Tuesday, July 14, 2009

S01 E07 –Best Laid Plans

Outside Mr Raditch's class, end of the day. The bell goes, Raditch yells some kind of confusing insult at Joey, and everyone gets up to go. Business as usual. Steph's rocking the Olivia Newton-John look again, and Joey decides it's time to bust out another of his patented chat-up lines. "Joey D. Jeremiah, D for Doctor, at your service. I give great operations." Steph grins and writhes fatuously through this, but eventually turns Joey down with an icy "No thanks." He tries to persuade her that she's missing "a real opportunity", but she's stopped listening, and has in fact turned her back to him so she can better stare at Wheels, fixing him with a look that's supposed to be seductive but looks more like she wants to devour him after mating. Lucky boy.

Eventually, she remembers Joey's still there, and literally shoos him away, because Stephanie has no time for people she's not planning to hit on or cruelly exploit. Wheels is getting stuff from his locker, and doesn't seem to notice Steph even though she has pretty much shoved her breasts into his face. He looks utterly terrified when she actually speaks to him: "Wheels, I know I messed up our last date, but I'd like to try again…" Yes, if by "messed up" you mean "arrived some hours late and unspeakably drunk on Bailey's, commented on Wheels' unusual odour, then ran off to vomit for the rest of the evening". Wheels has no learning mechanisms or survival instincts, though, so he agrees to go see a movie on Friday night. There's much shy grinning, followed by secret celebratory air-punches behind each other's backs. Opening credits.

Down in the hallway, Joey's waiting for Wheels. When he turns up and tells him the good news, Joey is less than gracious: "Hey, great. You can sit in the back and neck." Well… yes, I'd say that was the general idea. Wheels points out that the lady's made her choice, so Joey had better just get over it, and Joey demonstrates his over-itness by telling Shane and Wai Lee what's going on. Shane declares that Steph is "THE saxiest chick in this school", so what does she see in Wheels? Joey announces gleefully that Wheels is a sex machine, which seems like he's overcompensating just a little. Melanie and Kathleen overhear, and for once, even Kathleen's amused. Don't expect that to last.

A still-psyched Steph goes into the Bathroom of Skanky Transformations to deskank and share her news. Unfortunately, the only people in there are Michelle, who's still an extra and will remain so for some years, and Voula. Voula's wearing another Austin Powers blouse; this one seemingly made from one of those waffly hospital blankets. Stephanie tells Voula that she's got a date, but Voula is still nursing her grudge as only Voula can: "This is my lucky day! The school president discussed her love life with me." Michelle stares in morbid fascination, and hangs around to eavesdrop on the rest of this. "Excuse me," says Voula on the way to the door, "I've got to go write this down before I forget the details." Steph tries to reason with her, but Voula sweeps off, so she settles down in front of the mirror to change back into a normal-looking member of society. It takes a while.

Luckily, Heather and Erika arrive to keep her company. They squee over the upcoming date, and Steph says that she thought he'd never forgive her for the Bailey's incident, and this time there'll be no mistakes. She is so wound up that she accidentally backcombs her hair some more, instead of un-backcombing (forwardcombing?) it.

Back in the hall, Caitlin and Susie are friends again, now that Caitlin's straight. And here come Arthur and Yick, just in time for the subplot! Don't worry, this one's actually funny. They go to Yick's locker, where Yick has something mysterious to show Arthur. He digs under the obligatory pile of locker crap, checks they're not being watched, and pulls out a videotape. "Swamp Sex Robots?" Arthur exclaims. "This is pornography!" (You can also tell it's porn because the side of the box reads "Sex! Sex! Sex!", it's made by a company called Pure Porn Presentations, and the phrase "Explicit!! Exciting Sex!" is just visible on the back. Obviously the props department had way too much fun making this.) Yes, Swamp Sex Robots. I mean, the only thing sexier than swamps or robots is swamps AND robots, am I right?

Yick explains that he stole it from his brother who's away for the weekend (he seems strangely unbothered by his brother's unorthodox tastes), but they can't watch it at his house because his grandmother's always there. Damn grandmothers, always getting in the way of one's porn-viewing plans. Arthur's staying at his mother's house this weekend, so they decide to watch it there. Yick promises that Swamp Sex Robots is "so hot, it'll fry your eyeballs". From the look on Arthur's face, I think he takes this literally.

Back in the bathroom, Steph's nearly done: she's wearing a huge shirt and skirt, her hair is in a style that can only be described as "churchy", and she seems to have slung a bathroom rug over he shoulders. But her thoughts are with future whorey outfits: "I'll wear something so sexy [Wheels's] tongue will hang out," she growls, and thanks for that mental image, Stephanie. One of the twins points out that Mama Kaye may not react too well to seeing Steph leave for a date dressed in her Hideous Skankwear. Steph literally has no answer to this (or else forgets her line): she just shrugs and walks out.

A little while later, we see Steph go into a chemist (sorry, drugstore). Her mother, who is the pharmacist, is on the phone lecturing someone on their daily Vitamin C needs. She then arranges to meet the caller for dinner on Friday, presumably to further discuss micronutrient requirements. Fun times! Once she hangs up, she awkwardly starts to give Steph a talk on how it's been a couple of years since the divorce, she has needs, blah blah. Well, she doesn't say she has needs, but it's sort of implied. Steph is 100% in favour of this development, to the surprise and relief of her mom (but don't worry, kids angsting over their parents' love lives will be the topic of several episodes in future seasons). And Mama Kaye is certainly making an exciting return to the dating scene: "I don't know him very well, but he seems nice. He comes in here quite often; always seems to have a cold." When Steph asks if he's cute, she answers, "Well, a bit… in his own way," which everyone knows is code for no.

On the way out, Steph confirms that her mother's going out at 7 on Friday. Mom: "Oh no, that's not going to ruin your plans, is it?" I am at a loss as to what she means by this. What kind of teenage plans could possibly be ruined by a parent's absence? It's all good, though, because Steph realises that without her mom around to safeguard her chastity, she can wear Hideous Skankwear on her date after all! Hurrah!

Next morning, back at school. L.D. is hanging out with Spike, because they're both vaguely nonconformist. Yick and Arthur are casting longing looks at the porn video. "How come you never told me Stephanie Kaye is your sister?" asks Yick. Arthur looks utterly terrified at being found out. "I guess… I never… got around to it… I guess," he mumbles. Just then, Steph emerges from the Bathroom. Arthur calls out to her, but she tells him to "buzz off", and by "buzz", she means another four-letter word entirely.

Arthur yells that she can't keep pretending he's not her brother, and she runs over and hisses that she has her "image" to maintain, and I think someone's gone mad with pseudo-power. She's the school president, not the actual president; school presidents don't have images. Arthur pathetically keeps trying to convince her to treat him like a human being, but she's having none of it.

