Degrassi Junior High “The Big Dance” (part 1 of 4)
So, I’ve got a lot of things to share since my last Degrassi Junior High recap. In the interim, it seems my prayers were finally answered, and Degrassi High, the missing link between the junior high years and The Next Generation, is finally set for a DVD release this coming October. So I guess I can officially call off my hunger strike. And I can now sleep soundly in the knowledge that I won’t have to invest my life savings getting Degrassi High on VHS, and end up like Kevin Smith. (Also coming out on DVD: the complete collection of The Kids of Degrassi Street, the precursor series to Degrassi Junior High, due in July. That one looks more like a rental to me, frankly. I may be obsessed with Stacie Mystysin in the role of Caitlin Ryan, but I don’t necessarily need to watch her when she was nine years old.)
Also in the interim, my recap of the pilot episode “Kiss Me, Steph” made some waves, and I actually heard from a Degrassi cast member. I got an email from Billie Mintz, AKA Hank, AKA the kid who looked like he was Joey’s best friend, but completely disappeared after the first episode.
Billie attempted to clear up the mystery:
So there you go, the official explanation for Hank’s disappearance. (Hey, it’s as good an explanation as any.) Since Billie was such a good sport about the recap, I’d like to encourage everybody to take a look at his official website, BillieMintz.com. It looks like since Degrassi, Billie has become a producer, mostly of short films. And according to his blog, he just received an award from a Canadian foundation to produce a short film called The Long Journey Home. I’m assuming this film will tell the story of how Hank escaped from his captors, returned to his family, and eventually overcame all the brainwashing. Go, Hank!
And now, episode two of Degrassi Junior High, “The Big Dance”. Cut to a kitchen in someone’s home. A hand holds a cheap, mimeographed copy of the Degrassi Digest. In the background, a girl in a big long dress and apron is cleaning up around the sink. Yep, it’s Voula, apparently just finished having dinner with her dad. And, naturally, she’s the one to clean up afterwards. Why do I say “naturally”? Simply put, Voula’s dad… is Borat. Same vaguely Soviet Bloc accent, same heavy mustache, and very nearly the same attitude towards women.
Voula’s Dad glances at the Digest and proclaims, “Voula! You wrote all dees?” She did! For glorious nation of Kazakhstan! She tells him she’s the editor. He says, “You’re deh boss, eh?” Okay, so I guess he’s Kazakh by way of Canada?
But a nasty surprise awaits Voula’s Dad as he turns the page. There he sees a full page ad for the “fall dance” this Saturday, to be held at the very swank location known as “the gym”. He immediately flies into a rage. “What’s dees, a dahnce?!?” Voula, with a quiver in her voice, calls him “poppa” and asks if she can go.
He snaps back, “You’re too young to go to dahnce!” You must stay here and make babies and cook dinner and clean kitchen for poppa! “I don’t want my leetle girl dancing with boy who got only one thing on mind!” And I mean, it’s clearly, clearly a fake accent, but this guy is still awesome. They should really think about spinning Poppa Voula off into his own sitcom.
He gets even more mindblowingly awesome when he spins some philosophy: “Life is like a flower! Lehhht it unfold!” In Mother Russia, the metaphors mix you! Voula begs and pleads to go to the dance, but Poppa Bear doesn’t budge. Voula just pouts, and goes back to washing dishes, and with that, it’s time for the theme song.
Yes, once again it’s time to wake up, feel shy and lonely, and then go to school. You know those kids at Degrassi Junior High? I was thinking maybe I’ll give them a try.
I’d like to take this opportunity to warn people against getting too attached to Voula, or expecting to see how her whole “junior high to high school” transition pans out. That’s because the actress who plays Voula, Niki Kemeny, left the show after the first season. Turns out she did this on the advice of her agent, who wanted her to move onto doing union work. (Yes, apparently Degrassi Junior High really was a non-union production.)
And in the annals of poor TV career choices, there’s Mclean Stevenson leaving M*A*S*H, there’s Shelley Long leaving Cheers, there’s David Caruso leaving NYPD Blue… and then there’s Niki Kemeny leaving Degrassi Junior High. Niki, what were you thinking? But in all fairness to her, she did grow up well. I wonder if she got kidnapped by the same people who abducted Hank.
