Raditch manages to disengage himself from the conversation, and goes to the front of the class. In a doomed effort to seem cool, he's sitting on the table with his foot up on a desk and has his hands in his pockets, and he looks acutely uncomfortable.
Arthur leans over to ask Yick if he's going to basketball tryouts. Yick says yes. "This is great – just think! We could be on the same team!" Unfortunately, in his inexplicable excitement at this prospect, Yick's speaking too loudly, and Mr Raditch hears. Seizing the chance to get out of his ill-advised "cool" position, Raditch stalks down to Yick's desk, declaiming, "Mr Yick Yu, who else? Mr Yu, the Disorganised!" Which is a fair criticism as Yick has now covered his desk with several thousand random bits of paper. Raditch then proceeds to insult Yick with some kind of sports-based metaphor that I can't be bothered to repeat here, but the general point is that Yick's a deadbeat. Arthur looks deeply pained at the news that he's been wasting his time hanging out with some kid who can't even put together an efficient filing system. When Raditch has gone back to blahing about essays, Yick leans over to Arthur and whines, "He's always picking on me."
Opening credits. Give us a try at Degrassi Junior Hiiiiigh!
After class. Mr Lawrence is announcing that he'll address the whole school that afternoon in the auditorium, presumably from behind some elaborate system of screens and curtains and with a giant holographic head projected onto the stage. Arthur bumbles out of Mr Raditch's classroom and makes yet another doomed attempt to talk to Steph. She tries to get rid of him with the obligatory "I don't talk to Grade Sevens", but he ignores her and asks if she has the sports shoes he left at their mother's. Steph somehow resists the urge to bludgeon him to death with said shoes for referring to the fact that they have blood relatives in common. He then makes things worse by saying he's going to basketball tryouts because their dad used to play basketball – "It's in my blood!" Steph just tells him again to stay away from her: "If anyone finds out you're my brother, you're gonna wish you were never hatched." Arthur placidly answers, "Don't worry. No problem. See you on the weekend," but Steph is long gone and he's talking to himself. Apparently, being bullied by evil harpies is another Kobalowski trait.
And speaking of bullying: it's Joey, the most half-assed bully in the history of bullying! Today's effort: "Hey, Artie Smartie! I hear your mother recalling you!" What the hell is that even supposed to mean? Joey and Wheels then set off down the hall to jointly perv on Steph. Just another day at Degrassi Junior High.
Melanie and Kathleen come out of a classroom. "Junior high is a lot different than I thought it would be," says Melanie. "Yeah, too much homework," says Kathleen. "Not that!" says Melanie. "Parties! I thought there'd be lots of parties! Not political parties. But real parties. With music and boys and potato chips. And drugs! My mom warned me all summer: junior high is full of drugs. I haven't seen any." I think this is one of my all-time favourite speeches from this show. We were promised drugs, dammit!
Kathleen is looking scandalised, although she hasn't yet cultivated the Victorian scowl of disapproval that will be her default expression for most of the rest of the series. "You'd really try drugs?!" she asks. "Oh yeah, for sure. Wouldn't you?" says Melanie. "Um, yeah. Sure," Kathleen answers. Palpable awkwardness.
Basketball tryouts. First Snake gets the ball in the basket. Everybody claps. Then Arthur tries, but hits the ball off the rim and it bounces wildly off across the room and everybody laughs and embarrassing stuff like that is why I quit basketball in school. That and my debilitating laziness. Anyway. Shane tells Arthur that he can be Degrassi's secret weapon, by playing for the other team. Harsh!
Wait, who's this woman in charge? Is this the only time we actually see a teacher other than Mr Raditch and Ms Avery? They seem to have some kind of a gym teacher here! She puts her hand on Arthur's shoulder and tells him to relax and try again, in the sort of deep, soothing voice you normally hear on relaxation tapes. Which I personally would find more distressingly patronising than Shane's overt insults. Anyway, Arthur tries again and misses horribly. Everybody laughs. Next is Yick's turn. He gets the ball in the basket easily. High fives all round. Go Yick!
After school, Shane and Alex are Yick's new basketball groupies. Arthur catches up with Yick after the others have gone, and weedily asks him for help with basketball, if he's not too busy and doesn't find him too loathsome. Damn Stephanie has reduced him to a shell of a boy! But Yick, unlike Steph, has a soul, so of course he'll help.
