AAR 93: "First Days" #2: 3:6-10

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AAR 93: "First Days" #2: 3:6-10

Postby jeffk on Thu Jun 09, 2005 8:31 pm

Next: AAR Week 94
Prev: AAR Week 92

[edit: added Next link]

This week, Ceilidh seeks the truth, and we discover the truth. Lots of things appear to be resolved.

"Appear" being the operative word.

I go off on multiple tangents this week; I think this took more time to write than the "Ceilidh smooch" and "hoooooo" commentaries combined. Some of this may be original, but I doubt it. Given the forum's tendency to faithfully chase down every conceivable angle (and a few not-so-conceivable), it's probably safe to assume that most of my ramblings this week came from things I read during late-night forum dives. I'm just not sure what :-)

.1: Oh, yeah...there's a resounding vote of confidence from Joe :roll:

.2: And Joe thought he was on the defensive before.... Ceilidh's questions, combined w/ Phoebe's glare, probably makes him think Ceilidh's been taking lessons from the master.

.3: What we have here is failure to communicate...or to pay attention to what's being communicated. Ceilidh seems to be completely oblivious to Joe's full-blown panic.

Well, maybe not completely oblivious, but she's asking if everything's OK instead of asking what's wrong. Probably because she doesn't really want to know.

.1: Yyyyyyeah! Tonight! That's the ticket!

Joe thinks he's dodged a bullet.

.2: Exit, stage left.


.3: Another revelation?


.1: YES! He told Phoebe about the stairs! Huzzah!

But now I've gotta overspeculate; after all, this is the Avalon forum. I wonder exactly what Joe wrote in her yearbook. Partially because of the whole fear-of-discovery thing--although I still like the Gary Morris/Bette Midler Encryption Theory--but also because he sounds like he's almost too ashamed to talk about it in this frame. Since he didn't want Ceilidh to read it, and since he gave it to her knowing it was going straight to Phoebe without anyone else reading it, I'm guessing he was equally ashamed to write about it in the yearbook. Since he'd figured out Operation Cheer-Up-Phoebe...well, how is a guilty confession supposed to cheer her up?

Although now that I think about it, maybe this was his first step toward apologizing for the past two or three years, and repairing some of the damage from same. More specifically, for sneaking around behind the scenes--or behind the bastard at the top of the stairs, in this case--instead of talking to Phoebe about it.

No, wait a minute. I think I know what he's apologizing for. I don't think Joe realizes exactly what sort of bastard he pushed down the stairs. Ryan (and presumably everyone else) knew Todd was a jerk, and that he dumped Phoebe hard, but he didn't know physical abuse was involved, because Phoebe never told anyone. And I don't think Joe knew about the physical abuse, either. He didn't mention it when he told Ceilidh about Todd's "accident"; instead, he talks about asking Deirdre "to get back at Todd for me" (and not "for Phoebe"), and deciding on the spur of the moment "to vent my frustration". (BTW, Ryan said Todd fell down the stairs after he dumped Phoebe, but Joe doesn't mention it. Might be a plot mistake, or it might be another "fact" Ryan got wrong, or Joe might have been out of the loop, or simply neglected to mention it when telling the story to Ceilidh. Goodness knows it wasn't the only detail Joe neglected to mention.)

So Joe was apologizing for pushing Todd down the stairs out of childish jealousy. We know he should have apologized for using his hands instead of a baseball bat, but until now, I hadn't grokked that he didn't know.

So why didn't he want Ceilidh to see it, since he'd already told her the truth about the stairs? The standard theory was that he'd written something a bit more personal, but the story ended without further revelations on that front. I've got three theories:
  1. He was pretending he hadn't figured out Operation Cheer-Up-Phoebe for Ceilidh's sake, but knew he'd lose "plausible deniability" points if Ceilidh knew he'd 'fessed up about the stairs.
  2. Although his confession wasn't "personal" in the wink-wink-nudge-nudge sense, he considered it sufficiently personal that he wanted it kept for Phoebe's eyes only.
  3. Just as Ceilidh suspected people wouldn't act "normally" if they knew the yearbook was Operation Cheer-Up-Phoebe, Joe might have thought that Ceilidh would have a similar reaction if she knew about the confession.
.2: Phoebe's turn for guilty confessions.

