Friday, February 17, 2012

Sad news

Neil Hope, the actor who played Wheels, has died.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

S02 E04 – Great Expectations

The episode opens in the school office, where Liz and her mother are talking to Secretary Doris. Liz is supposed to be a new student now, even though she appeared as an extra in season 1. (I pay attention to these things so you don’t have to.) As Liz complains in a deep monotone about how her old school was better, and her haggard-looking mother scolds her, Steph runs in to make an announcement for the student council, and indirectly to remind us all that the student council is still a thing. She and Liz size each other up and exchange menacing looks, and Liz starts kvetching to her mother about how everyone at Degrassi is “a preppy”.

Yeah, except preppies wear sweater vests, and boat shoes, and polo shirts in bland neutrals, and that kind of stuff. Whereas Steph is wearing a red bustier, a blue miniskirt, and a big silver belt, with assorted red, white and blue accessories and terrifying amounts of blue eyeshadow, and overall she looks like it’s Halloween and she’s going as Sexed-up Wonder Woman. This outfit is many things, but preppy is not one of them.

As her mother lectures her about giving Degrassi a chance, we hear Mr Lawrence saying, “Don’t you ever pull a stunt like that again!” (His voice is so badly dubbed in that he sounds like he’s speaking over the PA as usual, which is pretty confusing to watch.) Joey is backing out of the principal’s office, apologising insincerely. Before he can leave, Doris calls him over, and says, “This is Liz O’Rourke. She’s joining your class. Maybe you could show her to Mr Raditch’s room?” Joey’s mouth says, “Yeah! Sure!”, but his expression says, “If by ‘Mr Raditch’s room’ you mean my pants.”

He bows elaborately to Liz, and busts out his old catchphrase: “Joey Jeremiah, chairman of the welcoming committee, at your service.” Steph rolls her eyes, but Liz seems kind of amused. As he leads her into the corridor, he tells her, “You’re talking to the number one cool guy here at Degrassi.” “Yeah?” Liz asks, in a voice that suggests she may actually believe him. Perhaps she is not the sharpest pencil in the box.

“Yeah!” he answers, looking understandably surprised that this line worked. “So, um, wanna go out?”

And thus the theme of the episode is established: Teenage Boys Are Horny. Apparently we need a TV show to teach us this.

After the opening credits, it’s another day, and everyone’s arriving at school. The Zit Remedy guys are complaining about how Simon’s a narbo because he’s quit their band to play soccer. So ends a plotline nobody cared about ever. As Liz shuffles angstily by, Joey asks the others what they think of her; Snake calls her weird, and Wheels calls her quiet. Her alleged weirdness is manifest in her short punk haircut and her two layered tank tops, à la Kate in the early seasons of Lost. This is extremely low-level weirdness. 1980s Canada is a tame, tame place.

Liz goes into the school building, giving Joey a sort of spacey smile on her way in, and when she’s gone he asks the other guys, “Do you think she does it? She looks like she does it.” Wow, wearing tank tops will really get you a reputation in Canada. Wheels, whose mullet is getting truly magnificent these days, briefly gets all sensible-feminist and asks what a girl who does it is supposed to look like, but Joey insists he’s heard “stuff” about Liz. Since he has no more details than that, we can only assume it’s Horny Boy wishful thinking.

When the others try to walk off, he calls them back, then asks, “Do you guys ever think about really having sex?” They take this poorly-phrased question in completely good faith, obviously consider lying, then admit that they think about it “a bit”. Joey says he thinks about it all the time, and the others are disgusted and brand him a sick, sex-crazed pervert.

I’m pretty sure that certain aspects of this conversation are not true to how 15-year-old boys actually behave.

Inside the building, Liz walks to the girls’ toilet while everybody stares at her because she is a tank-top-wearing hussy. Over the PA, Mr Lawrence announces that next week is Safety Week, for at least the third time since the show started.

In the library, Arthur is furtively reading an anatomy book, but tries to hide it when Yick appears. I get a horrible sinking feeling that whatever about next week, this week is going to be Profoundly Uncomfortable Teen Sexuality Week at Degrassi. Just like most weeks.

OMG YOU GUYS. Behind them on a bookshelf are not one but two copies of Damon King’s autobiography. A “celebrity” memoir written by a D-lister who picked up a 14-year-old student at the launch of said memoir has to be one of the all-time most inappropriate pieces of reading material ever found in a school library. This is right up there with… most of the other books in the Degrassi library.

Anyway, Yick asks Arthur why he’s acting weird lately, and Arthur immediately… well, I was going to say “spills”, but that’s a very unfortunate choice of word under the circumstances. He admits he’s worried about all the “really weird” dreams he’s been having lately, and that when he wakes up, he “leaks”. (Words cannot express how awkward I feel describing this scene.) Hilariously, Yick practically shouts, “Oh, you mean wet dreams!!!” earning them a death glare from Kathleen.

Arthur despondently mutters, “I think I’m turning into a sex maniac,” and if they ever made Degrassi merchandise, I hope that line got put on a T-shirt. Yick dives for Arthur’s anatomy book, and looks shocked by what he sees in it, even though he’s only looking at a drawing of a vertebra. Yick is a delicate flower.

Steph’s on her way to Bathroom of Skanky Transformations. Alex runs after her, and tells her that he’s been “thinking about the financial problems of the student council” and he wants to tell her some ideas he’s had. She nods politely, says that’s really nice, and immediately goes to hide in the bathroom because he’s not attractive. He stands outside the door and hangs his head.

Inside the bathroom, Steph finds Spike moping in front of the mirror, and asks what she’s doing. “Getting fat,” says Spike. What, like, right this minute? In a wholly uncharacteristic display of human decency, or maybe just because Spike’s wearing an extremely baggy T-shirt/waistcoat combo, Steph says she can’t see any change in her.

“I can,” Spike insists. “Being pregnant sure changes everything.” Got that, girls? Being pregnant will make you fat, and I guess change some other stuff, too, but mainly IT WILL MAKE YOU FAT.

As Steph changes into her Hideous Skankwear (blue bustier, pink miniskirt, and the communal diamante belt), Spike asks why she’s dressing like that again, and Steph says, “I’m going to make Simon notice me if it kills me.” Which it quite possibly will, if she insists on running around the frozen wastes of Canada half-naked like this.

Just then, there’s a flushing sound and Liz emerges from a cubicle. Spike gives her one of her trademark blank stares. and I really haven’t the remotest idea what she’s trying to express with it, but Steph gives her an impressively obnoxious smirk. Rather than just clocking her, Liz asks what she’s looking at, and Steph is all, “I love your hair. You must tell me who does it.” Kind of a bitchy thing to say when standing right next to Spike, who has the most insane hair of all time, but hey, it’s Steph. Bitchy is kind of her deal.

“Well at least I don’t get dressed in the washroom so Mom doesn’t know how I dress at school,” Liz dronemumbles, and flounces off. “Oh, good comeback!” Steph calls, but her sarcasm is undermined by the fact that it actually was a pretty good comeback.

“What a sleaze,” she says, because you can’t say “slut” on kids’ TV. “I bet she does it.” Then she turns around and remembers that she’s talking to Spike, whose defining characteristic is the fact that she once did it, and her face is literally like the :-O emoticon. “I mean, not like you! You made a mistake, right?” Steph rolls her eyes and turns to go.

Apparently not content with the hole she’s gotten herself into, Steph continues to dig: “I heard something happened where she used to live, to do with sex, and that’s why she moved here.”  OK, so theoretically this could be the same extremely vague rumour Joey’s talking about, but it could also be Mean Girl wishful thinking, which says that if you don’t have enough dirt on your enemies you can just make some up.

“Why do people who look different always have stories made up about them?” asks Spike. “I dunno,” says Steph cheerfully, “but I bet it’s true. If you ask me, she dresses very… provocative.” Spike just shakes her head and leaves.

OK, we need to talk about tank tops. If I may be blunt, Steph is showing about three times as much skin as Liz. If anyone in this school is dressing provocatively, and by extension allegedly “looks like she does it”, it is most assuredly Steph (who, lest we forget, previously attempted to do it). So what the hell is it about tank tops, and fairly modest ones by the standards of tank tops, that has everybody treating Liz so weirdly? Is Steph just meant to be the biggest hypocrite of all time, or were ill-fitting bustiers really more acceptable schoolwear than tank tops in those days? I do not understand 1980s Canada at all.

Later, in class, Mr Raditch is going on about some history project the kids have to do… in pairs. As everyone whoever  went to school (or watched TV shows about school) knows, pair work is just an excuse for awkward attempts at flirting. Right on cue, as Mr Raditch tells the class to choose their own partners, Joey gives Liz a “How you doin’?? face. Unfortunately, she can’t actually see it because he’s two rows behind her.

When the bell goes and everyone leaves, Liz is glacially slow at packing up to go, so Joey has a chance to catch her alone. He asks if she wants to be partners, and she says sure, and he seems completely astounded. Obviously she hasn’t heard much about him yet. They agree to meet after lunch in the resource centre, which I guess is Canadian for library. This would all seem like good light-hearted fun, except that the background music is all threatening, so you know it’ll all end in trauma and lesson-learning.

Out in the corridor, Steph and the twins are mumbling about some “plan” of hers. But they’re waylaid by Alex, who wants to talk to Steph about holding an art show to raise money. Steph is instantly pissed off, because Alex is still not attractive. Just then Simon approaches, and she fixes Alex with a terrifying stare and tells him to beat it. It wouldn’t be so scary, except for all the blue eyeshadow, which gives her a sort of panto witch vibe.

As Alex gets increasingly agitated about fundraising, Steph completely ignores him and throws all her textbooks in a pile at Simon’s feet, in the hope that he’ll pick them up. Alex immediately crouches down to get them, still talking about the student council, and Simon is just weirded out by the whole thing. After a minute of awkward staring, he shrugs and walks off.

Steph grabs her books from Alex, and she and the twins walk away, turning to give him matching evil stares. “What did I do?” he whimpers. He failed to be attractive, is what.

Out on the steps, Yick and Arthur are eating bananas and talking about penises, and I refuse to believe this is a coincidence. Yick loudly insists that Arthur’s, um, issue is probably normal, and suggests asking Arthur’s dad for advice, but Arthur’s worried he’d think he was a pervert. Yick just shrugs at this, which probably doesn’t do much to ease Arthur’s paranoia.

A few feet away, Liz is looking tortured and eating yogurt, as one does. Spike comes over and tries to make nice, and Liz complains about how judgmental everyone at Degrassi is, then asks if Spike’s really pregnant. Lovely segue. Really smooth. “I’m never gonna get pregnant,” she volunteers. “NEVER.” Well, this is just about the most uncomfortable attempt at befriending ever, but Spike is apparently a glutton for punishment, so she stays to hear Liz whine some more about how popular she was at her old school and how much Degrassi sucks donkey balls. I’m paraphrasing slightly.

Meanwhile, a bunch of random other characters are throwing baseballs to each other, in a blatant attempt to appeal to US audiences. Wheels and Snake complain that Joey’s throwing the ball too fast, or something, and Joey for some reason theorises that his exciting ball-throwing techniques will convince Liz to have sex with him, because that’s what girls like. He then makes a very bad joke about threesomes. I mean, it’s not offensive or anything, it’s just shite.

