Thursday, October 15, 2009

S01 E10 – Smokescreen

We start in the hallways at Degrassi, where Caitlin, Susie and an already enraged-looking Kathleen are trying to get people to sign a petition. They have a lot of handlettered posters around, because this is the '80s. "Clean up the environment!" the girls bleat futilely. Everyone ignores them. "I told you this was a stupid idea," growls Kathleen. That's basically her default response to everything.

In the background, we can see Yick and Arthur playing with a basketball down the hall. But then the camera cuts to them walking in the front door. The plague of teleporting schoolboys continues.

Just then, Rick comes in, and Kathleen perks up slightly as she spots a new target for her withering scorn. "Look what the cat dragged in," she smarms. In case you've just joined us: Rick is working-class, and Kathleen hates anyone working-class (also lesbians and, more generally, anyone who isn't Kathleen).

Rick walks straight up to the girls and asks to sign the petition. Caitlin and Susie are pretty astounded that a working-class hero like Rick apparently has a mild interest in the environment and isn't spending all his time unionising dock-workers. Rick and Caitlin exchange adorable awkward smiles before Rick shuffles off.

Susie immediately starts teasing Caitlin, although she admits that Rick is cute. Kathleen butts in to say, "He's also as dumb as a post! And the school criminal!" Hey, those rumours were never substantiated! And why doesn't he get any credit for his heroic distribution of liquorice to the masses? And why has everyone forgotten that the last time Susie teased Caitlin about Rick, it degenerated into a homophobic witch-hunt within minutes?

As Caitlin stares down the hallway at Rick's departing form, she gets an already-all-too-familiar gleam in her eye. "Maybe all he needs is a little help," she muses, as the opening credits start up. Caitlin's found another project; Lord help us all.

I mean, really! The last time she tried to manipulate Rick to suit her own ends, she failed horribly, and was in fact outdone by Joey, who won Rick's heart with some slashy banter and a shared love of scruffy denim jackets. Does she not know when to quit?

After the credits, we're in Ms Avery's class. The kids are taking turns giving speeches on their family history. Susie has pretty much pwned everyone else by giving a talk on black empowerment, then producing a NASA "emblem" that her astronaut uncle gave her. When she finishes, everyone applauds, although Kathleen, predictably, looks disapproving. It's Yick's turn to speak next week, and he looks extremely ill at the prospect.

The class ends, but when everyone's leaving, Ms Avery calls Rick back to ask why he didn't do some geography assignment. He just shrugs angstily in response. Ms Avery, raging lesbian that she is, puts her hand on his shoulder and reminds him that "repeating Grade Seven doesn't mean you have to repeat the same mistakes". Rick just rolls his eyes, and she says that if he doesn't straighten up and fly right, he'll have to repeat the year again. Caitlin watches this exchange from her desk, her eyes brimming with middle-class pity. Once Rick goes out into the corridor, he punches some lockers, because he's a guy, and that's how guys express their feelings when they're all messed up inside.

Arthur's at his locker, and calls Yick over to ask if they can go play basketball. Yick says he has to do research for the family history project, and Arthur (proving yet again that being a nerd does not mean you're smart) is sceptical that family history would involve research.

Yick complains that nobody is going to want to hear about his family: "Who wants to hear about being poor and living in a big house with a million relatives?" Arthur suggests talking about what happened before the Yus arrived in Canada, the land of opportunity, but Yick's determinedly pessimistic. "Who cares about refugees? I need something interesting, like Susie's badge. Otherwise I'll be boring." So our secondary issue of the week is: former refugees who think refugeeism is boring. Uh… if you say so?

On the PA, Mr Lawrence announces that the lunch special today is "Tuna Surprise", and the school dietician says it's excellent. Is "school dietician" Canadian for "canteen lady"?

Rick's in the bathroom, having a smoke. It's a spectacularly angsty, tortured smoke; I think he's been watching too many James Dean movies. He is also standing right in the open, not hiding in a cubicle, which is just asking for trouble. Shane comes in and immediately tells him, "Cigarettes'll kill you, man!" Rick gives a characteristically tortured-teenish response: "Yah, yah. What are you, my social worker?" This line has less of a rhetorical punch to it when you actually have a social worker, though. Also, Shane is quite easy to tell apart from Rick's social worker, as Shane doesn't have a sea anemone for a head.

