Friday, October 30, 2009

S01 E12 – Parents' Night

We open on a shot of a rather mushy-looking birthday cake. Wheels is sitting on the couch, changing the strap on his bass guitar. The camera pans over the table, showing paper plates with crumbled-up pieces of cake (seemingly nobody found it too palatable despite its attractive blue-and-taupe icing) and a navy-blue birthday card with a painting of fishing boats, done in assorted shades of navy. It's the sort of birthday card that makes you happy you're one year closer to death.

Wheels's mother is ironing and lip-syncing to some English-language opera playing on the stereo. Her lip-syncing is actually kind of cute, although the music itself is suicidally bleak. "Now that's real music," she remarks, "not like that… rock noise you listen to, Derek. That's why we got you a good record." Wheels picks up the record (the South Pacific soundtrack) and sarcastically tells her he can't wait to listen to it.

Wheels's dad (he of the inept abstinence lecture from a few episodes back) then casually chimes in: "Derek, did you ever stop to think that maybe rock music is part of an alien plot to take over the world?" Apparently Wheels is used to his dad's deranged conspiracy theories, because he just laughs and answers, "Right, Dad." Well, I suppose there's not really much you can say to a question like that.

Just then, the phone rings. Wheels gets up to answer it, while his parents reminisce fondly about crooners. But when he picks up the phone, there's nobody there. Cut to a hand in a pair of fugly bright yellow leather driving gloves, hanging up a payphone. As some wildly over-elaborate drumming kicks in on the soundtrack, Wheels announces that the caller hung up. "That's strange," says his mother. "That happened earlier today." Everyone looks vaguely mystified.

After the opening credits, Wheels is arriving at school with some randomer. In the foreground, we can see a car parked just next to the entrance, and the driver is wearing fugly bright yellow leather driving gloves. These things are so bad that very few people can actually have bought a pair, so it's safe to assume that the lurker is the same person who called the Wheels house.

More importantly, Wheels and the other kid are engaged in some spectacularly bad improvised dialogue. The other kid asks Wheels what he got for his birthday, and Wheels answers: "Oh, my mum made me a big cake and it had three layers of chocolate and stuff and, uh, I got some clothes and stuff and – and – my mum and my dad? They got me a, a guitar strap? For my guitar?" The other kid, who's feebly trying to interject things, asks what colour the strap is. Wheels mumbles: "Aw, it's excellent! It's – it's kinda like, I guess it's, I'm not really sure, like, it's got, it's got brow – brownish colours and stuff…" The guy goes on about how the guitar strap sounds like the most awesome thing ever, and Wheels then rambles about how he's in a band with Joey and Snake, and really it would have been much kinder to all concerned if the writers had just written the kids some dialogue for this scene, because seriously, improv is not one of their strengths.

While all this is going on, the man in the yellow gloves gets out of his car, staring fixedly at Wheels, and stands there watching him go into the school. Wheels doesn't notice this, since he's busy giving this lengthy yet vague description of his guitar strap, but Snake sees the guy and eyes him suspiciously. As you do.

Inside the building, Snake catches up with Wheels and announces he's thought of a great name for their band: Snake and the Charmers. Wheels smiles politely and says he doesn't think Joey will like it. "Joey?" says Snake. "That guy knows nothing about names!" Oooh, burn. But apparently they've got to decide soon, because, as Snake says, "the talent show is next week, and we're going to be fabulous". I'm sure you are, Snake. I'm sure you are.

Snake asks Wheels if he noticed the man looking at him outside the school. "Looking at me?" asks Wheels. "Probably some pervert," says Snake cheerfully. How reassuring. The guys then discuss their report cards; neither of them did well. At least they have musical careers to look forward to, right?

On the PA, Mr Lawrence announces that a doctor from the Board of Health is coming to give a lecture on scalp hygiene, entitled "The Facts of Lice". I love this show.

Because at least 25% of the action in each episode must take place in a toilet, Wheels next runs into Joey in the boys' bathroom. Joey is busy forging his mother's signature on his report card, since he "forgot" to show it to his parents. As Wheels starts peeing (sigh), Joey remarks that he wishes he had Wheels's parents, since his own "have got, like, ZERO sense of humour". I don't know, his dad made that hilarious joke about child abuse before.

Also, Joey's decided that the band should be called Joey and the Joybuzzers. Wheels says it's fine, but Snake won't like it. "That guy knows nothing about names," sneers Joey. Apparently, "knowing something about names" was a prerequisite for coolness back in the day. Who knew?

Just as Mr Lawrence announces that one of the mythical other teachers has given birth to a bouncing baby boy, we cut to Spike and the twins. Nice. Spike is unwisely experimenting with power-dressing, sporting a huge shoulder-padded suit jacket and looking vaguely reminiscent of Hillary Clinton during her husband's first term in office. You know, except for the giant punk hairdo. She's complaining that Shane won't talk to her any more (really, probably a good thing, considering his classy treatment of the whole pregnancy situation).

Just in case anyone missed the end of the last episode, Spike quickly recaps her dilemma: "I'm too young to have a baby, I don't wanna be a mother, and I don't wanna have an abortion, either." Erika asks if Spike would have an abortion and tell her mother it was a miscarriage, but her line is mostly drowned out by the bell (I had to listen four times before I could figure out what she was saying), so… that goes nowhere.

People come into the classroom, and Shane very pointedly ignores Spike's attempts to catch his eye. Still a tool, then.

Everyone has to leave their signed report cards on Mr Raditch's desk, and when Joey leaves his, Raditch asks him what his parents made of it. Joey smarms that his parents said nothing because "they're not too concerned about school and stuff". This is probably not the best way to slip under Raditch's radar, because he announces that he'll have to "get them concerned" on Parents' Night, which is upcoming. At this, Joey collapses theatrically into his chair, and everyone stares and laughs at him, even Wheels. Traitor.

"I know some of you are worried about Parents' Night – don't be. It's not a conspiracy," announces Raditch. It would be a bit more convincing if he hadn't just tried to make Joey worry about Parents' Night.

After class, Raditch reminds everyone that there's a rehearsal for the Parents' Night talent show in five minutes' time. Once out in the corridor, Joey wails, "I forgot about Parents' Night!" while walking past a giant Parents' Night poster. Parents' Night is rapidly shaping up to be the new Photo Day. There's some light-hearted banter with Snake and Wheels over whether Joey's parents will kill him, or just break his arms, and Joey insists he only hid his report card in order to make his parents' lives easier. If only all kids were as thoughtful as Joey.