Everyone laughs at him, and Snake teases him for being a virgin (in the campest voice ever, for some reason), which is pretty odd considering none of them have had, like, any action ever. Joey reacts by attempting to kill Snake with the baseball.

In Ms Avery’s classroom, Melanie is talking to an extremely small non-speaking extra. Well, not so much talking as bombarding her with statistics about menstrual cycle length that the writers clearly copy-pasted from the ‘80s version of Wikipedia, which I guess was just an encyclopaedia. “Melanie, where do you get this stuff?” asks Kathleen, who no doubt disapproves of menstrual cycles on principle.

Melanie looks blank and forgets her line for a second, then answers, “Doctor Sally, of course.” She explains that Doctor Sally has a radio phone-in for teens called “Talking Sax With Sally.”

Kathleen thinks it sounds disgusting, which seems like an extreme reaction to a show about saxophones, but it turns out that Melanie just talks really really Canadian, and the show is about sex. Unfortunately, Yick overhears and shows a little too much interest in the show, and the class instantly decides he has sexual problems. And thus starts a lifetime of psychological scarring for Yick.

In the resource centre, Liz is angsting that she can’t figure out who won the War of 1812. An all-too-common teen problem. Joey just gazes at her and says he really likes her hair. She gets all embarrassed, but he keeps on about he’s “dazzled” by her beauty, which bit of unintentional Twilight foreshadowing eventually gets an awkward, buck-toothed giggle out of her. Aaaaw yeah, he’s totally in there.

When the bell goes, Liz says that they haven’t got much of their project done, so they’d better meet up later and figure out who did win the War of 1812. They can’t meet at Joey’s house, because his grandparents are there and it’s “a total zoo” (Joey’s grandparents must be more exciting than most grandparents). Liz says they can go to her house, and that her mom won’t be there. Joey, with the depth of delusion that only a teenager with a crush can muster, immediately interprets this as “come over to my house and we can bone like it’s going out of fashion”.

He immediately goes to Snake and Wheels and tells them that Liz invited him over “to study”. Nobody considers the possibility that this might actually mean he’s invited over to study, minus the quotation marks. The guys do a Troy-and-Abed-and-Pierce-worthy three-way high-five.

Later, in the hallways, Yick badgers Arthur into calling Doctor Sally’s show that night, but neither of them wants to call from their houses in case their parents hear and decide they’re irredeemable sex monsters. I guess Yick’s parents would tend to be paranoid about that, considering their older son has a swamp sex robot fetish.

Meanwhile Steph has decided to just ask Simon out instead of playing insane mind games. Heather floats the possibility that he might say no because he actually likes Alexa, but Erika thinks this is far-fetched and ridiculous. There’s such a thing as being too supportive, Erika.

Just then, Simon conveniently appears. He is wearing leggings and a giant sweatshirt. Did guys actually wear leggings in the 80s, outside of exercise videos? It’s not a good look. Steph tries to ask him out, but Alex runs over in his sports uniform and cockblocks her yet again by telling him to go get changed for a soccer match that’s about to start. Aaaaugh, the uniform involves hot pants WHYYYY. Steph clops angrily away on her giant high heels, and the twins laugh hysterically, because their friend’s pain is so funny. Well, it is, I guess, but they’re still mean.

After school, Liz gives Joey her address, and he tells her he’ll be over later, then explains with a leer that he’s “got some stuff to do”. And by stuff, he means her. When he’s gone, she calls Spike over and they discuss him. Liz says she thinks he’s sort of funny and sort of nice, which is a pretty ringing endorsement since she hates everything else in the world. Spike, as usual, reacts by looking vaguely troubled.

Meanwhile, Joey runs over to Wheels and asks for the ill-fated condoms he bought for his date with Steph. Wheels reminds him that they used them all as water bombs, which strongly suggests that the guys aren’t really grown-up enough to use them for their actual purpose.

“D’you want to come buy some with me?” Joey asks. Wheels gapes and mumbles that he has to study, which is rapidly becoming his extremely dull catchphrase. He tries to go, but Joey runs after him and asks, “When you and Steph were almost gonna do it, were you a little nervous?” Wheels smiles with the world-weariness of a guy who almost got laid that one time, admits that he was “a lot nervous”, and suggests that maybe Joey shouldn’t do this.

“I’ve got to!” Joey insists. “I’m fourteen! I’m in the eighth grade! I haven’t even had a real date yet.” All solid reasons to keep it in your pants, but I guess he’s using Horny Boy logic again, whereby all facts are arguments in support of having sex.

“What if she doesn’t want to?” Wheels asks, for some reason deciding to be the lone, cranky voice of reason in this episode. “The way she dresses?” Joey responds. So, now tank tops not only mean that you do it, but specifically that you want to do it with Joey Jeremiah. He also points out that she laughs at his jokes, which admittedly you wouldn’t do just because they were funny, but still his evidence is pretty poor, which Wheels is harsh/sensible enough to point out. As he slopes off homewards, Joey yells, “Are you sure you can’t come buy some condoms?”, which is really not the sort of thing most people shout out in public.

Meanwhile, Liz arrives at her home, where everything is extremely messy because they just moved in, and extremely brown because it’s 1987. Her mom’s disembodied, weirdly dubbed voice asks how school was, and Liz monotones that it was boring and “this guy” is coming over later to work on a project.

Liz’s mom actually appears at this point, and she is dressed in some kind of weird red dirndl thing. I can only assume she works at some kind of Oktoberfest theme bar or something. She puts up a token protest against Liz having random boys over unchaperoned, then decides that it’s OK because at least she’s making friends. She would probably retract this if she knew that said friend is a Horny Boy in a crocheted fedora.

Well, I call that some pretty half-assed parenting. If Liz isn’t actually likely to have sex with randomers as soon as she’s left alone, her mum is making too much fuss about this. If she is likely to have sex with randomers etc., then her mum is making way too little fuss. But it’s either fuss-worthy or it isn’t; just making a small fuss and then being like “Oh well, at least you won’t spend the afternoon alone” is just kind of lousy.

Anyway, her mom leaves for the Swiss maid fetish bar or wherever, and Liz preens in the mirror, which takes very little time because she has minimal makeup and almost no hair.

Meanwhile, Joey’s out trying to buy condoms alone. He’s avoided the rookie mistake of buying them at Steph’s mother’s shop, and is in a big supermarket, trying to blend in, because 14-year-old boys do supermarket shops all the time. He’s doing that thing where you try to cover up your embarrassing purchase with lots of normal ones, such as toilet paper and toothpaste and crisps. As a former shop assistant, I can tell you that this never works, and just makes the staff laugh at you afterwards.

Meanwhile, there’s a special offer being announced over the PA system, and I swear hand on heart that this is what the woman says: “There’s a shiny toilet roll pencil, regularly $2.99, now on sale for only a dollar 99. Remember, it isn’t clean unless it’s shiny clean.”

I… I have no words. And I profoundly do not want to know what a “toilet roll pencil” is.

Having stocked up on assorted grocery items, Joey gets to the condom section. He’s perusing a box of Sheiks when some grandad in a lumberjack shirt looks at him in horror and disgust, so he flings the box into his trolley and then throws in a gigantic box of Tampax to look casual. He then realises this probably won’t help in the embarrassment stakes, and hastily shoves the Tampax back on a random shelf. Heh.

At the checkout, the guy is… I want to say scanning Joey’s purchases, only he isn’t, because I guess they didn’t scan stuff in those days? and I literally don’t know what verb to use instead. He’s [whatever they did before everything had barcodes] Joey’s purchases. Conservative Lumberjack Grandad is behind Joey in the queue, and he and his conservative polyester-clad wife are traumatised all over again by the condoms on the conveyor belt.

The checkout guy picks up the condoms and says they’re supposed to be on special offer. Joey starts panicking, but the guy calls someone over to check for him, and it’s the same woman who busted Lucy and Voula for shoplifting from Sparkly Scarves 'R Us. She seems to have had a sense of humour transplant since then, because she clearly finds Joey’s plight hilarious.

Joey begs the man to just charge him the full price already, but the guy is just screwing with him at this point, and insists, “Come on, it won’t take a minute.” The conservative old-folks look ever more disapproving.

The shop lady comes back and trollfaces that the condoms are indeed marked down. Joey pays and leaves, stopping in the doorway to glower at his hilarious tormentors.

Meanwhile, back in the world’s ickiest subplot, Yick and Arthur are in a phone booth listening to Dr Sally on the radio. In a spectacular coincidence, she’s going on about how sex is a big decision that shouldn’t be rushed into. Arthur turns bright red at the phrase “sexual intercourse” and asks, “Can they say that on the radio?” Clearly, hip-hop had not yet arrived in Canada.

The guys argue over whether or not to call, and eventually Arthur gives in and dials. Dr Sally is now talking about how you can’t tell if a girl is “an easy lay” by the way she dresses, EVEN IF SHE’S A PUNK. I see what you did there, Degrassi writers. Because it was extremely unsubtle.

On a completely unrelated note, Joey arrives at Liz’s house and grins lecherously at it. Yes, even a house can be sexy when you’re a Horny Boy. Before ringing the bell, he opens the box of condoms and stashes one in his shirt pocket, because turning up for a homework session with just one condom is so much less skeevy. He leaves the bag of groceries out of view of the front door and rings the bell.

Liz lets him in and offers him a drink. He’s up for sex with someone he hardly knows, but is totally shocked by the idea of drinking alcohol. Luckily for his delicate sensibilities, she just means a soda.

Back in the phone box, the boys are on hold and Dr Sally is soothing somebody’s anxieties about losing their virginity. Arthur is still freaking out in case Melanie recognises his voice. Finally, they’re put through but Arthur is too scared to talk, so Yick grabs the phone, gabbles, “I’vegotafriendwho’stwelveyearsoldhegetsalotofwetdreamsisheapervert?” and hangs up.

The guys start to argue again, but they’re quickly distracted by Dr Sally announcing, in a relaxation-tape voice, that wet dreams are a normal symptom of puberty, “so tell your friend he’s not a pervert, he’s not an animal out of control…” Wait, what? Nobody suggested he was an animal out of control!

Anyway, Arthur doesn’t stop to think about what an odd, disturbing thing she just said, and when she says that wet dreams are “the body’s way of relieving sexual tension”, he and Yick high-five, which is pretty weird all round. I really don’t think guys usually high-five each other about their wet dreams.

At Liz’s house, she’s droning on about the War of 1812, which, in her considered assessment, was “totally dumb”. Eventually she notices that Joey is looking pallid and sweaty, and asks him what’s up. “Liz, do you wanna do it?” he asks. He sure doesn’t mess around. You’d think this was pretty unambiguous, but Liz is all, “Do what?” because this scene wasn’t quite awkward enough already.

“Sex!” says Joey. As ominous synth music plays, he pulls out the condom and sweet-talks the hell out of her: “I want it, you want it, let’s do it.” Liz looks completely disgusted, but Joey throws his last shred of dignity to the winds and actually starts begging. “Please,” he says. “I really want to.” Amazingly, this does not convince her.