Unfortunately, Rick's tangled with the wrong guy: Shane has a massive bee in his bonnet about smoking, as previously foreshadowed by his collection of anti-smoking T-shirts. Now, while using the urinal, he rattles off a list of reasons why smoking is totally bad for you, man. Why oh why must so many conversations on this show take place while a teenage boy is peeing? And why is Shane so up on the dangers and grossness of smoking when, as we are soon to learn, he is so very careless about other health issues?

Rick says that the only advice he wants is how to get Caitlin to like him. Shane calls Caitlin "a browner", which I presume is Canadian for "brown-noser". "Yeah, so?" asks Rick, who apparently can't be bothered to dispute that. Shane suggests sitting beside her in class. "She sits in the front!" says Rick. "No way I'm gonna sit in the front." Come on, Rick. Faint heart never won meddly lady.

Shane then says Rick could join the Environmental Action Committee that Caitlin's on, so they'd have something to talk about. Rick decides this is a pretty good idea, even though joining the Environmental Action Committee sounds even nerdier than sitting in the front (I say this as someone who frequently sat in the front and tried to start an environmental club at the age of eight). "Just don't light up in the club room," says Shane, but Rick's outta there before Shane can start lecturing him again.

Cut to the Environmental Action Committee meeting, which is taking place in what looks like a large store cupboard. Kathleen, who is the president, is calling the meeting to order, and even the way she does that smacks of bossy-cowism. Also she is wearing a handmade badge that reads "EAC PREZ", lest anyone momentarily forget who's boss, and sitting in front of a big poster of Tina Turner for some reason, which I think makes Tina Turner the only actual famous person to be in any way connected with this show. Just then, Rick opens the door and walks in. Everyone, even Caitlin, looks anxious, as if he might have been sent in by Big Industry to break some heads.

"What are you doing here?" asks Kathleen, with a look of utter, utter loathing. A standard Kathleen-face, in other words. "I want to join," says Rick (Caitlin looks perturbed again). "What do you know about the environment?" asks Kathleen. Sycophantic giggles from nameless club members.

"I live in it," says Rick, which is a perfectly valid answer, but everyone laughs at him. Even Caitlin. Although she then hastily looks concerned again, and points out that he did sign their petition. "And besides, we need all the help we can get, right?" she adds, which is a rather feeble recommendation. We're so desperate, we'll take anyone! Susie backs her up, and then so do the other club members. Kathleen reluctantly says that he can join, and he sits down next to Caitlin. Cue awkward glances.

The club secretary, some girl called Trish who we haven't seen before, then stands up and announces the first item on their agenda: a new name. Several people exclaim, "Yeah, that's what we need!" Kathleen insists that their current name is fine, Susie says they need something shorter and catchier, and Trish suggests the totally lame "Pollution Busters".

"People, please!" cries Kathleen. "This is a serious committee! I still like the old name, and not just because I thought of it, either." She'll make a fine dictator one day. Rick looks like he disapproves of the whole discussion; clearly he'd been hoping the club would discuss something more exciting, like eco-terrorism.

At lunchtime, Susie, Caitlin, Kathleen, Rick, and Trish are conveniently leaving the building together. Susie muses that the meeting went really well, but they should have talked about the petition more. "Has anybody signed it?" asks Trish. Nobody has the heart to tell her that Rick's is the only name on it so far. While Rick is over at the bike racks, Kathleen asks Caitlin, "What's the big idea letting Rick join the committee?" In case we'd forgotten everything anyone has said about Rick all season, Trish reminds everybody, "He's got an awfully bad reputation…"

Kathleen smugly announces that "I heard even his father disowned him!" Let's all just take a minute to bask in the breathtaking bitchiness of that statement, considering what actually happened between Rick and his father. I get a bit light-headed thinking about it.