.3: I wonder if Phoebe's jumping to conclusions about Joe's motivation for pushing Todd, and what Joe knew. I'm not convinced Joe knew what Todd was doing. But I could be wrong. After all, Phoebe read the yearbook; I didn't :-)

.4: Three years...ouch. What could have been...

.1 and .2: Well, what could have been?

Actually, I think Phoebe is dodging the issue slightly because she knows--but Joe doesn't--that he asked a really loaded question. Loaded because she doesn't have the answer yet.
  • "Pfft... We would've killed each other after a week." Begin hand-waving mode.
  • "I don't think we're right for each other, Joe." OK, this proved to be more honest than we thought, in light of the ending. But we didn't realize it at the time, because Josh got us all distracted with this:
  • "Look at you, you're dating Ceilidh, of all people!" This sure sounded like a slam...but in retrospect, we could parse this a number of ways:
    • Ceilidh puts up a feisty front, but she's not quite as...direct...as Phoebe. I can't picture Ceilidh asking a friend right off the bat if she and her boyfriend...y'know...? And unlike Phoebe in frame 4, "Oh, bite me, dumbass" just isn't Ceilidh's style. Phoebe might be saying that because she knows Joe well enough from their years of friendship (before everything hit the fan in Grade 9) to know that Joe wouldn't expect that level of bluntness from his girlfriend.
    • Or Phoebe's referring to Ceilidh's boy-chasing behavior last year, compared to Phoebe's avoidance of male companionship. These are probably the most obvious reasons.
    • OTOH, Phoebe could be piling on the BS because she knows Joe well enough to know that he's piling on the BS. For now, she's treating Joe and Ceilidh's relationship like it's the real thing, but after talking to Ceilidh, I think she already knows better. As Joe admitted to Ceilidh, he told Phoebe everything, so I suspect Joe and Phoebe also had long converations about relationships and first kisses. In short, she knows Joe better than anyone else, including Ceilidh. She later tells Joe that she sees through the relationship, but I think she saw through it right away. If we assume Phoebe knew how romantic Joe was about first kisses--and despite the messy break-up, I think we can assume she had an idea--we can also assume she knew Joe would have kissed Ceilidh, would have bought her flowers, and would have bought her countless friggin' cans of pop if he honestly felt the relationship was right.
    • Or maybe she's just covering up the real meaning behind this:
  • "And I don't know what the hell I want, anymore." Which turns out to be an even more interesting statement than "I don't think we're right for each other."
Sufficiently interesting, in fact, that I'm going to step away from today's strip for a bit. Now that we know what Phoebe really thinks about Ceilidh, I'm still curious about one thing: when did Phoebe know? And when did she finally accept it?

When someone pointed out this line after Josh posted the ending, I though that Phoebe already knew, but didn't want to admit the truth to Joe. Until I worked on this week's forum dive, and found what Josh said in the forum after the "daydreaming in lab" strip came out. More "sufficiently interesting" stuff...interesting enough to quote in full:
On 2002-03-25 12:37, Haesslich wrote:
This was back when she wa sfeeling more insecure than she seems to be, now. I rather like Phoebe in her slightly more-relaxed mode... but she still has some distance to go before she's as easy going as say, Iain was. :D

Are you suggesting that's what Phoebe *needs*?

That's one of the things that really struck me about the discussion in those old threads... everyone seemed to have an idea of what Phoebe needed to do to get better. That's all fine and good (though many of them made no sense within the context of the Avalon universe... they might have worked if they broke the 4th wall repeatedly)... but no one really stated what Phoebe's final status ought to be. There seemed to be a general snse that what Phoebe needed was to be more self-confident, outgoing, and (my favourite... ;-) ) to find a boyfriend.

So here's one of the opinions of mine that I've tried not to present too often... but I'd like to challenge the concept that Phoebe needs *anything* to "get better." You can't define exactly what "better" *is* for Phoebe. What does Phoebe want? Does even *she* know what she wants?

Ultimately, it's my concept that Phoebe's goals are irrelevent. Even the journey to achieve that goal is irrelvenet. Right now, Phoebe is *searching* for a goal. Last summer, she didn't have anything to work toward, and didn't even have the strength to look for one. But she's since been given hope by some friends she never really knew she had, so now she's at least *willing* to start something.

And here's a bit of a hint: during that recent chem lab with Ryan, Phoebe was definitely lost in thought... she might have found something to pursue.