At this, Snake points out that Parents' Night was announced on the report cards, so Joey's parents have no idea it's on, so Joey should just forge a note from his parents saying they can't be there. Problem solved. Wheels points out that it's a stupid idea, but nobody listens.

Once they're gone, Heather and Erika drag Spike out of the classroom. "I don't know about this," Spike moans. "Oh look, he talked to me about it once. Wheels doesn't mind being adopted," says Heather. So… it turns out Wheels is adopted all of a sudden. Glad we got that straight. Spike says Wheels was just one of the lucky ones, and ended up with nice parents (even if they are fond of show tunes and alien conspiracy theories). The twins insist that there are lots of nice adoptive parents out there, and anyway, Spike doesn't want to have the baby or have an abortion, so she has no other option. So there.

Next we see the talent show rehearsal, and it looks like "talent" may be a slight exaggeration. Even by Degrassi standards, this is just completely bonkers.

So, some kid in a top hat and Timmy Mallett glasses is playing backing music on a keyboard. On the stage, Caitlin's wearing pink short-shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, an oversized pith helmet and a waist-length blonde wig; she's accompanied by Arthur, who's wearing a cavalier wig, a huge wooden necklace, and an "ethnic" shirt. This is his attempt at drag. Caitlin having caught the rap bug two episodes ago, she's somehow talked Arthur into doing a rap duet, with lyrics as follows:

Caitlin: "I'm Phyllis!"
Arthur: "I'm Fran!"
Both: "We're going south to get a man!/We'd better find one soon, we're getting really tense/And since he's got to be just right/We've stayed up all night/Making up a list of his requirements…"

Then, while attempting to dance, they trip over each other. Seriously, the whole thing is insane.

(Also, the routine seems so massively out of character for Caitlin that I can only assume it's some sort of feminist cautionary tale, in which Phyllis and Fran end up discovering political lesbianism before becoming Marxist revolutionaries in Peru.)

Backstage, Wheels and the guys are getting ready for their rehearsal. Joey wants to shoot their first music video on top of a building, but Snake thinks that's passé, and in true '80s style, wants to shoot it in a studio "with smoke machines and dancing girls!" "What do you do," asks Joey, "rent your ideas from Bozo the Clown?" Uh, yeah. Clowns are notorious for their clichéd music videos.

Joey, by the way, is wearing a huge black-and-grey wig. He looks like a badger. He is not in a position to criticise anyone else's aesthetic choices.

Just then, Spike appears in the doorway and asks Wheels for a word. They go out and sit on a convenient staircase. Meanwhile, Joey and Snake argue over whether the music video should have a dream sequence or not. But the real question is: should they lose the sax solo?

Spike asks, "You know I'm pregnant, right?" Wheels nods awkwardly. So yeah, I guess we're meant to assume that one of the twins talked, because it seems to be common knowledge from here on. Spike explains that she's thinking about putting the baby up for adoption, and Wheels nods awkwardly again. This isn't really going too well. "Seeing as you're adopted, I was wondering if you could ask you some stuff." Wheels finally realises where the conversation is going, and relaxes slightly.

Spike asks if he ever thinks about his birth parents, and he says, "Sometimes." She then asks if he knows anything about what happened, and he says all he knows is that they were too young to keep him and that he was born at 6am. When asked if he's mad at them for giving him up, he thinks and answers, "No… I don't think so." Basically, he's willing to help, but completely inarticulate.

Caitlin and Arthur have finished rehearsing. Arthur in particular is an awful dancer, and Ms Avery proceeds to damn them with faint, insincere praise: "Okay, not so bad… needs a little work but that's what rehearsals are for. Don't you get discouraged!" Both kids look completely crushed.

Next she calls for Joey and Snake and Wheels, and you can tell she's a freewheeling liberal because she actually calls Snake and Wheels by their nicknames. Wheels hastily tells Spike to let him know if she has any more questions, then joins the others on stage.

"I hope you guys know your music this time!" shouts Ms Avery. This raises the ghastly spectre of a previous rehearsal that went even worse than this one: Joey is just pawing at random notes on his keyboard, Wheels is playing the same note over and over again on his bass, and Snake's guitar seems to have no purpose other than making the speaker give off horrible feedback. "It sounds awful," Melanie whispers, while Ms Avery desperately tries to keep from laughing. Spike watches the guys for a minute, wondering if all adopted children go on to join atrocious bands, then beats a hasty retreat.

A little later, the guys are coming out of the building, and the worst part is that they actually think they sounded good. "That was the best rehearsal ever!" shouts Joey. "We've never played that well!" answers Snake. They all shout disjointed phrases like "excellent!" and "amazing!" and "all right!" and they are completely, utterly deluded.

Wheels goes off in one direction, Joey and Snake in another, and once Wheels is alone, the man in the yellow gloves gets out of his car and walks slowly to the school fence. Wheels sees him and stops walking. "You're Derek Wheeler, right?" asks the man. "I'm Mike Nelson. I'm your dad." And with that, a thousand Mystery Science Theater crossover fanfics were born.

Wheels stares back at the man, who keeps talking: "No, wait. It's true. You were born at Eastern General. 6am on a Friday. Your middle name is Michael. Let me show you something." He throws Wheels a little string of beads, some of which spell out "Nelson". "That's your birth necklace. They put it on you when you were born." Well, the name "birth necklace" would sort of suggest that, but has anyone else even heard of these things, or were they just invented so the writers would have something to hang some symbolism on?

"This is fake," says Wheels. "No, it's real," the guy answers. So that settles that question. Anyway, the guy, who I might as well refer to as Mike, says he just wants to talk, and there's no pressure, but he leaves Wheels a piece of paper with his phone number. He drives off, and Wheels takes the piece of paper and heads towards home, trying valiantly to look conflicted but actually just looking like the sun's in his eyes.

Later, Wheels is at home, staring at the necklace and the piece of paper, and I'm 99% sure he has a frieze of the Bayeux Tapestry on his bedroom walls. I'd mock him, but I'm actually pretty jealous. Also, that ridiculously elaborate drumming is back again. Derek's adopto-mom comes up to check that he's doing his homework, and he runs to his desk and pretends to be working.

