The sight of a refrigerator box in the back yard triggers in Daria a long-suppressed set of memories from her childhood, memories where she apparently was the cause of an intense argument between her parents.
The Morgendorffers get a new refrigerator delivered after the old one conks out on them, an operation overseen by Helen (as Jake is out of town, having gotten tickets to a marketing conference at the last minute). As Daria and Quinn haul the empty box out to the front yard, the combination of Jake's absence and the empty box starts to trigger a childhood memory in Daria. Unfortunately, she can only remember a few snippets, something about an argument between Helen and Jake, who stormed out of the house... and, somehow, Daria appeared to be the cause. (Nevertheless, it's enough to compell Daria to repeatedly save the box from the trash collectors.) Daria's frustrated by this and other factors, including Tom's family's visit to their cabin at "the cove" for a week, and Mr. O'Neill's badgering Daria to volunteer to show future Lawndale High students around the school. Daria turns him down repeatedly, stating that she ethically can't do it because she refuses to talk up something that she hates, and becomes indignant when she thinks that he thinks she's a social misfit who's incapable of dealing with people. As more flashbacks ensue, revealing more details of this past incident, Daria becomes more paranoid, accusing Helen of lying to her about this incident and the whereabouts of Jake. She ultimately takes refuge inside the box just as Jake arrives home, and both he and Helen convince Daria to come out and have an honest, heart-to-heart talk with them. They reveal that, yes, they did have an argument, it was about her, and Jake did storm out of the house, but it wasn't a big blow-up, Jake only stayed away one night (at a fleabag motel), and in the morning, life resumed as normal. Distraught at the thought that she was the cause of so much grief in their family, Daria grabs the keys to the SUV and runs out of the house, with the intention of joining Tom at "the cove." Unfortunately, she doesn't make it very far, as she's involved in a multi-car accident on the rain-soaked highway (but both her and the car come out of it undamaged). Daria calls Jane and asks her to join her at a roadside diner, and after giving Jane an uncharacteristic hug, both girls sit and talk. Daria lays it all out to Jane, explaining how she's always been causing problems for her parents ever since she could think and talk, while Jane counters that, from her perspective, both Daria and her parents have given as good as they got, and urges Daria to talk to them, not her. She does so, and both Jake and Helen explain to Daria that all the teacher conferences and such were simply the flip side of having such an intelligent child, and that they both understand and accept the choices that she makes in her life. Daria accepts this, and -- again, uncharacteristically -- tells them that she's lucky to have them as parents. After smoothing things over with Tom (whose feathers she unintentionally ruffled once again with her behavior), she and Jane proceeded to give some prospective Lawndale High freshmen a tour of the school after all... a tour with their own unique spin.
The Morgendorffers were forced by some random disaster, probably precipitated by something that Jake "cooked," to buy a new refrigerator. That's great, the new icebox works like a charm, keeping everything "chilled" (even Helen and Eric <chuckle>). The only possible problem was that the deliverymen left the box in the back yard. That box brought back some memories for Daria, and most of them weren't very good. She vaguely remembers having a box like that when she was little. Anyway, Helen tells the girls to put it out as trash and they do, but Daria's apparent repressed memory gets the best of her. Somehow, she knows that the box has some significance to her and she puts it back in the yard. However, she couldn't quite remember why yet. The next day, Helen got very upset that the box was still in the yard and orders Quinn to dispose of it. As soon as Daria saw it on the curb, she went out and saved it again. Her memories start to suggest, in the form of flashbacks, that it had something to do with a fight that Jake and Helen had "in the old house." Of course, the fact that they didn't really remember the incident (yet) angered Daria. They were "lying" to her.
Tour of Duty:
Meanwhile, things at school are as they normally are -- stupid. Mr. O'Neill approaches Daria to recruit her as a tour guide for Lawndale High's freshman tours. She almost immediately rejects the idea. Not too good with these kinds of "hints," Skinny goes through his predetermined sales pitch, detailing why it would be good for Daria and the school: she can perfect her "people skills" and she would be an "empathetic" figure for the Lions-to-be. Daria was almost offended by the suggestion. She seemed to think, at least initially, that the only reason she was being asked was as the token "weird kid," especially when Mr. O'Neill went on his "there are two kinds of students here" spiel. The persistent bugger that he is, Tim tried again to enlist Daria as Kevin and Brittany attempted to give a tour. This time, he again tried to tell her that she "doesn't have to tell the kids it's a great place." Again, she wanted no parts of it, even though Jane offered to help her. She was unusually snippy to Mr. O'Neill in this episode, probably because she was letting out some of her box-related frustrations, but she still was a little too quick to blow him off. She always thought she couldn't get along with the other kids and that mindset has kept her squarely "in her box," but he gave her an opportunity to show that she can deal with others well (and that he thinks she can).