  • "Right now, Phoebe is *searching* for a goal...during that recent chem lab with Ryan, Phoebe was definitely lost in thought... she might have found something to pursue." The logical explanation is that she made up her mind about Ceilidh around that time of the chem lab accident.
  • "There seemed to be a general snse that what Phoebe needed was to be more self-confident, outgoing, and (my favourite... ;-) ) to find a boyfriend." The logical explanation is that Josh used the ;-) emoticon because there's no emoticon for "laughing diabolically like the ISB I am" :-)

More Josh quotage:

So first off, Markus, you've done a brilliant job of analyzing and summarizing Phoebe, though you may have fallen into a trap that I've unintentionally dropped. Phoebe is *very* interested in Joe & Ceilidh's relationship (that much is obvious from the comic), but I'll suggest it's not for any simple, cut-and-dry reasons (that would be the trap... leaving an obvious explanation in plain view when a far more twisty one is sitting right beside it, being ignored). Phoebe *is* a changed person after last summer's debacle and the yearbook fiasco, but what has she changed *into*? One of the big differences is that she's more aware of the people around her and of what they think. In her depressed state, she could only assume that no one really cared about her, and she wasn't in any condition to try to prove otherwise. But that changed when it was proved *for* her by Ceilidh, Joe, Ryan, etc. But why did she believe it? Sometimes a person in Phoebe's state would assume it's all lip-service, just words meant to cheer you up, but there was a factor in all of this which led Phoebe to believe everything she was told, and that factor continues to drive her personality in the present. Other than that, I'd say Phoebe is quite lost, and very unsure of what she's to do with herself now. She's changed, definitely, but she doesn't know what she's become (and is afraid to choose what she really wants).

Now I think I'm ready to fire up the Wayback Machine....

  • Start with Grade 9, when Joe told her he wanted something more intimate. She told Ryan that she was confused, which is a rather interesting choice of words. Was she confused about her interest in boys (or lack thereof), her relationship with Joe, or Joe's intentions? I don't recall any evidence one way or another.
  • Grade 10: Phoebe swears off male companionship...and apparently female companionship, too.
  • Grade 11: Ceilidh comes to town, and evil apologizes to her. Although Phoebe doesn't open up to Ceilidh, she does befriend the new girl, which is apparently more than she's done with anyone else at school post-Todd.
  • Summer: the campout, and the infamous 200th Strip conversation. Phoebe's discomfort over the whole situation--plus what she blurted out to Alan--might have been her attempt to cover up what she really thought about Ceilidh, but I don't think so. For starters, Josh didn't work out the details of Phoebe's past until later. (I think. Maybe he already had Phoebe's Graduation Night planned, but merely needed a few tweaks to retcon the apparent disconnect between Phoebe's reputation and her friendliness to Ceilidh during Grade 11.) Also, Phoebe is nice to Ceilidh. (No, that didn't come out the way I meant it...I'll take another stab at describing this later.)
  • Grade 12: Ceilidh gets distracted, first by Iain (hmmm...maybe I should take back what I said about Phoebe being nice to Ceilidh), then Joe. Phoebe's on the outside, looking in.
  • Then Ryan gets distracted. Bottom drops out, emotionally speaking....
  • Until Ryan shocks her twice at her house. First by being there in the first place (Oh my God), and then by wielding the Yearbook of Cluefulness (Oh my God).
  • First day of school: Phoebe's shocked to discover that Ceilidh really does care about her, and that Ceilidh doesn't have to try to date Joe anymore. Phoebe joyfully accepts the first discovery, and sees right through the second.
  • The hockey party: Phoebe's out in public again--dolled up, and without her glasses.
  • Halloween: Phoebe's turn to go for the Highlands.
  • The Stupid White-Out incident. Josh confirms that Phoebe changed her list to match Ceilidh's, but remains silent on why.
  • New Year's at Joe's: Phoebe taunts sweater-girl about casual clothing--something Phoebe probably wouldn't have done in Grade 11. Question: Is Phoebe merely comfortable enough with Ceilidh to egg her on (see Ceilidh's first encounter with Iain), or is she trying to grab Ceilidh's attention for other reasons?
  • The Evidence of Incompetent Lab Partner incident quoted above. And it's Valentine's Day--always a romantically twisty event in Avalon.