Liz gets angry, but the actress who plays her is completely unable to emote, so she monotones at him about how she thought he was different and guys are perverts and she hates him, and she sounds like a robot. She emotionlessly throws him out of the house, and he actually stops to collect his bag of groceries before leaving. Well, I guess they can use the remaining condoms for more water bombs.

Liz sadly goes back in the living room and lies on the couch to ponder the perfidy of Horny Boys.

The camera slowly zooms in on her giant book about the War of 1812, with the discarded condom lying on top of it. I’m not sure what this shot is meant to communicate, except possibly that condoms, like the War of 1812, are totally dumb. Good to know, Degrassi writers!

Also, Liz should really get rid of that before her mother gets home from the Munich Putsch reenactment.

Next morning, the background music is back to being perky again, as it always is, regardless of whatever traumatic shit just went down. Liz is sadly walking to school, dressed in a baggy grey Lonsdale T-shirt and denim pedal-pushers, which I think is meant to indicate that she’s been scared into dressing more conformist, but for all I know maybe grey T-shirts had some scandalous cultural significance back then.

Wheels runs over to Joey and asks how yesterday went. Joey explains, in tones of disbelief, “She didn’t want to do anything.” Well, technically she wanted to work on her history project, but perhaps that doesn’t count. “Is she mad?” asks Wheels.

For some reason, a baby starts crying in the background at this point. No idea why.

Joey looks at Liz, who gives him a punk death glare, and he concludes that she is, in fact, mad. As the chirpy end credit music starts up, Joey moans, “Wheels, you know what’s the worst? I really like her.” The credits roll, and we freeze on his woebegone, unibrowed, pimply face.

OK, so, condoms. There have been three episodes so far where someone tried to have sex. When Wheels and Joey decided to be responsible and buy condoms, they got judged by the elderly and also failed to have any sex whatsoever. Shane didn’t bother with lame-ass things like contraception, and he totally got laid. (I mean, sure he got Spike pregnant and now their lives are sort of fucked up, and the sex apparently wasn’t very good, but I’m pretty sure it still counts as a win according to Horny Boy Logic.)

In conclusion: this show is messed up.

Dubious Lessons of the Week: Wet dreams are normal and should be discussed in detail with friends and local radio presenters. Vertebrae, on the other hand, are shocking. Contrary to apparently popular belief, just because a girl wears a tank top doesn’t mean she will automatically have sex with you. Even if you beg. The War of 1812 was totally dumb. Attempting to have safe sex will only lead to you being judged and embarrassed and, worst of all, sexually frustrated.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I am still alive, and working on another post, which should hopefully be finished soonish. In the meantime, I want to plug my friend Moïra's blog. She does awesome Vampire Diaries recaps, and if you're not reading them you should totally get on that.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

S02 E03 – Stage Fright

First up, my apologies for the extremely long hiatus. When I last updated, I was rather bogged down in wedding planning; shortly after getting married, I got pregnant and developed a severe case of pregnancy-brain which rendered me unable to write anything coherent or remotely amusing (I also totally got fat, which this show warned me about many a time, but at least nobody made me parent an egg). However, the baby is a few months old now and I am more or less back to normal, and more than ready to start mocking things again. So let’s get started!

We open with a close-up of Caitlin, who is looking, as usual, concerned. Although she has a pretty legitimate reason to look this way: someone's taped a load of cotton wool and wires onto her head. You'd look concerned too.

A white-coated doctor explains that she's being hooked up to a machine that will measure her brain's electrical activity. (This does not explain why someone has stuck a cotton wool electrode onto her chin, as last time I checked, most people’s brains were not in their chins. But maybe they do things differently in Canada.) As Caitlin shuts her eyes and tries to relax, we see that she actually turned up for her brain scan wearing tan eyeshadow. Girl has an impressive commitment to low-level glamour.

And that's it. As Degrassi's pre-credits scenes go, it's kind of vague, and doesn't really reveal that much – except that Caitlin either has health problems or is working as a test subject to earn pocket money. Well, it's less effort than a paper round.

After the credits, Caitlin's being driven to school. "I've been practising the audition piece for the play for weeks," she complains. Her mother, who's currently pioneering murky green houndstooth-patterned satin with less-than-stellar results, answers, "I just don't think you should do anything too strenuous for a while. You have epilepsy. What if you had another seizure?"

"I had one seizure over the holidays," Caitlin answers. "The doctor said it might never happen again." "But we don't know, do we?" asks her mother. Wow, way to boost your child's confidence, lady!

Caitlin insists that she'll be fine if she takes her medication, and her mother produces a bottle of pills that she left in the bathroom at home, then nags her to put on her Medic-Alert bracelet, then reminds her repeatedly to take her pills. Caitlin grudgingly puts the bracelet on, and her mother finally says she can audition for the play. Caitlin gets out of the car, then takes off the bracelet as soon as her mother's gone. Ominously funky synth music plays, to show that she’s taking risks.

So, we've established the theme of the episode: chronic health conditions and annoying parents who nag you about them.

Caitlin arrives in the Bathroom of Skanky Transformations And General Deception. Because the writers don’t trust us to remember upcoming school events for more than a couple of seconds (see also: Photo Day), the room is plastered with posters about auditions for the play, and the principal is making an announcement about the auditions over the intercom. Just as Caitlin’s about to take her pills, Kathleen wanders in and asks where she’s been. Caitlin hides her pills without taking them and says she had the flu.

Kathleen smugs that she never has the flu because she always eats a balanced diet. And in one efficient line, the writers slip in some nice foreshadowing of future plots, and make me hate Kathleen still more. “What a good idea,” Caitlin snarks, although sadly this is to be her one and only moment of sarcasm ever.

The girls hover in front of the mirror, Kathleen fakely brushing her hair and Caitlin endlessly adjusting her headband. They talk about the auditions, and it turns out they’re both auditioning for the same part. This whole scene is incredibly awkward and stilted, and I can’t tell if it’s intentional because the girls don’t like each other or just really bad acting, even by Degrassi standards.

Meanwhile, Joey and Snake are in the hallway. Joey is insisting that he knows some guy at a record company who wants to hear a Zit Remedy demo tape. Snake points out that the guy drives a truck for the company and thus probably can’t help them much. Given that they still only have one song and it only has two lines and they’re both total crap, this guy’s job description is really the least of their problems.

Just then, Alexa and Michelle walk by, talking about speeches they have to give for Mr Raditch’s class. Well, Alexa talks about her speech; Michelle just hangs her head shyly and says, “Please don’t talk about speeches.” Only, she says this SO shyly that the line has had to be redubbed, and it’s done so badly that it sounds more like a voiceover, as if it was her internal monologue or something. It’s just confusing . Joey sneaks up and tickles her to scare her, then runs off laughing. Michelle sadly complains that she’s so shy she “can’t even order a hamburger without turning red”. And so we’ve established the episode’s secondary plot: Michelle is shy, and Joey is kind of a dick about it for some reason.

Caitlin and Kathleen arrive in the classroom. Susie is thrilled to see Caitlin back, and they squee about a birthday sleepover Susie’s planning. “Why don’t you invite some boys to your sleepover?” asks Melanie hopefully. Kathleen calls her a “sax-starved maniac”, and says she’ll end up like Spike. She’s only talked to two people this morning and she’s been a judgemental bitch to both of them (and to Spike, who isn’t even there). How very Kathleen of her.

Anyway, Susie starts to say something to Caitlin, but Caitlin has completely zoned out and is staring off into space. After a minute, she wakes up. “What were you daydreaming about?” asks Susie. “I bet you were thinking about Rick!” Caitlin insists she wasn’t daydreaming, and then they’re distracted by a random girl asking what the deal is with her and Rick anyway, since they had progressed to chaste kissing quite a while back. Susie expositions that they like each other but are too shy to get together. And so Rick is doomed to be lonely and working-class forever.

Meanwhile, in Mr Raditch’s class, an agonized Wai Lee is stumbling through a terrible speech about why he likes to watch TV: “Cos you learn a lot about… life… and… it’s fun.” Well, it can be fun. Perhaps this show isn’t the best example.

The class gives him a token round of faux-applause, and Mr Raditch tells him to pay less attention to the TV and more to his homework. As the bell goes, Michelle cringes at the revelation that Mr Raditch can be kind of bitchy when people do crappy work. She apparently hasn’t been paying any attention up to now.

Joey calls her “Mouse”, and asks if she’ll have a microphone so people can hear her when she gives her speech. All the guys laugh at her. Yeah, normally Joey’s douchiness is at least mildly entertaining, but this is just mean. Michelle panics at Alexa and says she needs to get out of doing the speech.

Since we haven’t been reminded about the school play for the last few minutes, we see Caitlin walking past another audition poster, while Mr Lawrence booms over the intercom, “To be or not to be… a part of this year’s school play?”. Oh man, that’s bad. Anyway, she stops next to another poster, nearly gets her toes run over by Maya’s wheelchair* for no particular reason, and starts to take her medication. But she’s thwarted again when Susie turns up and suggests doing a séance at the sleepover. Actually, the thwarting makes no sense this time, because Susie notices the pills and Caitlin says they’re for a headache. So she could have just taken one anyway without Susie finding out she had epilepsy... Aaaugh, overthinking Degrassi plots is probably bad for my mental health.

*Maya Goldberg, Token Wheelchair Girl and presumable Token Jew, appears in the background of pretty much every episode but doesn’t actually get any plot (or more than one line of dialogue, as far as I can remember) until well into the High School years. I think this is what passed for inclusiveness in those days.

Kathleen walks by, bragging to Melanie about how she’s been practicing her audition piece and her mother says she’s a natural for the part. (Although actually, given what we learn in future episodes, this is probably a total lie.) There’s sad, sad music, and Caitlin worries about the idea of Kathleen getting the part, but Susie says to relax, because she always beats Kathleen! What a healthy attitude.

Everyone goes into the auditorium for auditions. Rick starts climbing up a ladder with some stage lighting, but stops to say hi to Caitlin. Scooter, who’s watching him, says, “So that’s why you’re helping with the play!” “Get lost, you little narbo!” Rick snaps, and my wholesome love for him is slightly diminished, not because he’s being mean to Scooter but because he’s using terrible fictitious slang.

Susie says she’s glad she’s the stage manager, because if she had to go on stage, “I’d have a fit!” Ah, this show, always ready with the subtle foreshadowing.

Caitlin is the first to audition, and for some reason the audition piece is an incredibly emo speech that starts, “There was such unhappiness in our home,” and takes it from there. Her generally morose demeanour works pretty well with this.

Backstage, Alexa and Michelle are futzing with horrendously ugly costumes and planning how to get Michelle out of making her speech. Alexa suggests telling Mr Raditch she has a contagious disease, which seems to be rather a popular excuse around these parts, but (a) would require a doctor’s note, as Michelle points out, and (b) wouldn’t particularly prevent someone from giving a speech if they were already at school anyway. She next suggests pretending there’s been a death in the family (and frankly it’s a little disturbing how excited she seems about this one), but Michelle rejects this as being too morbid. Next suggestion: “Tell him you’re on your period and your cramps are the worst! Male teachers always get flustered when you mention the word ‘period’.” With the possible exception of Mr Colby. Michelle reckons this would be too embarrassing, and… yeah. Mr Raditch is just not the kind of person you tell about your menstrual troubles.