"Where do you get these amazing stories?" asks Susie, sounding extra-sceptical in an attempt to cover up the fact that she completely fell for Kathleen's wild tales of lesbianism just four episodes ago. "He flunked," says Kathleen, "we know that's true. And remember all those bruises he used to have? I heard he got them from fights." I'm pretty sure at this point the character of Kathleen is actually just a metaphor for small-minded suburban repressiveness. It's a very effective one.

As if this discussion wasn't annoying enough already, Caitlin pipes up, "It's not his fault he's poor and disadvantaged!" Aw jeez, I mean, it's true, but did she have to say it like that? "What?" asks Kathleen, who obviously feels the poor have only themselves to blame.

Caitlin elaborates, becoming more and more patronising as she goes on: "I mean, so he gets bad marks in school, and people say he's dumb and stuff. But maybe that's because people don't give him a chance. We should give him a chance!"

"Sounds like a really stupid idea to me," says Kathleen. Yeah, giving people a chance is for losers! I have a feeling Kathleen will move to New York when she grows up, dye her hair black, and change her name to Margo Magee.

"Well I'm going to give him a chance," says Caitlin with painful sincerity. Kathleen just turns around in disgust and walks off. I almost admire her wholehearted commitment to being as horrible as possible at all times.

Meanwhile, Yick's walking around downtown. How long is the lunch break at this school, anyway? We see him pass a shop selling random Asiany ornaments, then run back to look in the window and stare at a cheapass vase. "That it!" he exclaims to nobody in particular. He runs into the shop, and because this show's budget won't cover a scene of him buying the vase, we just see a man's hand reach into the window display and take it away.

After lunch, we see Yick proudly showing the vase to Arthur. "It's been in my family for thousands of years," he claims. "It's very valuable. I forgot we had it." Um, yeah, valuable heirlooms are the most forgettable kind! "Your parents let you bring it to school?" asks Arthur, sounding impressed rather than suspicious. Again: nerd ≠ smart. "Um… they don't really know about it," says Yick, which is the one thing in his story that's true.

Arthur asks what dynasty the vase is. "Ming," says Yick, "or Manchu. I don't know. Both maybe!" Arthur says his father knows an antique dealer and they should get the vase appraised. "Maybe later," says Yick. "Anyway, the class will be impressed, right?" Only if they're as gullible as Arthur.

Mr Lawrence is on the PA again: "Would anyone who had the Tuna Surprise at lunch please see Nurse Silver before going home?" I hope they fired the school dietician.

Rick is heading downstairs when Caitlin calls him back. She tells him she's making an announcement tomorrow aboot the petition, and asks if he wants to help. "It's a great opportunity to get involved," she tells him, which is a fairly smooth come-on, but then she unfortunately keeps talking: "Don't worry, I'll do the writing and stuff." Burn.

Rick's down with being patronised, though, so they agree to go to her house and do some nonspecific announcement-related stuff.

After school, Yick and Arthur are cleaning up Ms Avery's classroom and making plans to play basketball afterwards. Yick sticks his bag (which contains the vase) precariously on the edge of Ms Avery's desk and goes off to leave some books back at the library. I can see where this is going! Because I'm smarter than Yick. Which admittedly isn't saying much.

Ms Avery has a "Quote of the Day" sign above the blackboard, which today reads "Honesty is the best policy." This is not one of the show's classier attempts at foreshadowing. Anyway, it's Arthur's job to change the sign, but because he failed in his efforts to become taller by stalking Snake, he's not tall enough to reach it. He is, however, stupid enough to jump up and down in front of the sign three times before realising that won't help.

Looking around for something to stand on, he wisely rejects Ms Avery's incredibly rickety swivel chair, and then, his quota of wise behaviour for the day already exceeded, yanks on her desk. Yick's bag, of course, falls off, and lands on the ground with a noise that sounds more like keys being rattled than a vase being smashed, but whatever. Just to make it extra clear what's happened, he opens the bag and pulls out a piece of smashed vase. I think the vase is smashed, you guys.

Meanwhile, as some badass synth electric guitar music plays in the background (as is usually the case during Rick scenes), Rick and Caitlin are standing outside a factory which is giving off lots of smoke. "The paper says there's all sorts of toxins coming from that factory," she expositions, then adds, "Oh… toxins are poisons." She sure knows how to show a guy a patronising time.

