The Big House
|The Big House|
|Original Airdate||June 30, 1997|
|Special Guest Voices|
|Written By||Sam Johnson|
|Directed By||Karen Disher|
“The Big House” was the tenth episode of the first season of Daria. It first aired on MTV on June 30, 1997.
Both Daria and Quinn are caught sneaking into their house late at night, so Helen and Jake introduce a set of rules regarding late nights, dates and curfew. Quinn, while apparently accepting the rules, goes on a date that same night (in direct violation of the rules), calling it as a late-night study session, but is caught lying the next morning. Instead of just punishing for the offense, Helen and Jake set up an elaborate procedure called Family Court, with Jake presiding and Helen prosecuting. After some theatrical performances by both parents, Quinn and Daria just plead guilty and are grounded for a month (even though Daria hadn't broken any rules).
At Lawndale High, the main topic of discussion is a hockey game between classic rock DJ's and the teachers. When she inquires why, Daria is told that Mr. DeMartino had had a heart attack right during last year's game, so every student is hoping to see it happen again, to the point that there is even a betting pool on when it will happen. Daria, disgustedly, states she can't go because she is grounded, to the great amusement of her fellow students.
The grounding is trying for all Morgendorffers: Quinn ties up the phone for hours, to the annoyance of her parents. Daria starts to read compulsively in the living room, teasing a bored Quinn to the point where she even asks advice for a book. Daria beats Helen and Jake in Monopoly and Scrabble, spelling "Incarcerate" during the latter. She also plays the harmonica at night, poetically justifying it when her father asks her to stop.
Daria, however, is so fed up with the situation that she decides to skip her grounding to go to the hockey game. She tells Jane and Jodie, who had visited to make sure she was all right (as a rumor had that she was being experimented on). Daria creates a careful plan of escape, involving a recording of her harmonica, leaving through the window and avoiding the neighborhood watch. However, when both parents leave phone messages stating they have to work late she just leaves the house by the front door.
The hockey game is going well when Daria arrives to watch, until Rock N' Roll Randy hits Mr. DeMartino in the leg, leaving him lying. Andrea celebrates (apparently having that spot in the pool), only to curse as Mr. DeMartino gets back up. Eventually a brawl erupts between both teams on the court, including Ms. Barch beating up on Randy.
However, this fun outing ends for Daria when she comes home, finding Helen and Jake had arrived earlier and found Daria gone. There is another Family Court session the next day, but this time Daria is ready, negotiating a 'plea bargain' with her mother (in which she would manage her own times), using the cost of further grounding (including Monopoly, Scrabble and late-night harmonica playing) as leverage. Reluctantly, Helen and Jake accept.
So everything is back to normal, except that Kevin still believes Daria had been subjected to a strange experience while "grounded". Only Daria's witty putdown makes him realise how foolish the idea is, to the bemusement of Jane and Daria.
- U Look Fly Today (Kevin and Brittany eating pizza)
Daria and Quinn had no curfew until this episode - Helen is trying to retroactively claim they did, undermined by Jake admitting the truth by accident.
In a rare sign of DeMartino wearing casual clothes, he's sporting a "USA" sports jersey.
During the scrabble game, someone spelt the word "brat". Were Daria's tactics getting to one of her parents?
Barch batters Randy with a declaration of "payback time" - what's she out for revenge over??
"The Daria Diaries" reveals that the family court was used again - this time on Jake, over carpet wear in the living room. Helen used "pacing photos" as evidence, and Daria was bringing Jane to practice being a courtroom sketch artist.
The rules presented by Helen and Jake are displayed in ten-commandment-style cardboard tablets. In the DVD release, all of the onscreen text is legible. Some portions are repeated or don't align with the dialogue, presumably because they were only intended as filler.
1. Persistent questioning of parental judgment is punishable. Occasional questioning of parental judgment indicates healthy skepticism and shall be permitted at the pleasure of mother and father (hereinafter referred to as the "ruling council")
2. No pimple pads in the toilet.
3. Wear your own damn sleepers when you walk out in the snow for the newspaper.
8. [Duplicate of Rule 1]
9. [Duplicate of Rule 2]
11. The ruling council shall determine when occasional questioning becomes persistent questioning and shall not be required to provide advance notice of said determination.
12. Members of this household are expected to treat each other according to the established "norms" of respect and/or rules outlined in the Geneva Conventions of War.
18. The ruling council does not allow dates on school nights.
19. Interdependent behavior shall be considered preferable to independent behavior.
20. Curfew shall be considered to be 10 p.m. on school nights.
21. Telephone usage shall occur on an "as needed" basis.
(Helen points to this tablet when she states that "rules 21 through 26" describe a sign-in procedure to follow when coming home late.)
The 'Big House' is a nickname given to prison, which is reflected in the aspects of grounding experienced by the two Morgendorffer sisters during the episode.
Daria's Reading Material
While grounded, Daria is shown reading Herman Melville's Moby-Dick in the living room. This may be commentary on Helen's Ahab Ahab-like mania for legal procedure.
Daria offers Quinn her copy of Homer's Iliad:
Daria: Try this. I think you'll get into it.
Quinn: Ha, ha, very funny. Now give me something that I can read.
Daria: No, I think you'll like it. It's about this girl who's so popular that everybody fights over her.
Quinn: Any horses in it?
Daria: As a matter of a fact, there's a great big one.
Quinn: This is a trick, isn't it.
It should be noted that The Iliad does not include the story about the Trojan Horse; this story appears in The Aeneid. Since Daria's supposed to have read The Iliad, she's probably having fun at Quinn's expense (and that the writers forgot which play it was).
Where was Daria?
The episode begins with Daria being dropped off late in the evening from a car. Where she was and who she was with is never fully explained,. This is one of the comparatively few times we see Daria doing "normal" teenage things like coming home late. The event isn't specifically part of the episode's storyline, but rather just a part of the background.
The car that drops her off is the exact same car driven by "Guy" in Malled, who gave Daria a ride back in that episode (as part of Fashion Club detail). Is it him? If so, what were they both doing in the same place together?
When Daria herself was asked about it in an MTV online chat, she replied "I promised the governor I would never reveal that."
When asked about it in a January 2006 interview on DVDaria, Glenn Eichler said he believed that he'd intended for "The Big House" to pick up where "The New Kid" left off, with Daria going on another date with either Ted DeWitt-Clinton or (to our amazement) Robert. As "The New Kid" was a season 2 episode and wouldn't have been written when "The Big House" was (and Eichler didn't remember the name of the former episode), he was likely getting things mixed up.
“The Big House” and Fanfic
Events from this episode were included in "Morgendorffer Prison Blues," by Richard Lobinske. An Iron Chef on PPMB concerning the mysterious car that dropped Daria at her home at the episode's start spawned several fanfics, such as TAG's "Special Delivery" and "True Lies."
- Episode Transcript
- "'The Big House' Turns Eleven," on the Daria Fandom Blog II
- "Morgendorffer Prison Blues," by Richard Lobinske
- "Special Delivery," by TAG
- "True Lies," by TAG
- Episode Analysis for "The Big House" and The Teachings of Don Jake by WellTemperedClavier