Wednesday, August 5, 2009

S01 E08 – Nothing to Fear

Morning. L.D. comes out of her house, eating a scone the size of a man's heart. She goes into a large garage, i.e. the kind where you take your car to be fixed, not the kind you have at your house. Nonsensical country music is playing on the radio – I've tried to decipher the lyrics, but all I can make out is "Your lips roasting at sunset, and bigger out what, you know what you gets it, you know what you got." Perhaps this is some obscure Canadian dialect, because it makes no damn sense in standard English.

Over at one end of the garage, L.D.'s dad and his garage minion are doing car stuff to a car, while L.D.'s dad smokes, which seems like a fire hazard to me, but what do I know? Also, this actor is a very unconvincing smoker. The garage minion tells "Mr. D" to look at what L.D.'s eating, and Mr. D mutters "marshmallows on toast" in a tone of deepest loathing. Which, again, makes no sense because, as I mentioned, she's in fact eating a gigantic scone.

L.D. comes over to say goodbye, and her dad asks if she's finished cleaning the kitchen yet. When she looks shamefaced, he says she has to do it right after school. Without opening her mouth properly, she mumble-lisps that he "promised I could fix Mr. Jeremiah's transmission". Her dad sexists irritably at her: "It's time you stopped monkeying around out here! You're thirteen years old! You're supposed to be turning into a lady! Now go, or you'll be late for school!" His voice has a ridiculous echo; I'm pretty sure his lines were actually dubbed in with a recording made in a giant underground cavern.

L.D. rolls her eyes and leaves, but before she's out of earshot, he shouts at her to get rid of her shocking, manly baseball cap: "You think your mother would let you wear a cap like that?" L.D. mutters "Drop dead" as she cycles away. And I think somebody is going to get an extra-large serving of irony any minute now.

(For those who are reading this without being overly familiar with the show: L.D. always wears a baseball cap. It's kind of her thing. She also wears check flannel shirts, even though she does not listen to grunge. That's how we know she's a tomboy. We've never actually seen her do anything tomboyish.)

As he tries to resume doing non-specific car stuff, Mr. D. suddenly grunts in distress, and clutches his left armpit. Yes, it's annoying when you suddenly realise you forgot to put on deodorant, but there's no need to over-react. Mr. D. sits on the floor, looking irate, and his garage minion runs off to call a doctor. This episode's themes of contentious tomboyism and parental heart attacks firmly established, it's time for the opening credits.

In school, Ms Avery (rocking a blue shoulder-padded power dress, yet another diamante belt, and career-woman neck scarf, with – in a brief departure from her usual left-wingitude – a giant hairdo reminiscent of Sarah Palin) is outlining some dumbass make-work project in which the kids have to split up into groups and map sections of the neighbourhood. Spike, L.D. and Voula are in a group together, and it seems they'll be mapping the area around a hospital. "I hate hospitals – they give me the creeps," says L.D., an utterance that will be in no way relevant to other events in this episode.

The project's due in on Friday, and L.D. doesn't think they can get it done on time, but Voula, young Stakhanovite that she is, says it'll be ok if they start today and work hard and so on. L.D., of course, has to clean the kitchen this afternoon, but the others say they can meet her afterwards. She complains that her dad was ok before her brothers moved out, but "now it's nag, nag, nag, like I'm supposed to be a little princess or something". Yeah, because princesses get nagged a lot? I guess? Also, given what happens in this episode and the complete absence of L.D.'s alleged brothers throughout, I stand by my theory that they don't exist. They are simply a delusion she's developed as an embodiment of the patriarchal forces that daily threaten to destroy her.

Voula mentions that her dad is pretty strict, but we all know that doesn't really count, because he's ethnic (and a former dictator) and it's expected of him. But we have a right to expect better of non-immigrant parents! L.D. continues to complain about how her dad won't let her do car stuff any more, and she's supposed to be a lady all of a sudden, and sometimes she wishes he'd get out of her life IRONY ALERT.

Meanwhile, Caitlin and Melanie are chatting about someone Melanie likes, and it is in fact Snake the Man-god, who's standing right behind them. Melanie, not even a little bit embarrassed by this, turns around and says a very grinny hello, and he says hello back, and it's all very awkward and cute.