Rick tells a tale of working-class woe about how when he lived with his bad dad, they were near a factory, and they couldn't open their windows because the air smelled so bad. "That's awful," says Caitlin. "You should have gotten an air purifier." Ah, there's nothing like unhelpful advice that comes several months too late. Rick just points out that his dad, being working-class and all, couldn't afford one. Caitlin is horribly embarrassed.

Back at school, Yick's in the corridors, bouncing his basketball and pretending to be a sports commentator. I'm pretty sure this is just filler. When he comes back into the classroom, he sees that Arthur has scrawled on the board, "Yick – took vase to antique dealer." "Oh no," says Yick. The hijinks, they are ensuing.

Meanwhile, at Caitlin's house, the class-based awkwardness is ongoing. Rick pokes at the stereo before looking around and announcing, "Your parents must be rich." Caitlin says they're not, since they're teachers. Rick has some sort of emotional response to the fact that her parents are teachers, but due to the bad acting here I'm not sure if he's impressed or disgusted. Caitlin then admits that her mother is a vice-principal, and cheerfully continues to dig by asking Rick what his parents do. He explains that he doesn't get on with his dad (which is one way of putting it), so he lives with his brother, the godlike Frank, who's a bartender. "What about your mom?" asks Caitlin.

"She left," says Rick, only due to his accent it sounds much more like "she laughed", which makes no sense, either in the context of this conversation or in view of the fact that she was married to Rick's Bad Dad, which I'm guessing wasn't really a laugh a minute.

Clearly deciding that this whole "conversation" thing isn't going too well, Caitlin decides to start work on the announcement. "People everywhere need to be concerned with the problem of pollution," she drones. Rick, sounding terribly disappointed in her, says she sounds like a teacher. She looks pissed off and says nothing.

I'm temporarily distracted by the incredibly ugly '60s-style "sculpture" on the kitchen table; basically someone took a metal bar, twisted it out of shape, then convinced Caitlin's parents to pay money for it. And now they're advertising their idiocy by leaving this thing out where people can see it.

Anyway, Rick's rambling on about how all announcements sound the same, and they need something different to get people's attention. He turns to look at the cassette player, which is blaring out some weirdly bleak '80s electro-pop, then smiles. "I got an idea."

Next morning, Rick and Caitlin march into Doris Bell's office; Rick's carrying a ghetto blaster. Caitlin announces, in her usual morose tones, that they want to make an announcement on behalf of the Environmental Action Committee. Doris cheerfully hands over the microphone, and sits down to stare at what I think is a blank piece of paper, but quickly turns around in amazement when Rick starts playing some awful rap backing music.

And then Caitlin raps. About the environment.

There's a montage of all the other kids listening appreciatively to this atrocity (and even boogieing in some cases). The whole scene is one of the most cringeworthy things in the history of television; I can hardly bear to watch it. I certainly can't bear to watch it more than once, which is why I'm not reproducing the lyrics here.

Um, so somehow the rap has motivated everyone to sign the petition, and there's a second, needlessly protracted, montage of everyone signing, then signing some more. Kathleen, by the way, is predictably disgusted by the whole affair, and for once I'm with her.

The following day, Yick is at his locker when he spots Arthur. Arthur tries to run off, but Yick follows him, asking for his vase back. He then runs into the boys' bathroom, and finds Arthur's feet sticking out from under a cubicle door. Arthur is pretty bad at hiding, like he is at most things.

Yick asks again for his vase back, but Arthur says it's still being appraised and the antique dealer is nearly finished with it. "He says it's really interesting. He says he's never seen one quite like it." Yick looks perturbed, but eventually gets Arthur to promise he'll have it back by Friday.

The sound throughout this scene was dubbed in really badly, by the way, so that half the dialogue sounded all echoey and detached, like a voiceover flashback. It's really distracting.

Back in the club store-cupboard, Kathleen calls another meeting to order. Where did she get a gavel? Trish stands up and announces the first item on the agenda: a new name. Rick rolls his eyes, and Caitlin complains that they always talk about that, and what about the petition? "What about the petition?" Kathleen sneers.

