Degrassi Junior High “Parents' Night” (part 4 of 4)
Cut to Wheels at home, on the phone with Joey, talking about how cool his birth dad is. He invites Joey to come along tomorrow to the rehearsal. Just then, Wheels’ boring old adoptive parents come home, and he immediately hangs up.
Wheels’ Dad has a surprise: Somehow, through someone at work, he’s acquired two tickets to a concert, and the band playing is called “The Gourmet Scum”.
As we’ll learn later on in the series, the Gourmet Scum is a vaguely Sex Pistols-ish band that is loved by everyone at Degrassi. In a notable episode a few seasons from now, Shane will take the money he should be giving to Spike for child support, and spend it on Gourmet Scum tickets instead. Oh, and after the concert, he’ll drop LSD and jump off a bridge, and end up with permanent brain damage. No, I’m not making that up.
So Wheels’ Dad asks Wheels if he wants to go. Wheels says the Gourmet Scum are “amazing”, but then he learns the concert is tomorrow after school, which is the same time he’s supposed to go watch his birth dad’s band play. Wheels makes up a lie about having to rehearse for the talent show, and his dad looks bummed. Yep, just when he finally thought he had found a way to bond with his rock-loving son. But birth dad or no birth dad, I think Wheels made the right call here. Who goes to see the Gourmet Scum with their dad, especially when their dad is a homelier version of Woody Allen?
Cut to school. Spike and Shane are bickering in the hallway about… something. Couldn’t tell you what. Their arguing fades into the background as Joey and Snake walk past, and they’re still haggling over the band’s name. It seems Snake wants to call the band “Snake and the Sneeze”, which could be the dumbest potential band name of all time. He thinks it has “class”, but Joey really likes the name “Joey and the Jumpstarts”. I’ll just skip the rest of this conversation, because I think you get the idea.
Joey heads into the bathroom, where he finds Wheels leaning on a stall door and brooding to himself. Seriously, there’s nowhere else Wheels can go to think? He has to do it in the bathroom? When I was in junior high, all I could think about in the bathroom was how hellish the smell was, and how I wanted to get out of there before I passed out. I guess public school bathrooms in Toronto are a lot cleaner.
Wheels says his dad asked him to go see the Gourmet Scum tonight, and Joey says he thought they were going to go see “Other Dad” rehearse. That’s awesome. “Other Dad”. I’ll have to use that one. Wheels gets defensive, saying Mike isn’t his dad.
Wheels is all broken up, because he lied to his dad to get out of the concert. Joey has no clue what the big deal is, because he probably lies to his parents at least twice a day. I think he’s lied to five different people just in the course of this episode. He says Wheels’ parents will never know, but Wheels says he’ll know, and that’s what matters.
It seems Wheels got over his guilt, because the next thing we see is Joey and Wheels heading to a bar to watch Mike’s band rehearse. It’s still daylight outside, so it’s okay for 14 year olds to go to a bar, I guess. As they head inside, they pass a sign for Mike’s band, which is creatively named “Mike and the Drifters”. Actually, that’s not just a name. Mike’s entire band is made up of homeless vagrants.
The boys enter to the sounds of a hot jam session, and they see Mike and his band up on a small stage. And it looks like Dave James really can play the drums. I’m guessing that’s the main reason he got the part. Either that, or the script was written specifically with his drumming abilities in mind. Between this and somebody on the crew happening to have a “Nelson” birth necklace, this episode must have really written itself.
And there are four other guys in the band. There’s the customary guitar player with long blonde hair, the customary bald guy on bass, the customary bearded guy on keyboards, etc. In fact, I’m pretty sure these guys were a band in real life, because no casting director could ever possibly assemble a group of actors that look this much like an over the hill bar band. But strangely enough, the guy on keyboards isn’t wearing a skunk wig.
Mike sees Wheels and stops the rehearsal. He announces to the whole band, “This is Derek… my kid!” The other guys are surprised to find out he has a son, and they say Wheels looks just like him, and they crack jokes about having to call him “Dad” from now on, and so forth.
Wheels suddenly freaks out. “I belong to my mom and dad! I’m not his!” Joey tries to talk him down, suggesting maybe this isn’t the time or place. But Wheels is too far gone. He yells at Mike to stay away, and says he shouldn’t have come back, and he’s “messing everything up”.
Mike says he cares “a-boat” Wheels, but Wheels points out he cared so much he gave Wheels away. Wheels throws his birth necklace back at Mike and runs out. And Joey almost has a look on his face like he wants to stay and watch the band rehearse anyway, but eventually he runs out after Wheels.
And I don’t get it. If Wheels thought Mike was screwing everything up, why did he come here to watch his band rehearse in the first place? And as far as I can tell, the only bad thing that’s happened since Mike came back was Wheels lying to his parents. That’s not exactly Mike’s fault, is it?
Wheels goes home, and his parents are in the dining room waiting for him. For no particular reason, the lights are off and they’re just sitting there in the dark. It turns out Mike called them, and apologized for everything. They assure Wheels it’s normal to want to know about his birth dad. They say they love him very much, and they’re more than happy to help him learn all about his biological parents.
This is all just too reasonable and supportive for Wheels, because he freaks out some more. “Don’t you want me anymore?” Didn’t they just say they loved him very much? He yells, “I don’t want Mike! I want you!” And then he storms off into… the bathroom, and slams the door. I swear, at the end of the scene, he runs directly into the bathroom. I guess the things his parents said made him literally shit a brick.