Training montage, accompanied by some dreadful music played on a synth kazoo. I'm wilfully ignorant about sports, so I can't really tell if Arthur's supposed to be improving over the course of this. On the way home, Arthur apologises to Yick for getting him in trouble with Mr Raditch, but Yick says that it's not his fault, because Raditch is always picking on him. "He always gives me the same crummy marks – he doesn't even read my stuff. He's got me stereotyped. I could hand in Einstein's paper and I'd still get a D or an F." Well, probably yes, but that might be because Mr Raditch doesn't teach physics.
The boys go into some kind of low-rent diner-type place. Melanie and Kathleen are at a table inside, and Joey's at the next table with Shane and Alex, bitching about his mom's cooking. What a total rebel! Arthur and Yick get milkshakes and sit down in a corner, in front of Heather and Erica (apparently, just filling the diner with kids from the school was cheaper than finding some extras for this scene).
Arthur suggests an experiment. He'll get a paper from last year's class, Yick will copy it out in his own handwriting, and if it comes back with a worse mark than last year, they'll know Mr Raditch has it in for Yick. Yick worries that he'll recognise it, but Arthur ostentatiously does some calculations on his calculator watch and says that Raditch sees 3,000 papers a year and won't recognise this one paper of Stephanie's. Yick wants to know how Arthur can get one of the school president's old papers, but Arthur just says it's a long story and to forget he ever mentioned Steph. Yick actually goes along with this, displaying levels of incuriousness rivalled only by the castaways on Lost. He and Arthur toast their plan with milkshakes.
Back to the much more entertaining secondary plot and the kids who have some vague theoretical knowledge of how to party! Kathleen's worried about getting "hooked" if she tries drugs. "Nobody wants to get hooked," says Melanie sagely. "I mean, I don't want to be an addict, in horrible poverty with rats and lice and everything – I just want to try drugs once." The empowered young woman of today knows exactly what she wants.
Joey overhears this, and comes over into their booth. "Joey F. Jeremiah, Esquire. F for Farmacy, at your service." See, this is something of a warning sign; I would want my drugs supplied by someone with basic literacy skills. "So," he asks, "what do you want? Smoke? Draw? Pot? What's your style? Lebanese Light? Bolivian Blue? Degrassi Grass? Or the top of my line, New Zealand Zappers?"
The girls are panicked and probably quite surprised that drugs turn out to have such stupid brand names, but they don't want to look like cowards, so they agree to it. Joey says he'll see what he can do.
Casa de Kaye. Steph's wearing her home clothes; this time it's an enormous knitted sweater with what looks like reindeer on it. She's laboriously accessorising it with a Lucy-style scarf, but hides it in a panic when there's a knock on the door. Ok, seriously, what is the deal with these scarves? They're completely unobjectionable – the sort made of really thin cotton with a few sparkly threads running through it that you get off market stalls or in hippie shops. Were they somehow subversive twenty years ago? Why on earth was Steph so surprised Lucy's parents let her wear them last episode, and why is she hiding hers now? Will somebody please tell me?
Anyway, it's only Arthur at the door, so Steph takes the scarf back out of her bag and goes back to practising wrapping it around her neck. Seriously. She is just sitting at the mirror, wrapping and re-wrapping it like it's an actual skill or something. Arthur says he's there to visit their mom, and then picks up one of Steph's perfume bottles, examining it rather intently. She looks ever so slightly alarmed at that, and asks him what he wants. He puts the bottle down and asks if he can borrow one of her English essays from last year, "strictly for research purposes". She doesn't believe him, but I think she sort of likes the idea of him cheating and is relieved he didn't come over to borrow her perfume, so she gives him the essay.
Next we see Arthur skulking in a darkened alleyway with the essay under his jacket. He sneaks up to Yick's house and knocks on the window. Yick's on the phone, but hangs up as soon as Arthur knocks. Sorry, Grandma Yu – low-level fraud trumps your annual call from Vietnam.