Eventually, he gets to the point, and asks her if she and Mama Kaye are getting out of the house at any point over the weekend. Steph says they're both going out on Friday evening, and their mother has a date. Arthur's delighted, but once Steph's gone, it becomes clear that his joy is less to do with his mother getting on with her life, and more to do with the prospect of an evening spent watching deeply deviant porn. "Swamp Sex Robots, here we come!" Yick cheers, and they do some elaborate high-fivin' to celebrate.

Later, in the library, we are treated to a close-up of one of the book racks, and it is pure WTFery of the kind that makes this show great. There's a Barbara Cartland novel, something called FLYING SAUCERS – SERIOUS BUSINESS, and a book called Sweet Savage Love. The Amazon plot summary for the latter is "Ginny Brandon is swept from the ballrooms of Paris to the desert sands of Mexico and into the arms of charismatic mercenary Steve Morgan. But this fearless heroine and 'hero of all heroes' must first endure countless unforeseen dangers before they can enjoy sensual, exhilirating passion that burns between them." Amazon tells me it's cited by another book, entitled How to Write a Dirty Story. Various comments on Amazon and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books make it clear that this is very much one of the creepy-ass variety of 1970s "romances", where the men are violent bastards and the women love them for it. All of which is to say that the Degrassi school library has some really fucked-up selection policies. Ms Avery, where is your righteous old-school feminism when we need it?

The camera pans out to reveal Steph and the twins having another confab. "It's so romantic," sighs Heather. "You and Wheels, alone at a movie… he's so cuuute!" "What are you going to do if he tries something?" asks Erika eagerly. Heather is shocked. And scenes like this are the only times I can tell the twins apart; they are really really identical, and can only be differentiated by their "comically" conflicting personalities.

Steph ponders the notion of Wheels trying something, and says, "I don't know… maybe I'll let him." Erika grins, and Heather is appalled: "You'd let him try something?" "If I felt like it, sure," says Steph. "I'd do anything; if I felt like it." Which is a pretty vague policy, really. Over at the rack of dirty/academically disreputable books, Shane and Wai Lee are eavesdropping theatrically. "Anything?" asks Erika, who is TMIishly interested in other people's sex lives. Steph: "I've been on dates before, you know. I can handle it." She looks at the others for approval, but they just look anxious. Shane and Wai Lee are so excited at this news that they run out the door, Shane not even stopping to check out the flying saucer book he's holding. Melanie and Kathleen, also eavesdropping, exchange looks of amazement (predictably tinged with disgust in Kathleen's case).

In the boys' bathroom, Wheels and Joey (along with Snake, though they don't seem to be friends with him yet) are lined up at the urinals. Urinating. Urination scenes are extremely common in Degrassi, and every male I've ever watched it with has had a fit when he sees one of these scenes, because apparently they all break the great urinal taboos: the guys always stand at neighbouring urinals, and they always chat mid-pee. Matters of bathroom etiquette aside, I think it's pretty damn weird that so many scenes in this show involve the characters pissing.

Anyway, just as the guys are finishing up, Shane and Wai Lee rush in (Shane's UFO book has magically turned into a basketball on the way from the library). "Wheels, you're gonna make it!" Shane announces. Wai Lee clarifies, "With Stephanie H. Kaye, H for Hot." Joey is outraged, both at the blatant infringement of his sexy-nickname format and at the idea of Wheels "making it" with Steph. Wheels just looks terrified.

"She's got a plan!" says Shane. "She says she can handle it," says Wai Lee, making a gesture that he may or may not intend to be obscene. Joey and Wheels look equally freaked out. "Hope you're up for it!" says Wai Lee, and again, I can't tell if that's meant to be a dick reference or not. Joey semi-flounces out of the bathroom, but Wheels nervously grins at the others and waves his biceps around in an attempt at manliness. "Hey, if she wants it, she'll get it!" he chirps. Shane and Wai Lee chant in perfect unison, "All the way with Stephanie Kaye!" That was one effective campaign slogan.

Once the guys have left the bathroom, one of the cubicle doors opens, and out comes a very indignant-looking Arthur. ...Ouch.

Later, in class, Mr Raditch is in full monologue mode: "Of course, the biggest problem that you're going to have as young writers right now is…" Difficulty with spelling? Limited vocabularies? Lack of life experience? Inexperience with certain narrative and poetic techniques? "…your desire to use the word 'no' and 'not' in the same sentence."

Seriously? The biggest problem? Uh… ok, then.

As Raditch ponderously rumbles on about double negatives, Steph (who has a comb stuck at random in her hair again) is carefully crafting a note asking Wheels to come to her house at 7.30. She's made sure to dot all the "i"s with hearts. Guys love that. Once she's finished, she tries to get Wheels's attention so she can pass the note over to him, but he either can't hear her or is ignoring her. Eventually, she gets desperate, and chucks a big hardback book on the floor. Everyone stares at her. Raditch is in unusually benign form, and spares her the patented Stinkeye; unfortunately, she doesn't spare him her Flirting Grin. Once he's resumed lecturing, she bends down to get the book, and shoves the note into Wheels's hand while she's at it.

He reads it, and looks cautiously over at Steph. She gives him a toothy grin, just as Mr Raditch announces, "For your homework tonight, I'd like you to have a little bit of fun…" Steph and Wheels are way ahead of him.

Meanwhile, Shane unnecessarily leans over and tells Wai Lee that Wheels and Steph are totally gonna do it. Could they not have worked out a better seating plan for this scene, so Shane wasn't telling this to someone who already knew? It looks stupid! Anyway, Wai Lee whispers it to L.D., who grins and passes it on to Erika, who tells Heather. They're both way too surprised, considering Steph basically led them to expect this. I'm also disappointed that the message was actually undistorted throughout this process, and didn't degenerate into "purple monkey dishwasher" at any point.

After class, a tortured-looking Heather is going on about how agreeing to a date doesn't have to include going all the way; Erika tells her not to be such a prude (as she is contractually obliged to do once per episode). Heather insists she's not a prude, but Steph should cancel the whole date. Erika claims to have heard that if Steph cancels, Wheels won't see her any more, which I'm pretty sure she just made up. Heather is outraged. Steph rolls her eyes and drawls, "Sex is no big deal." When Heather freaks out some more, Steph elaborates: "I'm not a little kid any more. I'm fourteen." Yeah, Steph, that doesn't help.

Just then, her face freezes as Voula turns up. "Well, what do you know? It's the school sleaze. [Long pause] I mean president." It's pretty much the least elegant put-down ever, and the others just turn and walk off. "Nice, Voula," snaps Erika. And Erika and some random extra also have combs stuck in their hair, so I have to assume it's a fashion or something. It's a really crappy fashion. Voula looks crushed that nobody laughed at her Dorothy-Parker-grade wit.