"You know I don't like to nag you, but your report card wasn't very good," she tells him, in case we'd forgotten his earlier conversation with Snake. Wheels promises that he's nearly finished his homework, then, once she's gone, goes back to staring at the necklace and piece of paper. I love how people on TV can't think about a topic unless they're looking intently at some relevant object.

Next morning, Joey and Snake are still arguing over their conflicting visions of fame. "If we wanna sell the album we've got to go on tour!" Joey insists. "It'll be great – there'll be groupies, we'll have T-shirts that say 'Joey and the Joybuzzers'…" "I don't think my parents will let me miss that much school," Snake answers. Joey just points out that rock stars don't have to go to school. Which is admittedly true, but very few rock stars are 14 years old.

Up in the library, Wheels is staring morosely out the window. Joey comes over and shows him the fake note he's giving to Mr Raditch, and Wheels reads it out for our benefit. "Dear Mr Raditch: we regret to inform you that we are unable to attend parent-teacher night due to having a highly communicable disease." As forged notes go, it's pretty awesome, but Wheels just hands it back and goes back to angsting out the window. The others stare at him for a bit, then Snake asks him what's up.

Wheels explains about what happened yesterday. "Are you sure the guy's for real?" asks Snake. "There's a lot of weirdos out there." Yeah, perverts are always hanging around outside schools, pretending to be people's birth parents. Wheels points out that the guy did know a lot about him, and Google hasn't yet been invented, so he must be telling the truth.

And Wheels has made a massive miscalculation in telling his troubles to a pair of teenage boys. "This is great! I wish I was adopted – my parents are so boring," says Joey. "We could do a song about this!" Snake exclaims. "That's right!" Joey answers. "This is research!" Then they both start drumming on the table and chanting, "My dad is back, he's got lots of money…" Wheels goes back to staring out the window and inwardly vows never to tell them anything ever again.

Oh hey, speaking of birth fathers, here's Shane. He walks in and drifts over to sit on a couch, carefully ignoring Spike and the twins. Spike runs through her pregnancy dilemma yet again, for the sake of the more forgetful viewers: neither of them wants her to have an abortion or to have the baby. Hm, I'm getting the impression that teen pregnancy is a complicated issue with no easy answers… thanks, Degrassi writers! Also, Shane is in deep denial about the whole thing. "I just wish he'd talk to me," she sighs, as Shane buries himself in a textbook. Well, he may have screwed up two lives, but at least his grades will be really good.

Later on, Joey is frogmarching Wheels to a phone box. Wheels tries to voice some doubts, but Joey's having none of it. Wheels is so whipped he doesn't even close the door on the phone box before dialling, and just lets Joey stand there, breathing down his neck. As he gets through to Mike, Joey nods solemn encouragement, and there's a wholly inappropriate little synth flourish on the soundtrack.

After the commercial break, we are shown the most depressing restaurant ever. The shop front is a deathly grey and half the letters have peeled off. It's called [somebody]'s Grill, but the owner's name is now completely illegible, either because the sign is a million years old or because the place is so bad that nobody wanted to be held accountable. This is where food comes to die. Inside, Mike makes some chitchat with the waitress, then brings two milkshakes over to the waiting Wheels. "Pretty neat, eh?" he says chirpily. "We both like chocolate milkshakes – must be heredity." Wheels rolls his eyes, then semi-relents enough to ask Mike what he wanted to talk about.

Mike takes out his wallet and produces a black-and-white studio photo of a girl holding a baby. It's presumably Baby Wheels and his birth mother, although this isn't actually made clear. "She's pretty, eh?" asks Mike. Wheels forces an awkward smile; possibly he doesn't feel all that comfortable evaluating the attractiveness of his own mother.

Mike explains that he and Wheels's mother lost touch, and were only 16 when they had him, but didn't want to give him up, and they wanted to do the right thing, but didn't know what that was. Wheels listens, but it's fairly clear the whole encounter is torture for him. "We were just kids," says Mike. "I'm still a kid! Who else would go from town to town playing in a band?" I'm not sure if he's really being self-deprecating, or just pretending not to think he's the coolest guy ever. Anyway, Wheels's whole face lights up at this revelation, and he eagerly asks what Mike plays (drums) and says he plays bass. You know, just the one note for now, but hopefully he'll learn more some day. "That's heredity!" says Mike. Wheels grins and drinks his symbolic milkshake. Happy music plays.

Later, Wheels and Mike leave the restaurant, Mike giggling hysterically so we know they're still having a good time. Wheels asks, "How'd you find me? I thought you weren't supposed to know where I was." "We weren't supposed to know where you were," Mike admits, "or who your foster parents were. But I found out, kind of by accident." And that's all the explanation we're getting on that front. "I sort of kept tabs on you," Mike continues. "Whenever I'm in town I check the phonebook, make sure you're still here." Oh, and Wheels finally realises Mike was the crank-caller from the start of the episode (making him basically the last person on earth to figure this out).

Wheels turns to go, but Mike calls him back again. "We rehearse afternoons," he tells him. "We're not bad for a bar band. Why don't you come on down and check it out? How about tomorrow?" "Great, thanks, so I'll see you tomorrow!" says Wheels. So… tomorrow, then. As they go their separate ways, we see that bad mullets are also hereditary.

That night, Wheels is on the phone to Joey, and he's clutching the birth necklace so we know he's still thinking about Mike. He enthuses wildly to Joey about how Mike is nice and is in "a real rock band!" and invites Joey along to watch them rehearse. Joey, of course, is tied with Kathleen for the position of "last person you should ever bring along to any kind of possibly sensitive encounter".

Just then, Wheels's parents get home, and once Wheels hangs up, his dad earnestly asks him, "Hey Derek! Ever heard of a group called the Gourmet Scum?" Ahahaha, best band name ever. Wheels says the Gourmet Scum are "amazing", and his dad proudly produces a pair of tickets to their concert tomorrow. Wheels looks stricken, and says he can't go tomorrow, because he has a rehearsal for the talent show. And it looks like Wheels's special talent is shattering his dad's hopes and dreams, because Old Man Wheels is utterly crushed.