Meanwhile, Caitlin’s just finishing the audition piece, which has apparently taken a turn for the cheerful, because it ends “It was the most wonderful moment of my life.” Unfortunately, she’s still speaking in the same incredibly bleak tone of voice that she uses in most situations.

She walks off stage and stands next to Susie, who tells her she did great. But Caitlin has zoned out again and doesn’t hear her. After a second, she snaps out of it, and Susie asks if she’s feeling OK. Caitlin insists she’s fine, and then they stop to glower at Kathleen while she reads the audition piece. We don’t hear much of it, but she is at least speaking in less of a bleak monotone than Caitlin did.

Later, Caitlin is upstairs at home listening to her parents arguing about whether she should go to the sleepover. Her dad insists she won’t get enough sleep and the tiredness will make her have a seizure. Her mother, who was all about stopping Caitlin from doing things as recently as this morning, has changed her tune: “She happens to have epilepsy, but she’s still a person!” Although the fact that she actually feels the need to point this out is a little alarming. As Caitlin’s parents talk about how she needs to be careful, she goes into her room and gets her stuff for the sleepover, but leaves her medicine behind. This will, of course, end well.

Cut to a giant, gnarled candle, and Kathleen in a Victorian nightdress, attempting to contact the spirit of somebody’s dead dog. Everyone else clearly thinks this is ridiculous and is trying not to laugh, except for Caitlin, who finds no humour in the situation. OF COURSE.

When the séance breaks up in giggles due to a disappointing lack of ghost dogs, the girls turn on the lights and start looking for some cookies to eat. But Caitlin’s looking sleepy, which of course means she’s about to have a seizure as per her dad’s predictions. We see a shot of the room from her point of view, and everything looks all weird and double-visiony. (Meanwhile, Kathleen is bragging about how few cookies she’s eaten.) There goes the special effects budget for this season.

As super-angsty synth music plays, Caitlin keels over onto a convenient pile of duvets and starts sort of rocking back and forth. (I have no idea if this is a realistic portrayal of an epileptic seizure or not.) Susie realises what’s happening, and everyone flails around, arguing over whether they should put a spoon in her mouth or hold her down or what. And for once, this show actually passes up an opportunity to clunkily educate us, because it’s never really made clear what the girls ought to be doing other than yelling for Susie’s mom. And yelling for Susie’s mom is not a useful option for most people.

Cut to Monday morning and chirpy music! I assume there was supposed to be a commercial break in between, but when you’re watching the DVD it just seems wildly inappropriate. Caitlin and her mom pull up outside the school, and Caitlin’s mom is finishing a lecture about epilepsy management that by all appearances has lasted the whole damn weekend. She asks Caitlin if she’s sure she wants to be in the play, and Caitlin says she has to be in it, or everyone will think she’s a freak. Because… only freaks drop out of things? That doesn’t even make sense, but whatever.

When she gets out of the car and walks into the school, she’s spotted by Kathleen and Nancy and Trish. Kathleen has clearly been dishing about the thrilling epilepsy-related events of Friday night, but the others don’t believe her, because Caitlin “looks fine”. Kathleen insists that she was rolling on the floor and foaming at the mouth and it was really gross, because Kathleen is a bitch like that. As the girls discuss (inconclusively) whether epilepsy is contagious, Rick listens in on them and furrows his brow in a manly yet troubled fashion.

Inside the school, Caitlin runs into Susie and asks if her seizure really was gross or not. Susie unhelpfully says it “wasn’t that bad”.  Caitlin is freaking out about what people are going to think if she has more seizures, and Susie is feebly trying to cheer her up, but they’re interrupted by Scooter shouting that the cast list for the play is up. They go to see if Caitlin got the part, but Kathleen sees the list first, and runs off yelling that she got it. “I’m a wench!” Melanie announces gleefully. I love Melanie so much.

Caitlin is majorly pissed off, because she has to play Kathleen’s servant. This is pretty childish, but I suppose I can sort of see where she’s coming from, because if there’s anyone who would be a total smug pain in the ass about you being her servant in a play, it is Kathleen.

Meanwhile, Michelle goes up to Mr Raditch and whispers that she can’t do her speech because she’s lost her voice. He’s spectacularly unconvinced, and just laughs at her, but eventually relents and tells her to talk aboot something she knows and it won’t be that bad. Joey, who is still being a tool for some reason, laughs at her again. She looks depressed.

After class, Kathleen is babbling about how awesome she is. Caitlin has gone completely paranoid and starts insisting that Ms Avery must be discriminating against her for having epilepsy or something, which is nonsense because Ms Avery is nice and liberal and almost certainly not prejudiced against people with epilepsy. This is just about the most out-of-character thing you could possibly accuse her of. Susie is starting to get annoyed and tells her that Kathleen just did a better audition, then heads to rehearsal. Caitlin hangs back and punches some lockers. Clearly she has been picking up some tips from Rick on how to express her rage in a cool, working-class manner.

She flounces off, and Rick, who’s been watching her, asks where she’s going. “Home,” she snaps. He looks disappointed but lets her go.

In the auditorium, they’re halfway through rehearsing the first scene before anyone notices Caitlin’s missing. Rick tells Susie that she went home, and she tells Ms Avery that Caitlin had to leave due to a “personal matter”. Ms Avery expresses mild disappointment that she wasn’t told sooner, which is as close as she ever gets to being angry, because she’s so nice (and liberal). They move on and start rehearsing a different scene.

That afternoon, Caitlin is at home eating a plate of brown paste (seriously, I have no idea what it’s supposed to be, but it looks nasty) when her parents get home. She announces that she’s dropping out of the play because of her epilepsy. Her mother says she should be in the play anyway, but her dad is all in favour of her basically giving up on life. Caitlin flips out and says she doesn’t want to be Kathleen’s servant. Her parents exchange very laboured anxious faces.

Next morning, she arrives at school, and her tormented expression is wildly at odds with the cheerful music. Also tormented: Michelle, whose speech is today. Also also tormented: me, looking at Caitlin’s hideous green-tiger-print sleeveless T-shirt and co-ordinating headband.

Susie catches up with her and complains about having to cover for her at the rehearsal. Caitlin says she’s dropping out of the play because it’s too dangerous and/or the play is dumb. Susie finally calls her on her bullshit and says she’s just quitting because she’s jealous, then storms off. THANK YOU. Caitlin says nothing, but her expression shows she’s been pretty much busted.

Finally, one of the dullest subplots in a show known for its dull subplots is drawing to a close. Mr Raditch asks Michelle to make her speech, and everyone stares at her. Joey makes squeaking noises, because she’s shy like a mouse or something, but Mr Raditch is having none of it. Michelle has decided to give a speech about what it’s like to be shy, which is not all that surprising since shyness is her only character trait so far.

Pretty much for the sole purpose of breaking up the speech, there’s a brief scene of Caitlin looking tormented in class, while Rick and Susie glower at her.

Michelle is wrapping up her speech. “Worst of all,” she concludes, “I end up with a lot of ugly clothes because I can’t stand up to pushy salespeople.” Everyone in the class chuckles warmly, as if to say, “Yeah! Your clothes are vile!” (Actually, Michelle's clothes are so dull that they've held up much better than most of the outfits on this show -- they're not nice, but they don't make you want to spork your eyes out.) Anyway, Raditch says her speech was good, and everyone claps, and Michelle is relieved. After class, Joey, who’s trying to make leather berets happen, begs her to write his speech for tomorrow, and even offers to give her a tape of the Zit Remedy, but somehow she resists this powerful incentive.

In the bathroom, Caitlin finally womans up and takes her damn medication already.

Kathleen is getting into her costume for the play – a big cloak and a cardboard crown, which she’s wearing backwards. “I guess now Caitlin’s got epilepsy, she won’t be doing much of anything,” she smarms. “How sad.” Rick, speaking for everyone in the audience, asks, “Kathleen, why don’t you just shut up?” Have I mentioned that I think Rick is awesome? Because I do.

Kathleen starts to argue, but they’re both distracted by the sight of Caitlin, who’s just put on her costume – an old-fashioned ballgown with a co-ordinating headband. Seriously. She’s apparently playing the medieval version of herself.

Ms Avery asks if she’s dropping out, and Caitlin says no – “I’ll be the best servant Kathleen’s ever had. And she needs all the help she can get!” She puts Kathleen’s crown on the right way around, and everyone laughs at Kathleen, restoring the natural order of things.

Everyone else abruptly walks off to start rehearsal, and Caitlin is left alone with Rick. (He is up at a height doing something with electrical cables, because health and safety laws have yet to be invented.) “Welcome back,” he tells her. She smiles up at him, and the credits roll, and I think she is the only cast member with a full set of teeth. I mellow towards her slightly.

Dubious lessons of the week: It turns out epilepsy isn’t one of those things you can just ignore and wait for it to go away. But we still don’t know if it’s contagious or not. Fourteen-year-olds are really sympathetic when you tell a group of them about your crushing insecurities. And dog séances aren’t as much fun as you’d think.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Like the Degrassi Digest, only about MacGyver, and with pictures!

So: a little while back I was contacted by The Agony Booth, and asked if I'd be interested in doing some recaps for them. Which was pretty cool. I'm now recapping MacGyver -- first two episodes are here and here, if you're interested. :)

I'll still be doing the Degrassi recaps here, of course. Next up: the Caitlin Totally Has Epilepsy episode.

Friday, January 15, 2010

S02 E02– A Helping Hand…

Morning. Joey, Snake, and Wheels come into the classroom, wearing their ultra-stylish handmade Zit Remedy sweatshirts. Joey is babbling about someone who works for "a real record company" (not like those fake record companies you hear so much about) and wants to hear their "music". Snake asks, "What's he going to say when he finds out we've only got two songs?" Two songs? They should be so lucky! They've only got two lines of a song, and neither one is very good.

Just then, Lucy runs in and says she has an announcement. This is the third time she's done this. I think she just likes the attention. She tells them that Mr Raditch is in the hospital, having his appendix taken oot, and everyone looks unrealistically concerned and serious. I'm sorry, but mobs of 14-year-olds are just not that caring. "Is he gonna be ok?" asks Joey anxiously. "Doris thinks so!" says Lucy brightly, because the school secretary is also a medical expert. "But in the meantime, we get a substitute teacher."

Everyone erupts in cheers and high-fives. They really don't have much to keep them entertained in Canada. "Remember that old bag who couldn't figure out when we changed our names?" says Snake. "And the one before," says Erica, "he was so nervous he blushed every time a girl even got near him!" Yeah, they're gonna wish that guy was back. Lucy says that substitute teachers are "just fossils and losers who can't get a real job".