Cut to the next day at school. Joey and Snake pass through a hallway, both wearing sunglasses. They’re still arguing over the name of the band, with Joey wanting to call them “Joey and the Jellybeans” and Snake wanting the name “Snake and the Snaps”. Okay, this joke can officially end now.
Mr. Raditch is in the hallway, and he calls Joey over. Joey’s all smug and full of himself, saying with barely restrained sarcasm that he’s sorry his parents can’t make it to Parents’ Night. Raditch reveals that Joey’s communicable disease letter was “so sad” that he, of course, called Joey’s parents directly to express his condolences. So Joey just got busted, big time, and his parents have promised to show up for Parents’ Night after all. Joey looks dismayed, and wouldn’t you, if you had to go home to that rage monster dad after this?
Raditch puts an arm around Joey in that “when will you ever learn” sort of way, and they walk off together. By which I mean, he literally says, “Joey, when will you ever learn?” My snap judgment about this being a leftover Leave It to Beaver script still stands.
Over at the lockers, Shane and Spike are bickering again. And I couldn’t even begin to tell you what this argument is about, either. As near as I can tell, it’s a random hodgepodge of argument-like sentences all strung together. They’re like an episode of Springer happening all over the school. Shane stomps off, and Wheels comes over to ask what happened.
Spike says, “Shane and I aren’t going to see each other anymore.” Awww, really? They seemed like the perfect couple, too. I really thought they were made for each other, what with the non-stop squabbling and all.
Wheels remains silent. Spike says she’s still thinking about giving her baby up for adoption, and Wheels continues to show no emotion. She worries she’ll love the baby too much to give him or her away. Actually, Spike refers to her unborn baby as “it”, as in, she might love the baby too much to give “it” away, which is quite touching.
Wheels just tells her to “do what’s right” and walks away. So, I guess he’s now sour on the whole adoption experience, but with all the blank looks he’s giving here, it’s hard to tell.
Wheels goes to his locker, but Spike comes over and continues to talk about the adoption thing. She won’t leave the poor boy alone. She says if she does give the baby up, she wants to meet her child later on to explain why. “You don’t think that’s wrong, do you?” Wheels just says no. I think this is supposed to be Wheels having a major epiphany about why Other Dad came back into his life, but again, with all the non-acting going on, a lot of this stuff isn’t really coming across.
At home, Wheels practices his bass. His mom walks past, and he asks if she’s coming to Parents’ Night, to see him and his band perform at the talent show. Mom “wouldn’t miss it for the world”, of course. It would’ve been much funnier if she had said, “Nah, I heard you guys suck live.”
She calls Wheels her “star”, but Wheels says he’s not a star just yet. Mom says that in her mind, he already is. Wheels nods to himself, like he’s now understanding something very important. I wish I knew what that was.
And now, it’s back to the bar, and another hot jam session with Mike and the Drifters. Mike is tearing it up on the skins, and I gotta say, this is the kind of music that makes me wish I had a lava lamp and a black light poster to trip out in front of. Wheels walks into the bar, and the jam grinds to a halt. Mike tells the boys to take five, and walks over to Wheels.
And yet, the guys in the band just stand there watching Mike and Wheels talk. Mike admits it was a mistake not going to Wheels’ parents first to get their approval. Wheels says things are just too “complicated” right now, and asks, “Is it okay if we don’t see each other for a bit?” Mike is disappointed, but says it’s okay. Wheels has to work out some issues with his parents, or something, but he promises to call Mike sometime.
Wheels starts to leave. Mike says, “See ya, Derek!” Wheels turns and says that “most of my friends call me Wheels.” Being the rock ‘n’ roll drifter that he is, Mike of course digs the name.
And then Wheels asks if Mike still has his birth necklace. Mike jokingly gives him a hard time about it, going, “Your necklace?” Exactly. You mean, the one you threw at me? He pulls out the necklace, which he apparently carries with him at all times, and tosses it back to Wheels. Wheels looks overjoyed at getting it back, and smiles at Mike, and that’s the end of the episode.
So, did you notice the fatal flaw with this episode? It’s called “Parents’ Night”, and Parents’ Night is a major plot point, and yet, we never actually get to see Parents’ Night. It’s kind of a letdown, and it reminds me a lot of how I felt at the end of High School Musical, which never showed us the actual musical.
Also, I can only guess at the point of those final scenes where Wheels stands around blankly staring at people. I assume it was supposed to be Wheels realizing that Other Dad had a good reason for coming back into his life, and that his adoptive parents still love him no matter what. But a bad, emotionless performance by Neil Hope keeps all this from coming across, making the whole episode feel anticlimactic at best.
However, this episode more than makes up for all of its problems by not having a stupid Arthur-Yick B plot. We didn’t even see Yick roaming the hallways in the background, so major bonus points for that.
While it’s not a great episode, it’s notable for how it sets up a sequel during the high school years, when Wheels, with his life spiraling out of control, decides to seek out his birth father again. But the tables are completely turned in that episode, with Wheels desperately wanting to be with Other Dad, while Other Dad turns out to have started a new Other Family that doesn’t include Wheels. So, I guess the actual, though belated, Very Special Lesson of “Parents’ Night” is that karma’s a bitch.
Next Up: The impeachment of Stephanie Kaye. I’m not making this up.