Next morning, at school, Spike and Shane are having a vicious row. Spike tells him to face up to what's going on, and he says he can't do much more than he's already doing (i.e. nothing at all). Well, at least they're talking. Meanwhile, Joey and Snake are still arguing about band names.

Joey heads into the bathroom, still talking to himself about how "Snake and the Sneeze" is a stupid name, and finds Wheels moping in the corner. And who could blame him? He's wearing a white poloneck under a brown diamond-pattern sweater vest. I'd hide in the bathroom too if I was dressed like that.

Joey, in an unusual display of awareness of other people's feelings, asks Wheels what's wrong. Wheels explains that his dad asked him to go to a concert last night. "I thought you were going to your other dad's band rehearsal," says Joey. "Mike's not my dad, ok?" Wheels snaps. "I've already got a dad." Joey is completely baffled, but apologises anyway. In case the audience is as stupid as Joey, Wheels explains that he feels bad for lying to his parents. "Come on!" says Joey, back to his old insensitive self. "How many times do you get to see a real live band?" Uh.. but Wheels is passing up the opportunity to see an almost certainly better band, so that just doesn't make a lick of sense.

After school, Joey and Wheels arrive at a stabtastic-looking pub called the Duke of Connaught, which apparently existed until quite recently: one review site claims, "This dive bar was the classic place to hang out back in the 90's. Unfortunately it was closed most likely due to illegal activities and depressing people." And it's about to get pretty depressing now, let me tell you.

Inside, the place is empty except for the band (Mike and the Drifters, which: first of all, what kind of band is named after the drummer? also, that name seems sort of copyright-infringey). And oh Christ, are they awful. I mean, they can carry a tune, more or less, but it's horrible rambling instrumental cock-rock, and even though we only hear them play for about 20 seconds, it feels like it goes on for fucking ever. Give me Caitlin and Arthur's drag rap any day.

Anyway, once the horror has temporarily abated, Mike jumps up to say hi to Wheels, and proudly introduces him to the others. "Hey guys, check it out – this is Derek, my kid!" Wheels stares at him in outrage, while the band express their amazement: "Hey, you never told us you had a kid!" (ouch), "Man, he sure looks like you!" (untrue except for the mullet), "Does this mean we get to call you Dad?" (buh?).

Wheels flips out at this: "I belong to my mum and dad! I'm not his!" Joey frantically tries to shush him, and Mike tries to reason with him, but Wheels just keeps ranting: "Stay away from me. What did you come back for? You're messing everything up." Ugh, the kid misses one Gourmet Scum concert and apparently his life is ruined. Teenagers. "I'm not trying to mess anything up. I care abote you," Mike protests. "Yeah," says Wheels. "You care abote me so much you got rid of me? I was a mistake." He turns to go, then stops: "And I don't want your stupid necklace, either." In all fairness, jewellery is rarely a good gift to give a 14-year-old boy.

Wheels storms out, and Joey runs after him. "Forget it, Joey. I'm not going back. Ever," Wheels emos. "But they're a real baaaand!" wails Joey. Like I said: pretty much the worst person Wheels could have brought along.

Later, Wheels gets home, and… why the hell is there a framed photo of some jellybeans on the wall? Anyway, his parents are sitting in the pitch dark for some reason, waiting for him. "Everything's going to be all right," his mother announces out of nowhere. "What?" asks Wheels sensibly. "Mike telephoned," his dad explains, and yes, he actually says "telephoned". Because he is just that old-fashioned.

"He apologised for any trouble he caused, as well he might," says Wheels's mom, who is also old-fashioned. Anyway, Wheels's parents tell him that it's ok to be curious about his birth parents, and they totally support him. And this backfires spectacularly: "Don't you want me any more?" asks Wheels. "I don't want Mike. I want you! I wish things were like the way they were!" And then he storms off to his room, possibly the only teenager ever to have a tantrum because he loves his parents so much.

Next morning, Joey and Snake are still arguing about band names (yawn) when Raditch calls Joey over. "Real shame my parents can't come to Parents' Night," Joey remarks. Raditch tells him, "The note was so sad that I just called your parents to express my sympathy… they were very curious about the note and they promised to be here." So, Joey is rumbled, to the surprise of nobody except himself, and that whole scene was basically filler.

Oh hey, Spike and Shane are having another argument. "I don't like being told what to do!" yells Spike, who's wearing a handmade grandma cardigan, in a shade of pinky beige that thankfully doesn't exist any more, yet again betraying how the wardrobe people on this show had absolutely no idea how punks dress. "You didn't get pregnant by yourself, you know – I have some say here," says Shane. "One dumb mistake and you're in charge of my life?" Spike retorts. Wait, what? Yesterday they were fighting because he didn't take an interest, and now they're fighting because he does? Dammit, show! Make more sense!

"I thought you liked me," Shane sighs, irrelevantly. "Sure I like you," says Spike (I really don't know why, since he's been completely unlikable throughout), "but we're only fourteen, and we're not in love or anything." Shane responds calmly and maturely by flouncing off in a huff.

Wheels comes over to ask what's up. "Shane and I aren't going to see each other any more," Spike explains. Wheels stares at the floor awkwardly. He did ask. "I'm still thinking of putting the baby up for adoption," she continues. Wheels keeps staring at the floor. "But what happens if I love it too much to give it away?" she asks. Wheels unhelpfully tells her to "do what's right", but Spike complains that she doesn't know what that is. Oh hey, that sounds familiar! Do I sense an impending lesson?

Wheels goes over to his locker, and Spike follows him, clearly reckoning that a confidant who gives no advice at all is still better than Erika "you can't get pregnant your first time" Farrell. "If I do give it up for adoption, I'd like to meet it later on, just to explain why I had to give it up," she says. Wheels remains completely silent and is looking acutely uncomfortable with this whole conversation. "You don't think that's wrong, do you?" asks Spike, possibly just to check if he can still hear her. "No," says Wheels hastily, perhaps because he suddenly understands his bio-dad's motivations, or perhaps because he just wants Spike to leave him alone.

That evening, he's at home practicing the bass, and he's clearly had a breakthrough because he can now play two notes. Go Wheels! His mother passes his door, and he calls her back to make sure she knows about Parents' Night, and to ask if she and his dad will stay to watch his band afterwards. "We wouldn't miss it for the world!" she says. "My son, the star!" Even Wheels knows that she's slightly overstating things (two notes is still not a lot), but she just tells him, "You don't see it through our eyes." So, despite the fact that they previously teased him for his taste in music, it seems his parents still love him enough to sit through an awful talent show. Awww. Wheels ponders this for a moment, then goes back to playing his two notes. Not terribly well.

