|The Lab Brat
|April 14, 1997
|Special Guest Voices
“The Lab Brat” was the seventh episode of the first season of Daria.
At Lawndale High School during science class, Janet Barch presents a lesson on acquired behavior involving a lab rat, interspersed with comments regarding her hatred of men and descriptions of how her husband left her. Ms. Barch's dislike of males extends to her male students but she praises Daria’s morbid answer to a question. She concludes the lesson by assigning teams of students for a home science project consisting of training a rat to run through a maze. Because of her morbid comments, Daria is paired with Kevin so he can suffer ("condition Kevin--I mean, the mouse"); and Brittany is paired with Upchuck. (Brittany ends up sobbing in the toilets) Daria isn't sure how to get out of Kevin 'helping' her until he asks if they can work at her house, because his cable TV isn't working...
That evening at the Morgendorffers, Helen speaks with Daria about her upcoming project, partly to avoid hearing about Quinn's day. Helen ignores Daria’s comments on Helen's lack of sincerity and comments that associating with Kevin could help Daria socially: something that leaves Quinn aghast. Quickly, Quinn says she could help too!
Kevin arrives shortly afterward and Daria distracts him from the project by turning on the Pigskin Channel, while she retires to the garage to work on the project alone. Quinn attempts to flirt with Kevin, seeing a way into his social circle, but Kevin is completely oblivious: an attempt to get him to fetch a soda gets the response "thanks babe, can you put some ice in it?".
Meanwhile, Brittany has arrived at Upchuck’s house under a heavy disguise. She warns him not to get ideas about her presence and rejects doing work, but Chuck has blackmail material: a photograph of her and Oakwood High's quarterback in a compromising position. (Which means Upchuck is peeping on people when they make out...) He then changes his mind, and decides he'll do the maze and blackmail her into doing chores and favours for him. "Slave for a week...!", he tells us.
A few days later, Daria has finished the maze and trained up the mouse. Kevin continues to watch football in the TV, oblivious to strong hints that Kevin should go out with her, while Quinn shuts out Brittany so she can't interfere. Kevin eventually goes to the garage (he got lost), breaking part of the maze by accident, with Quinn following to offer him a massive chocolate layer cake. ("'Leave it by the TV', god, it's like we're already going out!") He and Daria are surprised by Brittany, who quickly deduces that Kevin hasn't been working and manipulates him into admitting ("uhhh... well, see, there's this path... wait, hey, there's two paths. Cool!") and thinks he must have been seduced by both Morgendorffer sisters. Daria happily furthers this belief, and Kevin doesn't help his case by not wanting to leave -- "it's only halftime! ...I mean... Daria needs me." The cheerleader warns Daria that she will fight for her man (Kevin wants to know what man).
The following night, as Daria and Jane are discussing the project at Pizza King, they are interrupted by Kevin, who wants to arrange another visit to watch the Steelers game. He remembers he promised to help Quinn "with her back massage technique"; their fellow students are watching and listening, including the Three Js. They've noticed that Kevin has spent every night that week at Daria's, and Jamie White figures there must be something 'good' about Daria that they'd unaware of. A watching Brittany steps in to get Kevin to take her on a date to see the new Whitney Houston movie, only for him to try and claim he needs to work; Daria tries to get him to take the night off, causing an angry Kevin to stage-whisper that he wants to avoid the "chick movie". He's caught out by Brittany and flees.
The angry cheerleader tells Daria she can't steal "my Kevvie" because "you're a brain". Daria agrees this is "a very astute observation about the likelihood of me dating your boyfriend", only for Jane to question if it should be former boyfriend. The situation is made worse when the J's come over; Brittany tries to pick them instead but they brush her off in order to ask Daria on a date (until Quinn comes along and they revert to type). Britt wails to a fed up Jodie that she can't compete with sisters but when Jodie snaps "maybe you could get your brother to wear a skirt", the cheerleader gets an idea (but it'll have to wait until after she's done Upchuck's shopping).