Mysterious Flashback #1:
We see Daria as a child of six years, all tucked away in bed and about to fall asleep. We then hear Jake and Helen arguing loudly about something, and then see little Daria awake and apparently scared by the argument. She should have been, because it was quite obviously about her. The argument intensified: Helen tried to stick up for her daughter ("she's only a child... she doesn't know any better"), while Jake didn't want to hear it ("that's what she wants you to believe") and storms out. It's amazing how the sight of a box (why is still not clear at this point) was so powerful that, pretty much by itself, it rescued that trapped memory from the depths of Daria's brain. So far, the fact that no one else remembers is maddening enough to make her call her parents "liars" for their memory lapse. Oh, this flashback gets repeated a little later as Daria gets closer to solving its mysteries.
Hurry, to the Tom Cove!
On top of that box-related hardship, Daria also has to deal with the temporary absence of one of her only links to sanity when Tom goes up to "the cove" for a family wedding. He did invite her to go, too, but she didn't really want to go, even though the offer was appreciated. Anyway, the pressure Daria had put on herself from the box even made its way up to Tom's location. She told him that "she [couldn't] wait for him to get back" and when he flippantly asked what had changed (obviously not knowing what Daria was going though internally), she got more upset than she originally was and called him a liar as well. However, when things got really bad (and I'll get to the specifics later), Daria decided to go up to the cove after all, to talk to someone she trusts and to get away from the source of her problem. Unfortunately, she never quite made it up there -- though that wasn't entirely a bad thing.
It-Almost-Makes-Sense Flashback #2:
The second flashback had a little more action than the first. Here we start with young Daria talking to her school councilor as Jake and Helen pay rapt attention. Daria is asked some very revealing questions. Apparently, she doesn't like to play any games, especially with the other kids, because they make fun of her and don't interest her. The only thing she seems to be interested in is reading. On the way home, Jake and Helen try to talk to Daria about it even more. They suggest that she talk to the other children, but Daria reiterates that she just isn't interested in the other children. By contrast, younger (and bouncier) Quinn can't stop telling everyone how she "talks to the other kids and they talk back." What Jake and Helen were saying, though, is that even though they can talk to Daria like a "miniature adult," that won't necessarily work for Daria with her peers. She needs to be a little more flexible. At this point, more light was shed onto exactly why that refrigerator box was so important. The box, that Jake and Helen didn't remember, was Daria's sanctuary. This last flashback ends just like the first one started, except that after Daria heard the argument, she gets out of bed, goes into her box and starts to read. The hardship seemed to just disappear from her face. This just shows how the seeds of frustration were planted for some serious fallout.
Chiastic, Full Circle, Nice Touch of the Week:
Speaking of the school psychologist, there was a nice touch added while she gave young Daria the classic inkblot test. When Daria was asked what she saw and she replied "an inkblot," the councilor corrected her and told her it could be anything, for instance, "a heard of beautiful wild ponies running free across the plain." Of course, this was a nice bookend to a similar situation in Daria's very first episode, "Esteemsters," where Daria gave that exact same response to Mrs. Manson on her first day at Lawndale High. When she gave that exact answer that time and was told that it wasn't right, Daria replied that "the picture can be anything [she] wants it to be." Now we know where she got that idea.
At One with the Box:
After that unpleasant flashback, Daria takes Jane to go see the source of all the problems -- the cardboard refrigerator box. Jane confirms that it is indeed a box, and then makes a joke about how the "gentle breeze wafting through cardboard" is soothing. When Daria agrees that it is soothing, Jane has to say that she's only making a joke. That didn't stop Daria from climbing into the box and declaring that "this is right." Then, much to her relief (and probably chagrin), Quinn races up to the box and tells Daria that she finally remembered something about a fight "in the old house." While vindicated by the fact that someone else remembered, she couldn't have liked Quinn's sketchy account of the incident. "Mom and Dad were fighting and then Dad was yelling and then the door slammed and the car drove off." The worst part was that Quinn also remembered what they were fighting about: Daria. A little later, when Jake returned from his "last minute" trip (which also helped Daria remember the fight), he and Helen go out to Daria in the box to try to figure out what the problem is. They finally get Daria out of the box under the condition of honesty and, after a short talk (helped by Quinn's recollections), they remembered the fight. Jake and Helen both seemed to be sincere about their lapsed memory of the fight, but it almost felt like it was something that they were actively trying to forget, or didn't want to admit happened. At least the whole thing was out in the open now, and an attempt could be made to resolve it.
Plight of the Misfit (or Rounds Two through Twelve):
Now that all the memories have resurfaced, Helen, Jake and Daria all sat down to try to talk it out. Helen explains that everything was tense; she was trying to go back to work full time, Jake was in a job he absolutely hated, and they were getting calls from school about Daria's behavior. She was like talking to a miniature adult and wouldn't engage the other kids. In essence, everyone and everything was stretched near its breaking point and some of Daria's problems caused it all to come crumbling down. Helen tried to explain that Daria wasn't the cause of the tensions, just part of them, and that it was no big deal. But it was a big deal to Daria, because she then got in the car and headed toward Tom and the cove. On the way, as the road started to saturate from the steadily falling rain, Daria spun out and was almost in a multiple car accident. She was pretty much too fried to go on and called Jane to come and calm her down. When Jane showed up, Daria immediately gave her a huge hug (something she doesn't seem to do very often). She then explained to Jane that she had to run off, and maybe she's been torturing her parents under the guise of "being herself." Jane let her know that neither Daria or her parents are novices at the game of dishing out punishment, and that she should go and talk to them. Daria, though, wanted to talk to someone she trusted first and since she didn't make it to see Tom, she, fortunately, was able to "talk to the person [she] trusts the most."