And if you thought we were actually going to have a non-Yick-and-Arthur-related subplot for once, I have bad news for you. They're with Susie in the library, and she's berating them in her usual emotionless monotone: "'We'll be careful,' you said. 'We know how to take care of him,' you said." "Susie, be reasonable!" whines Arthur. "Reasonable? You want me to be reasonable?" snaps Susie, who for some reason seems to think that being reasonable is entirely beyond her abilities – which is actually true, at least when there's a supposed lesbian around.

Melanie comes in, sits down next to a large terrarium, and asks what's going on. "These guys left the top open. Amadeus is gone," says Susie. Melanie stares at the terrarium and explains to herself, and us, that Amadeus is "the snake", and was there seriously no less clumsy way for the writers to explain this situation to us? As Susie continues to rant at the boys, Melanie rambles to herself about how "Amadeus is loose in the school… slithering… slinking… waiting to crawl up somebody's leg… " Susie tells the boys to look for Amadeus, and they proceed to wander around the library calling his name. They truly are stupid: everybody knows the only person who can help them now is Barry White.

That afternoon, L.D. cycles back into the garage, where she's met by her dad's minion. He brings her up to speed in the least sensitive way ever: "Your dad's in the hospital… it's his heart, or something." Yeah, thanks for that, garage minion. Anyway, he gives L.D. a list of stuff her dad asked her to bring to the hospital for him, and in another show of diplomacy, observes that Mr. D was "grumpy as ever" and says that his health problems are all his own fault. He then struts off. Considering he doesn't actually seem to be trying to be an asshole, he's doing a remarkably good job of it.

Outside the school, Voula and Spike sit despondently on the steps. Voula's donned a gigantic, tourist-issue Aran sweater over her Russian peasant ensemble. Why wear one kind of lumpish Eurasian traditional outfit when you could can two at a time? "I bet L.D. won't show," says Spike. "I did a science project with her last year, remember? I ended up doing all the work." Voula points out that L.D. had the flu, but Spike darkly replies, "She's always got excuses."

Speaking of which, L.D. is at home, packing her dad's stuff. All the products in the bathroom are weirdly unlabelled, perhaps to compensate for the blatant product placement of three episodes ago. Also, her dad has apparently requested she bring him a huge pile of dishtowels.

As she puts some framed photos into a bag for him, she comes to a photo of a woman (presumably Mrs. D) with a baby (presumably the young L). And the show goes to a whole new level of manipulativeness, as we hear in voiceover Young L.D. asking her dad, "Why did they take Mummy to a hospital?" Flashback Voicover Mr. D explains that her mom's not feeling well, and she's gone to hospital so she can feel better, and he promises that her mom will be home soon. LIES.

Voula and Spike are still waiting, and eventually decide to phone L.D. Which, hilariously, actually entails getting up and going into the school to find a phone. Ugh, the old days! Also, why are Spike's tapered trousers always like an inch too short? For someone with such "outrageous" punk hair, her middle-aged spinster clothes are really incongruous.

In the garage, Mr. D's minion answers the phone (a rotary phone, with a real bell inside. Crazy) and gives the receiver to L.D. Voula nasally asks where she is, which is in fact a spectacularly stupid question considering they phoned her, on a landline. L.D. says she forgot to meet the others and offers no explanation, and pretty much hangs up on them. "I told you she's always got excuses," bitches Spike.

"Ready to come to the hospital?" asks the garage minion. L.D. looks terrified and says she's going to stay at home, since she still hasn't cleaned up the kitchen. Minion claims her dad would rather see her than a clean kitchen, but L.D. doesn't dignify this assertion with an answer, and says she'll visit him tomorrow if he's not out by then. Eventually, the garage minion gives in and heads off on his motorbike, and L.D. locks up the garage. Which, in place of a real shopfront, has yet another of those damn handlettered bubble-writing posters in the front window. Aaargh, the '80s!

Next morning, Arthur and Yick are in Doris Bell's office, making an announcement over the PA about the missing snake. As Arthur witters about how there's no need to worry, because Amadeus is "friendly, for a snake, and not at all poisonous", we see Melanie clump into school in a pair of tight jeans, which have been tucked into a huge pair of boots (I think they're ice skates with the skatey bit removed) and then heavily masking-taped around the ankles. She anxiously checks her locker for snakes, and in the background we see Joey grab Snake and yell, "I got the snake!" Well, at least we got that inevitable joke out of the way quickly.

