parade. Of course, Tom got his task done and got Daria to stop being hostile towards him, while Daria learned that he's not necessarily the enemy. As I said earlier, almost every scene of I Loathe a Parade has some relevance; there was nearly no wasted time. I Loathe a Parade might not be at its strongest as a stand-alone episode, but in the correct context, we're talking "instant classic" here. Now back to the island.

(Cut back to the island, where the coin has hit the ground... on its edge.)

Daria: Oh great, it's heads and tails, you both win. (Bt) For your fabulous prize, all you have to do is enter that island hut over there.

(She points to a previously unseen grass hut as both Leo and Sigmund walk toward it. Cut to the inside as they enter.)

(Torches line a pathway down the center of the room. At the end of the path, we see a shadowy figure seated in a chair which towers high above the winners, almost reaching the ceiling. Nervous, both Sigmund and Leo fall to their knees.)

Figure: (mysterious) Greetings: I am She Who Sees All and Knows All. I can tell you with certainty what the future holds.

Sigmund, #8: (awed) And what does it hold, O Mysterious One??

Figure: All shall be revealed shortly, my Psychological One.

Leo, #6: Do you give us our prize?

Figure: Indeed I shall. But first --

Sigmund, #8: (with recognition) Wait a minute: I know that voice.

Figure: (chuckles) Don't be absurd. My voice is unknowable.

Leo, #6: (also with recognition) I do, too. (squints) Hey, aren't you that fanfic author who gave the predictions last year? Carrie D. Wildly?

Sigmund, #8: (correcting) Kara Wild.

Figure: (nervous) Um... no. Don't be --

Sigmund, #8: Weren't you the one who said Tom Sloane wouldn't play a very big role in Season Four? That (clears his throat) he would appear in maybe four episodes max??

Leo, #6: (proud) I'm living proof of the fallacy of that statement.

Figure: (sputtering) All right, all right, I am the person of whom you speak, okay?? Dammit, just give me a chance to redeem myself. A lot of my other predictions came true --

Sigmund, #8: Yeah, but you blew the Tom one.

Leo, #6: Big time.

Wild: (sweating a little) I just said he wouldn't appear every other epi --

Sigmund, #8: That seat getting a little hot for you?

Wild: (glaring) Look, if you don't let me give this season's predictions, I'll start plugging my fanfiction to the audience.

(Leo and Sigmund's eyes widen with alarm.)

Leo, #6: NO!

Sigmund, #8: What is with fanfic authors and your constant need to plug your work??

Wild: (satisfied) All right, then. (Bt) First, all genuine predictions that didn't come true last year -- Daria and Quinn get a car, Aunt Amy makes a prominent appearance, the "sex" episode, and the flashback episode -- will be hold-overs for this season.

Now for my new predictions. Members of fandom may recognize their own speculations amongst the ones listed.

Now for some Tom-related predictions:

And now for some "It'd be amazing if it DID happen" predictions:

Wild: Whew, I'm done. Felt good to get that off of my chest!

Sigmund, #8: Okay, great. So where's our prize??

Leo, #6: Yeah, where is it?!

Wild: (puzzled) That was it. (Bt) Don't you feel good, now?

Leo & Sigmund: NO!!!!!!!!!!!

(Cut back to the studio.)

Mike Quinn: Well that went well, didn't it? (Bt) Now for one last time, back to Daria on the island. (cut to the island) How you holding up there?

Daria: I'm doing fine, all of the "contestants" went home and they're starting to tear the set down....

Mike Quinn: (v.o.) Heh, heh, ix-nay on the et-say!

Daria: They wanted to know when they'll get paid.

Mike Quinn: The check is in the mail. (Bt) Anyway, season four earned a much higher average grade that either season two of season three. At first, while mulling over that juicy tidbit of data, I really wondered why that was. Then it hit me; this season had one thing going for it and that would be consistency. While few episodes of season four jumped out as classics, not many of them belong in the sewer either. In other words, the bad episodes weren't really that bad, especially when compared to the worst of season three. But what about the specifics? Daria, the show and the character, evolved. Both progressed even further into maturity. This has been a common occurrence throughout the series; the main characters grow. They change, sometimes it's good, sometimes it isn't, but that is part of the learning process. Debates have even popped up about how "season one" Daria would react to "season four" Daria, which, to me, shows how special this show is. There feels like there is some larger plan. It's probably nothing specific, but there is some destination, or it least it seems that there is. While these changes have caused some long-time fans to abandon the show, I'm sure it has also attracted a lot of new viewers, too. Besides, would a show like Daria have survived for four seasons if every episode was just like most of the previous episodes, without any feeling of any real progress? I think not. (Bt) Boy, that was a mouthful.

Copyright 2001 Mike Quinn [All Rights Reserved].

Thanks, Kara.