Later that night, while Quinn tells a friend over the phone that she's "kind of dating" Kevin and juggles her dates, Brittany gets into the garage - using the grand cover story of "Kevin wants this, can I leave it in the garage?" - and kidnaps Daria's mouse, the 'excuse' for the sisters to 'steal' Kevin. She leaves the mouse in her psychotic brother Brian's (lack of) care.
Discovering the missing mouse, Daria informs Kevin. Then, she explains to Kevin that this will mean they'll fail the assignment. Kevin wishes there was something he could do... "but what?". Then he just sits and watches the Pigskin Channel anyway. Jake Morgendorffer attempts to do male bonding with Kevin, which turns into a bitter rant about military school and how he likes to think all his classmates died in the Vietnam War and the shame of masturbation. (Kevin isn't listening) While Quinn tries and fails to distract Kevin from the TV with a short skirt, Daria quizzes her and finds out Brittany has stolen the mouse.
The next day at school, Kevin protests he hasn't done anything wrong and discovers for the first time that everyone thinks he's dating Daria and Quinn. (He's actually quite happy about the rumour because: "whoa, twins!") Daria is able to trick Brittany into exchanging the mouse for Kevin, claiming that Barch is going to make her and Kevin do a make-up experiment that could take weeks. Both Brittany and Daria think they've won that deal, while Kevin wants to know if he can still go to Daria's house to watch the Pigskin Channel. (Brittany quickly gets her parents to get cable) Quinn is distraught at losing access to Kevin, while Jake's neediness makes her think he's after Kevin too!
Unfortunately, Brian's treatment has left the mouse traumatized and worthless for the project. The next day at school, Daria uses Brian's abuses as an example of negative reinforcement and plays on Barch's anti-male neuroses, and earns a top grade - while Kevin, who had been mute and striking poses during Daria's speech, barely receives a passing grade (which he still considers cause for celebration). Meanwhile, Upchuck gets an F despite all his work because Barch will only let girls give the presentation -- and Brittany knows nothing because she was too busy slaving for Chuck to do any work!
After class, Kevin tells Daria he really liked hanging at her house and tells her there's a big party at his house on Friday....
...can Quinn make it?
Animation and technical errors
The peephole on Daria's front door kept disappearing and reappearing.
When Brittany hands the shopping to Upchuck, the parting in her hair appears on the wrong side in one shot.
Behind Jane at Pizza King, a blonde girl's pizza and drink are levitating.
When Jane and Daria are talking to Brittany at Pizza King, Jane's ear disappears.
Two significant running gags turn up here: Janet Barch debuts, along with her bitter rants, divorce backstory, and extreme misandry; and Jake makes his first reference to his military school days and shows the churning resentments in his soul.
Quinn's long and involved descriptions of mundane experiences in her life causes Helen to practically plead for Daria to talk to her. In "Psycho Therapy", Helen will admit she thinks something has gone horribly wrong with Quinn.
This is one of the creepiest Upchuck's we'll ever see: gleefully turning a girl into a "slave" and enjoying it, and we find out he spies on couples making out. Ewww.
Upchuck looks right at the audience during his "slave for a week" comment...
Quinn showing her legs to seduce Kevin ("Kevin? Do you think my skirt is too short?") is a nod to the film The Graduate.
Kevin ementions watching the Steelers game. Lawndale is usually taken as near Baltimore due to a comment by Glenn Eichler but there is an historic rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.
"The Lab Brat" and Fanfic
Daria hands Brittany a mouse early into the "Evil Daria Vignettes" round robin, implying she's 'taking' Kevin.
Alternate universe versions of "Lab Brat" have appeared in "John Lane" by Richard Lobinske ("The Maze Thing"), "Quinn's Code" by cfardell_Brenorenz29 ("The Lab Mouse, the Geek and the Convention"),and "Sexy Daria" by Shiva ("Lab Lockdown Sex").
- Episode transcript at Daria Transcripts
- The Daria Fandom Blog, March 2007 archive. The DFG is maintained by CINCGREEN and Greybird. The entry for Saturday, April 14, 2007, is “‘The Lab Brat’: A Formula for Humor”
- Episode Analysis by WellTemperedClavier