Aaaaugh, wait. I take it back. I will gladly listen to Wheels playing two notes for an hour rather than have to watch another scene of Mike's horrible band playing. Thankfully, Wheels turns up again, and eventually they notice him and shut up. Oh ew, the guitarist is wearing a leather waistcoat.

Under the watchful eyes of his bandmates, Mike goes over to Wheels and apologises for, you know, stalking Wheels and going behind his parents' backs and so on. "I was afraid they'd say no and I couldn't see you," he explains. Yeah… that makes the stalking more creepy, not less.

"Is it ok if we don't see each other for a bit?" asks Wheels. "But I'd like to call you some time. Later." "Yeah, sure," says Mike sadly. "See you, Derek." This whole thing is made much more awkward by the fact that Mike's bandmates are all standing about two metres away, not even pretending not to listen.

"Most of my friends call me Wheels," says Wheels. Mike smirks like he knows what a stupid nickname that is, but all he says is, "Ok, Wheels." "You still got my necklace?" Wheels asks. "Your necklace?" "Yeah, my necklace." If you say "necklace" too many times it doesn't sound like a word any more. Mike digs around in his pocket and throws the necklace to Wheels, who catches it and smiles. End credits.

Oh, and we never find out what happens on Parents' Night.

Dubious lessons of the week: Adoptive parents are boring; birth parents are cool. But both kinds of parent will give you crappy birthday presents. Also, never ever talk to a 14-year-old boy about your problems.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

S01 E11 – It's Late!

Finally, as the episode title suggests, we have come to the infamous Teen Pregnancy Plotline. Anyone who was even marginally aware of Degrassi back in the day knew that some chick got knocked up in it. The story won the show something called an International Emmy and was a big part of why it became so famous. More importantly, it also features some of the most ham-handed foreshadowing and attempts at being educational in Degrassi history. Which means it's time for another Degrassi drinking game! Grab some Canadian booze and get ready to get as drunk as Stephanie Kaye at the big school dance.

We start at Lucy's place, where a party is winding down. You can tell it was a wild party, though, because there's popcorn strewn over every available surface. Nothing says "fun" like popcorn-flinging! And it seems everyone's getting lucky tonight. The first thing we see is Shane and Spike making out in the hallway. In the living room, people are slow-dancing; Heather is dancing with Tim, Snake is dancing with (and kissing) some extra in a lumberjack shirt, and Erika is dancing with Wai Lee. As Lucy's going up the stairs, she meets Joey coming down, and he's followed by… Wheels. Ok, some of the kids are getting luckier than others.

They congratulate her on what a great party it was. "My parents would never let me have a party if they weren't around," remarks Wheels. "Lucy's are never around," Joey whispers to him. What, even Joey knows about her abandonment? Obviously Voula told everyone, possibly in revenge for Lucy getting her arrested.

Joey and Wheels go down the hallway, where they find Shane kissing Spike. In an incredibly creepy move, they both start stroking Spike's shoulder, and when she tells them to go away, Joey asks, "What's the matter? Can't we all share?" AAAAAUGH MENTAL IMAGES.

Oddly enough, Spike is not all that keen for a foursome, and Shane leads her into a convenient nearby bedroom, shutting the door behind them. (Wait, if Lucy's bedroom is in the basement, and her parents' is on the ground floor, what the hell is upstairs?) Joey laughs and says to Wheels, "Let's go over [to the kitchen] and pick up some – " either "chicks" or "chips", I can't tell which he says, but I can tell which he's more likely to get. (The sound and lighting for this whole scene are awful; it's hard to hear, and impossible to see anyone's face properly.)

Spike sits down on the bed. Shane smirks (I think?) and sits down next to her, and they lie down. The whole thing looks incredibly awkward.

Back in the living room, Heather comes over to Erika and taps her on the shoulder, saying it's time to go. "Now?" asks Erika in dismay, then says a regretful goodbye to Wai Lee. I mean… Wai Lee? Is he that much of a catch? He's wearing a tan sweatshirt to a make-out party, for Chrissakes! (Although Snake seems to be wearing something pastel pink and sort of lacy, and has totally scored, so I don't really know what to think.)

The twins start looking for Spike, and Joey directs them to the bedroom, adding in an insinuating tone that Shane's in there too. The girls roll their eyes as if he'd suggested something totally ridiculous. What do they think is going on in there? "Spike!" yells Erika at the bedroom door. "Heather and me are leaving – are you going to come?" Isn't that kind of a personal question?

Erika realises that the door is locked, and wants to know what the "big idea" is. "Come on!" she yells. "What are you doing in there?" Wait, isn't she the streetwise twin? How has she not figured out what's going on?

And the scene just ends there, with the twins shouting at the locked door and everyone else staring at them. So… I have no idea how that whole thing ends. I mean, other than the fact that Spike and Shane totally do it. Duh.

Anyway, after the credits, it's morning, presumably somewhat more than two weeks later. Spike's being dropped off at school by her mother, who's lecturing her: "Christine, you know, when you're late [drink!] and I have to drive you to school, then that makes me late… What's the matter with you these days? [drink!] You do nothing around the house – you're thoroughly unpleasant to live with." Spike snaps back, "Well, maybe if you stopped treating me like a little baby – " Drink! "Stop acting like one!" shouts her mother. "Listen, it isn't easy raising you by myself [drink!] – a little co-operation from you would make things a lot better!" Spike gets out of the car and storms off to school. She's wearing yet another pair of fugly trousers, by the way: grey, very baggy, very tapered, and two inches too short. They are most certainly not punk.

In the classroom, Mr Raditch is talking to his class. "This morning I'd like to talk to you a little about a decision that you're going to have to make in the very near future." Drink! Just then, Spike comes in, and Raditch complains that "being late [drink!] is becoming a habit. It's disappointing when such a student sets such a bad example." Drink! I wasn't kidding about the foreshadowing.

Anyway, Raditch rambles on about how they're going to be choosing courses for high school soon. Spike looks over at Shane, but when he smiles at her, she turns away and stares at her desk. He looks frustrated.