Just then, their substitute teacher walks in. He is about 35 and extremely plain, and he's wearing a bad knitted jumper that's bright blue with random white scribbles on it. He seems to have also recently shaved off a beard, because the lower half of his face is really pale while the upper half has a deep orange tan. Oh, and his hair is conical. "Hi," he says in a relaxation-tape voice. "I'm Mr Colby. I'll be your teacher for the next while." Opening credits.

Some unspecified number of days later, Mr Colby is handing back people's essays. Spike's work is improving. Steph's was good, but badly spelled. Joey's story about the Zit Remedy's world tour was "highly entertaining", but the assignment was to write a true story. "It's gonna be true!" Joey mutters. Mr. Colby just laughs at him. Well yeah, it's what we're all thinking, but still… harsh, man.

When he gets to Lucy, Mr Colby sits down on an adjacent desk and puts his hand on her shoulder. "Excellent paper," he tells her. Was her paper on native peoples by any chance?

Anyway, the bell goes and everyone gets up to leave. BLT comes over to LD and asks her if she wants to play baseball, but she looks sad and says, "No. Maybe next week." …Ok, then.

"I never got an A+ before!" says Lucy. "I thought you didn't care about marks," says… Erica? Sure, why not. "I don't – they're fascist," says Lucy. "But it's nice to get a good one sometimes." I don't know which part of that statement is more annoying: the generic desultory teenage rebellion and violation of Godwin's Law, or the fact that she gives up on her principles the minute a cone-headed substitute teacher gives her a good mark.

Speaking of which: the twins start teasing Lucy for supposedly being Mr Colby's pet. And, bafflingly, they're jealous: "He's only THE sexiest man at Degrassi!" sighs Heather. Yeah, but the only other man there at the moment is Mr Lawrence, who's an incorporeal spirit and thus doesn't represent much competition. "I wish I was his pet!" Erica says.

So, clearly we have entered some kind of Bizarro World of sexuality, wherein pyramid-hair, two-toned faces and bad knitwear are the stuff of teenage girls' dreams. WTF, Degrassi?

Lucy says she likes older men because all the boys at Degrassi are immature. Speaking of which, Alexa (today wearing a miniskirt and a velvet bustier, always a nice casual look for daytime) leaves the classroom, followed by Simon, who's staring at her rather… hungrily. They're followed at an indiscreet distance by Steph, who rolls her eyes and announces, "It's the clothes. I know it's the clothes. Simon never would have noticed Alexa if she wasn't wearing my clothes."

She bitches over this some more, until they're distracted by Mr Colby telling them goodnight, even though it's clearly about three o'clock. "Now that Mr Colby's here, there's a real man around!" Heather swoons. They speculate on whether he's married, and whether they care. I'm sure this will end well.

The Zit Remedy guys are rehearsing their only song. They've accessorised Joey's keyboard with a big poster that reads "ZIT REMEDY TOURS DJH: Be there!!" Can you really "tour" a single building? Simon and Alexa are, for some reason, completely enraptured. "I love them," says Simon. "I know, they're fantastic!" Alexa whispers back. And then they applaud, and they're not being sarcastic or anything.

And then it's arbitrarily time for them to go off somewhere, so Alexa grabs Simon's hand and drags him away, even though he would rather stand and stare wistfully at the guys. That's really not something you should ignore, Alexa. "I don't trust that Simon guy," says Joey. Apparently they don't take to outsiders in Toronto.

Anyway, Snake wants to play the song again, but Wheels says he has to go see Ms Avery for some extra tutoring. The others take this incredibly personally: "Don't you get enough school already?" asks Joey, looking thisclose to decking Wheels. Ugh, I hate it when my friends try to better themselves! Wheels says his parents are mad at him aboot his marks, and he has no choice. When he's gone, the others bitch about how they'll never "cut an album" if he keeps doing this. Yep, Wheels's education is the only obstacle between them and fame.

There's a ridiculously overlong shot of Wheels walking to Ms Avery's classroom, where she's telling Rick what a good job he's been doing. Yay Rick! She is also wearing a khaki ankle-length shirtdress that looks like some kind of military eveningwear.

Rick leaves, Wheels sits down, and Ms Avery asks him if he's made "that eye appointment" yet. She asks this in an extremely coquettish tone of voice, with a bashful grin. Wheels says he made the appointment but doesn't think he needs glasses. "Sometimes headaches and eye problems go hand in hand," says Ms Avery, batting her eyelids. I'll give her this, she can make the most unlikely dialogue sound like a chat-up line.

She then says that he should come to her after school every afternoon for tutoring. "I can't!" he exclaims. "That's when my band practises." She puts her hand on his and says that his parents think he should give up the band until his marks improve (and, furthermore, that they were too cowardly to tell him this themselves). He insists that he can do both. "You're in very real danger of losing your year," she tells him, and then takes his hand again. "You don't want that, do you?" Wheels looks awkward (I don't blame him) and shakes his head.

Ok, so… I know we already had a whole thing about how if Ms Avery touches you it doesn't mean anything because she's like that with everyone, but given the theme of this episode, that scene is just… uncomfortable.

In the bathroom, LD is resentfully brushing her hair. Lucy comes in, and LD asks her advice on two different hairstyles: a normal ponytail, or a shapeless pile-up of hair on top of her head. Lucy, who must have some nefarious motive for sabotaging her, says the second option is better. LD then starts angsting about how messy she looks and how boys only notice her when they want to play baseball. Ugh, don't you just hate when boys ask you to participate in shared hobbies?

"If you want to look glitzier you should try some makeup!" Lucy chirps. Uh-oh. LD says she doesn't know anything about makeup, but Lucy says she knows lots because "my parents sent me to special lessons!" She offers to do a makeover, and LD is thrilled. Presumably she doesn't know that the last girl Lucy made over ended up scantily clad in clashing animal prints and then got arrested. Lucy brags about how much makeup she has and how much fun they'll have, all while backing into a cubicle and shutting the door. I guess she really needed to pee.

Spike's at her locker (for some reason, she has a glossy black-and-white photo of herself taped up inside) when Shane walks up to her. His hair is very big today, and he's wearing a plaid shirt with bright-red medieval jester leggings. It's a sexy, sexy look. "I told them," he announces. "You told your parents about the baby?" Spike answers, in case anyone missed the last few episodes and has never heard anything about this show.

Shane says his parents want everyone to get together and talk. "Oh no, that's horrible!" Spike groans. Spike and Shane both freak out at the mortifying idea of their parents meeting, because that's going to be the worst aspect of this whole pregnancy hoo-ha. "What did they say?" Spike asks. "Parental garbage, you know, responsibility and stuff. You know how ministers can be,'" Shane mumbles. Well no, I don't know how ministers can be. The last time we saw Shane's dad he was talking about crack. Is that standard for ministers?

As Lucy and LD leave the building after school (Lucy going on about how her parents are "cool" about her bringing friends over, mainly because they're not there to notice), Mr Colby runs up to them. He puts his hand on Lucy's shoulder and says, in a deep, soothing voice, "I didn't get a chance to tell you in class, but I found your paper very moving. You really captured the sadness of when a best friend moves away. This Voula sounds very nice." Wait, are we talking about the same Voula? Because she wasn't all that nice.

Also, what a smooth, un-awkward way to explain the sudden disappearance of a major character, Degrassi.

Lucy says she and Voula are still friends and are going to a movie that Saturday. Mr Colby pats her on the shoulder some more and tells her to keep up the good work, then leaves. LD, watching from a few inches away, scowls. "He sure likes to touch you," she remarks when Mr Colby is gone. "I like him," says Lucy. "He treats me like I'm special, you know?" LD says it's creepy when teachers are too friendly (with the obvious exception of Ms Avery because that's just the way she rolls). "There's no such thing as too friendly," says the blissfully oblivious Lucy.

A little later, LD and Lucy arrive at Lucy's house. Lucy is wearing beige plus-fours and white knee socks à la Tintin. "I really like your house," says LD. Lucy wisely refrains this time from saying that it doesn't compare to her alleged loft in Manhattan, and just says, "Yeah, I like it too." She's learning.

She plays the messages on the answering machine. First is the obligatory call from her neglectful working mother, saying that she and Mr Lucy won't be home any time soon because they love money more than their daughter. Also, they have to meet the lawyer on Saturday to go over her shoplifting case. Don't shoplift, kids, because the ensuing legal battle is a total drag.

Next is a message from Voula, saying that she can't go out with Lucy because her stereotypical immigrant parents said she's not allowed see Lucy any more. They said that months ago! Is that the best excuse she can come up with? Anyway, it doesn't matter, because that's the last we'll ever hear of Voula. Lucy looks crushed, but quickly hides it (because hiding your feelings is a vital survival skill if you're the tragic child of a neglectful working mother) and drags LD downstairs to be skanked up.

A bit later, LD is wrapped in one of Lucy's sparkly (presumably stolen) scarves, and wearing an unflattering shade of bright red lipstick and waaay too much mascara. Lucy's putting large amounts of blue eyeshadow on her, but only on the outer halves of her eyelids for some reason. I think Lucy's "special lessons" may have taken place at clown college.

"Were your parents angry when you got caught shoplifting?" asks LD. What, is she considering getting some sparkly scarves of her own? "Not as mad as Voula's," says Lucy. "They were kind of disappointed. They worked hard at being good parents after that. We had dinner together and stuff, and we went on family picnics. It was kind of neat. But now they're real busy again. I don't mind." So: if you shoplift as a cry for attention, your parents will drag you on boring picnics for a couple of weeks, then go back to ignoring you, while you manfully pretend not to care. Good to know.

"Do you ever get lonely?" asks LD, who's apparently decided to interview Lucy to pass the time. "I like to be alone," says Lucy. "I'm independent." Oh hey, I'm beginning to get this vague sense that Lucy… isn't always entirely honest about her feelings. Am I crazy for thinking that?

LD babbles about how she was "so scared" when her dad went to hospital. Lucy valiantly manages to keep trowelling on the makeup throughout. At some arbitrary point, she declares herself to be finished, and turns LD around to look in the mirror. "I look too different!" she exclaims. "No you don't," says Lucy. "You're just not used to it. All the guys will notice you now." Yeah, no doubt about that. Not content with what she's already wreaked, Lucy then starts tying up LD's hair in another scarf.

A bit later, LD is finally making her escape. She's still wearing the scarf in her hair, and promises to bring it back next week. "Take your time, I've got lots!" says Lucy. How many of those things did she steal, seriously? LD starts to go, then turns back and admits, "I kinda miss Voula too." Lucy shrugs and says, "She's changing anyway." Mean! Just because your friend is going through puberty is no reason to stop liking her. "She says she likes it out there. I mean, the suburbs? Talk about tacky." …oh, that kind of change. Wait, Lucy doesn't live in the suburbs? But there's literally a white picket fence around her house! I do not understand this show.

Anyway, LD goes, and Lucy stands in the doorway looking morose for a minute, before she represses her feelings and goes back inside. No misery here, nu-uh! As soon as the door is closed, LD goes over to a nearby van and checks herself out in the wing mirror. She's horrified to find that she looks like a kabuki mask, and immediately starts trying to get the makeup off.