"Oh My Gosh" of the Week:
That would be the ominous foreshadowing opening scene where we hear a car crash and someone asking, "Are you all right?" So, when Daria took to the road and it started raining, I thought, "what a way to end the series, killing off the main character in a fiery car crash." OK, I didn't really think that, but when she started to skid and we got the visual of one car slamming into another (despite that fact that it was small and blue -- nowhere near the red SUV-like vehicle Daria was driving), it looked like she was at least in a serious accident. Actually, when you think about it, that little misdirection was a fairly funny, "Simpsons"-esque joke.
The Final Round:
Once Daria ended her time as a runaway -- with Jane's help -- and returned home, it was time for her to talk to her parents about what was at issue (after the obligatory hugs and "we were so worried"). She expressed the same feelings to Jake and Helen that she did to Jane. It amounted to an apology for being a "bad kid." The surprising thing for Daria was how they reacted; it probably wasn't what she expected. Helen said that it's impossible to expect a child of her intelligence to fit in perfectly. Jake told her that all of those calls from school were just the flip side of her being so smart and perceptive. They explained that they were unhappy to be called into school about Daria's behavior because it meant that she was unhappy. They were never unhappy with her. Helen ended it by telling Daria that her choices are her own and they understand if she chooses not to interact with others. It is all fine. And even though Daria felt like she "wasn't the easiest child to raise," her individuality (or what makes her, her) shouldn't be bottled up or repressed. It can be changed, if she wants, but it doesn't have to be stifled.
The crux of "Boxing Daria" was Daria's struggle with the implications of her own identity and individuality. That sounds a little odd, but it is something that people deal with constantly. Insecurities are a huge part of life and can emotionally cripple anyone at any time, just like they did with Daria. Here we have a young woman about to finish high school. She is a loner that isn't afraid or ashamed that she is. That is her; she's just a little pickier than most when it comes to associating with others. Anyway, she's cruising along through her life (not to imply that the road is never bumpy), wearing her identity on her sleeve (and proud of it), when, out of the blue, something seemingly innocuous, like the leftover cardboard box, makes her question and doubt every aspect of that identity that she has built for herself. All of the sudden, Daria stopped to reexamine her role in her little section of the universe and didn't seem too happy with what she was seeing. Maybe it's not that her parents have made her life a living hell, but maybe she is making their lives miserable under the guise of "being herself." After thinking about how selfish that is, to put out everyone that cares because she doesn't want to deal with them, she couldn't handle it and had to get away. The reality, as Jane pointed out, is more in the middle. No one is really to blame; it's just how things are. Even if they had the reasons to blame Daria, her family doesn't. Jake and Helen explained that they are there for her and that she's important to them, even if she wasn't the easiest kid with which to deal. Even Quinn got into the act and showed some caring by saving the box for Daria and putting it in her room "in case [she] need[s] it." Overall, Daria showed a lot of maturity and progress in the way she thought about her life up to this point. It takes a lot of strength to look back at things you've done and the way you live and reconsider how those things and that way of being have affected people you care about. It takes more strength to conclude that you might have been wrong, and even more to admit it. If everyone could do that, the world would probably be a much more peaceful place. As for progress, being alone is nice sometimes but, most of the time, a little human contact is nicer, even if you don't know or particularly like the people you're contacting. She didn't show it, but I bet Daria enjoyed giving those tours. By the way, I'll give anyone twenty bucks that can find a shower stall in any high school locker room that hasn't been peed in.
The Judge's Unanimous Decision:
Daria as a Whole #1, The End of the Road:
This was the last regular episode of Daria. That means this is the last regular Delayed Reaction Review. Of course, there is still the movie (which I hear is going to air some time in 2027) and the Season Five Wrap Up (and something special I may do as a parting shot), but this is the last episode. I'd have to say that the entire experience has been nothing but rewarding. When I started writing these things way back in season two, I had no idea how they would be received. It turned out that it was well worth the effort. Sometimes I felt like giving it up because of a lack of interest, but almost every time that feeling crept in, someone would e-mail me about the latest review. On top of the gains I earned just from creating this little enterprise (and keeping it going for so long), I also came into contact with oodles of cool people that I never would have met otherwise (including someone I now consider one of my dearest friends). So, I guess I would like to thank everyone for paying attention this long and I would like to thank everyone that has ever read or responded to one of these reviews. Your enthusiasm has made all of this well worth the energy. Thanks again.
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.