Degrassi Junior High “The Experiment” (part 2 of 4)
Cut to the Swank Gym. The boys are all lined up in front of a basketball net, taking turns making baskets, while an adult woman looks on. See, they’re teasing us here, trying to trick us into thinking Degrassi has more than two faculty members. Or that the school actually has a teacher who isn’t Rompin’ Rockin’ Raditch or Sweet Ms. Avery. Naturally, this “gym teacher”, if that’s who this woman is supposed to be, will never get a name, and I’m fairly confident she’s never seen again.
So first up at the free throw line is Snake. He’ll be fleshed out a lot more in coming episodes, but for now he’s the sad sack loner who thought he could pick up a guitar and shred his way into the presidency. The sight gag here, of course, is that Snake has about two feet in height over all the other boys trying out. He easily makes the shot.
Next up is Arthur, who completely whiffs it. The very sportsmanlike boys around him have a good hearty laugh about this. Another kid (who we will later learn is named Shane, for those who care) jokes that Arthur could be their “secret weapon” and “play for the other team”. Actually, I think he’s already… Well, you know where I’m going with that.
Shane continues to pick on Arthur, calling him a “brainer”. And just let the possibility of Arthur being one of the smartest kids at Degrassi sink in for a moment. That’s right: Arthur “This Broom Closet Doesn’t Look Like My Classroom” Kobalewscuy is a “brainer”, folks.
The unknown woman in the gym tells Arthur to try again, but with all the laughing and badgering going on, he blows it a second time. And so, it seems his prospects for making the basketball team this year aren’t too good.
Next up is Yick, who easily sinks it, and everyone cheers. So, his prospects for making the team are looking good. Which is the total opposite of Arthur’s situation. Arthur’s prospects, bad. Yick’s prospects, good. Fire, bad. I think you understand what they’re getting at here.
As they leave school that day, Arthur asks Yick for some basketball tips. Yick says he’d be happy to help Arthur: “We’re friends, right?” Well, let’s just wait and see what happens by the end of the episode, okay?
Cut to the two of them shooting hoops at a public park. Apparently, Yick got game, and Hmong men can jump. Arthur is unbelievably clumsy with a basketball, and I can’t figure out if this is inspired acting, or if the actor really was first introduced to the sport ten minutes before filming began.
Later, they walk down a city sidewalk, and the issue of Mr. Raditch and his righteous rage comes up. Yick complains that Raditch always picks on him, and thinks he’s stupid, and just gives him bad grades by default. “He doesn’t even read my stuff!” So… I guess Raditch just has better things to do than actually read the assignments that students hand in? He must be out all night, rompin’ and rockin’.
Yick then adds, “He’s got me stereotyped!” Ummm. What? I’ll just assume Yick has no idea what “stereotyped” means, because otherwise this line makes no sense. Or maybe what I joked about earlier is true—maybe stereotypes about Asians really are different in Canada. Or maybe the stereotype that Yick is talking about is really the “jock” stereotype, but it’s not made clear at all. Yick says that he could hand in “Einstein’s paper” and he would still get a bad grade. Especially if it’s that paper about the cosmological constant. That paper definitely deserved the D.
Yick and Arthur enter a diner, which is apparently a prime Degrassi hangout, judging by the fact that Joey and Shane are here, and so are Melanie and Kathleen. So I guess that makes this place Degrassi’s Peach Pit, no? I backed up to see what the name of the place is, and evidently, it’s called the “Real Jerk Restaurant”. And no, they don’t just hang that sign out whenever Joey comes to eat. It’s a real restaurant, and it still exists. When it’s not featured on low budget teen dramas, it’s a Caribbean restaurant, hence the name. And I really, really hope they film again at the Real Jerk in future episodes. Otherwise, this might be the most pointless aside I’ve ever written. (Though it does have some stiff competition.)
Arthur and Yick get chocolate milkshakes to the sounds of generic ’80s music. As they walk to a table, Arthur proposes an “experiment”. Hey, just like the title! In this experiment, Arthur will get a paper that was handed in to Mr. Raditch last year. He proposes that Yick copy this paper, put his own name on it, and hand it in. They can compare it to the original grade the paper got last year, and thus conclusively prove if Raditch is grading Yick harder. And what could go wrong with a great plan like that?
Yick says Raditch will recognize the paper, but Arthur uses his new-fangled digital watch to calculate that Mr. Raditch gets “3,750 papers a year”, so he won’t recognize just one. He doesn’t know Raditch very well, does he? The best part is the blooping noises they dub in while Arthur is punching buttons on his wristwatch, like calculator watches actually make noises like that. Actually, the best best part is how it doesn’t seem to occur to either of them that this is the boldest, clearest example of cheating ever seen by mankind.