Susie points out that they've got almost 200 signatures and they should take the petition to the factory, but Kathleen shoots her down: "Nobody's going to pay attention to a petition from a bunch of kids!" Rick gets all riled up, and asks, "How would you know, brainbox?" Caitlin, who's clearly decided she's his handler, tries to calm him down by saying he and Susie and herself will take it to the factory the next day. Rick refuses to be shushed: "It's called action! Doing something, ya know?" Oooh, working-class guys tell it like it is! Kathleen gives her default response: "Well, I say it's a stupid idea!" There's much glaring. Caitlin looks troubled, as is her wont.

That night, Arthur's at home listening to the radio. It's very dark. It's definitely night. He glumly empties the smashed vase onto his desk and picks up a bottle of glue. This will go well.

Cut to… earlier that afternoon. What the hell? Caitlin's sitting at her kitchen table with Susie. The sun is shining in the window. It's definitely daytime. "What do you think of Rick?" she asks. Susie reckons he's nice. "I think it's too bad people don't give him a break, though," says Caitlin. "Cause he's acting OK, don't you think? He was rude to Kathleen, but who could blame him?" It's a little too obvious that she's keeping score.

Susie snaps at this, and tells Caitlin to stop treating Rick like he's her experiment. Caitlin tries to deny it, but Susie insists she is. "Why don't you just admit you like him? There's nothing wrong with that, you know." Caitlin's fridge seems to have a bunch of Calvin and Hobbes cartoons stuck on the front. Wow, first Tina Turner and now this? It's like somebody who worked on this episode was actually vaguely aware of contemporary pop culture! Outrageous!

(Moreover, someone in the Ryan household has a sense of humour? Doubly outrageous!)

Caitlin insists that Rick isn't her type (if she's not careful, she'll start another round of lesbian rumours). "I'm just helping him, that's all," she lies like a lying thing. Susie doesn't believe her. Then they throw a paper towel at each other in an attempt to look light-hearted and playful.

Meanwhile, in the middle of the night (clearly they're making a brave stab at experimenting with non-linear narrative), Arthur's still trying to glue the vase together. It looks like crap. I mean, more so than before it got smashed. He gives up.

The following afternoon (I'm just guessing; really, who the hell knows at this point?), Caitlin and Susie and Rick are on their way to the factory. He is so cool and/or reckless and/or keen to get to the factory that he is mildly careless while attempting to cross the road; Caitlin puts her hand on his shoulder and shepherds him across. "Gritty" music plays (synth electric guitar AGAIN) while the kids gaze up at the factory. It is very big, as is usually the way with factories.

"Maybe we should just mail the petition," Caitlin meebles. Rick looks at her in disgust and stomps towards the factory. "Come on!" he yells when the girls are hesitant. Clearly he is keen to stick it to the man. Because he is working-class.

Also, I can't get over the boxiness of all the cars in the factory car park. Why did anyone ever think that was a good look?

Later, Rick and the girls are sitting in the factory's reception area. They're all wildly overacting in order to communicate that they've been there for a long time: lots of eye-rolling and watch-checking and ceiling-staring. Dial it down a bit, kids!

Some generically soulless office guy, who looks like David Miliband in giant novelty glasses, comes in and apologises for keeping them waiting. Thus rendering the elaborate "waiting" scene completely redundant.

Caitlin, who's wearing a truly horrible pink jumper that I think was handmade by a first-time knitter, tells the guy, "We're from Degrassi Junior High and we'd like your factories to stop polluting." Um… yeah, that sounds like a specific, achievable goal. Rick looks thoroughly unimpressed. The office guy smarms that they test their emissions regularly, and they're all within "the applicable Ministry guidelines".

Susie pipes up, "But the newspaper said that your tests were fake and that – " but the guy just talks over her: "Newspapers love good stories, but nothing has ever really been proven!" He doesn't quite finish with "Mwahahaha!", but it's heavily implied.

It's time for Rick to unleash his working-class rage on this guy. "Proof? This place stinks!" The guy insists that they've had no complaints. Rick stands up and shouts, "This is a complaint!" Tragically, he doesn't follow this up with a punch to the face, because that would have been really cool.