In an unnecessary bit of exposition, Alex asks Melanie what's the deal with her boots, and she explains that it's an anti-snake precaution. Alex smirks and walks off. Melanie then says hello to Snake, who answers, "Nice boots, Melanie." But, you know, not meanly enough to disrupt the cuteness of their hamfisted flirting.

Later, in the gym, the girls are warming up. L.D. comes over to Voula and Spike and, lest we briefly forget that she is a tomboy, declares, "Thank goodness for gym, eh? Only place in the whole school that's comfortable!" Spike snarks at her about not turning up yesterday. Voula (who's not wearing her glasses, and would actually be quite pretty if not for her enormous eyebrows) says that there's lots more to do, and L.D. should come along today.

L.D. says she can't, and Spike totally loses it: "You think it's fair that we have to do all the work? Why don't you help for a change?" Eventually, L.D. does the sensible thing and actually explains that her dad's in the hospital. Suitably mortified, Spike and Voula apologise and say she doesn't have to help with the project. L.D. looks tormented. The background music is incongruously cheery.

After school, Snake and Wheels are chatting about the snake. "I heard it's in the girls' washroom," says Wheels. "So stay out of there, ok?" "Yeah, all right," says Snake, like he totally would hang around in there under normal circumstances, but if there's a snake in there he'd better stay away for a day or two.

L.D.'s heading home too, and everyone is sending their best wishes to her dad. Which is something I think most young teenagers would be waaaay too embarrassed to do. Joey, of all people, comes up to her and gently says, "Tell him Joey said to stay cool," without even asking if she'd be a doll and hurry up with his dad's transmission. As L.D. cycles off, we hear Steph and Lucy talking about how the snake is in the boys' washroom. Hilarity!

At home, L.D. goes into the garage, where her dad's minion is under a car, you guessed it, doing car stuff. She nervously goes up to him, carrying some flowers wrapped in cellophane. He's glad that she's evidently going to visit Mr. D, "but don't let him talk you into getting him more cigarettes – he tried that on me". Mr. D clearly does not learn.

L.D. sits down on the garage floor, a manly act which her father would almost certainly disapprove of, and asks the garage minion how long he's had his own apartment, and what it's like living alone. Minion says it's pretty rad most of the time, there's nobody telling him what to do, but sometimes he gets so lonely he has to put the TV on the kitchen table "so I won't have to eat alone". There's a nice little snapshot of bleak urban alienation for you, folks.

But, on the other hand, at least garage minion is not a tragic orphan: his parents live around the corner and he can go there for dinner whenever he wants. L.D. looks crushed, reckoning that if her dad dies and she is thus tragically orphaned, she probably won't be able to depend on Mom Minion for some home-cooked meals. You could always go live with your brothers, L.D. Oh wait.

Eventually, Minion realises the point of this conversation, and tries to reassure L.D. that her dad isn't dying, but she's not really convinced. She's also horrified to learn that Minion can't go to the hospital with her, because "Mr. Jeremiah's screaming for his car back". Wow, Mr. Jeremiah is in fact less classy than Joey. That takes some doing. Also, Minion is brandishing a lightbulb in his hand and somehow making it light up, which is a nifty trick. Looking distinctly ill, L.D. sets off for the hospital.

Next we see her outside the hospital, with some ominous bass strumming in the background. She shuffles into the building, and I think she's meant to look scared but she really just looks disgusted by all the sick people. Again, and with some extra echo effects, we hear Flashback Voicover L.D. asking her dad why Mummy's gone to the hospital, and Flashback Voiceover Mr. D saying that Mummy will be fine and hospital is where people go to get well. LIES. Oh yeah, just in case you hadn't noticed, L.D. has hospital-related trauma issues. There are also some super-creepy surrealist whooshing sounds in the background, yet again adding a vaguely Lynchian feel to proceedings.