In the hallway downstairs, Steph and the twins walk past Melanie and Kathleen. Kathleen launches into a trademark sanctimonious rant: "It's so disgusting – I can't believe the school president is being like this!" Well, being like this is what won her that election, so actually, it pretty much makes sense. "I don't know," says Melanie. "If she really loves him, there's nothing wrong with sex." Awww. But Kathleen has no time for such touchy-feely liberalism: "It's not sex that's wrong. It's sex before marriage." Melanie points out that lots of people do it, but Kathleen has an answer for everything. "That doesn't make it right. I'm saving myself for my husband." Melanie retorts, "What husband? Who'd be stupid enough to marry you?" …which is totally what we were all thinking. I love Melanie.

That evening, Wheels is walking along a beach with a balding, gap-toothed middle-aged man in jamjar glasses. "Uh, Dad," asks Wheels, "how old were you…when you…first…did it?" AAAAUGH. Just to ramp up the awkwardness factor, Wheels's dad decides to seek unnecessary clarification: "You want to know when I lost my virginity?" And I say again: AAAAUGH. "I was a lot older than you," says Old Man Wheels, and looking at him, I can well believe it. "Were you nervous?" asks Wheels. "I mean… how did you know what to do? I mean… exactly what to do?" And let's all say a brief prayer of thanksgiving for the internet, which has surely brought about a dramatic reduction in conversations like this.

Old Man Wheels is a bit alarmed at this turn of events, so he suggests they go sit on a bench so he can impart some adopted-fatherly wisdom. "Look, Derek," he begins, "sex isn't something you do just for fun." Wait, what? That's exactly what it is!

Now, Old Man Wheels is trying to dissuade Wheels from having sex, and the obvious thing to do would be to mention one of the clearly discernible major hazards: AIDS, which was of course terrifying everyone in the '80s, and unplanned pregnancy, which would be an obvious one to go for since Wheels is in fact the child of teen birth-parents. But instead, he mumbles something vague and meaningless about "complications" and "responsibilities" and how Wheels has "lots of good times" ahead of him before he's ready for sex, and Wheels looks pretty unconvinced by all this. Yeah, nice job, Old Man Wheels.

Meanwhile, Steph and Mama Kaye are sitting down to dinner. They are eating plates of some lumpy grey goo that looks like it came from one of the infamous Weight Watchers recipe cards. Seriously, words cannot describe how disgusting this stuff looks. As they start eating, Steph asks, "Mom, when was the first time you had… sex?" Mama Kaye drops all the grey goo off her fork in shock, and it lands on the plate with a loud splat. It's actually pretty funny.

Steph sees the look of utter horror on her mother's face, and tries to backtrack, but her mother reluctantly says that they should talk about "the facts of life". Steph hurriedly shuts down the conversation, though, insisting that she's not a little kid any more. She then takes a big drink of milk, and ends up with a milk moustache. It's not particularly funny.

The next morning, Joey comes up to Wheels in the hall and grabs him by the arm. "Tonight's the big night, eh? You and Steph all the way? You got protection?" Wheels gawks at him. "You need protection!" says Joey loudly. "You know, safes, rubbers, condoms, pro…phylac…tics?" Somebody's been at the thesaurus! Everyone's staring by this point, and Wheels is mortified, which was clearly Joey's plan. Voula sweeps out of the room in prudish rage.

Steph's in the Bathroom of Skanky Transformations, applying blue eyeshadow with a trowel and wearing an "artfully" tattered top that was clearly intended to look either risqué or bohemian but actually makes her look like Wilma Flintstone. Voula tiptoes in and cuts to the chase: "Stephanie, you're not really going to… you know… are you?" Stephanie would be entirely justified in telling Voula to fuck off and mind her own business, but instead explains that she already messed up one date, and she wants Wheels to like her, so there you are. Which is kind of depressing. Voula insists that Steph doesn't have to do this, but Steph says, "Maybe I want to do it too!" Voula dramatically asks, "Do you?" and Steph looks briefly chastened. Voula turns to go, but stops to apologise for calling Stephanie a sleaze. Steph looks touched. Aw.

After school, Joey and Wheels are outside a suspiciously familiar-looking pharmacy. Joey is lecturing Wheels on how this is the '80s and "a guy's got responsibilities". Wheels tries to weasel out and says that he might not actually do the nasty with Steph after all, but Joey reminds him that "all the guys are counting on [him]" and he can't let them down. Uh, yeah, no pressure or anything. Joey drags Wheels into the shop, and I have to say, I love his approach here. Life has handed him lemons (in the form of Wheels dating and possibly sexing the girl he fancies), and he is making lemonade in spectacular fashion by publicly humiliating Wheels in a way that he can't legitimately be criticised for, as it's for Wheels's own good. Genius.

Inside the shop, a severe-looking old woman is browsing the aisles, just to add to Wheels's discomfort. The boys come in and go over to the condom section, or "safe city", as Joey loudly terms it. Wheels tries and fails to shush him. Joey asks Wheels what he wants – "we've got French Stallion, Ribbed Delight, your Industrial Strength" – wait, they make special condoms for hookers? And also, French Stallion?

Wheels is hesitant, so Joey decides to yell at the pharmacist for advice. And the pharmacist is, of course, Steph's mother. And you can see which way this episode is going. I don't care if this is an old joke; it's a funny one, and as a result this episode is one of the few Degrassi eps to be intentionally hilarious.

As Mama Kaye barrels over, Joey shoves a box of condoms into Wheels's hand and leaves. Wheels shamefacedly buys the condoms (to filthy looks from the old woman, and solemn disapproval from Steph's mom). Before he can escape, Steph's mom forces him to take two leaflets. One is called "Teen sex: how to say no" and one is called " Facts on foam and condoms". Bit of a mixed message there, don't you think? Once he's gone, the two women exchange looks of horror at the youth of today.

A little later, outside the Kaye house, Yick and Arthur are finalising their plans for a delightful evening of pornographic cinema. Yick's invited a bunch of the guys along. Arthur ponders the video box again. "I wonder what swamp sex robots do, exactly?" he muses. Yick says he doesn't know, but they'll find out tonight. At this prospect, they do another round of elaborate high-fives before going their separate ways. As Yick walks off, he does a sideways kick in midair, such is his excitement at finally getting to find out what it is that swamp sex robots do. Cute.

Arthur goes into his mother's house, and there's a needlessly protracted scene of him taking the video out of his schoolbag again, adjusting his socks, taking off his shoes, etc., and for some reason we can hear Steph filing her nails in the living room really loudly the whole time. It's like something out of a bad video installation.

Eventually he actually makes it into the living room, and when he sees Steph, hides the video behind his back. I have no idea why he's carrying it around this whole scene; it would have made much more sense to leave it in his bag. Anyway, he asks Steph what time she's going out this evening, and then awkwardly informs her that "people are saying stuff". We've talked about this before – this is not a useful piece of information! Yes, people generally do say stuff!