Yick asks where he’ll get a paper from last year. C’mon, Yick. Arthur knows Einstein! Actually, Arthur says he can get Stephanie’s paper. Yick is shocked, and asks how he, a lowly Grade 7, could possibly gain access to the Stephanie Kaye Presidential Library and get one of her old papers.
Arthur’s not supposed to reveal they’re brother and sister, of course. So he pulls a particularly obvious example of bad acting and gulps, and then says not to sweat the details: He’ll get the paper. Yick declares, “It’s worth a try! Cheers!” And the two actually toast each other with their milkshakes. Hey, like I always say, if you’re going to cheat, at least do it with class.
Over at another booth in the Peach Pit, I mean, the Real Jerk, there’s Melanie and Kathleen, still talking about drugs. Kathleen is still unsure about the idea of taking drugs, but Wild Experimental Melanie says, “Don’t be such a chicken!” In particular, don’t be a jerk chicken! Kathleen is worried about getting “hooked”, but Melanie says she feels the same way. “I don’t wanna become an addict, and live in horrible poverty, rats and lice and everything! I just wanna try drugs, once!” Yeah. I heard that’s what Amy Winehouse said. And now she has rats living in her hair.
At the next table, Joey overhears their conversation. He pops up over the booth and says, “Joey F. Jeremiah, esquire—’F’ for pharmacy [!]—at your service!” You know, Joey, if you’re just making up middle names, there’s no reason you have to limit yourself to the “F” initial. I’m starting to think the primary inspiration here really was Redd Foxx. Joey’s even wearing a beret, another Foxx trademark.
Joey scoots into their booth and strikes a conspiratorial tone: “So, whaddaya want? Smoke? Drop? Pop?” And roll? I’d laugh and say this was obviously written by someone who knew nothing about street drugs, but that’s kind of the point, as we shall soon see.
He asks, “What’s your style? Lebanese Light? Bolivian Blue?” And then he offers the very hilarious, “Degrassi Grass?” Which would seem to indicate someone is hydroponically growing pot in the school science lab. Finally, Joey offers “the top of my line… New Zealand Zappers! Highly recommended!” And in the space of about thirty seconds, Joey just made up ten awesome new names for bands.
The two girls look completely flabbergasted throughout his entire speech. Eventually, Melanie speaks up, and non-answers with, “Um… sure!” Kathleen agrees half-heartedly, and Joey says he’ll hook them up with some drugs. So, yeah, the writers are still getting the hang of Joey as a character, and that’s fine. Clearly, going by later episodes, none of the other students will see Joey as the type to be an all-out drug dealer. But any plot device that gives someone the opportunity to coin “Degrassi Grass” is just fine with me.
Cut to the bedroom of Stephanie Kaye. And of course, it’s Girl Central in here. She’s even got little faces cut out of magazines and thumbtacked all over her walls. She’s currently trying on a purple scarf, most likely to accentuate a particularly slutty ensemble she plans to wear to school tomorrow. There’s a knock at the door, and Steph quickly shoves everything out of sight. When it turns out it’s Arthur, who’s “visiting Mom” for some unimportant reason, she goes back to fondling her scarf, and adoring herself in the mirror, and generally ignoring Arthur. So, just another night in the Kaye household, one assumes.
Arthur fidgets for a while, and finally Steph tells him to just say what he came here for. He explains that he wants to borrow one of the papers she wrote for Rockin’ Raditch last year. He tells her it’s “strictly for… research,” and I guess she believes him, because the next thing we see is Arthur on the sidewalk with the paper. Which means that somehow, Stephanie Kaye has all of her old assignments neatly filed away, possibly alphabetized by subject, ready to whip out at a moment’s notice. This from the girl who couldn’t string three sentences together to make a campaign speech without Voula’s help? Not buying it.
And now here’s Arthur, out on a darkened sidewalk, walking towards a house. He knocks on a window, which is Yick’s window, and Arthur is obviously concealing something in his coat. Yick comes out on the porch and says, “Do you have it?” Arthur looks around warily before pulling the paper out of his coat, and it’s an obvious spoof of drug deals, as seen on PSAs.
And around the third or fourth time I watched this, it suddenly occurred to me that the title of the episode has a dual meaning: there’s “the experiment”, as in the actual homework experiment, and at the same time, there’s the girls experimenting with drugs. Nice one. I didn’t think Degrassi writers were capable of that kind of subtlety. Well, any kind of subtlety.
“Alright!” Yick says, looking the paper over. “A B-plus!” Which, coincidentally, is also Steph’s cup size. Cut to Yick in his room, carefully copying Steph’s paper in his own handwriting. As this is going on, I recognize that the soundtrack is playing a variation on the Degrassi School Song. You remember, the school song that I said would only appear in the first episode? And which has since re-emerged in every episode since then? Yeah, that’s it. I’m through making predictions about anything other than bad movies.