Eventually, L.D. panics and gives the bunch of flowers to a receptionist, asking for them to be sent up to her dad ("Mr. Delacorte"). The receptionist is another inexplicably English dame, like the bra lady from a few episodes back, and what is it with this show and its weird old English women? L.D. scuttles out of the hospital, nearly wrenching the too-slow automatic doors open with her bare hands, another act of masculinity which her father would disapprove of. Commercial break.

Some time later, L.D. is standing across the road from the hospital. She goes into a phone booth and, in a scene that is surely stretched out unnecessarily, slooowly phones her dad. As they talk, we see him sitting in his hospital bed, from the neck down only, interspersed with shots of the stuff on his bedside table. It makes the scene creepy and mysterious for no reason. Was the actor briefly unavailable or something, so they filled in with some randomer and hoped we wouldn't notice? Because… it's pretty noticeable.

Anyway, L.D. asks her dad how he is, and he says he'll be fine (the camera pans over the framed photo of the late Mrs. D, to remind us of his track record as a LIAR in these matters) but he needs some more tests. When he asks why L.D. didn't call up to see him, she tells him that she had to go work on the mapping project, and her friends are waiting for her right now. Hm, seems like being a LIAR is a family trait.

Anyway, they say goodbye, and as a parting shot, Mr. D. asks, "How's that kitchen? You cleaned it yet? I don't want to get home and find it a mess." Patriarchal brute. We finally see his face at the very end, looking sad and lonely, and I still have no idea what the hell was going on with this scene.

Next morning, in school. Yick, Arthur and Susie are sneaking down into the school basement, with a big cardboard box, and I get an unpleasant sense that some wackiness is imminent. The kids bicker over whether the snake is likely to be in the basement: Arthur says yes, because snakes are cold-blooded so Amadeus is probably keeping warm in the boiler room, while Yick says no, because he doesn't understand what "cold-blooded" means. The cardboard box has some leaves taped to the corners, and crude drawings of grass, snakes, and mice on the sides. How old are these kids, seriously? Susie's worried that the snake might have gone off and got run over, but Arthur says they're sure to catch him with this spiffy cardboard box trap, which Yick is baiting with lunch meat. Because snakes love lunch meat!

Mmm, lunch meat.

So yeah. The kids sneak into the boiler room, and it seems kind of lax on the part of the school authorities to not, I don't know, lock the door? And by "lax" I mean "criminally negligent".

Up in the corridor, Melanie's still wearing her taped-up giant boots (and carrying her stylish Speedo gym bag, by the way). While she stows her stuff in her locker, Mr. Lawrence makes an announcement on the PA: "Please be aware that there is only one serpentine creature at large. Rumours of a dozen missing tarantulas are utterly without foundation." Yeah, sure, that's what they all say, until people start turning up dead.

Meanwhile, Alex and a couple of extras are hiding behind her opened locker door, and they sneak a very fake-looking plastic snake over the top of it. Melanie doesn't notice until it's at her eye level, then catches sight of it and shrieks, "SNAKE!" Snake thinks she's calling him, just to make things more embarrassing, and the other guys run away, laughing hysterically at her. Until they're spotted by Mr. Raditch, who seemingly dishes out the Stinkeye to anyone who seems too exuberant, just in case.

Melanie, seemingly pushed over the edge by this prank, just hides her face in shame and beats her head gently against her locker, not noticing that Snake is walking off with an affectionate smile. Mr Raditch stares at Melanie in total bafflement. Apparently the mechanics of adolescent embarrassment are beyond his ken.

In the classroom, Voula is carrying an envelope on which she's written "Flower MONEY", and also drawn a flower for the benefit of her stupider classmates. People are putting money in the envelope. Money with which to buy flowers. It seems the kids of Degrassi are pretty upset about Mr. D being sick; Spike helpfully reminds everyone that he sponsored their softball team last year (I dunno, sport sounds pretty unladylike to me) and even Steph is 100% in favour of sending him flowers. And truly Mr. D's plight has brought everyone together, because Voula even lets Steph express her opinion without launching a savage, painfully clumsy verbal attack on her.

Voula and Spike, obviously still feeling guilty about their previous judgeathon, say they'll take the flowers to the hospital at lunchtime. Surely they should make some handlettered posters too?