After class, everyone's leaving, and Voula's wearing a sweater vest over her peasant blouse. It's a whole new level of ugly. Also, Alexa is wearing Caitlin's badly handmade pink sweater from last episode. Anyway, one of the twins asks Spike what she wants to be when she grows up, but Spike snaps that she doesn't want to talk about "careers and stuff". The twins are offended.

Just then, Shane pervs over to tell her, "Lucy's having another party like the one last month." Like the one where we had sex! We could have sex again! Please can we have sex again? Spike angrily tells him that she doesn't want to go, then flounces off.

Joey, the king of tact and timing, immediately corners Shane and demands to know what really happened at Lucy's party. "Wouldn't you like to know?" Shane smugs. Um… acting like that is probably not the best way to convince a girl to sleep with you again, Shaney boy.

"I bet they were just kissing," Wheels mutters to Joey. What's it to them, anyway?

Well, time for a light-relief subplot, and thankfully it's not an Arthur and Yick one this time. Melanie is reading her horoscope to Kathleen. Unfortunately, her diction is kind of bad, so I can't hear the exact wording, but the word "romance" is in there somewhere. "I could do with a good romance," says Melanie brightly. "Course, what I'd really like is a hickey."

Kathleen, predictably, says that hickeys are gross. "They're not gross!" says Melanie. "They're romantic. If you've got one, it means you've got a boyfriend. If you've got a boyfriend, you can go out on dates!" Ah, Melanie logic. I've missed Melanie. And speaking of dates, Snake the Man-God walks by. Melanie says hi, he says hi back, then walks off. As always.

"I give up," she sighs. "I'll never have a boyfriend." Kathleen points out that she's still only 12. "Twelve and three-quarters, actually," Melanie argues. "That's old." Bless. Just then, they pass Arthur and Yick… oh, I spoke too soon. Feck. Melanie says hi to Arthur, but ignores Yick, who stares after her wistfully.

"You like Melanie?" asks Arthur. Yick says yeah, but he's too scared to ask her out because she might say no. "She might says yes," Arthur tells him. "You never know till you try." Um, all of Arthur's experience with girls comes from once having nearly watched Swamp Sex Robots, which presumably had some girls in it, but we'll never even know that for sure. I wouldn't set great store by his advice.

Oh man, Joey and Wheels are peeing again. Why, Degrassi, why? Joey is rambling about how cool Lucy's parties are, because her parents are loose and don't love her. "Would your mom and dad leave you alone for a party?" he asks. "My mom won't even let me turn the lights off," Wheels admits. Wait, like, as in shutting up the house last thing at night, or she actually won't let him operate the light switches? Canadian parents are strict, you guys.

"No way Shane and Spike would have gotten into the bedroom at my house," Joey remarks. "Do you think they really did it?" asks Wheels. Bearing in mind the party was several weeks ago, I think this is developing into an unhealthy fixation. Just then, Shane comes in, and Joey immediately asks him, "If you really did it… tell us what it was like."

Shane looks at them very seriously and asks, "Why, you guys never had sex?" "Yeah, of course I've had sex," Joey says quickly. "Yah, me too!" Wheels chips in. "Lots of times!" They are both very bad liars. As all the guys stand in front of the mirror and comb their ridiculously flowing '80s locks, Joey again asks Shane what happened, and Shane tells him it's none of his business.

Wheels, who has slightly more brains than Joey, asks a rather more pertinent question: "How come Spike won't talk to you any more?" Shane is surprisingly unbothered by this particular bit of nosiness, and says she's just in a bad mood. "Probably her period or something," laughs Joey. Drink! Joey and Wheels walk off, chuckling merrily at the thought of Spike's period. Guys are weird.

Meanwhile, Spike goes into the girls' bathroom. She stares at her face in the mirror, the way people on TV always do when they're worried about something, and people in real life never do, unless it's acne they're worried about. The twins follow her into the bathroom and demand to know what's up.

After some angsty staring at the far wall, Spike turns around and announces, "My period's way late – it's always been on time before. I think I'm pregnant." The twins look horrified, and there's a long pause, during which we can hear the crappy plumbing making weird noises.

"But you can't be pregnant unless you've had sex!" says Heather. Uh, yeah… about that. Spike hangs her head. "You did it?" asks Heather. "With Shane?" asks Erika. Why are they so surprised? They were listening at the door! Spike continues to look tortured; the plumbing continues to be distracting.

Out in the corridor, Yick tries to say hi to Melanie but she ignores him again. "It looks to me like you need some serious help. From me," says Arthur. "What do you know about girls?" asks Yick. It's a legitimate question. "When you've got a sister like mine, you learn fast," replies Arthur, which is a statement that becomes more unsavoury the more you think about it, so please let's not think about it.

Back in the girls' bathroom, Spike and the twins are still talking. "If it's the first time, you're ok!" says Erika. "You can't get pregnant the first time." "I don't know if that's true," Heather meebles. "Of course it is," Erika insists. "Everyone knows that." Everyone except for scientists and doctors, that is. But Erika's suddenly decided she's the fount of all reproductive knowledge, and insists that Spike's period is just randomly irregular all of a sudden and EVERYTHING WILL BE JUST FINE. Spike stares into the sink and the twins awkwardly hug her.

Later, Spike walks into her mother's hair salon, and… look, you might as well just start drinking now and not stop until this scene is over. Spike's mom is styling some woman's hair, and the woman is telling her that someone they know is pregnant – "Again!" Spike's mom is delighted. Spike says hi, and her mother apologises for being cranky that morning. The client keeps talking. "Six kids and another one on the way. She seems very happy – she certainly must enjoy being a mother!" Spike, who's sweeping the floor, looks increasingly uncomfortable.

"Mom," asks Spike, "some friends and I were talking and someone said you couldn't get pregnant the first time you had sex…" "Wanna bet?" asks her mother. "They say one in five girls gets pregnant the first time." Wait, what? That's just a spectacular lie! What the hell, Degrassi writers?

Not content with repeating made-up statistics, Spike's mother proceeds to give Spike, and the viewers, a quick run-down on pregnancy myths. "It's amazing what some people believe, like you can't get pregnant if you stand up immediately afterwards – not true." "Or, you can't get pregnant if you keep your eyes closed," adds her client helpfully. Is everyone taking notes? As Spike goes behind a convenient partition to angst in private, her mother keeps talking. "All these myths! I wish someone had told me the facts. I was seventeen when I had this one. I was dreaming of going to university, but I had to leave school and go to work." "Well, Christine's a good girl," says the client. "You can be sure she's going to university…" OK OK OK, being a teen mother is hard! We get it!