Yick opens the front door and asks for the essay. Arthur looks around veeery cautiously and takes it out from under his jacket. Miraculously, a horde of Mounties do not leap out from the bushes and arrest both boys. Yick unfolds Steph's essay and is delighted to see that it got a B+. Shocked that Steph can get high grades? Well, just because she dresses like an insane whore and stole an election through prostitution and screws over her friends and uses her huge teeth as a flirting tool and got outrageously drunk when she had to give a speech doesn't mean she's stupid! I think we all learned a little something about stereotypes today.
Yick is in his bedroom, copying the essay out in his own writing, accompanied by a synth-kazoo cover of the school song, only this time it's sort of tarted up and evil-sounding, so you know he's doing something WRONG. For some reason, his room is full of elaborate sound equipment; maybe he is in fact the one responsible for the synth kazoo effect, and he just likes to listen to his own compositions while working.
Next day, in a slightly dodgy-looking stairwell at school. Well, actually, it's just a normal stairwell with bad lighting. Mr Lawrence is on the intercom, issuing an urgent plea for new tuba players for the music club. Melanie and Kathleen skulk down the stairs to meet Wheels and Joey. Joey's wearing some plastic kiddie sunglasses for extra drug-dealer authenticity. He's got a little compartment on the underside of his skateboard, from which he takes out a few tablets. "Is that… drugs?" asks Wheels, the least useful drug-henchman ever.
Joey ignores him and tells the girls that these are the New Zealand Zappers, and they'll be $5 each. Well, they may be mystery tablets sold out of a skateboard by an imbecilic 14-year-old who's wearing sunglasses indoors, but if the price is right… The girls are pretty stingy, or else are having an attack of common sense, so Joey has to goad them into it: "No pay, no play. No tip, no trip. No pills, no thrills." He sounds exactly like the drug dealers off those Very Special War On Drugs Episodes of various '80s cartoons, which is presumably where he got this patter from.
Anyway, his spectacular rhyming ingenuity somehow convinces them that this is the less-stupid thing to do, and they hand over the money. Wheels is watching with a look of utter horror, but obviously has no plans to intervene. Joey tells the girls that they'll be "pushing up dandy-lions" if they tell anyone where they got the pills, and then says to try them. "Instant insanity!" he promises.
When they hesitate (they haven't actually said anything all scene), he takes one of the pills himself, and promptly starts tripping. "Oh… mild… cool… very cool… mild…" he mumbles, then gathers up his henchman and leaves. Wheels anxiously helps him up the stairs.
"You can go first," says Melanie, trying to sound generous. "No, you go first!" says Kathleen. "It was your idea." And I'm sure she'd persist in telling everybody that, forever, if Melanie proceeded to OD and die horribly, because that's the way Kathleen rolls. After a bit more prevarication and mutual accusations of chickenism, they swallow the pills together.
"You feel anything?" asks Kathleen. "Oh yah… cool… very cool…" says Melanie, then rolls her head around in a vaguely druggy way, watching Kathleen out of the corner of her beady eye. Kathleen catches on. "Mild… very mild…" she sighs. Then the giggling starts.
And then three tuba players walk past, presumably on the way to the music club. Or else they've mutinied, and they're the ones the music club is now trying to replace? Sadly, we'll never know. But the girls find it hilarious.
Upstairs, Wheels has grown a conscience, conveniently after the drug-selling is complete. "Selling drugs? Are you crazy?" "They were crazy," says Joey. "Wheels, my man, have a little faith!" He pulls out a huge bottle of vitamin tablets. "I saved these kids from a life of destitution, and gave them nourishing vitamins!" That Joey, he always has kids' best interests at heart.
Mr Raditch's classroom. Melanie and Kathleen come in, laughing hysterically. He gives them an entirely justified stinkeye, and they do that fake-shutting-up thing you do when you're trying to let on that you're not really intimidated. Everyone's staring at at them, and Kathleen's actually red in the face from giggling. Raditch's moustache looks especially huge; I think he may have blow-dried it with a round hairbrush for extra body.
Yick and Arthur come in. Yick shuffles up to Raditch's desk and hands in the essay, and Raditch makes a big show of being impressed that he's handing it in early. Plagiarism is a real time-saver!
The following morning, Arthur and Yick are walking into school. Yick's worrying about Raditch finding out what they did. Arthur says, "Even if he does, it's a scientific experiment! Nothing will go wrong!" …Arthur doesn't know much about science.