Next day, the Grade 8s are debating the death penalty. Everyone's getting very worked up. An example of their considered political statements: "If I knew I could get executed, I sure wouldn't murder anyone!" Lucy chips in with some statstics, and Mr Colby uses the opportunity to sit down near her… on Wai Lee's desk, completely blocking the kid's view of anything except the back of Mr Colby's lemon-yellow sweater. Poor Wai Lee.

The discussion starts to degenerate into a free-for-all. Mr Colby seems to lose interest in it completely, possibly because he's extremely distracted by the very small area of chest that Lucy's displaying. She's oblivious, as she's locked in a no doubt very rewarding philosophical discussion with Steph, but LD notices and looks deeply concerned. Or something; she sort of only has one facial expression, a vaguely sleepy frown. But the background music's real ominous.

Once the bell goes, Steph goes after Alexa, futilely demanding her clothes back again. I know Steph had resolved to dress less slutty, but did she really have to go so far in the other direction? She's wearing a pink-and-yellow floral blouse, buttoned all the way up to the neck, and a salmon-pink suit jacket. I'm pretty sure no 14-year-old in human history ever voluntarily dressed like that. Anyway, Alexa still insists the clothes were a gift, blah blah.

Wheels is still getting a hard time from his bandmates for trying to get an education. "I tried everything," Wheels insists. "[My parents] won't let me play until my marks get better. You guys can play without me." "No way, man!" Joey answers. "It's not the Zit Remedy if we're missing a Zit!" Wheels starts to smile at this, but then frowns when he looks back into the classroom and sees Lucy still talking to Mr Colby. "Lucy and Colby, together again," Joey says. "He sure seems to like her," Wheels remarks. "It's kind of weird." As more ominous music plays, there's a very very long shot of Mr Colby leaning over Lucy and talking. Yep, I'm sure this will end well.

That afternoon, everyone's going home. LD's sitting outside the door, waiting for Lucy. When Lucy comes out, she's accompanied by Mr Colby, who has his hand on her shoulder and is droning on about how she's so special and bright and sensitive and sparkly. LD watches with a look of homicidal rage.

Once he's out of earshot, LD comes up to Lucy and tells her, "Today in class, he sort of looked down your top." Lucy looks disgusted and asks, "Why are you making this up? Finally a teacher likes me, and you're trying to spoil it. Thanks a lot." LD insists she's telling the truth: "I just think you should be careful, that's all!" "Yeah, of being friends with you," Lucy snaps. Oooh, great comeback. Really.

"What'd I do?" LD asks. Lucy snaps. "You're too chicken to wear makeup, and you're too chicken to talk to boys. You're just jealous." "Well, at least I don't shoplift!" LD shouts. It's a pretty valid point, but Lucy for some reason takes offence and walks off.

We then see a close-up of the Lucy family's answering machine playing a message from Mrs Lucy: "I've got to rush to the airport to pick up a client. There's ten dollars on the fridge for pizza. See you soon." So, in case you hadn't picked up on it from one of the earlier subtle hints, it seems that Lucy's parents are too busy to pay her much attention. And the makers of the show are too busy to turn this into an actual scene with visible people in it. Life imitating art. Or "art", at any rate.

Next morning, Wheels arrives at school wearing some kicky glasses that are eerily like a pair my mother had about the same time. Combined with his mullet, the overall effect is very 1970s terrorist. Ms Avery immediately comes over to him, puts her hand on his shoulder and tells him how "smart" he looks in glasses. At least she doesn't tell him he's bright and sensitive, because I think even Wheels could see through that lie.

For once, we're narrowly spared another scene of guys peeing; Joey and Snake are just leaving the bathroom as they discuss their troubles. "Can't we get another bass player just until Wheels comes back?" Snake asks. "Who?" says Joey indignantly. "We can't replace Wheels – the man's got talent."

That selfsame talented man comes up behind them, and asks what they think of his new look. "Since when do you wear glasses?" asks Snake in thinly veiled disgust. Wheels looks panicked and rambles about how none of this was his idea and Ms Avery made him go to the eye doctor and there were tests involved and please don't beat him up. Eventually, Joey takes pity and tells him to relax: "They're cool, man. Very cool. But you're not going to wear them on stage, right? Who's ever heard of a rock star in glasses, right?" Joey and Snake crack up laughing. Wheels tries to compare himself to John Lennon, but it doesn't help much because Joey's never heard of him.

Wow, the 60s weren't even that long ago when this show was made. That's mental.

Steph's at her locker, making sure her ugly pleated blouse is pleated just right, when Alexa walks up (wearing a navy sweatshirt and some very ill-advised turquoise tapered trousers) and hands her a big plastic bag. Steph reaches in and pulls out the infamous geometric boob tube. "My clothes!" she exclaims, sounding happier than at any other point in the show. "My mum found them," Alexa explains. "She said they made me look like a lady of the evening. I'm grounded for two weeks!" What, you can't say "lady of the night" on kids' TV? Or is a "lady of the evening" a less hardcore version who only does hand-holding and the occasional peck on the cheek?

"And they looked so good on you, too," Steph sympathises insincerely. Alexa glowers at her and marches off. Steph paws through the bag of Skankwear, fantasising about how many elections she'll steal and how many soap stars she'll seduce. Oh, the sordid possibilities!

Some time later, Mr Colby's class is just finishing. (Today's sweater is a vaguely '80s-futuristic grid pattern with lavender cuffs and neckband.) When the bell goes, he calls Lucy back. She looks chuffed and goes up to his desk, while LD stands in the background looking like the apocalypse is nigh. "Listen," says Mr Colby, "I'm not familiar with all of Mr Raditch's systems. I wonder could you stay for a bit and help me out?" Mr Raditch's systems? That is the flimsiest excuse ever. What does that even mean? And, assuming it's something to do with classroom admin or whatever, why would a 14-year-old kid know how to… do whatever it is one does with these systems?

So, creepy-ass rendezvous successfully scheduled, Mr Colby then decides to leave the room. There is… no discernible reason for this, but it gives us another glimpse of LD standing doomily in the doorway.

Downstairs, Joey and Snake are bitching about how their lives have been totally ruined by Wheels temporarily qutting the band. Suddenly, they hear some distant bass music, and go into the auditorium to find Simon furtively strumming Wheels's bass. He's a good player; he knows even more notes than Wheels! Maybe as many as five or six!

Simon's terrified when he sees the others watching him, but they've both immediately decided to exploit him, and start gushing fakely about how awesome he is. It's actually mildly amusing. Intentionally, I mean. What's the world coming to?

Meanwhile, Wheels arrives in Ms Avery's classroom for his tutoring. Today she's eschewed the shirtdresses in favour of a matching shiny blue ankle-length skirt and oversized blazer, and a brown version of the communal belt. Very "Star Trek meets office casual".

She coyly tells Wheels that they're going to have his marks up in no time. Her tone and stance are, again, vaguely inappropriate.

Random filler shot of a lady janitor mopping the floor as everyone goes home. Although she's not the semi-regular lady janitor of future episodes. So, egalitarian paradise that it is, Canada apparently has lots of lady janitors.

Back in Mr Raditch's room, Lucy's cleaning the blackboard. I can't believe the Grade Eights had "grimy" as a spelling. Mr Colby returns, shooting a stealthy look up and down the corridor as he walks in. Lucy sits down, and Mr Colby shuts the door. He paces around the room and starts talking about how Lucy is "mature beyond [your] years", and how her paper about Voula showed him just how mature and sensitive she was. "I know what loneliness is like," he says, sitting down on a desk behind her. His face is so high up that most of it is cut out of the shot for the rest of this scene. "When I got divorced, it was like you wrote about Voula…" Oh, come on! It's not enough that he's a pervert; he also has to bore the poor girl to death with stories about his divorce?

Lucy seems vaguely aware that this isn't quite normal conversational material, and asks, "What about Mr Raditch's systems?" "They can wait for a while," says Mr Colby. "I'm more interested in us. People like us. We need to… help each other." He then starts massaging her shoulder like George Bush hitting on Angela Merkel at the G8. Unfortunately, Lucy is too polite and/or disturbed to deliver a no-nonsense Teutonic smackdown, and just sits there looking uncomfortable while a headless Mr Colby breathes, "Relax… don't be so tense… you need a friend, Lucy…"

Meanwhile, in Ms Avery's classroom, Wheels is working away. He suddenly starts rooting through his schoolbag and announces he needs a book from his locker. "Well, you'd better go get it then," says Ms Avery, and you'll never guess what her tone of voice is like. SO MANY MIXED MESSAGES, DEGRASSI.

Mr Colby's still putting the moves on Lucy. Or, at least, on her latest scarf, which he's groping at clumsily with his fingertips. "This is a nice scarf," he whispers. "Is it silk?" "Uh… I think so. My dad brought it back from Thailand," Lucy answers. This is just surreal, and it's not helped by the fact that we're now seeing an extreme close-up which gives us a great view of Mr Colby's acne-scarred chin (although the rest of his face is still invisible). "Silk is such a sensuous material," he drones. "I love the feel of it. Don't you?" Lucy winces like this is the stupidest thing she's ever heard.

Just as the scene is vaguely approaching some actual dramatic tension, we cut to Wheels running up the stairs. The happy music makes it blatantly obvious he's about to save the day. Conveniently, his locker is right next to Mr Raditch's classroom, and the classroom door has a window in it, so (with the help of his new glasses) he immediately sees what's going on inside. He gawks in horror.

"Don't be scared," Mr Colby whispers to Lucy. Just then, the door opens, and he jumps up. "I came to get a book," Wheels explains. "Well, get it then!" Mr Colby shouts. Way to act casual, Mr Colby. Wheels gives him a filthy look and goes over to get his book, and Lucy makes good her escape. "I'm glad we had this talk, Lucy!" Mr Colby calls out the door. Uh, I think the jig is up. Wheels looks like he's a hair's breadth away from challenging Mr Colby to a duel. Which would be awesome.

Later, Lucy gets home, and calls out for her parents. But they're not home because they have jobs and don't love her. This is all their fault. Lucy sits down and cries as she listens to the latest answerphone message from her neglectful mother, who's congratulating her on her good marks. OH THE IRONY.

Just then, there's a knock at the door. Lucy wipes away her tears (MUST HIDE FEELINGS) and goes to answer it. It's a very sheepish LD, returning Lucy's lime-green scarf. Lucy says nothing, and LD realises something's up. There is much crying and hugging and bonding and sad, sad synth music.

Next day, Wheels is showing off his new Paedo-Detector glasses to Spike, who's politely faking interest. Joey and Snake come up and tell him he turned out to be easily replaceable. "But what about when I come back?" he bleats. "We can be the first band with two bass players!" says Snake brightly. "Two! That's right! Two basses! Two! Fresh! Two!" says Joey. Aaaugh, improvised dialogue.

The twins are waiting outside the girls' bathroom, when Steph emerges, wearing a mint-green miniskirt and the geometric boob tube. "Watch out Simon! You've got him now!" say the twins. Just then, Simon and Alexa walk by, holding hands. "Hi, Simon," says Steph in her sultriest voice. "Hey, twins," says Simon politely. Burrrn.