After the credits, we get the title of this episode shown over members of the school band walking through hallways with their tubas. That title, of course, is “The Big Dance”. Unfortunately, this episode is not about Stephanie and Voula facing off in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship to settle their grudge. But frankly, that would be way less entertaining than what we’re about to get.
The Tuba Brigade passes a girl named Lucy. Lucy is the kind of girl who’s supposed to be ever so mature and worldly and wise, which you’re supposed to tell by the big sweater and the big scarves she wears around her neck and head. She’s currently inviting those adorable twins over to her house on Saturday. They wonder if her parents will mind, and Lucy tells them not to worry, because her parents are “loose”. Lucy will be calling her parents “loose” roughly 8,000 times in this episode. Just so you’re prepared.
The Adorable Twins, by the way, are now officially known as Heather and Erica Farrell, so if the fact that one of the twins answered to “Stacey Darrow” in the pilot episode was keeping you up at nights, consider this your recap equivalent of Lunesta.
Exit Lucy, enter Voula. The Twins ask her if she’s going to the Big Dance, but Voula is hesitant. Just then, your new school president Stephanie Kaye walks up. This being the start of the school day, she’s still in Innocent Girl mode, actually looking somewhat cute in a white Izod. At least, cuter than she ever looked in her whore clothes.
Steph says hi to Voula. But Voula, if you’ll recall, is deeply in love with Steph, and in total denial about it. As we witnessed previously, seeing Stephanie whore it up is pretty much the moment Voula realized she was gay. And then there was that whole supposed “betrayal” in the last episode, which we all know was just Voula’s transparent rationalization for hating Stephanie’s guts for not loving her back.
So naturally, Voula makes a big overdramatic reply of, “Oh, she’s talking to me! The school president is talking to me!” And the only thing separating this from an intentionally funny line is that Voula doesn’t deadpan, “But I’m not bitter.”
Steph tries to say she’s “sore-y” about what happened in the last episode, and asks if they can still be friends. Voula snots, “Not in a hundred million years!” and walks off. Yeah, Voula doesn’t strike me as the type who can be “just friends” with someone who dumped her. Steph calls after her, “Really mature, Voula!” In a moment, we shall be treated to all the myriad ways in which Stephanie Kaye is mature.
All throughout this, the Adorable Twins just give each other vague looks, most likely conversing telepathically in their secret Twin Language. Did I mention they’re adorable? And I’m still trying to figure out whether this is despite the big teeth they have, or because of them.
Anyway, Steph heads on into the Restroom of Ill Repute, to begin her transformation into a street walker. And look who’s coming out of the restroom! It’s that Rosie O’Donnell-lookalike from episode one, who gives Steph another leer as she passes her. Geez, get over it, already.
Lucy emerges from a stall and says hello to Steph. She sees Stephanie in mid-slut, and asks why she doesn’t just “get changed at home”. Changing at home being the same thing as… getting dressed in the first place, right? Steph takes on that patronizing Stephanie attitude we know and love, and says her mom would “ground me for life! Or longer!”
Lucy’s odd response is, “What a hick town!” So, I think they’re trying to establish that Lucy’s very sophisticated (or thinks she is) and well-traveled, but… Degrassi is not in a “hick town” by any stretch of the imagination. Does anyone in Toronto chew tobacco? Are pickup trucks with gun racks a common sight there? Do they have country bars where people line dance? In the dark? If not… you may not be a redneck!
Lucy then declares the parents in this town to be “fascists”. Yeah. I don’t think she really knows what that word means, either. Steph is amazed that Lucy’s parents let her dress the way she does. What, the big bulky sweater? I don’t see what’s so amazing about that, but Lucy proudly says she “can do whatever I like. I can go where I want. Dress how I want!” I wouldn’t really admit to that, if I were her.
Nevertheless, you can see the awe and respect in Steph’s eyes, because there’s nothing she admires more than the ability to talk a good game. And by a “good game”, I mean a ton of bullshit. She asks Lucy if she’s ever asked a boy out. It seems Steph’s nervous about the prospect of getting laughed at, but worldly Lucy says, “Please, Stephanie! This is the Eighties!” Ah, the timelessness. Lucy exits, and Steph applies her skanky rogue as Principal Charlie gets on the PA to announce the fall dance.