Raditch is wearing a white suit that makes him look like a CIA spy unsuccessfully trying to go undercover in Havana. He hands back everybody's essays. Susie is wearing socks with gladiator sandals. Melanie's essay was "very imaginative"; B vitamins are almost as good a source of inspiration as LSD. Little-known fact. Yick gets an A- on Steph's essay. Arthur's delighted, but Yick just looks annoyed.
After school, Yick explains that if he and Steph got different marks for the same essay, it means Mr Raditch is a bad marker. Arthur says it doesn't matter, because it proves Raditch doesn't hate him. Yick says Raditch actually just thinks he's stupid, so he was overimpressed by him handing in a non-dreadful essay and gave him too good a mark. There is no pleasing some people.
Still, Yick masterfully overcomes these doubts he tells Arthur to bring him more of Steph's work. Arthur says that "once is an experiment, but twice is cheating". Actually, once was cheating, too. Twice is just cheating twice. But Yick says slightly menacingly that he has to give him more essays, because he helped Arthur to not suck at basketball. So what is he going to do if Arthur says no – break his fingers? It doesn't matter, though, because Arthur is completely spineless, so of course he'll agree to this.
Later that day, the cause of his spinelessness is in her room, painting her toenails. When Arthur knocks on the door, she hides the nail varnish, which is pointless because you can smell that stuff for an hour after you use it, but I digress. Actually, while I'm digressing, I would like to theorise that Steph is pretending her mother is stricter than she really is, because nobody in their right mind would object to a 14-year-old painting her toenails in winter, when nobody is even going to see it. Steph is just doing this so that she can feel hard-done-by. In later years, this will be refined into an art form known as being an emo kid.
Anyway, in comes Arthur. He returns the essay and then stands there, watching her paint her toenails (a slutty, slutty shade of hospital-décor pink), until she asks him what he wants. He tells her that "the experiment was successful, but the thing about experiments is that they need to be replicated". She looks at him blankly: "Replicated?" I suppose we can blame this on the nail varnish fumes.
Anyway, he gives her some brief pointers on research design, but his point is that he wants another essay. "Are you in some kind of trouble?" she asks, apparently thinking there might be loan sharks or heroin dealers who will let you pay them off with old bits of homework. When Arthur says no, she says he can't have any more essays.
And this is where Arthur discovers a spine! And promptly decides to use his powers for evil! He ever-so-subtly alludes to the fact that he doesn't tell their mother about Steph's hideous skankwear. Steph can see where this is going, and tells him, "That's blackmail!" See, she does have a vocabulary! Arthur just nods, like, "You're really not in a position to negotiate, dollface. It's this or the convent."
Next day, in the school library. Lucy is standing at a rack full of books. Joey and Wheels sleaze over to her. Joey tries to flirt with her, but she just walks away without a word. Nice. The guys busy themselves looking through the books (the one Wheels picks up has a man and woman in a passionate clinch on the cover, and Joey tries to wrest it out of his hands). Melanie and Kathleen come over, along with some background guy I've never seen before and the current Token Wheelchair Girl, and Wheels and Joey anxiously square up for a fight.
A few words on Degrassi's Token Wheelchair Girls: there is always one, who is in the background of every episode, but she changes at least twice over the course of the series. There is never more than one girl at a time. I think accusations of tokenism are justified because only the final girl actually gets a name and plotlines of her own (plotlines which are, of course, exclusively centred around the fact that she is a Wheelchair Girl), but not until Degrassi High.
Anyway, it turns out that the girls want more drugs. (Obviously Melanie's decided that being hooked and having rats and lice aren't so bad after all.) Background Guy and TWG want in on it too. Joey says he'll bring some tomorrow. "You bring the money, I'll make you funny." It'll take a lot more than some cheapass recreational drugs to make Kathleen funny.
Next day, the Stairwell of Druggitude. Mr Lawrence is on the intercom, advertising a talk on "street smarts", as a sunglass-wearing Joey counts out vitamin tablets, accompanied by ominous MIDI music. This guy already has all the street smarts he needs.
A few minutes later, in Mr Raditch's classroom, and the school junkies are giggling again. This place went downhill in no time. Raditch quiets them yet again with his Anti-Giggling Stinkeye (ably backed up by the uptight twin), and announces that everybody's essays were good, and Yick's was especially interesting. "Yes, I was impressed. Not as impressed as I was last year, when I first read this paper." Obviously he was up all night rehearsing that line.