Lucy's walking up the stairs when she meets Mr Colby (who's wearing a grey version of the blue scribbly sweater from the start of the episode. I'm a little disappointed by his lack of originality). "I'm sorry about yesterday," he begins, then hastily adds, "not that anything happened, of course." Smooth. "We never did get to Mr Raditch's systems. How about trying again this afternoon, after school?" Lucy gives him a death stare and answers, "No, Mr Colby, not in a million years." Mr Colby looks deeply shocked, like he can't believe his creepy, illegal chat-up techniques have failed.

On her way into the classroom, Lucy's stopped by Wheels. "Look, I saw him touch you," he says. Pretty much the most awkward conversational opener ever. "You gonna do anything about it? If you need a witness or anything…"

"Would you?" asks Lucy. "Sure," says Wheels. Lucy smiles, and says "Thanks." And… that's the end of the episode. Just like last time, we're denied any kind of closure. Presumably because writers who can write that kind of dramatic scene cost more. Sigh.

Dubious lessons of the week: However supposedly dreamy your substitute teacher may be, it's kind of unpleasant if he actually molests you. Luckily, molestation only consists of touching someone's shoulder and talking about accessories. And if a female teacher flirts with a boy, it's all good fun.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

S02 E01– Eggbert

I'm back! Didja miss me?

Season 2 begins in fine style, with that obligatory staple of every teen drama: the one where some kids have to take care of a fake baby. Of course, usually this is a school project intended to scare the characters (and the audience) into using a condom, dammit, but this being Degrassi, someone's already pregnant, and it's just the audience getting educated. And boy, are they going to get educated.

We open with a shot of some eggs, and a voice explaning, "When I got pregnant…" Wow, we're only seconds into Season 2, and we're already approaching the giddy metaphorical heights last seen with the flowers of lesbian symbolism. They've really raised their game this time round.

As the camera pans out, we see that Spike's sitting in a room surrounded by girls with basketballs under their tops. One of them is monologuing resentfully about how when she got pregnant, her boyfriend wanted to help, but his father wouldn't let him get involved. Shockingly, it seems teenage pregnancy is still a complex and difficult issue, just like it was last season.

(Also, because it's 1987, everyone's jeans are two inches too short, and  there's a whole pile of boxes labelled "Computer Paper" in the corner of the room. Remember that stuff? Ugh, I'm old.)

Spike is listening very intently, and the Spike 'n Shane Angst Theme is playing softly in the background. Fortunately for all of us, the woman in charge of the support group interrupts the random girl's tale of patriarchal injustice, because she has something much more important to talk about: eggs. Or, as she puts it, "A lot of you have asked what it might be like if you decide to keep your babies. I can't tell you that, but I can suggest an experiment that will help you see one aspect. You take an egg, and for two full weeks, you treat it as if it were an infant." Breastfeeding an egg sounds… challenging. I'm sure I could think of other ways in which an egg isn't very much like a real baby, but the screaming of my neighbour's newborn is distracting me.

Anyway, they have to keep the egg warm, protect it from "abuse and accidents" (because there are hordes of paedo scumbags out there just waiting for you to turn your back on your eggs for a second), and make sure it's not left unattended. They also have to arrange "appropriate daycare" for when they're at school, or else take it with them. No explanation on what constitutes appropriate daycare for an egg; I assume they have to leave it with a friendly hen or something.

So, childrearing: difficult. But in case anyone hadn't got the message, the lady corners Spike after the session and tells her, "Taking care of an infant is going to make a big difference in your lifestyle." Spike looks like this fact had genuinely never occurred to her before. Can she manage to raise this eggbaby and spend three hours a day styling her hair? Stay tuned to find out.

After the opening credits, we're back at school. Even though it's meant to be right after the Christmas holidays (there was snow on the ground at the end of last season/term), it's clearly summer. Apparently Season 1 was made during the school year, but after that the show was filmed in the summer holidays, so henceforth the weather is always sunny and everyone always wears shorts. In addition, everyone has aged visibly since last season. It was obviously a very stressful Christmas.

Speaking of stressful, Shane is sitting on the steps, looking tortured. Kathleen, still a bitch, speculates on whether he got any more girls pregnant over the holidays. Then says a bright friendly hello to him. Awww.

Spike's with the twins. One of them (I'm guessing it's Heather because she's showing less skin) asks her if she still feels sick every morning. "No, that's over," Spike says, "but I'm starting to get fat." This is the second time we've been told that pregnancy will make you fat. Seriously? I think this would not really be news to most teenagers. Anyway, the girls obligatorily deny that she's fat, but she insists she is, and that everyone will stare, and a lot of people *coughShanecough* already stare at her.

Remember, girls: sex will make you into a fat circus freak. Never have sex.

On cue, Shane shuffles over and tries to say hi, but Spike tells him there's "nothing to say", and the twins give him identical death glares. "What a creep!" Spike mutters to Heather.

Remember, boys: if you try to maintain any kind of relationship with the mother of your unborn child, that makes you a creep. Stay far away!

All this time, Spike's been carrying a little cardboard box, and Erika (who's now spelling it Erica, according to the credits) asks her what's up with that. Spike replies that she's "sort of babysitting an egg". Yeah, that's a helpful response that instantly clarifies the situation. Anyway, she explains vaguely to them that this will "help me to find out what taking care of a baby is like", which is still COMPLETELY UNTRUE, WTF.

Meanwhile, some of the Grade 7 girls are watching them, and Kathleen offers some words of wisdom: "Pregnant girls shouldn't be allowed at Degrassi. Spike should go to a home or something. She sets a bad example." Yeah, when the other girls see how much fun Spike is having, they'll all want to get pregnant! Caitlin is predictably righteous and indignant, while Melanie and Susie sarcastically ask if Shane should have to go to a home too. "He's not pregnant!" Kathleen replies. Ah, Kathleen: still bravely flying the flag for small-town closed-mindedness.

In a classic Degrassi scene… Wheels and Joey are urinating. Again. At least we're spared the sound effects this time, and just have to listen to Joey's nonsensical rambling. "You're French kissing a chick, right? And then she bites. Your tongue gets infected so you can't talk. It happens all the time." It… does? Wheels, who's really been working on his mullet over the holidays, suggests that if French kissing was so dangerous, people wouldn't do it. Just on cue, in comes Shane, that guy who did a risky thing and suffered dire consequences.

"Shane, my man! You know about chicks," Joey begins. Shane continues to look tortured, but concedes that he knows "a bit" about them. "'A bit?' You got Spike pregnant, right?" answers Joey. Shane takes offence at this, and threatens Joey with… a comb. After some tense glowering, he relents and puts the comb away. Phew. That could have turned real ugly.

"What's going on with you and Spike anyway?" asks Wheels. Shane says that she won't talk to him. Wheels asks what his parents say about it, and Shane admits that he hasn't told them. "They always want to send me to private school, like my brothers. I like it here. If they knew about Spike…" At this, Joey and Wheels just shrug and leave the room. As you do. Seriously, they're the worst friends ever. An extra-waily version of the Spike 'n Shane Angst Theme wails in the background.

Out in the hall, Steph is going through her locker, taking out all her Hideous Skankwear and throwing it in the bin. She's wearing a pink high-necked blouse with ruffles and bows, and looks like the love-child of a Victorian librarian and Princess Diana.

Alexa breezes over to her and asks what's going on. "I don't need these any more," Steph explains, throwing what looks like a large collection of Mardi Gras beads into the bin. Well, yeah, those probably aren't the most useful things to keep around. "This term, I'm going to be mature and responsible. I'm going to be the real me." Wait, which is it? Is she going to be mature and responsible, or is she going to be herself?

Alexa's eyes bulge out eagerly and she asks if she can have Steph's old clothes. Steph says that's fine, and tosses her a geometric-print boob tube. "I can't believe you're throwing this out!" Alexa gushes. Steph smirks at her. "It's OK for you, Alexa, but I'm school president. I have to look more adult." Actually, her outfits last term were disturbingly adult.

Meanwhile, Yick is digging through some locker crap, as always, when Arthur sneaks up on him and starts squirting him with a water pistol. I think they've officially crossed the line into blatant flirtation.

They're interrupted by an adorably geeky little boy, who asks them how to find Ms Avery's class. Yick and Arthur stare at him, then give him directions. "Why are you looking for 7C?" asks Yick. "It's my class!" says the new kid, before skipping off, full of the joys of fake spring. Yick and Arthur look utterly disgusted. "Since when do they allow little kids in junior high?" Arthur asks. "I don't like little kids," growls Yick, who apparently got a bumfluff moustache and a gravelly voice for Christmas. "They're so immature."

In Mr Raditch's classroom, Spike (who's rocking a pink satin nightshirt and pinstripe waistcoat worthy of Claudia Kishi) is proudly showing off the egg to her classmates, who inexplicably are interested. Even Steph. Someone actually calls it cute. They have little enough to amuse them up in Canada.

Alexa grabs the egg and decides it needs a face drawn on it. "Just be careful, ok?" asks Spike. See, she's learning already: you have to make sure your friends are careful when drawing on your baby. Otherwise it's just bad parenting.

"I thought you were going to give your baby up for adoption," says Lucy. Spike explains that that was just an idea she considered in order to provide a B plot for the Wheels Is Totally Adopted episode she keeps changing her mind. Lucy, none too politely, tells her she's too young to be a mother. Could that be because motherhood is difficult and will necessitate changes to one's lifestyle? You heard it here first. And second. And third.

"I'd keep it!" Alexa chirps. "I love babies!" She holds up the egg, on which she's drawn a cartoon face. Somehow, it's a very '80s cartoon face. They don't draw cartoon faces like that any more. "Now it needs a name," she decides. Spike looks depressed , which is her standard response to most things. Lucy snaps that it's just an egg, but Alexa, who's getting way too into this, insists it's a baaaaaby. "Call it Eggbert!" says Heather. "It looks like an Eggbert!" I don't even know what that's supposed to mean. "It doesn't look like a Spike." Everyone giggles forcedly. Luckily, nobody's tasteless enough to speculate on whether it looks like a Shane.

The bell goes, and the Zit Remedy guys come in. "Check out Steph's clothes!" Joey whispers. "She must be going to a costume party or something," Snake says. "As what?" Joey answers. "A nun?" Uh, I'm pretty sure nuns don't actually wear that much pink. Not for everyday wear, at least. Maybe for Easter or something.

In comes Shane, and I'm beginning to think this actor was cast solely for his ability to look suicidal. He stares at Spike, she glares at him, the Spike 'n Shane music plays, you get the idea.

Finally, Mr Raditch walks in, and welcomes the kids to another term of "fun and excitement", by which he presumably means "batshit-crazy issue-driven drama punctuated by stultifying Yick-and-Arthur subplots". He's followed by another new kid, who he introduces as Simon Dexter. You can tell Simon is supposed to be sexy and glam because he has floppy blonde hair, a leather jacket, and sunglasses. Also because Alexa and Steph are shooting him looks of insatiable lust.

Simon sits down, and Steph and Lucy whisper about how he looks like "the guy from the Super Crunch Delight commercial". Yes, Simon is a small-time teen star. Because piffling quasi-fame is an issue so many kids have to deal with in their day-to-day lives.