Steph knows what he's talking about, and snaps that it's her date and she'll do what she wants, and it's none of his business anyway. Arthur tells her that he's still her brother, and he doesn't like it when people badmouth her, and she tells him that she can take care of herself, in a voice that is either meant to be dismissive or morose, I'm not sure which.

Just then, their mother comes home. She nervously tells Arthur that she knows she hasn't seen him in a week, but she's got a date this evening, and she's going out at 7.30. Arthur's delighted that his mother is finally moving on and/or that she's getting out of the house so he and the lads can watch Swamp Sex Robots in peace. He goes off to call Yick and tells him to be there at 7.45.

Meanwhile, Stephanie has heard Arthur and their mother talking, and is slightly panicked at the fact that Mama Kaye's changed her plans and her date is now going to be arriving at the same time as Wheels. But, you know, not so panicked that she's actually moved to do anything about it.

Back at his house, Wheels perches on a windowledge (I think solely so that we can see he lives next to a highway and a train track, and marvel at the grittiness of this show) and reads the condom leaflet, discarding the abstinence one. Well, I guess it's realistic.

Later, at the dinner table, Mama Kaye casually asks, "So, what do you children have planned for this evening?" The silence is deafening. Eventually, Steph mumbles that she's going to see a movie with some friends and totally not have sex, and Arthur says that he's going to watch TV. Totally non-pornographic, non-robot-related TV.

Reluctantly, their mother starts in on a lecture, about how sometimes people come into her shop who are just around their age, and today a boy Steph's age came in. "I believe he's considering becoming sexually active," she announces. Both Arthur and Steph realise this conversation is about to take a really awkward turn and exchange looks of terror. Their mother gets up and produces a handful of leaflets. "Mother, give them to him," says Steph, in a tone that implies her brother is in urgent need of contraceptive advice; I have no idea why, as you can tell he's not going to get laid for at least another decade. Even Arthur knows this, and tries to reassure his mother: "Don't worry, Mom; I'm not sexually active." Bless.

Mama Kaye forces both kids to take the leaflets, and they both insist they're done eating and get up to clear the table, partly because they want to get their mother out of the house and partly because who wouldn't want to bring a family meal like that to a swift, merciful end? Their mother is mildly suspicious at their sudden zest for housework, but she's too distracted to think about it much, because she's got a date tonight and, well, it's been two years. I'm pretty sure Stephanie and Arthur aren't the only people with big plans for tonight, if you know what I mean.

Speaking of those plans, Wheels is leaving his house. "Have a good time," his dad calls. "And remember what I said!" Wheels doesn't seem to be planning to actually obey what his dad said, though, as he stops on the way out of his house to take out the condoms and stare at them. Next we see him visit a flower-seller and buy a big bunch of yellow chrysanthemums. Never let it be said that Wheels is not a gentleman.

In her bedroom, Steph is listening to some execrable '80s music and half-heartedly perusing the abstinence leaflet. After a second, though, she puts it down and gets on with her preparations for the evening. Just like Caitlin had that teddy bear in the last episode, Steph has some kind of creepy doll by her mirror, to underscore her youthfulness.

Steph's mother knocks at the door, and Steph has to keep her waiting for about ten minutes while she covers up her skankitude. This involves removing her own body weight in blue eyeshadow, un-backcombing her hair, taking off her earrings, and putting on a dressing gown to cover up the fact that she's wearing hot pink leggings, a tiny boob tube, and Ms Avery's diamante belt from the last episode. Way to go, wardrobe department! Eventually she opens the door to her mother, who's standing there with two different earrings, and wants to know which she should wear. "Either one would be fine! Really!" she flails, desperately trying to keep her dressing gown closed. Once her mother's gone, she shuts the door and commences re-skanking.

Downstairs, Arthur checks his watch and reads the back of the Swamp Sex Robots box for the 500th time. As his mother comes down the stairs, he tells her that her date is late, but she's not bothered. It's been two years; what's another ten minutes? Back in her room, Steph waits anxiously for Wheels, and decides to pass the time by applying some more makeup.

At that moment, Wheels strolls up to the gate with the easy grin of a man on a promise. Just then, a middle-aged dude with an incredibly boxy car pulls up in the driveway and gets out, clutching a similar but smaller bouquet of yellow chrysanthemums. The two eye each other up suspiciously. Here's a tip, guys: if you arrive to pick up your date, and for some reason there's a small, mulleted boy there with a better bunch of flowers than you, throw yours away. Seriously. Also, chrysanthemums always look like you bought them at a petrol station.

Inside the house, Arthur spots Wheels and thinks he's come to watch Swamp Sex Robots, though why he thinks Wheels would bring flowers to a porn viewing is kind of a mystery. He runs to answer the door. "What are you doing here?" asks Wheels in amazement. "Go away, you're too early!" hisses Arthur. Just then, his mother appears behind him. She and Wheels spot each other. You can almost hear him thinking, "Oh fuck."

"You're the boy from the drugstore. What are you doing here? What are those flowers for?" she asks. Arthur makes a last, valiant effort to salvage the situation: "He's very interested in horticulture." Mama Kaye is used to tuning out her son's nonsensical witterings, though, and just yells at Stephanie to come downstairs right this instant.

Stephanie, by this point, has put on so much eyeshadow and lipstick, and has such wild back-combed hair, that she looks like some kind of terrifying punk zombie. She tries to cover up, but her dressing gown comes open on the way downstairs, revealing a glimpse of Hideous Skankwear to the assembled group. Her increasingly irate mother tells Wheels to come into the house, along with her unfortunate date, who's silently watching all of this and presumably wondering what the hell he's let himself in for. As Arthur shuts the front door, he sadly intones one of this show's all-time classic lines: "Goodbye Swamp Sex Robots." Everyone else is too distracted to even notice this.

Mama Kaye walks over and opens Steph's dressing gown, revealing her outfit in all its skimpy inglory. "I don't know what the two of you had planned," she announces. "But since you [Wheels] bought what you bought, and you [Steph] look like a tramp, I intend to find out." Ha! Really, I think it's pretty spectacularly clear what they had planned. Nonetheless, Mama Kaye cancels her date (aw, nobody in the Kaye household is getting laid tonight) and marches Steph and Wheels into the living room for a Serious Talk. Wheels is still cradling his bunch of flowers.

Just then, there's a knock on the door, and Arthur rushes to answer it. It's Yick, Alex, and an extra. "We wanna see the porno! Swamp Sex Robots!" they yell. In the living room, the others listen to this in open-mouthed befuddlement. Arthur hastily slams the front door. Heh.

Next morning, Steph is walking to school with Voula, complaining about how angry her mother got. Voula, who's apparently decided to forgive Steph at last, listens patiently. "I'm grounded for two weeks," whines Steph. "I can't even go over to your house." "Ouch," says Voula, not even a little bit sarcastically. But it's not all bad, says Steph: "At least I didn't have to do anything with Wheels."