Raditch asks how Yick got the essay, and eventually Arthur owns up. But Yick says that it was Raditch's fault (not an argument likely to get him any leniency) because he made Yick cheat by always giving him bad marks. Arthur says Raditch is bad at his job because Yick and Steph got different marks for the same paper. Raditch protests that "literature is not an exact science", which is true, but we're really not dealing with literature here, are we? To more drug-addled giggling from the New Zealand Zapper kids, Yick complains that Raditch gives people any mark he feels like, and stereotypes them. Raditch rants about "perceived imperfections in the system" and gives them both detention and demands an essay on what they did and why it was wrong. Sad music. Oh the injustice!
Later, in the diner, Steph sits down next to Joey and Wheels (absent-mindedly flashing The Teeth at Shane on the way over) and announces, "We've gotta talk." Both guys seem to think this means there will be sexy talk, although Wheels discreetly moves his drink away from Steph, probably worried that she might drunkenly throw up in it if he's not careful. Joey asks if she wants to come to the mall and help him buy new clothes – if a guy asked me that, I would think he was gently telling me I was Not His Type. Wheels sits there and ogles her in silence. Creepy.
But it turns out that Steph is not here for sexy talk or even clothes talk. "I hear you've been selling drugs," she mumbles. Cut to Kathleen and Melanie at a nearby table. "I don't care what you think," says Stephanie, "but drugs are dangerous!" Wait, is she actually displaying some sort of responsible school-president-type behaviour? How dreadfully disappointing. Joey tells her, "I wouldn't sell drugs, I wouldn't even take them. They wanted drugs so I sold them vitamin pills. They just thought they were stoned!" Melanie and Kathleen listen in horror.
Steph, who's being uncharacteristically ethical all of a sudden, chews him out for swindling the kids out of their money (so it would be better if the drugs were real?), but he tells her that "lessons don't come cheap". Actually, $5 and some public humiliation is extremely cheap, compared to the gothically Tragic Consequences that will come from drug use later on – but I'm getting several years ahead of myself. For now, Melanie and Kathleen look distinctly queasy.
Detention. Wow, Mr Raditch's hair is luxuriant. Arthur is writing but Yick is just sulkily tapping his pen on the desk, until he gets a patented Raditch Stinkeye (he'll wear that eye out if he's not careful). Someone hammers on the door, and Raditch actually wipes the chalk dust off his hands with a towelette before he goes to answer it. A little neurotic, don't you think? It's some woman at the door, asking to speak with him for a moment, with the hyper-clear diction of an actress who knows she may not get any more lines in the show, so she'd better make the most of this one.
Left alone in the classroom, the boys bemoan their lot. Yick thinks it's all Raditch's fault, but Arthur points out that there was the matter of their repeated cheating. Yick is unconvinced and decides he's not going to do the assigment because he "can't write papers". Arthur tells him to make an effort, but Yick takes offence and says not only is he not going to help Arthur with basketball any more, but Arthur is the worst player in the world and has no hope. Not no hope of success, just no hope in general, which is pretty harsh.
Arthur maintains that being crap and trying to improve is still better than cheating – hang on, wasn't the cheating his idea? He does have an impressive talent for bamboozlement, though: before Yick can point out his hypocrisy, Arthur distracts him by listing off his many faults and then claims that Raditch only thinks Yick is dumb because Yick hasn't given him any reason to think he's not. Oh, there's that spine again; this time, he's using his powers for good, but still being kind of a dick about it.
Raditch comes back in, giving them both the frowning of a lifetime just for good measure. Yick starts to write. For no particular reason, we cut to a janitor mopping the hallways, then back to Yick and Raditch in the classroom after Arthur's gone home. There is the most confusing poster on the back wall – it's headed "CONCESSION" in huge letters, as if it was a motivational poster, but the illustration is a sciency diagram of the solar system or something. What?
Anyway, Yick finishes his opus and hands it to Raditch with a Significant Look. Raditch starts to read it. It's a rather widely spaced half an A4 page, which really doesn't qualify as an essay. Plus I'm pretty sure that page has been crumpled up and flattened out several times. I'm getting more and more convinced that Raditch has a point.