When L.D. comes in, everyone shuts up about the flower plan, and Voula asks how her dad is. L.D. cagily says that he's still in the hospital, and Voula, in a rare show of dumbassedness, asks her, "How do his eyes look? My grandmother says you can tell a person's health by looking in their eyes." Oh, ethnic people and their crazy ideas! L.D. mumbles that his eyes look the same as always, she guesses. Just then, Ms Avery creates a diversion by telling everyone that their mapping projects are going great. She delivers light shoulder-pats all round. Lesbian!

At lunchtime, we see Voula and Spike emerge from the hospital gift shop with a bunch of yellow chrysanthemums that might actually be one of the ill-fated bouquets from last episode. I would not put it past this show. They meander around the hospital and eventually find Mr. D's room. Spike, in the grand style of punk kids everywhere, has Tipp-exed some band names on her schoolbag: I can make out "The Cult" and "The Furs". I'm not sure if I'm disappointed or grudgingly impressed to learn that both bands actually exist.

Mr. D is morosely hunched over a ghastly hospital meal, framed photo of the late Mrs. D positioned prominently on his nightstand. He's a bit surprised to see Voula and Spike, but is touchingly pleased by the flowers. The girls explain that L.D. doesn't know they're there, and Spike says they wanted her to see the flowers next time she visits. "Next time?" says Mr. D sadly. "She hasn't been here yet. …But I understand she's got a big mapping project that's keeping her real busy." Yeah, I always use that excuse when I'm avoiding someone. Works every time.

The girls stare at him in horror, because Mr. D is putting on a brave face but it's pretty clear how depressed he is by this (admittedly very depressing) situation. He asks them to tell L.D. that he's going to be okay. They continue to stare.

Back at school, Arthur and Yick sneak back into the boiler room. They're wildly excited to see the trap has been sprung. Arthur bends down to investigate. "Oh no," he groans. "Dead?" asks Yick. "Rubber," says Arthur, holding up the toy snake from earlier Actually, much as I hate to admit it, that was kind of a funny prank by the other guys.

Voula and Spike are awkwardly saying their goodbyes to Mr. D. Out in the corridor, they share a long, intense stare that could be meant to express anything from terror to lust to "Seriously, WTF is up with L.D.?" I'm going with the latter. Spike declares that L.D. is "acting weeeeird".

Speaking of which, we next see L.D. huddled in the dark, sitting on the floor of the gym under a sadly ironic motivational poster. The effect is kind of weird. Voula comes in and says they've been looking everywhere for L.D., who says nothing in response. Voula explains that she's been to the hospital, and L.D. asks, "How do his eyes look?" She may or may not be trying to sound witheringly sarcastic, I'm not sure, but Voula doesn't understand sarcasm in others anyway, and just says that his eyes, and the rest of him, look fine. L.D. is not particularly comforted.

Out in the corridors, everyone's bustling around. Mr. Lawrence is on the PA again, reassuring everyone that "any cafeteria menus featuring Shepherd's Python or Corn on the Cobra are merely the product of a warped sense of humour". Wow, they're faking menus now? I kind of admire these kids' dedication.

Voula has refused to butt out, and is sitting on the floor beside L.D. "How come you don't go visit him?" she asks. L.D. mumbles a Tragic Backstory in Bullet Points: "When my mom got sick, she went into the hospital. Everyone said she was gonna be okay. I went to visit her. Then she died."

Voula has some truly revelatory words of wisdom: "Just because you go to the hospital doesn't mean you die." YOU DON'T SAY, VOULA. She starts droning on about getting her tonsils out last year, but L.D. interrupts her to say that her dad really doesn't want her there anyway. "He doesn't like me. I'm not at all like he wants me to be. He always yells at me. I always do stuff wrong." Voula remarks that he sounds like a normal dad to her, you know, except for the fact that L.D.'s dad strangely doesn't spend most of his time planning proletarian revolutions. "He needs you," she insists. "You're all he's got left." There's an overlong silence; I think one of the girls forgot her lines.

Closeup on L.D.'s legs in a pair of horrible tight tapered jeans, walking unsteadily into the hospital. Yet again, we hear the same voiceover flashback, as she makes her way through the corridors, confusingly mingled with the announcements on the hospital PA. Did they just page "Doctor Chlamydia"? This show is twisted.