Caitlin looks mortified and tries yet again to shush Rick, but the men are talking now. "Are you the boss here?" Rick asks. The office guy stands up (towering over Rick, who might want to wait for puberty to really kick in before he starts his career as an agitator) and smirks, "The president's in a very important meeting right now, but if you'll kindly leave me your petition, I'll be sure that she gets it." Wait, the head of this evil corporation is a woman? Wow, we've really achieved equality with men now!

Rick says they'll wait, and sits down with his legs wide apart in an effort to appear manly and threatening. But again, he's about five foot tall, and fourteen years old, so the guy is not particularly threatened. "Thanks for dropping by!" he chirps. "It's really a pleasure to see young people like yourselves taking such an interest in the community." And off he goes, presumably to torture small woodland animals. Caitlin and Susie look politely befuddled, while Rick looks one minor annoyance away from turning into the Incredible Hulk.

As the gritty music blares again, the kids walk away from the factory. "You didn't have to be so rude," Caitlin admonishes Rick. "He was the one who was rude!" Rick retorts.

"He is going to show it to the president," says Caitlin, and hopefully by "it" she means the petition. Rick cannot believe how gullible she is. "Why not?" asks Caitlin. "He seemed honest." "And very friendly," adds Susie. "Gimme a break!" exclaims Rick. "He doesn't care what we think! What a jerk!" And then he storms off.

"At least we tried!" Caitlin calls out. "Big deal!" Rick yells. And then he kicks a can that was lying on the ground, because he is just that angry. Go Rick! Working-class guys tell it like it is! The gritty music plays once more, as Caitlin watches Rick and reflects on the apparent failure of her latest project.

Seriously, though, those girls are really stupid.

A little later, Kathleen and Melanie are coming out of the De Grassi Grocery just as Rick walks by, lighting a cigarette. "Stupid factory," he mutters to himself. Kathleen watches him smoking for a minute, then looks smugly delighted.

It's the next day, and Kathleen is calling yet another meeting to order. Wow, these kids really like holding meetings. Trish starts up with the agenda, and the committee name is the first item on the list, as always. Yawn. Kathleen butts in and says that they have something more important to talk about: whether Rick should be on the committee any more. "What?" says Caitlin, full of righteous indignation. She can turn it on and off like a switch.

"I saw him smoking a cigarette," explains Kathleen. "Really?" says everyone. Considering how bad Rick is at hiding his habit, I don't know why everyone is so surprised. "Isn't it kind of hypocritical to be a smoker and on the Environmental Action Committee?" asks Kathleen. Look, I hate smoking, but her argument doesn't make any damn sense.

Caitlin is looking at Rick like she just heard he's been engaging in trade with apartheid South Africa. "Rick?" she asks in horror. "So I had a smoke! So what?" Rick protests. "I wasn't hurting anyone." "That's what he thinks," says a random voice. Caitlin sinks back into her seat, looking utterly crushed.

"It's the principle!" says Kathleen. "We can't have a polluter on an anti-pollution committee! Rick has to go." At this, Rick jumps up, all full of rage again. "What a bunk of jerks!" he yells, although last time I checked, Kathleen was just one jerk. "Call yourself action committee? What action? All you ever do is talk! Who needs this garbage?" As opposed to some other, more needed, garbage. Trish dutifully writes down what he's saying; never let it be said that she is not a devoted club secretary. Rick storms out, thumping all the lockers out in the corridor, because he's just! That! Angry!

Back in the club room, Kathleen tells Caitlin to face the fact that she made a mistake and can't be perfect all the time. Then they go back to debating the club's name. Caitlin, yet again, looks tormented, and there's more gritty music.

Afterwards, everyone's heading out for lunch, and they pass Rick in the corridor. Kathleen turns up her nose, and Susie gives him that awkward smile people give you when they want to tell you, as politely as possible, to fuck off and never bother them again. Last of all is Caitlin. "What a bunch of do-gooders, eh?" says Rick. Caitlin tells him to get away from her. "You made me look dumb! I stood up for you! They said you were stupid and I said you weren't! But they were right. And after I tried to help you and everything!" Ouch.