And here's that selfsame stud now! Joey's spotted him, and is keen to know how the date went. All Wheels will say is "Nothing happened… Steph's and my dates don't work out too good." Which is the understatement of the century. Joey asks if they're going to go out again, and Wheels says no. Joey, ever the sensitive friend, immediately asks if that means Steph's available, and Wheels says it does. And the cycle of leching can continue.

"Stephanie," asks Voula, "you weren't really going to do anything… were you?" Not that it's any of her business, or anything. Steph starts to shake her head, and the credits roll.

Dubious lessons of the week: The pros and cons of teen sex are vague and ill-defined and need never be considered in any detail, but we can be sure of one thing: if you're planning some sex, try to buy your contraceptives from someone other than your date's mother. That rarely turns out well.

Friday, July 3, 2009

S01 E06 – Rumor Has It

We start with a closeup of some flowers. Flowers, incidentally, are often used as a symbol for female sexuality, and I'm just throwing that out there. I think they're trying to be highbrow. The camera pans out, and we're in Ms Avery's classroom. She's pacing at the front of the (flower-filled) room. Her very long hair is loose and flowing. "Throughout history," she feminists, "a lot of our heroines have been lost or left unrecorded, due largely to the fact that most historians are men." She's speaking in a bizarrely low, seductive voice.

The kids are sitting in semi-darkness, and everyone's wearing matching bluey-grey shirts, except for Caitlin, who's wearing bright orange. She leans over and tells an uninterested Susie, "Ms Avery's the best teacher I've ever had. She makes stuff so interesting." Well, when you do all your teaching in that voice, it's bound to spice things up a little.

Ms Avery is still monologuing sexily about "…Amelia Earhart, Madame Curie, Mary Queen of Scots…" Wait, Mary Queen of Scots? I don't really know that being imprisoned for, like, forever, and then getting beheaded, makes you a good feminist role model. Anyway, Ms Avery suddenly turns to Caitlin and asks her to come to the front of the class. Caitlin eagerly goes up to the front, and Ms Avery sits down and puts her arm around Caitlin's waist. "That essay you wrote on native peoples was just excellent," she purrs. "You're the best student I ever had." Mid-praise, she stares briefly at Caitlin's chest.

"Miss Avery's gay, you know," announces Kathleen, who's way too conservative to ever use the word "Ms", even in other people's dreams. "She's a lesbian." "Never mind what they say – we don't care what they think," says Ms Avery. And checks out Caitlin's chest again. She continues to stare lovingly up at Caitlin, but Caitlin's staring at the rest of the class, who are all whispering things like "Ms Avery's gay. She's a lesbian. I heard the rumours." Ominous music builds to a crescendo and…

Cut to Caitlin in bed at night, waking in a sweaty panic from the most bizarre left-wing erotic dream ever.

And the opening credits provide us with a nice little break in which to recover partially from that bit of insanity.

Morning outside the school. Caitlin and Susie are planning a sleepover which, thrillingly, will not be supervised by Caitlin's parents but only by her brother, "Patrick". Jeez, we get it already. They're Irish. But I'm guessing second-generation, as a bona-fide immigrant parent like Voula's dad would never allow something so debauched as a four-girl sleepover to take place under his roof. Rick goes by on his bike and says hello to Caitlin, who says hi back. Susie teases her for having a crush on him (conveniently forgetting her role in the egregious making-Rick-smile plot from two episodes ago). They go into the building, passing Kathleen and her new BFF, the beret-wearing beatnik feminist from Episode 1, who's apparently called Annie. This is obviously a friendship that's doomed to fail.

Ms Avery is just getting out of a car driven by some sunglasses-wearing woman, as the girls watch. "I wonder if it's true that Miss Avery's a lesbian," says Kathleen conversationally. "Come on, that's just a rumour!" says Annie. Kathleen has conclusive proof, though: "I've never seen her with any men." Yeah, case closed.

We get a brief look at Ms Avery's carpool buddy, who is the only person in this entire series who's in any way glamorous. I mean, by the standards of the time. Which isn't saying much. But she has big sunglasses and big earrings and a power-dresser's hairdo. Ms Avery goes past Kathleen and Annie and gives them a friendly hello, but Kathleen just gives her an icy grin, like she doesn't waste her valuable friendship on people who might or might not be gay. In which case, gay is the way to go.

In the darkroom, Susie and Caitlin are doing whatever it is you do in darkrooms. "I've been having some really strange dreams lately," says Caitlin to break the ice. Susie's response is perhaps less than helpful: "Dreams are supposed to be very significant. Supposed to reveal your inner desires and stuff." Caitlin looks terrified. Susie asks to hear about these dreams, "as long as they're not too dirty". How about batshit insane and full of half-assed surrealistic touches? And touching?

Caitlin's being cagey, so Susie pulls a convenient photo of a smiling, post-rescue-by-a-starfish-headed-social-worker Rick, and posits that Caitlin's been dreaming about him. When Caitlin says no, Susie tells her that she doesn't have to be scared of boys. It's impossible to overstate the extent to which this is not the issue... Luckily, the situation is defused when Susie suggests inviting boys to the sleepover, Caitlin points out that Kathleen would freak out, and they bond by mocking Kathleen and her sexual inhibitions. Good times.

Later, Arthur and Yick are giving a presentation on burglar-proofing or Neighbourhood Watch or something. They're using an overhead projector. Ha! Yick accidentally puts one of the transparencies (I actually had to look the word up) on the projector backwards and upside down. Hilarious! Yick inwardly resolves to invent Powerpoint so nobody will ever have to suffer this kind of shame again. Everyone giggles, even Ms Avery because she's a man-hating lesbian liberal who loves seeing boys fail. And speaking of being a liberal, she's wearing yet more Native American beadwork (in red, white and blue, which seems like a bit of Canada-betrayal, but it's not for me to judge).

After the terrible presentation has ground to a halt, Ms Avery thanks the guys and announces that next week Susie and Caitlin will be giving a photo presentation on everyday life at Degrassi, in order to provide an excuse for all the photography and awkward darkroom shenanigans in this episode.

Just then, the bell goes, and everyone gets up to leave. A lot of kids have questions for Ms Avery, and we see her chatting to them, and putting her hands on their shoulders in a conversational way. Meanwhile, Caitlin, Susie, Kathleen and Annie get together to squee about the upcoming sleepover. Annie's excited that they get to talk about boys all night; Kathleen, whose knee-jerk response to anything anyone says is to judge, calls her a pervert. Annie, blithely unaware of the anvilicious irony of her words, insists, "It's perfectly normal to think about boys! What else is there to think about?" Wow, her feminist phase didn't last very long, did it?