Back at school, Arthur the Date Doctor is coaching Yick on how to ask Melanie out. "She can't say no after a compliment," he says, and this is clearly the day for sweeping, wholly unfounded statements. They stop halfway up the stairs for Yick to practise complimenting. He gazes into Arthur's eyes and breathes, "Your eyes are so blue, they remind me of swimming pools." However, Snake and Tim overhear this, and Snake looks deeply, deeply weirded out by it. And who could blame him? Not the gay thing, I mean; it's just that Arthur has brown eyes (and, in fact, so does Melanie).

Anyway, since that went so well, the guys go up to find Melanie, who is still rambling at Kathleen about horoscopes. Yick stares up at her (she's about a foot taller than him) and tells her, "Your eyes are so blue they seem like pimming swools." The girls burst out laughing and mock him mercilessly until he runs off, pausing only to call Arthur a broomhead.

After lunch, Spike's in the library with the twins. Heather's nagging her to get a pregnancy test, but Spike says it's too embarrassing. "I heard it's easy!" expositions Heather. "You can buy a test and do it at home, or go to the clinic and they'll do it. They won't tell your mom." I hope everyone's taking notes. Or at least another drink. Spike insists she's not going to the clinic, but the twins helpfully/nosily offer to go with her, and Heather points out that if she is pregnant, she'll have to see a doctor anyway.

"If I am pregnant, my mum'll kill me!" says Spike, then stares over at Shane, who's been sitting conveniently within her line of sight the whole time. He smiles tentatively at her, and is rewarded with death stares from all three girls. He hastily goes back to his book.

Once the bell goes, he grabs her by the arm on the way out, but she shakes him off. He follows her anyway. "Wait up! I thought we were going steady; why are you treating me like this?" Wait, going steady? Um, it's 1987, not 1957.

"You really want to know?" asks Spike. She drags him from the corner of the hallway where they're standing to… another corner, which isn't any less private. I suppose they needed to stretch out the scene a bit. "Remember Lucy's party?" she asks. Shane smiles sleazily. "Yeah," he tells her. His tone is wonderfully inappropriate for this moment. "I think I'm going to have a baby," Spike announces. Shane asks if she's joking, and when she says no, he just backs away. Literally, like, without a word, just backs away and is outta there. Shane is one classy, classy guy.

After the break, it's the next day. Voula's proudly showing off photos of a baby. Drink! When Spike and Shane comes in, Alexa calls them over: "Come and see the pictures of Voula's sister's new baby!" Um, either he's not that new, or I feel awfully sorry for Voula's sister, because he's the size of a two-year-old.

"I can't wait till I have a baby," Alexa announces. Take a big drink now. "Are you kidding?" asks Lucy. "Babies pee twelve times a day, so you're always changing diapers." Spike looks horrified at this newsflash. "Oh, but just imagine how great it'd be," Alexa sighs. "Someone to love you for the rest of your life." Spike looks up at Shane, who looks hastily away. Still classy. "Yeah, really great," says Lucy, "especially when they wake up in the middle of the night, so you don't get any sleep." Spike looks startled at this, too. Wait, babies wake in the night? She exchanges another awkward look with Shane, but just then Mr Raditch comes in, so everyone has to sit down.

Raditch announces that he has "a bit of a treat" for them: the Victorian Romantic poets. Par-tay! He starts to read out a love poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Spike tries to make soulful eye contact with Shane, but he pointedly stares out the window until she gets the message. Ouch. Joey notices something's going on between them, and the twins exchange looks that say, "This really isn't going well."

Later, Shane comes into the boys' bathroom, and engages in some half-hearted cubicle-door-punching, but he doesn't get too into it, because he's quite middle-class. Joey and Wheels, who apparently have nothing better to do, follow him in. Joey, at this point, is a man possessed, and instantly demands to know, "At Lucy's party – did you or didn't you?" Why the hell is he so invested in this?

Shane starts to go, then turns to the others. "What would you guys do if you got someone pregnant?" "Spike's gonna have a baby?" asks Joey. "No!" says Shane. "It's just a question, that's all. I mean, it wouldn't be the guy's problem, right?" Shane McKay, ladies and gentleman: always classy. "It'd sort of be his baby too," Joey points out. Shane looks like he was really hoping that wasn't the answer, and shuffles away. Look, Shane, if Joey Jeremiah is less of an irresponsible douchebag than you, you should just give up now.

"You think Spike's pregnant?" asks Wheels. "Nah, they never really did it," says Joey. "He's bluffing so we'd think they did. Right?" "Right," Wheels agrees. Um, right.

Later, as the Grade Sevens are leaving their classroom (hey, they were being taught by the elusive Ms Baxter!), Melanie reads Kathleen her horoscope. Apparently she's due to get a surprise gift. Arthur and Yick overhear this, and Arthur promptly runs off to steal a vase of flowers from Ms Baxter's desk. He tells Yick, "She's got to talk to you if you give her flowers. Girls like to get flowers. They think it's romantic or something." I think Arthur hasn't quite understood the bit where girls don't like to be given stolen property, or patronised by porn-watching geek kids. Yick complains that he feels like a broomhead, and Arthur sensibly doesn't deny this, just tells him to hurry up and give Melanie the flowers already.

Unfortunately, because Yick is a broomhead, he shoves the flowers right in Melanie's face. As only happens on TV, she instantly starts sneezing (and throwing all her papers up in the air, wtf?). "She's got allergies! Flowers make her sneeze!" Kathleen unnecessarily expositions. Yick runs off, blaming Arthur as he goes.

After school, the twins are lying in wait for Spike. "We're coming to the clinic with you," announces Erika. "I don't want to go to the clinic!" Spike hisses. The twins decide that they'll buy her a test instead, because "you'll go crazy if you don't find out". That, or they'll go crazy from unsatisfied curiosity.

Yick is feeling dejected at his terminal lack of game. "I'll have lots more ideas tomorrow," Arthur reassures him. Yick snaps, "I don't think I want to try any more of your ideas. They don't work so good." So he decides to just man up and ask her out… which was actually Arthur's original idea.

