Quinn decides that in order to show maturity and perspective, she needs to get a steady boyfriend. Easier said than done, especially since her standards are impossibly high. Meanwhile, Jake declares war on a garbage-munching squirrel.
The Morgendorffer family dinner gets off to a rocky start, thanks to yet another one of Jake's inedible concoctions and Jake's discovery of squirrel-upturned trash cans. When Daria receives a gift of a rare first-edition book from Tom, Quinn shrugs it off -- after all, dating lots of boys means lots of gifts -- until Helen points out that having a steady boyfriend shows maturity and perspective. Quinn interprets this as saying that she doesn't have those qualities, so she resolves to choose a boy from school and date him exclusively. The Fashion Club is unable to understand Quinn's reasoning, since they believe in the "date many, date often" concept as well, but Sandi makes a show of supporting Quinn in her quest. (Of course, her real motivations are quite different: she reasons that once Quinn is off the market, there will be more boys for them to date.) Unfortunately, the selection process doesn't go well, seeing as how Quinn's standards are very, very rigid. Pressured by Sandi, Quinn finally does an eeny-meeny-miny-mo with the Three J's and selects Jamie as her steady. It doesn't go well -- Quinn's idea of "communication" is to prattle on constantly over the phone, and when she accuses Jamie of not listening to her (because he slipped away to go to the bathroom), she dumps him. Her next victim is Joey, whom she promptly dumps when he refuses to take her to a sold-out concert (which she heard about from her Fashion Club comrades). She finally settles on Jeffy, whom she invites over to dinner when Helen convinces Daria to ask Tom over for a get-to-know-him meal... something that Daria's been avoiding because she's afraid of how Jake will act (and how Tom will react in turn). The dinner starts out pleasantly enough, but Jake inevitably brings up his war against the squirrels. To Daria's amazement, however, Tom sides with Jake and tells him of his own family's battles with the little animals. When Jeffy also chimes in, all three guys run out into the yard with a trap to try to catch the critter, leaving Helen, Daria, and Quinn behind. Distraught, Quinn runs crying up to her room, and Helen attempts to comfort her by telling her that she is mature enough to have a steady boyfriend, but that she should do whatever makes her happy, even if that means dating lots of different boys. As Daria and Quinn contemplate the unfathomable behavior of men, the guys enjoy an evening of bonding over a car trip (to release the captured squirrel back into the wild) and a few laps around a go-cart track.
The first significant occurrence of this episode, unless you really want to count Jake's Thai peanut squirrel-attracting concoction as an event, is Daria's reception of a gift from young Thomas. The gift was an old book; not something too elaborate, but it showed some thoughtfulness. The unintended side effect is that it made Quinn question out loud what kind of boyfriend Tom is, since his gift to Daria was something that wouldn't quite live up to her standards. Helen takes this golden opportunity to try to fit some parenting into her very busy schedule. She tells Quinn that Tom is a "boyfriend that cares about what is important to Daria." When Quinn seems as if she doesn't quite understand the concept, Helen continues the advice session and states that having a steady boyfriend takes a lot of maturity and commitment. Quinn takes umbrage at this statement because, as we find out later, she felt that it implied that she is immature (that's what it sounded like to me, too, though I don't think that's what Helen meant, even if she happens to believe Quinn lacks maturity). Anyway, Quinn seems to see this as some sort of challenge and even asks if she can bring her boyfriend (when she gets one) to dinner at home, just like Helen wants to invite Tom. So, while I'm sure that Daria liked Tom's gift, it also brought two negatives for her. Now Quinn is going to try to top her in the boyfriend department, which can be nothing but an annoyance, and she now has to invite Tom to the house, where she's afraid her family, especially Jake, will do nothing but embarrass her.
Looking for a Few Good Men:
Now that Quinn has decided to take the plunge into the depths also known as "going steady," the first thing she did was to inform her closest "friends," the Fashion Club, of this new development. Their initial reaction reflected some major-league befuddlement, in a why-would-you-ever-want-to-do-that kind of way. However, after that initial shock wore off, Sandi found a way to use this new development to her advantage. If she pretended to be supportive of Quinn and pushed her into going steady, there would be more boys for the rest of the club. The guys would become easy pickings for them, now that the main competition would be out of the way. Working towards this goal, Sandi offers to help Quinn make a list of the traits she should be looking for in a boyfriend, which include things like popularity and good looks. That prompted Helen to point out that those things aren't necessarily the most important things in a partner, but her point quickly devolved into a rant about some of Jake's problems before she could convince Quinn of anything. From that point, Quinn starts in on an interview process to begin the boyfriend search, one that attracted most of the boys of Lawndale with the possibility of being romantically linked to Quinn. The problem was that she was just a bit too picky (she got through ten guys in ten minutes) and the guys didn't stand a chance. She goes back to her friends for some moral support, and Sandi pushes even more to get Quinn hitched before the weekend dating frenzy. In a panic, and having only the Three J's around to choose from, she picks Jamie as her first guinea pig.