I can interpret this in two ways:
  • Phoebe Knew All Along. Or at least, she knew she didn't feel the way she thought she was "supposed" to feel when Joe asked for more than friendship in Grade 9. She might have even had a crush on Ceilidh from Day One of Grade 11--only to feel deserted in Grade 12 as Ceilidh chased after Iain, then Joe. The spring and summer finds her too depressed to have feelings for anyone, male or female. After Ceilidh staged the yearbook stunt--all completetly behind the scenes--Phoebe realized Ceilidh hadn't deserted her after all, opening the possibility of something more...if she dares. She wrestles with that issue throughout the fall semester, and finally makes her choice by the time of the lab incident.
  • Phoebe Didn't Know. She might or might not have questioned her orientation in Grade 9. Either way, she didn't think of Ceilidh as anything more than a friend in Grade 11. She still feels deserted in Grade 12, and depressed that spring and summer. After the yearbook stunt, however, she's shocked to realize that Ceilidh hadn't deserted her...and even more shocked to realize that her feelings for Ceilidh are too strong for friendship. She might also have unresolved feelings for Joe in light of the staircase incident. Again, she wrestles though the problem throughout the fall semester, choosing Ceilidh by the time of the lab incident.

I lean toward the "Phoebe Didn't Know" scenario because (a) she seemed to be "WTF?" surprised by the conversation in the tent, not "wow, you too?" surprised--and (b) she admitted the bottom dropped out when Ryan appeared to lose interest, not Ceilidh. OTOH, I could have read reason a all wrong, and reason b is pretty weak.

But aside from all of that, I'm having problems getting into Joe and Phoebe's head in this strip.

Why did Joe ask if they would have worked out as a couple? Looking at the forum, there was speculation a-plenty as to the exact wording of Joe's yearbook entry. Was Joe hinting at something more? Was Joe still curious about something more? Or is he curious about "what if we'd done things differently then", not "what if we do things differently now"? Since we never found any additional twists about Joe's yearbook entry, I'm guessing it's equal parts "Joe curious about then" and "Josh feeding us red herrings now" :-)

.3: I read Joe's comment as "being good friends, but just good friends." And I'm guessing that Phoebe's saying she'd like to be just good friends again.

Or maybe not. Remember the thread about true love not bragging? Given that Joe and Ceilidh both did something major without bragging, we could interpret "I don't know what the hell I want" to mean "Joe or Ceilidh?" Or alternatively, "Do I dare ask Ceilidh? If I *don't* dare...maybe Joe? After all, he cares about me, he's proven it, and it wouldn't raise as many eyebrows..."

More rambling...Joe Daddy's story illustrates the pitfalls of going after your second choice simply because she's available. The obvious parallel is C&J...but was Phoebe intended to be a more subtle parallel?

.4: OK, I lost Joe's train of thought again. Did he think Phoebe wanted to be more than just good friends? Did he understand she wanted to be just good friends, but didn't think their friendship could be the same because of hormones and/or Ceilidh? Or is he just egging her on (successfully, apparently) despite the non-playful look on his face?


"Oh, just spoke with an old friend of mine. Nothing special."

Maybe she's worried about the C&J relationship because of Joe's behavior toward Ceilidh, but doesn't want to hurt Ceilidh. Maybe she's afraid Ceilidh would be needlessly jealous and/or suspicious. Maybe Phoebe's thinking "Joe or Ceilidh?", and Ceilidh would have been right to be jealous and/or suspicious.

Maybe she doesn't know Ceilidh already knows Joe pushed Todd down the stairs, and doesn't want to spill the beans. That would also explain why she thanks Ceilidh for managing the yearbook situation; if Joe's story is the real reason for Phoebe's change, she needs a cover story for Ceilidh's sake.

No, I take that back. Now we know Ceilidh's the real reason for the change--Phoebe did go to Ceilidh on Graduation Night, not Joe--and the big thing Ceilidh did was staging Operation Cheer-Up-Phoebe while going out of her way not to call attention to herself, even when Phoebe was dragging herself off into the sunset at the end of Grade 12. Otherwise, Phoebe's reaction wouldn't make any sense.