Just as the girls go to leave the room, Ms Avery calls back Caitlin and Susie to ask how their photos are coming along. And then she puts her hand on Caitlin's shoulder (not noticing Caitlin's look of terror) and says the words that we all know are code for lesbian lusting: "That essay you wrote on native peoples was just excellent." Caitlin is understandably perturbed that her bizarre sexy dream is coming true; Susie, unhelpful as always, captures the moment on camera.

Mr Raditch breaks up this love-in by asking to speak to Ms Avery, and she runs out to talk to him. Caitlin looks mightily freaked out, maybe because of the weird music playing in the background; it sounds like it was recycled from a '70s movie about Chinese gangsters. As she walks away past Raditch and Avery, we hear him say, "Did you hear what the rumour mill says about [something something something]?' Oh hey, I wonder if the theme of this episode might be rumours?

Annie is watching the teachers from a distance, and says (way too loudly), "Wouldn't it be romaaaantic if they were having an affair?" Kathleen reminds her that "Lezzies aren't interested in men".

At this point, Melanie butts in: "Who says she's a lesbian?" Kathleen reiterates the "never seen her with any men" line of conclusive gay proof, but Annie points out that Ms Avery is looking pretty enthralled at whatever (presumably moustache-related) anecdote Mr Raditch is regaling her with. But Kathleen is refusing to let this go, and insists that the teachers are just friends because they work together, and only an idiot would concoct rumours about someone based on such flimsy evidence, Annie. And since Mr Raditch and Ms Avery are the only teachers in this school apart from the rarely-glimpsed PE teacher, you can't really blame them for forming a close bond.

"What's wrong with being homosexual anyway?" asks Melanie, and I think it says a lot about the other characters that Melanie – who I love, but who is tremendously daft – is the voice of reason here. The girls just giggle, presumably because she said "sex". "Are you a lezzie too?" asks the ever-sensitive Kathleen. "No," says Melanie, "but I'm not prejudiced either." The others roll their eyes at her liberal ways, and go off somewhere else to be homophobic in peace.

Meanwhile, in the subplot, Yick opens his locker and a giant cascade of papers falls out. I thought he promised Mr Raditch he'd try not to be so disorganised? Does this backsliding mean Mr Raditch can bully him again? Arthur is rambling about how doing the project on Neighbourhood Watch was very "stimulating", and I wish he'd stop using that word. He announces his intention to become some kind of crimefighter, while Yick rummages through the mountains of crap in his locker with mounting panic. Yick starts freaking out because he had $20 in his locker and now it's gone. Arthur decides that there's a thief in the school.

Just then, the background music gets real ominous, and Rick walks by in all his working-class glory. The boys give him a filthy look. Jeez, is it Prejudice Week at Degrassi Junior High?

Some time later, Caitlin's thrillingly semi-unsupervised sleepover is in progress. The girls are laughing hysterically for no reason, as teenage girls are wont to do. Annie's making a prank call to Mr Raditch's house – but the phone is answered by "some lady". The girls wig out over the idea of Raditch having a girlfriend, and Caitlin suggests that he could be married. Kathleen says that he doesn't wear a ring, and she knows because she checked, which brings up the ghastly spectre of Kathleen having a crush on him. Caitlin points out that lots of married people don't wear rings, and for some reason she sounds really offended by what Kathleen said.

Before this can degenerate into fisticuffs, they're interrupted by Annie talking on the phone. For some reason, she seems to be trying to fake a man's voice. (The prank call, for what it's worth, consists of "Hello, is this Mr Raditch on the line? Then you'd better get off, there's a train coming!" This sends the girls into New-Zealand-Zapper-grade shrieks of hilarity.)

Next it's Caitlin's turn. She draws a name out of a policeman's hat for some reason, and I wonder who else was in there, because, as previously mentioned, there are only three teachers at Degrassi. Believe it or not, Caitlin's drawn Ms Avery, and she gets all uncomfortable at the idea of prank-calling her. But Kathleen goads her into it by accusing her of being Ms Avery's pet. Stirrer.

While Caitlin dials, Annie comments on her still sleeping with a teddy bear, and Caitlin lies and says she doesn't sleep with him, she just doesn't want to throw him away. I'm not sure what the point of this bit of dialogue actually is. Her whole bedroom décor is pretty childish, which I guess is meant to underscore the tension inherent in her troubling sexual awakening and impending irritating political activism. Or I might be overthinking this a little.

Anyway, Caitlin gets through, and asks for Ms Avery, but she's not home. Yet more giggling. Susie asks who answered the phone, and Caitlin says it was "some lady". Wow, some lady sure gets around! Kathleen immediately decides that "some lady" is in fact Ms Avery's "lover", and I'm very surprised at her use of such romantic terminology, rather than "hell-bound partner in sin" or suchlike. Caitlin gets pissed off and insists that Ms Avery isn't a lesbian, but Kathleen runs through the evidence again: "She's not married, and she's always with that woman." What a fine investigative mind.

Caitlin insists they're just friends, and Kathleen drops the bombshell that she saw Ms Avery and her buddy holding hands on "King Street" (which does exist; perfunctory consultation of Wikipedia gives no mention of a thriving lesbian scene, but reveals that King Street is known for swanky restaurants and luxury furniture. Your fact for the day). Also, they were "talking in each other's ears", which seems like the most appropriate place to talk into, and I don't know why Kathleen finds it so hilarious. Caitlin looks unutterably disgusted.

Monday morning. Kathleen and Annie are having a (presumably homophobic) confab in front of the school. Ms Avery and her glam gal pal pull up at the kerb, and Ms Avery gives her friend a kiss on the cheek before getting out. Kathleen and Annie gape in astonishment as Ms Avery walks by, all lesbian-like. Kathleen whispers, "That must have been her girlfriend!"

Did somebody say "subplot"? Arthur's sourced a huge magnifying glass and a tin of fingerprint powder. Bah – my sources say you can just use talcum powder, and my sources are infallible! Yick is dusting the powder all over his locker with what looks like a big makeup brush; the door is covered in handprints. Yick points out that this is no use if they don't know who the fingerprints belong to. Arthur decides that they need to find a "prime suspect" to scapegoat, and that they should look for someone behaving unusually.

Right on cue, Rick walks in with a big paper bag, and in the background we hear him offering liquorice to randomers and explaining that he won a hundred dollars in the lottery. And I'll just give you a minute to digest the awesomeness of this guy: despite his poverty-strickenness, he blew his winnings on enough liquorice for the whole school. He's adorable.

In Ms Avery's classroom, Kathleen and Annie are still freaking out over the Great Lesbian Kiss. "It was disgusting!" says Kathleen. "They almost kissed on the lips and everything!" hisses Annie. Melanie is unimpressed.