Getting a Little Squirrelly:
As a man whose trash cans are regularly knocked over by at least one hungry raccoon (they even occasionally get knocked down when they're empty), I can empathize with Jake's feelings about his rodent garbage eaters. Unlike Jake, my method of combat is a little different. I do things like not putting the trash out until the last minute or putting some foodstuffs out in the field as bait. The last thing I want to do is catch one and have to carry around an animal that probably wants to claw my eyes out. Anyway, Jake's attempts to catch his fine furry friend, where all he caught was his hand and a neighbor's cat, prompted Daria to try to get out of the whole "Tom for dinner" thing again. This time, she's finally able to convey to Helen that Jake is one of the major reasons for her fear of the event. They ended up making a deal -- Daria invites Tom for dinner, and Helen talks to Jake about his behavior. It ended up not mattering.
Victim, er, Boyfriend Number One:
The first of the J's to take on the dating juggernaut that is Quinn was Jamie. His problems as Quinn's boyfriend cropped up early and often. Quinn had the idea that communication is important in relationships, and that's right, but she forgot that communication, in that context, is usually a two-way street. That was where Jamie was doomed during his test-of-endurance phone call with Quinn. She told him that listening is important as, ironically, she cut him off before he could tell her that no one ever listens to him. Then he had to listen to her ramble on for hours about nothing, and the final nail in the coffin when he left to go to the bathroom. She claimed he wasn't listening, but he wasn't listening even when he was there. So, breakup number one for Quinn only took about an hour.
Joey was the next J Quinn tried in the boyfriend role. He came to pick her up; brought her some flowers and apparently made reservations at the place Quinn told him she wanted to go. Unfortunately for him, before he got there she was talking to Sandi about that night's Guys to Guys concert, and she got miffed that she wasn't going. She told Joey that she wanted to go to the concert and wouldn't take "no" for an answer, even when told that the concert was sold out. Again, he never had a chance with Quinn. Now, she doesn't even have a warm body to bring to the house for dinner, but there was still one J left.
The "meet the parents" dinner was going smoothly at first. Quinn scrounged up the remaining J, Jeffy, to fill in as her boyfriend. Jake was doing his best to contain himself. However, it all came crashing down with one simple "what's new?" asked of Jake by Tom. Jake went off about how the squirrels were messing up the trash. When Helen stopped him, he could only say that he was asked, but he found an unlikely ally in Tom, whose family has also had problems with the little varmints. As a last-ditch effort to save the evening, Helen asked Jeffy about school, but sensing that he could be the hero, all that he could say was, "I caught a squirrel once." That one cancelled all of the scheduled events for the rest of the evening. Jeffy revealed the secret of squirrel catching to be peanuts, Jake got his latest batch of Thai peanut sauce, and the three of them went to work. They caught the little bugger in what seemed like world record time and were off to take it as far away as possible. In the meantime, Quinn went to her room to sulk about the disaster of the dinner, Helen was on the phone trying to clear up some gaffe at work about suing UNICEF, and Daria was left to sit quietly.
By the time Helen finished working out that gaffe at the firm, the men were long gone and Quinn was crying about another failed relationship (she works very quickly). Quinn suffered from unrealistic expectations that were mostly caused by Daria. Helen didn't like that Daria misled Quinn, but how could Daria resist? Anyway, Helen was able to get to the bottom of why Quinn was so upset. She thought that Helen thought she was immature. Helen reassured her that having or not having a boyfriend doesn't really say anything about levels of maturity and that Quinn should do whatever makes her happy. That's all it took to wipe away the tears and Quinn went to break up with Jeffy. However, this time she got dumped due to the squirrel hunt before she had the chance to do any dumping of her own. I guess you can't win them all.
Based on all the high fives, I'd say that the squirrel hunt was good, very good, for Jake. For once, he was surrounded by people who understood what he was feeling. Even after the little furball was returned to the wild, the men continued their testosterone-fueled outing with a little go-cart racing. Tom and Jeffy, at least temporarily, were the sons that Jake wish he had. Oh, and hearing them all sing along to "Whoomp! There It Is," especially Jeffy's little "dance" in the back seat, was hilarious.
The events of "One J at a Time" centered around two things: Daria's fear of being embarrassed by her family, and Quinn's fear of being considered immature. Daria couldn't really get out of having Tom over for dinner, and Quinn sort of went about proving her maturity in an odd way. Anyway, both fears turned out to be insignificant. Daria doesn't have to worry about what Tom thinks of Jake's behavior when he's joining in it, and Quinn figured out that there is no need for a steady relationship to signify maturity.
Daria as a Whole #1, Know Thy J's:
I can finally remember which J is which now! I am so happy! Jamie is the blond one with the unusually deep voice, Joey is the dark-haired one, and Jeffy is the red/brown-haired one. Come to think of it, beside their hair color, they are virtually indistinguishable (especially if Jamie and Joey have also caught squirrels).
Daria as a Whole #2, MTV's Programming Chimp Strikes Again:
The night this episode first aired (at least on the east coast of the U.S.), MTV promoted it by rerunning all of the first half of season five before the airing. That's fine, but they also did that thing where when one episode in a marathon is over, they skip the credits to the next one. Usually, that's not a problem, but it is when you skip the credits of a first run episode (especially the title card)! If anyone from MTV is reading this, please don't do that again (for the record, the first rerun of this episode that I saw was in a marathon and had the complete opening credits).
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.