Next morning, the Degrassi pill-poppers are gathered outside the school. Melanie's explaining to Token Wheelchair Girl and Background Guy that they've all been scammed.
Cut to Joey checking himself out in the two Playboy mirrors he has inside his locker. Also in there are some bits of Stephanie Kaye propaganda and a poster called "Busts", which shows about 20 different pairs of boobs in unflattering sports bras. What… what the hell? The concept may be pure sleaze, but this is in fact a thoroughly unerotic poster, like something that might be on the wall of a breast doctor's office. A more salacious person than me might speculate that that's why it's here in Joey's locker instead of at home under his mattress, but I'm not a more salacious person than me, so let's move on.
Anyway, he spots his disgruntled clientele reflected in the mirror, and turns around to see if they want "to buy some more". "Some more vitamins, huh?" asks Kathleen. Kathleen is dressed as a preppy boy today: she's wearing these very manly grey slacks, and a sweater vest with a pinstriped shirt underneath. She looks better than usual.
Kathleen and Melanie demand their money back, while Background Guy and Token Wheelchair Girl scowl menacingly. They're obviously not being paid to speak. Joey admits that he spent the money on a ridiculous Hawaiian shirt, then runs for it, pursued by an angry four-person mob of vitamin junkies. Bust-ed! You see? Because of the busts? Ah, forget it.
Later, in the classroom, the kids are quietly working when Mr Raditch announces that he wants to read out an assignment that "one of them wrote". It's about how stereotyping people is wrong, and "this guy I know" apparently doesn't suck royally at basketball after all, and "this other guy I know" supposedly isn't an idiot despite appearances to the contrary. Yick, by the way, has the worst poker face in the history of anything, and is pulling an assortment of silent-movie-grade nonsensical faces while his essay is read out. Way to preserve your anonymity, Yick.
Raditch dismisses the class but calls Yick back. He tells him that the paper really deserves an A, and generously doesn't mention the fact that he assigned him a completely different topic. Yick turns to go, but Raditch asks him for a "clean slate" and for both of them to try harder, and this is apparently as close as he ever gets to offering an apology. Which is not terribly close. He even offers to stop calling him "Mr Yu the Disorganised", which is just as well, because it was the least catchy nickname ever, and I'm sure he's going home to work on something infinitely more hilarious. After a not-at-all-suspenseful period of hesitation, Yick agrees to shake on it. Happy music.
Arthur's opening his locker. Caitlin walks past in a black-and-white leopard-print catsuit of some kind. Yick arrives with his basketball, and we get a glimpse inside Arthur's locker. There's a carefully cut-out photo of a moustached basketball player, and a calendar: this month's picture is a barn owl. I would mock it, but owls are kind of nifty, and anyway I'm too busy feeling relieved that Arthur didn't also have a "Busts" poster, or its companion poster, "Asses in High-Waisted Panties".
Yick asks Arthur if he wants to go practice basketball and then go for a milkshake, if he's not too busy. He knows how to show a boy a good time. Arthur gives it a bit of thought and decides he does have time to hang out with Yick and be henpecked by his sister and cut out photos of sporting heroes. Bless.
Just then, the guys hear someone yelling from inside a broom closet. They open the door, to find Joey inside wearing nothing but his Y-fronts and his hat, which he immediately uses to cover the Y-fronts. For which I am grateful. "Drug-crazed [inaudible]s stole my clothes!" he explains – the early episodes have quite poor sound quality. The missing word might have been "zombies", or it might have been "homies", or it might have been more ludicrous made-up Canadian slang.
Anyway, Arthur and Yick cheerfully shut the door and leave him to starve. At least there does seem to be a urinal in there (or just a giant sink?), although it probably isn't connected to actual plumbing. But I guess you can't have everything.
The boys head to the exit, engaging in some very undemanding basketball-horseplay, and the credits roll.
Dubious lessons of the week: Don't buy drugs from a shady kid you don't know, because they might not really be drugs, and then where would you be? If you do decide to set up as a dealer, your skateboard is a foolproof place to hide your stash. Cheating at your schoolwork will lead to increased understanding and empathy between you and your teachers. Breasts, contrary to popular belief, are not always sexy.