Forum Dive:

9553: 3:6: Speculation on Joe's panic. Part of it is obvious--he thought all was well until Ceilidh started asking questions--but Phoebe's presence can't be helping the cause. Is he just uptight about talking private relationship stuff around Phoebe? Is he afraid about what Phoebe may have stirred up? Does the yearbook entry have anything to do with it?
9554: 3:6: More speculation on Joe's panic. Maybe Joe's unfamiliar with this whole relationship-maintenance thing. Maybe Joe should just run for the hills. Dryga_Yes calls the yearbook entry--while admitting that the call probably isn't original--then returns a couple of days later to rejoice. Rob and Vae propose an even twistier yearbook entry.
9555: Off topic: What everyday objects do you associate yourself with?
9556: OT: Comments on a couple of articles on post-9/11 government reactions.
9557: 3:7: Mid-week cliffhanger! David The Kettle complains about Josh The Pot. Josh admits he skipped a conversation between 3:6 and 3:7, but threatens revenge and mayhem for the weekend. Which leads to further speculation.
9558: 3:7: More discussion about the skipped conversation between 3:6 and this strip. Josh explains that he tries to show--or at least allude to--all important points in the story.
9559: 3:7: What's she gonna say?
9560: 3:7: More speculation on what Joe wrote. Saturn is evil, Magus Blastarr is broke, and DW is wrong. Saturn redeems himself for his earlier evil with his theory on pessimistic theories, and why webcomics are better than print comics.
9561: 3:8: Joe 'fessed up! Joe and Phoebe are patching things up! They wouldn't do something really evil like kiss, would they?
9562: 3:8: With Joe and Phoebe finding closure, is anyone sad that the end is coming? Of course, as others pointed out, early closure probably means more surprises...
9563: OBIT: Ernie Coombs (Mr. Dressup).
9564: Josh asks about setting up a dial-up server.
9565: 3:9.4: Did Joe just blow it, or are they back to routine bantering. BunnyThor wins the Evil Mental Image Of The Day award. JPSloan might have had a better...erm, worse...image, but the link's broken.
9566: 3:9: "Ceilidh, of all people"? Huh? Where did that slam come from? David Adrian succumbs to PSL.
9567: 3:9: "Killed each other after a week"...how? A couple of theories, one based on personalities, another based on PSL. Ursine posts his opinion on the Bradley sisters in general, which somehow gets twisted into a PSL-fest. (I sense a pattern somewhere :roll: )
9568: Josh asks why the boards are relatively quiet lately--board problems again? Comics too boring? RL interference? Too many computer viruses keeping systems down?
9569: Renimar posts a "still video" based on "Crash".
9570: BunnyThor attempts to predict 3:10. After admitting total failure in that department, he starts a discussion on stylistic quirks in comic strips.
9571: 3:10: Dryer sheet in comic: check. Dryer sheet discussion in forum: check.
9572: 3:10: More dryer-sheet celebration...but could the annual appearance be improved?
9573: SMAC fanservice.
9574: Helene fanart (I think...link broken or missing) leads to the usual (and some very unusual) chanting.
9575: Avalon book status?
9576: Spaceman42 checks back in.
9577: Where could the plot have gone in completely different directions? Several possible plot line divergences, including one that wasn't quite.
9578: Cameo in Fans? (broken link)
9579: Where's the Office Staff Guy?
9580: Why does Joe look so miserable in the new banner?
9581: Avalon Bebop fanfic.
9582: Tech thread for "Avalon Bebop".
9583: Proposals for the next storyline, after all the recent resolutions. The perils of using scripted kisses as an excuse for real kisses...especially without considering the subsequent scripted actions :-)
9584: Spaceman42 innocently asks what's happened in the past couple of months. Josh and the other boardies, ever helpful, fill him in on all of the plot perversions, er, plot points.
Last edited by jeffk on Sat Jul 02, 2005 5:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: AAR 93: "First Days" #2: 3:6-10

Postby Q99 on Thu Jun 09, 2005 11:07 pm

*Reads through the post*

Nice. That was indeed a fairly interesting week in the comic.

I'm going to have to read through all of the links and past theories at some point, but I have an upcoming several-day break where I won't be able to do much but the 'net, so I'll have plenty of time then.
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Postby Marcos on Fri Jun 10, 2005 9:06 pm

The mistake everyone seems to be making when trying to figure out what Joe wrote is assuming that Phoebe knows Todd was pushed down the stairs. But the general assumption around the school is that someone beat Todd up.
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