He runs after Melanie and asks her to go skating with him. How delightfully Canadian! "You mean a date?" she asks eagerly. She turns to grin at Kathleen, who makes herself scarce, in possibly the only recorded incident of Kathleen behaving tactfully. (Arthur's standing about six inches behind Yick, because tact is not his strong point.) "How about Saturday morning?" says Yick. Yeah, nothing is more romantic than getting up early on a Saturday morning.

Melanie asks Yick what star sign he is, and he says Aquarius. "I'm Cancer," she replies. "I don't think we're supposed to get along. But you are a boy, and it is a date. Okay!" That acceptance was so lukewarm, it was worse than a refusal.

At the chemist's, the girls are stealthily wandering around the aisles. At least they've had the good sense to stay away from Mama Kaye's shop. Erika pulls down a test and loudly reads the instructions. "Collect sample after first urine in the morning. Test takes two hours before results can be read." OMG, two hours? Heather looks at another one. "This one only takes an hour. Do you think one's better?" "Probably both are good, as long as you use them properly," says Erika for the benefit of the audience (so drink up!). I hope you're all taking notes, girls: '80s pregnancy tests are really, really, really crap.

Test safely purchased, the girls leave the shop, and the twins wish Spike good luck and promise to call tomorrow. Off she goes, and we hear some super-gritty, angsty synth music playing over a montage of her walking home. This is soon to become the Spike 'n Shane theme tune, and it plays every damn time they have a dramatic moment together. Which will be often.

Once she gets home, she says hello to her mother, and rather idiotically she's carrying the test in her hand, rather than hiding it in her bag. Her mother offers her dinner, but she says she's not hungry, and is going straight to bed, and there's nothing suspicious about that, no siree Bob. Her mother insists she needs to eat, and then sees the bag from the chemist's, and asks what's in it. Spike insists there's nothing in it, and then tries to hide it behind her back, and then just bolts and runs up to her room and lies on her bed in a rage. She is pretty terrible at acting casual.

Her mother follows her up to her room, and demands to know what's going on. Spike throws a full-scale teenage hissy fit. "I want to go live somewhere else! You don't care about me! You don't care how I think or feel! You know nothing what it's like to be fourteen!" Her mother starts to flounce out of the room, but then Spike calls her back and throws the pregnancy test at her. Um, way to keep a secret, Spike.

Her mother takes out the test, which is some kind of freakish contraption that looks like a cross between an hourglass and a Glade plug-in. "Oh no," she whispers, "you didn't." Spike lies face down on the bed and cries. The tense drama of the moment is slightly undermined by the rustling of the actresses' clothes/the carpet/Spike's blankets, which is for some reason much too loud, and why is the sound so terrible on this show?

Just then the phone rings, and Spike's mother actually goes to answer it. It's Shane calling for Spike, and she says Spike will call back, and look, I know she's stressed and all, but she has the weirdest, most robotic telephone manner ever.

And then they bond, and so on, and the Spike 'n Shane Theme Tune plays in the background, and the point is, the mother clearly isn't as angry as Spike had feared she would be. So the moral is, if you get pregnant, your mother will be totally OK with it. Yay!

Next morning, Spike and her mother are in the car outside a clinic. Spike sensibly points out that she could have just done the test at home, but her mother says that she likes the doctor, and if Spike's pregnant she'll need to see the doctor anyway, and anyway they really need to pad the episode out by adding in this extra scene. So that's that. "I'm sorry," says Spike. "It just happened. I wanted him to like me." "The number of us who've said that!" laughs her mother. "I didn't like it much," Spike admits. So… I suppose that answers Erika's question at the start of the episode?

Just then, Shane arrives, looking shifty. "I don't know why you told him," Spike's mom mutters. "If I am pregnant, it's his baby too, right?" asks Spike. Her mother looks at her watch and says the doctor should have the results by now. What, was the doctor injecting a rabbit or something? She offers to go in, but Spike says she and Shane will go together. Her mother acts supportive, then cries when Spike is gone. More gritty music. Because this is a gritty show!

Spike joins Shane out in the car park. "I'm glad you came," she tells him. But wait, isn't that what got them into this situation in the first place? Ok, ok, I'll stop now. They go into the clinic, leaving Spike's mother to freak out in peace.

Then we cut to a montage of Yick and Melanie ice-skating. They laugh a great deal. They skate. They have lots of wholesome fun. Ice-skating: better than inept, pregnancy-causing sex.

Some time later, Spike and Shane come out of the clinic. They walk towards the car, very slowly. Spike's mother gets out and walks towards them, very slowly. Everyone stares at each other for a bit. "Mum," says Spike, "I'm pregnant." Absolutely nobody is surprised, because otherwise this episode would have been a massive waste of time. Spike and her mother hug, sad music plays, and Shane watches them from a safe distance.

Next day, Spike's sitting alone in a stairwell at school. Some girl asks if she's ok, and Spike insists she is. Then continues to sit in the semi-darkness, staring at her hands. The girl, who is gullible, leaves her alone.

Then Shane turns up, and sits next to her. Because the episode needs some kind of wrap-up, they proceed to have a staged debate on the whole issue; they bicker about whose fault this is, then wonder what to do next. "You don't want me to marry you, do you?" asks Shane, still keepin' it classy. Spike just gives him a withering look. Obviously she's already figured out that being married to Shane would be the only thing worse than being pregnant by him.

Next she suggests having the baby and giving it up for adoption, then adds, "But I don't want to get big and stuff!" Actually, this show consistently presents weight gain as one of the major reasons why teen pregnancy sucks. I don't know why they didn't also have a special episode on how hard it is to find fashionable maternity clothes.

Then she suggests having an abortion. Shane is all anti, and there's a lot of obligatory "It's got rights!" "But what about my rights?" etc. They both agree on one thing: this whole situation is kind of a downer.

"Why is this happening?" asks Spike. "It was just a little mistake." "Sort of a big mistake," mumbles Shane. The closing credits start up and we freeze on Spike's face, as she realises just how much of a douchebag she's dealing with.

Dubious lessons of the week: Underage sex on TV always leads to pregnancy. Your mother will be fine about the whole thing, but the guy will be a total asshole. And pregnancy will make you fat. Go ice-skating instead.

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.