We'll set the scene. The countryside is flat except for telephone poles and scrubby grass and rocks. Newly licensed Daria is driving, Quinn is riding shotgun in her cowgirl outfit, their mission to help Jane and Mystik Spiral has been accomplished. Daria, however, is still steamed over cute cowboy Travis taking Jane's $100, even if it was moron sister Quinn who willingly gave him the money for a bus ticket and a new gingham outfit. As they start the hours-long drive home, the siblings chat. The following dialog is from the episode transcript on Outpost Daria, with some tweaking based on my repeated views of the scene.
- Daria: [calm] That was nice what you said, that we make a good team.
- Quinn: [breezy] I guess sometimes being timid works just as well as being confident.
- Daria: [irked tone] I'm not timid.
- Quinn: [suddenly excited; leans out of car window, points, and cries out] Oh my gosh, look! It's Travis! [waves at Travis, who is standing with his suitcase on the two-lane highway, about 2-3 feet from the shoulder]
- Daria: [low voice] Seriously, do you really think I'm timid?
- Quinn: [still leaning out window, normal voice] Yes, but it doesn't matter. [shouts and waves at Travis in excitement] It's Travis!
- Daria: [in a flat, decisive tone, speaking as if to herself] I'm not timid. [Daria's right foot pushes gas pedal almost to the floor, engine revs up as car accelerates]
- Quinn: [back in her seat, looking anxiously at Daria] What are you doing? [looks at road ahead, eyes grow huge] Daria? [shrieks] Daria! [Travis sees car approaching and runs from highway; Quinn screams as car runs over Travis's suitcase; suitcase is smashed open and contents are scattered everywhere; Travis steps back on highway and looks at departing car with stunned expression]
- Daria: [calm, watching road ahead as Quinn looks out rear window] Okay . . . now do you think I'm timid?
- Quinn: [turns around, nervous look and tone] Um, no. Why don't we just put on some music and relax?
- Daria: [flat voice] I'll pick the music.
- Quinn: [very agreeable] Fair enough.
In the scene, Travis is clearly shown standing on the highway blacktop well into the lane itself. His suitcase is behind him but closer to the shoulder than he is. Daria would not have to do anything but stay in her lane to hit Travis or his suitcase. When the suitcase was struck, the car was as close to the right shoulder as it could get without running off the road. The elapsed time between the moment Travis lept from the road to the moment Daria hit his suitcase is about one second.
You can assume that Daria assumed Travis would get the hint and jump from the highway so she could hit only his suitcase. Or, you can assume she was pissed as hell and didn't care if she hit the suitcase, Travis, or both. In any event, Daria was one second from hitting Travis, and she made no effort to swerve and avoid him.
This is arguably the dumbest thing Daria ever did. It is also arguably the most evil thing she ever did, to almost kill a human being just to prove a point to her sister. Travis was at worst a moocher and didn't mind sweet-talking teenage girls out of some cash. (He didn't use the money for a bus ticket, obviously.) He didn't appear to be armed, drunk, violent, abusive, sexually aggressive, or anything other than a cheerful, good-natured, roguish hitchhiker with a guitar. He was certainly nicer than the pedophiles who appeared in "I Don't," "Lucky Strike," and The Daria Database. Daria did nothing at all to the minister who hit on Quinn at Erin's wedding. Maybe the thought that the lost money had belonged to Jane, her best and only friend, ramped up her rage.
What if Travis had been just a second too slow, was too surprised to move, or didn't believe she would really try to hit him?
The speed limit on two-lane country roads around the Chesapeake Bay area is 55 miles per hour. Daria accelerated before hitting the suitcase, so she could have been going 65-70 or faster. A sedan of the type Daria was driving weighs over 3,000 lbs., a ton and a half.
No point in doing the math for the kinetic energy that represents. It's blammo, baby. I can't believe the suitcase didn't fly a hundred feet or the car didn't flip over after running over a foot-thick obstacle at high speed, but that's cartoon physics for you. (LATE ADD: If Travis's suitcase was made of cardboard, which some cheap ones are, and he didn't have much clothing in it, then I can see the car smashing and flattening it without much difficulty.)
What does this little episode say about Our Heroine? Your turn to chime in. The Comments box is open.