"Help me?" asks Rick. "What am I, your project or something? Anyways, I helped you! I thought up the announcements, I went to the factory, I made you go in. So I'm not rich like you, so I don't do too good in school – that doesn't make me a charity case." Caitlin listens with growing horror, and by the end is so beaten down that she doesn't even think to tell Rick that he doesn't do too well in school, not "too good".

On his way out the door, Rick turns to deliver the death blow: he only joined the committee because he liked Caitlin, not because he wanted help. The theme tune plays, very slowly, so you know it's a very sad moment. You've screwed up badly, Caitlin. And you only get one chance with Rick Monroe.

Oh hey, the subplot! Yick's rummaging through a pile of locker crap, as usual. Arthur appears, and reluctantly shuffles over to talk to him. Yick demands his vase, and Arthur tentatively shows him the crappily glued wreckage. Yick gets mad because he won't have anything to show when he talks to the class. "Just tell them how you and your family got here," says Arthur. "It's a great story, and it really happened!" Yick storms off, to inappropriately perky music.

By the next scene, however, he's completely come around to the idea somehow. He gives his speech to the other kids about how his family were at sea for more than a month, dodging pirates and so on, and how he doesn't have anything to show because they couldn't bring anything with them. Everyone's all moved, and applauds him, and Susie's NASA emblem has been well and truly one-upped, and Ms Avery even puts her hand on his shoulder.

But Rick doesn't care, because he's got problems of his own. He angsts off downstairs, watched by Kathleen and Caitlin (who's wearing a headband again; headbands will soon become as much a part of her character as meddling and middle-class guilt). "Our community just wasn't appropriate for someone like Rick," says Kathleen, then announces she's thought of a new name: "The Degrassi Junior High Anti-Pollution and Pro-Environmental Action Committee". Caitlin turns around and calls Kathleen a jerk. I'm pretty sure the script then called for her to storm off down the stairs, but instead she just kind of meanders slowly down, pausing here and there for a glance around, and the scene trails off. Nice.

Back in the classroom, everyone's just about finished fangirling Yick. Once the others are gone, Arthur comes over and hands him some money, and promises to give him his pocket money forever, then get a job and give him his salary until the vase is paid for. Yick hesitates, then gives Arthur the money back, and admits that he bought the vase and "it's not a family hair-loom or anything". I can't tell if that's a deliberate joke or if nobody bothered to tell the poor kid how to pronounce "heirloom".

Anyway, they yell at each other for lying, then smile and go off to be stupid somewhere else, where I don't have to watch them.

After school, Caitlin comes over to Rick at the bike racks. He asks her what she wants, and she apologises for being spectacularly patronising, then tells him that smoking is really stupid. Plus ça change. Rick just gives his standard brush-off response: "Yah, yah." So… I guess he'll just keep smoking, then.

After a pause, Caitlin also admits that he was right about the evil factory guy not listening to them, then angsts about how she wishes there was something they could do. Rick suggests telling the paper about what happened, in order to stir up some publicity. Which just might work, if there's a reeeeeally slow news day any time soon.

Caitlin grabs Rick and gives him a platonic kiss, so far from his mouth that it's practically on the back of his head. "You're brilliant!" she exclaims. Rick looks theatrically around, and then shushes her. "I have a reputation," he says. Awww.

And yet again, the closing credits play over an unbelievably unflattering still of one of the Degrassi kids. Sadly, it seems smoking has already ravaged Rick's teeth. Shane would be delighted.

Dubious lessons of the week: Class-based rage and abuse-based trauma are best channelled into low-level environmental activism. Smoking is totally bad for you, had you heard? Horrible childhood experiences of persecution and displacement make really good anecdotes afterwards, so there's always that.


Bill said...

A good one.... a class analysis of Degrassi. It's what Lenin would be doing were he still alive

Ms Avery said...

Just carrying on his work...

Anonymous said...

If you look both Rick and Stephanie are missing teeth. I assume these are baby teeth that are late falling out. My last baby tooth fell out when I was in the 7th grade. I like rick too but the actor in real life turned into a tatoo freak, and tatoos for a living. (Google his name)

Ms Avery said...

Yeah, the gappy preteen teeth are something you just don't normally see on TV. It's alarming.