Rick walks in and gives liquorice to Caitlin and Susie (though mostly to Caitlin), and it seems that living with your biker brother can cure all ills: his skin's cleared up a treat since he got away from his Bad Dad. Caitlin and Susie squee over his awesomeness. They're both wearing pretty bad outfits, by the way: Caitlin's got a sleeveless sweatshirt with a zebra print in shades of green, and Susie's wearing a sweatshirt with a giant houndstooth print, and suspenders over that. It's made of wrong.

Kathleen calls the girls over to tell them about "the Kiss", even though Melanie insists it was just a "pack", by which I think she means "peck", and maintains that "lots of women do that". But Kathleen and Annie are way too caught up in this lesbian witch-hunt to listen to reason. Caitlin says that the others will look stupid when it turns out Ms Avery has a boyfriend, which Kathleen points out she has no evidence for, but Caitlin's all, "Absence of evidence is no evidence of absence, bitch" and Kathleen gives her a filthy look.

Just then, everyone's favourite lesbian liberal walks in, and everyone sits down at their desks. Kathleen then puts up her hand and asks "Miss" Avery if she has a boyfriend. Ms Avery gives her a funny look for a second, and replies, "Hundreds. But I don't know what business that is of yours." OMG Ms Avery's a skank! She admitted it! Everybody laughs, but the Lesbian Investigation Committee knows they've been fobbed off, and for various reasons, none of them is amused.

Just as Ms Avery is about to start the class, Rick goes up and gives her some liquorice. Awwww. As he returns to his seat, Yick and Arthur give him suspicious looks.

After class, Rick's getting stuff out of his locker while Yick and Arthur besmirch his character a short distance away. Arthur's idea of proof is "Nobody wins only a hundred bucks!" He should go into business with Kathleen. There's also some discussion of a rumour that Rick previously got caught shoplifting various items up to and including a radio, and Arthur decides that they're "dealing with a criminal". In the midst of this, Rick realises he's being watched, but does his best to ignore it.

Later, in the darkroom, Susie is developing the photo of Ms Avery with her hand on Caitlin's shoulder. A propos of nothing, she muses, "I wonder what lezzies do exactly, if they really kiss? Like on the lips and everything? Yuck." Oh dear. Caitlin snaps that she doesn't know why everyone's decided Ms Avery's a lesbian, and how would Susie like it if people started saying stuff about her? Susie gets a bit weirded out, but doesn't know when to quit, and points out that Ms Avery "sure does like to touch people", brandishing the photo as evidence.

Caitlin gets increasingly annoyed, and Susie says, "You're acting weird about this. It's not as if they're saying you're a lezzie. Right?" Yes, because witch-hunts are fine and dandy as long as you're not the direct target. Caitlin looks profoundly uncomfortable. "Right," she mutters. Closeup on the photo, wavering menacingly in the dish of chemicals.

Aaand, we have another dream sequence! Everyone's back in the flower-filled classroom, zombieishly turning the pages of their textbooks in perfect unison. The room is in semi-darkness except for a spotlight on Caitlin. Again, Ms Avery calls Caitlin up to the front, and puts her arm around her (and a hand on her stomach), and seductively praises her essay on native peoples. Aw, we didn't get another discussion of questionable feminist role models?

But this time, Kathleen announces, "Caitlin's gay, you know. She's a lesbian." The class starts to get worked up, repeating, "She's gay! She's a lesbian! She's a homosexual!" We get creepy close-ups of the kids' mouths talking. After a minute, everyone starts pointing and chanting in unison: "LESBIAN! LESBIAN! LESBIAN!" Caitlin not very strenuously denies this. Eventually, she wakes up. Commercial break.

The following morning, Caitlin and Susie are arriving at school just as Ms Avery pulls up with her mysterious lady friend. They kiss on the cheek again, and both girls look profoundly uncomfortable, but are at least classy enough not to freak out like Kathleen and Annie did. Ms Avery gets out of the car and calls to Caitlin, and Susie (not wanting to catch the gay) instantly pulls a disappearing act. Ms Avery puts her arm around Caitlin's shoulder, and gives her an article from yesterday's paper about native peoples, and mentions that she's ordered a library book for her on the subject. Meanwhile, Kathleeen and Annie are watching them talk, and they look pretty damn scandalised. Annie's wearing a metallic waistcoat and a bizarre little shiny blue hat that is somewhere between sailor and air hostess in style. She should probably stick with the berets.

Meanwhile, in the hallways, Yick and Arthur are spying on Rick. Yick wonders if Rick will steal again, but Arthur insists, "Once a criminal, always a criminal," which seems pretty hardline. Yet again, Rick notices he's being watched.

In the classroom, Kathleen and Annie are busy fomenting. Susie is sceptical about Caitlin being a lesbian, but Kathleen and Annie provide yet another list of conclusive proof: she always hangs around Ms Avery, they're "always touching each other", Caitlin is embarrassed about getting changed in gym and hides behind a towel – wait, what? That makes no fucking sense! What the hell? Also, Caitlin has been acting "strange" since they "figured out" about Ms Avery, and is always "defending" her. At this point Melanie leans over and asks, "What difference does it make anyway, even if she is a lesbian?" Oh, Melanie, you and your sensible modern ways have no place in this increasingly hysterical discussion. Susie freaks out and yells, "She's not a lesbian, she's my friend!" …oh dear. Melanie can see she's not getting anywhere, and gives up.

"All I know is, I wouldn't want to hang around with her in a darkroom if I were you," says Kathleen to Susie. "She might try to do something." Oh no, not something! "And don't blame us when people start talking about you, too." Yep, you'll be gay by association. Just then, Caitlin walks in and sits down, and Susie stares at her in fear, like she might try to do something then and there.

After class, Rick's still giving out liquorice, because he's awesome, and Yick and Arthur are still tailing him. Susie is trying to get away from Caitlin and says they don't need to work in the darkroom today. But since she's really bad at fabricating excuses, she fails in her attempt to weasel out of it.

Distributing liquorice as he goes, Rick goes into the boys' bathroom, still followed by Arthur and Yick. Meanwhile, there's an announcement on the PA to say that "Notices and posters must first be cleared with the principal's office. There are absolutely no exceptions to this rule, including the 'No posters here notice' and the 'No notices to be posted here' poster". This show is messed up.

Rick goes to a urinal and starts peeing, but after a minute notices Arthur and Yick staring at him. They duck into two cubicles, but in a second Rick looks over his shoulder and sees them watching him over the tops of the doors. Lucky Kathleen isn't here, or she'd start a whole new round of rumours. Rick just finishes at the urinal, then tosses each guy a piece of liquorice over the cubicle door. It'd be a slightly more awesome gesture if he'd washed his hands first.

Later, in the darkroom, Susie's uttering a stream of nervous chatter about how great the photos are, and Degrassi is really interesting, and her parents nearly sent her to private school but didn't because it was too expensive, and these sure are great pictures, and please don't do something! Caitlin eventually asks her what's going on, and Susie insists she's just excited about the pictures, which, by the way, are not exciting.