Back in the school library, Arthur and Yick are looking under the couch cushions. In marches Susie. "Haven't you guys found Amadeus yet?" she asks, in possibly her most dead-voiced line delivery yet. Arthur insists that they're doing everything they can.

As the three bicker inanely (Yick suggesting that they should "do a dog" for their next class project, which… ew), Melanie walks in, cautiously scanning the area for snakes. She hears a squeaking sound and gasps. Over in the corner, Snake looks up from the huge glitter-covered dolls' house he's playing with. Look, I don't write this show, OK? He's 15. It makes no sense. Melanie realises that the noise is coming from a gym bag someone left on the table. She looks down, and sees Amadeus in the bag, flicking his tongue and making this weird squeaking noise. Do snakes do that?

Melanie opens her mouth to scream, but Snake's staring at her, and she doesn't want to look stupid in front of him, so she just nervously asks Susie to come over. Susie, overjoyed, picks up the snake and puts him around Arthur's neck (can you fashion a live snake into a noose?). "He's not slimy," Melanie realises. "He's kind of cute!"

Just then, Alex and his unspeaking henchmen come in. When he sees the snake, he panics, and his nostrils go even more enormous than usual. "Keep that thing away from me!" he tells Arthur, then runs out of the room. The others mock his weakness. "Honestly," says Melanie, "some people are afraid of the silliest things." Oh, the hilarity!

L.D. is still stumbling around the hospital, trying to find her way while being barged into by nurses wheeling dying people on trolleys. It's not a calming experience. And we get a new voiceover flashback! It's hugely long and bonusly traumatic: first Voiceover Flashback L.D. (who it turns out is actually named Lorraine) has gone into her mother's hospital room, and been freaked out by all the machines.

Next, she gets upset because her mother's been in hospital so long. Then, her dad's trying to comfort her/fob her off, when a doctor asks to speak to him in private. As Modern-Day L.D. gets to the door of her dad's room, Flashback Dad explains that Mummy won't be coming home. And right on cue, we see that Modern-Day Dad's hospital room has been vacated. Ouch.

L.D., horrified, goes into the room and reverentially takes off her baseball cap. Sad electric guitar music plays as she sits on the bed. And her plight is pretty heartbreaking, and we've all learned a valuable lesson about making the most of our time with the people we love, because they won't be around forever… *sniff*

Oh no, wait! It was just an incredibly manipulative trick from the writers. L.D.'s dad chirpily walks into the room, dressed and carrying an overnight bag. "You're alive!" exclaims L.D. "Of course I'm alive!" says her dad. "It's gonna take more than a little angina to stop me!" "Angina?" asks L.D., looking confused but not nearly as weirded out as most people are the first time they hear that word.

Mr. D says it's nothing serious, and he needs to take better care of himself, and they stare meaningfully at each other for a while before turning to go. L.D. chatters about how "from now on I'll be just like you want", but her dad interrupts her to say that she left her Baseball Cap of Manliness on the bed. He places it on her head in a symbolic gesture, and they walk happily down the corridor, and I swear someone called "Dr Mojo" is being paged on the PA, which is really distracting.

"If you think hospitals are scary," says Mr. D, "you should try being the father of a teenage daughter!" Which is a lovely thing for a father to say to his kid. "Don't worry," says L.D., "you'll get over it!" And off they go, friends at last. At least until he gets home and sees the state of the kitchen.

Dubious lessons of the week: If your parent has a heart attack, it's your fault for wishing it on them. Voiceover flashbacks are less dramatically effective the more you use them. Hospitals do not necessarily equal instant death. If you bait a trap with lunch meat, all you'll catch are teenage boys.


Amy said...

Oh, holy cow, you just became my new favorite blog ever.

Ms Avery said...

Aw, thanks! :D

Bill said...

Best one yet

Ms Avery said...

Teehee, thanks

Kraft1963 said...

Did you notice that L.D. went into two different garages? In the morning, her house was to the left of the garage. When she returned later that day (or the next day), the garage facade had grown and an alley had appeared in place of her house.

Did her father have more than one garage? Was her father building a garage empire? Is that what caused the heart attack?

Kraft1963 said...

Did you notice also the big hole in the seat of L.D.'s pants the first time she went to the hospital? As I commented earlier in response to the urinal scenes, the Degrassi writers are pedophiles.