Spike is still staring at the egg. That thing will get confiscated if she's not careful, and I'm pretty sure the support-group lady won't look on that too kindly.

Meanwhile, Ms Avery, wearing a blindingly yellow shirtdress and the communal diamante belt, is introducing her class to the little boy from earlier. He's been accelerated to junior high, and his name is Scott, but he says everyone calls him Scooter, which Ms Avery goes along with because she's a liberal. Yick stares fixedly at Scooter, but Arthur gets his attention back by squirting him in the face with his water pistol. It's all rather Freudian.

After class, Shane is following Spike around again. He claims that she can't stay mad at him forever. "Wanna bet?" she snarks. "I'm sorry you got pregnant," he mumbles, "but it was an accident. Why can't we be friends like before?" "I wasn't pregnant before!" she shouts. Rick and Alex are walking by, and stare at her in fascination, because apparently the revelation that she wasn't always pregnant is big news.

Shane admits that he feels bad and wants to help. There's a close-up of Spike's face looking angst-ridden, and… wow, she kind of has a spectacular moustache all of a sudden. Oh dear.

Anyway, she considers it for a minute (the Shane thing, not her moustache) and then hands over the egg. "What's this?" he asks, proving yet again that he's not the sharpest knife in the box.

"That's Eggbert," says Spike. "You've got to take care of him for a week." Shane looks completely horrified, and says that the whole thing is dumb. "It's not!" Spike insists. "It's what taking care of a baby's like." For the last time: no. it. isn't. Anyway, Shane looks tortured, and there's some close-ups of the egg in his hand, his tormented face, the egg, etc.. "How do I explain this to my parents?" he asks. Spike just shrugs and, eggbaby safely palmed off, makes herself scarce.

A bit later, Shane gets home, hiding the egg in his shirt pocket, just like you do with a real baby. In an attempt to underscore how conformist and middle-class his family is, his mother is at home, baking. Although for some reason, she's wearing a leather apron. Also, remember when Tony Curtis was in drag in Some Like It Hot? I swear, she looks like a middle-aged version of that.

Tony Curtis asks Shane why he's late home, and he says he had to talk to someone. "A girl, no doot!" she teases. "You'd better watch out for those girls, Shane." Yeah, the girls of Degrassi are terrible. So sinful and fertile.

Meanwhile, Shane's dad, who's been on the phone until now, hangs up and starts fretting over the delinquent son of some acquaintance. "Tell me, Shane," he asks, "do any of the kids in your school do drugs? Have you ever heard of something called crack?" Shane's dad has an interesting line in small talk.

As Tony Curtis cracks egg after egg into a mixing bowl, lest we forget the egg-related theme of this episode, Shane's dad (who's a minister, just to ramp up the idyllic middle-classness of this family) drones on about how kids these days are continually "messing themselves up one way or another", and how he appreciates what a "fine young man" Shane is. If Shane has been responding to every such comment for the last few weeks with the same look of panicked insincerity, I cannot believe they haven't rumbled him yet.

Later that week, Shane's carrying the egg to school in… a plastic baseball cap for some reason? Huh. Random people are making chicken noises at him and saying things like "You and the egg have a big weekend planned?", because being seen in the company of an egg is apparently hilarious. I don't understand people sometimes.

Steph tells the twins that she saw the Super Crunch Delight commercial again, and it's definitely Simon in it. Erica isn't sure. "You guys have been acting like narbos all week," Heather complains. "If you want to find out if he's in the commercial, just ask him." That's right, folks: "narbo" is the new "broomhead". Just then, Simon goes by, and Erica hitches up her skirt by about a foot. When he's gone, she and Steph make hysterical squealing noises. Ugh, fangirls.

Upstairs, Shane is still getting mocked. Joey and Wheels and Snake come over and swap "hilarious" egg-related puns, which I won't repeat here, because I'm nice like that. Shane continues to look tormented.

Arthur is reading a comic book, when Yick sneaks up and squirts him in the face with a water pistol of his own. They proceed to squirt at each other. Then they catch Scooter staring at them, and get mad, and threaten him with their water pistols. He runs off. This is, hands-down, the feeblest Arthur and Yick non-story ever.

In Mr Raditch's classroom, Shane's studying when some guy leans over and steals the egg. "Please tell me a joke, Daddy," he says in what's presumably supposed to be an egg voice. "I promise not to… crack up!" Then he throws the egg to Tim, and everyone starts clucking again. Wow, way to be supportive, people. Shane gets the egg back, but not before Spike sees all the egg-throwing and fun. She's not impressed.

Just then, Lucy runs in, and announces to the class that she's having a party that night and they're all invited. Everyone cheers, even Spike, who you'd think would want to stay far, far away from Lucy's parties after the last one. "Another party? Your parents don't mind?" asks Steph. "They don't know," Lucy explains. "They're going out of town tonight." Because they have jobs and don't love her. Although I'm glad to see she's moved on from angst-ridden shoplifting, and is now making her abandonment work for her.

The Zit Remedy guys high-five and exclaim about how much they love Lucy's parties. And speculate on whether Shane likes them too. Alexa (already wearing the geometric boob tube from earlier) announces she's going to wear Steph's cast-off Hideous Skankwear. Spike looks excited for the first time ever. Shane, in a dramatic departure from his previous behaviour, looks tormented.

As everyone leaves after class, the guys are still going on about how great Lucy's parties always are (wait, didn't Joey and Wheels end up roaming aimlessly around upstairs at the last one, then disguise their boredom by bingeing on chips?). Alexa starts hitting on Simon. Two feet away, Steph and the twins are hatching a plan for Steph to hit on him at the party.

Shane comes up to Spike and, classy as always, asks her to mind the egg that night so he can go to the party. She refuses, and points out that if it was a real baby he'd have to stay home with it. Yeah, and if it was a real baby I suspect they also wouldn't be allowed to take it to class all week. He begs and begs (what, is he hoping to impregnate someone else tonight?), and eventually she sarcastically tells him to ask his parents to babysit. Shane looks deeply wounded at such a blatant allusion to his wussiness and dishonesty.

Downstairs, Alexa is asking Simon to go to the party with her. He's delighted. Steph lurks in the background with the twins, trying to get up the nerve to go talk to him, but he goes away before she can manage it. "He said he'd dance with me!" Alexa squees. "Wonderful," Steph snarks.

Scooter is on his way home, saying goodbye to the other Grade Sevens. When he says bye to Arthur and Yick, they ignore him, because apparently they're assholes now. He then shoots Arthur in the neck with a water pistol. Arthur thinks it was Yick, even though they have a truce, and they start arguing. High-larious.

Speaking of assholes, the Zit Remedy guys are giving Shane a hard time over having to stay home and babysit the egg. Seriously, they're a bunch of dicks. Shane just says nothing and looks, you guessed it, tormented.

That evening, Lucy's getting ready for the party, wearing her grooviest purple satin jacket. The twins and Steph arrive, and she lets them in, then says, "Don't touch the booze, ok? Ever since I got caught shoplifting, my parents haven't trusted me." Except for the part where they've left her alone all weekend.

At Shane's house, things are dull and bourgeois. How dull and bourgeois? He's doing geography homework while his dad and Tony Curtis play gin rummy in the semi-dark. And because this is TV, and they think we won't notice Shane's having a boring night otherwise, there's a grandfather clock in the corner ticking very, very loudly.

Things aren't going too well at Lucy's house: seemingly the only cassette (hee!) in the house has got all tangled up, so there's no music. Wheels and Snake are desperately trying to listen to a Walkman together, and everyone else is sitting around and looking sad. Also, Lucy's trying to make everyone use coasters.

Simon asks Alexa to go out with him on Monday. Does this make her a groupie? When she goes off to get him a drink, he sleazes to Snake that he looooves the way she dresses. She's gone all out with the Hideous Skankwear: geometric boob tube, hot-pink leggings that don't fit her very well, and some sort of sparkly I Dream of Jeannie-inspired robe. She tells Steph that she's got a date with Simon, and Steph replies, "You know those clothes I lent you? I want them back." Alexa refuses, and Steph actually offers to buy them back, but Alexa's having none of it. Steph sulks in her pleated librarian blouse.

Just then, Shane arrives. Spike demands to know where Eggbert is, and he produces it from his shirt pocket. "Lots of people bring their babies to parties!" he tells her. Yeah, but it's kind of annoying when they do. As the Spike 'n Shane music strikes up yet afuckinggain, Joey runs over and steals the egg. Then everyone starts throwing it around the room, while Spike watches in horror. This is totally what would happen with a real baby.

Eventually the egg gets passed back to Shane, and everyone shouts for him to throw it to someone else. He looks briefly conflicted, then cheers up for the first time all episode and throws it to Joey. What else would you expect from such a classy dude? Spike gives him the frowning of a lifetime.

She flounces out, and Shane gets the egg back and follows her. Everyone gets pissed off at him for ruining the party. You know, if the success of a party depends on having an egg to throw around, it's probably never going to be a very good party.

Outside, Spike gets mad at Shane for not taking care of the egg, and he says he did, even though it was embarassing. "You think this isn't embarrassing?" she yells. "I'm gonna get fat! I'm gonna have a baby!" All right, we get it.

You'll never guess what music is playing (in a tender, synthy version) at this point. Spike says she's scared, and Shane says he is too, but she claims that he's only scared of his parents finding out. "They're gonna find out eventually," she tells him. "You think people won't talk when I get bigger and bigger?" He insists he can't tell them, and she points out that she can't ignore it like he can: "Everywhere I go, I'm pregnant!" If I ever end up pregnant, I want a T-shirt that says that.

"I'm trying to help – it's just a stupid egg!" Shane shouts. That's no way to talk about your substitute baby! Spike says the egg's not the point, and throws it on the ground. We see a close-up of Eggbert's smashed face smiling bravely as his yolk oozes everywhere. This doesn't have quite the emotional impact that the writers apparently hoped it would.

"You say you want to help, until it becomes inconvenient!" Spike shouts. "You don't want to help – you just want to stop feeling guilty!" She storms off down the road, with Shane half-heartedly calling after her. Then he stands around for a bit, and stares at the smashed egg for a while, and since the scene is extremely badly lit, it's sort of impossible to tell what he makes of it all. Eggbert still seems happy, though.

Later that night, Shane comes home. Because they're still dull and wholesome and bourgeois, Shane's dad is studying the Bible while Tony Curtis knits something grey. "You're home early," says Tony.

Shane looks vaguely bilious as he announces, "Mom? Dad? There's something I've got to tell you."

Oh, man! Shane's unloading the dark secret he's harboured for weeks! His parents' illusions are about to be shattered and he's finally going to face up to his responsibilities! Surely we're in for some real drama now!

…Actually, no. That's the end of the episode. Damn you, Degrassi!

Dubious lessons of the week: Pregnancy makes you super-fat, which is totes the worst thing evar. Babies are ovoid, silent, don't eat, and are easily concealable in a pocket or small cardboard box. Never give away your favourite hooker clothes; you never know when you'll need to seduce a saxy minor teen star.