Just then, Caitlin leans over to hang up a picture, and Susie jumps back with a loud gasp. Caitlin asks what's wrong, and Susie asks, "You're not a lesbian, are you? Some people say you are, and I say you're not. You're not, are you?" It's pretty clear that there's only one acceptable answer here, and after a second Caitlin storms off, leaving the door open behind her. Which I assume would destroy all the photos, right? Trust me, it's not a great loss.

That night, Caitlin's in bed with her teddy bear (liar! liar!), and because the writers couldn't think of any better way to communicate her inner turmoil, she monologues at him. "What do I do? I can't help those dreams. Supposing I am a lesbian, does that mean I won't have any friends? Will everyone talk and whisper behind my back?" Well, Kathleen will, but she'll find an excuse to do that about pretty much everyone. "Will they all hate me? Even Susie? I really like Ms Avery. Is that wrong? I just don't want to be different." The teddy bear, alas, has no words of comfort. And the ominous high-pitched synth music is distinctly non-comforting as well.

Next morning in class, Caitlin looks tortured. The scary music is still going on, as Ms Avery goes around the room handing out essays and putting her hands on everyone's shoulders. She really does like to touch people. She also seems to like wearing ankle-length baby-blue shirtdresses at least two sizes too big for her, cinched with pink diamante belts, but whatever. When she gets to Caitlin, though, Caitlin flinches back and snaps, "Don't touch me." Awkward. Kathleen gives her a poisonous glare, because there is simply no pleasing Kathleen, and she seems even more disgusted by Caitlin's rebuffing of Ms Avery than she was by her alleged lesbianism. Ms Avery collects herself, and goes back to her desk without giving anyone else their essay.

Conveniently, the bell goes, and Ms Avery immediately asks Caitlin to stay behind. I'm not a teacher or anything, but I'm guessing that if a pupil recoils in terror at your touch, insisting they stay alone in your classroom with you after class is not exactly best practice. Caitlin looks miserable. As the rest of the class leaves, Kathleen whispers to Annie, "I told you she was a lesbian!" Yick and Arthur are tailing Rick again, and Rick's starting to look pretty pissed off.

Once everyone else is gone, Ms Avery shuts the door and asks Caitlin what's going on. In a breathy whisper. She then sits up on one of the desks, and in doing so thrusts her hips forward in a way that… really looks like she's trying to be seductive. But I'm pretty sure it's just clumsy direction. Caitlin gives the most non-specific answer possible: "People are saying stuff." You… you don't say, Caitlin.

Eventually, Caitlin specifies that the "stuff" consists of rumours that Ms Avery's a lesbian, and Ms Avery is like, "Huh." Caitlin then runs through the oh-so-conclusive catalogue of gay proof: "You're not married. You're always with that woman. My friend said she saw you holding hands on King Street. I saw you kiss her." Ms Avery counters with: "So, all single people are gay? We live together because it's cheaper. Your friend has a very vivid imagination. I kiss most of my women friends." Which could all be taken to mean that Ms Avery is a sarcastic, thrifty, promiscuous lesbian, but Caitlin is apparently less cynical than I am.

Hey, I'm sure you're all dying to know how Arthur and Yick are getting on! No? Too bad. They're hiding out at the bottom of the stairwell, and when Rick goes up the stairs they try to sneak after him. But he immediately turns around, and grabs them by the collars. They are too scared and/or geeky to struggle. Rick demands an explanation for the whole stalking thing, and the others hesitantly, nervously accuse him of theft. Rick calls them crazy, and Yick breaks out his own line of conclusive proof: "Right after the money disappeared, you bought a new T-shirt and a ton of liquorice." Which is really the stupidest evidence ever offered for anything.

Arthur also mentions all the rumours about Rick, but just as Rick is berating them for believing everything they hear, and they're almost at risk of learning a worthwhile lesson, Mr Raditch appears in his Undercover Agent in Panama Suit. He clears his throat menacingly, and Rick lets go of the others. Raditch paces past them, delivering a hearty dose of Raditch Stinkeye all round, and the moment is over. But Rick still orders the guys never to stalk him again, which is an entirely legitimate demand.

Caitlin and Ms Avery are leaving the classroom (which is apparently the geography room, although all Ms Avery seems to teach is liberal values and flower-arranging). "Any other rumours?" asks Ms Avery. "They say I'm gay too," says Caitlin casually. "I've been having dreams that… aren't quite normal?" I think it's probably for the best that she doesn't go into detail about the low-budget surrealism and liberal bias in these dreams. Ms Avery lectures her about how sexual dreams are normal, blah blah blah, and the upshot is, Caitlin totally isn't a lesbian. Phew!

Back at Yick's Disorganized Locker of Disorganizedness, Yick is grudgingly suggesting that maybe Rick isn't a total shameless criminal mastermind. "But he's our only suspect!" protests Arthur, who has a bright future in some very corrupt police force. As Arthur continues his litany of reasons why they should send Rick down for this ("we're out of fingerprint powder" being chief among them), Yick digs through the pile of locker crap… and finds the missing money. "You broomhead!" yells an increasingly volatile Arthur. "You almost got me killed!" The boys start throttling each other, and walk out the door still arguing, and also leaving Yick's locker wide open.

So they clearly learned nothing whatsoever here, neither about not listening to rumours nor about looking after one's property. But then, learning nothing whatsoever is kind of a theme in this show.

Caitlin and Ms Avery walk out the school door, and see Mr Raditch waiting in his car. He honks and waves at Ms Avery. "Mr Raditch?" squees Caitlin. Ms Avery, oddly, is not that interested in discussing her possible alleged potential love-life with some random kid who's already asked more than enough personal questions for one day, even if said kid does write excellent essays on native peoples.

Caitlin takes the fobbing-off pretty well, and then announces, "I think you're a really good teacher, and I'm sorry I thought you were gay." Ms Avery says, "There's nothing to be sorry for. Besides, would it make any difference if I were? Would you think less of me?"

Caitlin ponders for a bit, then shakes her head, and the credits roll.

And Ms Avery's glam housemate? Is listed in the credits as "girlfriend". So I think we have an answer on that front.

So, we all learned a lot in this episode. Let's run through the main points, shall we?

Dubious lessons of the week: If you think you might be gay, don't be upset! You're actually straight, and so is everyone you know. Or so they'll tell you. On the other hand, if you're a homophobic bully, congratulations! This is not a stance you'll ever be expected to question seriously. Meanwhile, if you're considering a career in law enforcement, try not to pin all crimes on the nearest working-class person for lack of another suspect: some of these people are muscular, and can beat you up, so make sure you pick on the skinny ones.

Where would we be without Degrassi to teach us these things?