Degrassi Junior High “The Experiment” (part 3 of 4)
Cut to a seedy, lowlife, back stairwell somewhere inside Degrassi. Melanie and Kathleen have come to meet up with Joey and get their drugs. Wheels is there, too, looking horrified when Joey pulls out the drugs. And Joey keeps them in a tiny plastic box, the same kind usually reserved for pushpins, and the box is actually glued to the bottom of his skateboard.
Joey takes out a red capsule and declares, “New Zealand Zappers!” He’s asking five bucks per pill, and ever the salesman, he says, “No pay, no play! No tip, no trip! No pills, no thrills!” No glove, no love! (Sorry, wrong episode.) The girls pay up, and he immediately threatens them: If they ever say where they got the pills, they’ll be “pushing up dandelions.” Oh, yes. I can seriously imagine Joey doing a drive-by on his skateboard.
He promises the pills bring “instant insanity”. Wait, I thought this whole show brought on instant insanity. The girls just stand there, looking at the pills. Joey gets frustrated, saying he thought they were “streetwise”. He then demonstrates how to take the pill. He swallows it, and immediately his head and neck go into Stevie Wonder-style gyrations. “Oh, wow,” he says, looking around. “Mild! Cool! Very cool!” And now poor Wheels is stuck babysitting him. Wheels leads him away, and Joey again says, “Mild! Very cool!” I think I’m going to say that the next time I take any controlled substance. I’m going to pop a Sudafed and immediately go, “Mild… very mild!”
Once they’re gone, the two girls continue to stare at their pills, and argue over who should take theirs first. Melanie again calls Kathleen “chicken”, and they go around and around until finally, Melanie says they should do it at the same time.
They simultaneously pop their pills, and it’s plainly obvious that neither girl is feeling anything. Regardless, Melanie decides to fake it. She says she’s already feeling the effects. All that sweet, sweet New Zealand zapping-ness. “Cool… very cool…”
Kathleen, for some reason, goes along with this shared hallucination. “Mild… very mild!” The two of them are suddenly giddy. A group of tuba players passes by (I’m guessing it’s the same group of tuba players who endlessly walk the halls of Degrassi), and they both laugh hysterically.
Elsewhere, Wheels is outraged at Joey for selling drugs. Joey says, “Wheels, my man, have a little faith!” He reveals that he actually sold them vitamin pills. He even has a big bottle with him that says VITAMINS across the front. He says, “I saved these kids from a life of destitution! And gave ’em nourishing vitamins!” Wow, something is wrong here. That was actually a funny line. What the heck is going on?
Cut to Rompin’ Raditch’s Rockin’ Homeroom. Kathleen and Melanie enter, making a big show out of laughing at their own self-induced high. And Raditch, seeing this oddball behavior, simply… clears his throat. Very loudly, causing both girls to calm down. But you can tell by their goofy expressions that the power of suggestion has firmly taken hold.
Yick Yu enters and hands in the paper that he copied from Stephanie. Raditch again calls him “Mr. Yu the Disorganized”, but he’s impressed that Yick turned in his paper early. Early? Oh, that’s not suspicious, at all. Come on, Yick. Who turns in their homework early?
Yick turns when he hears the two girls laughing loudly, and then there’s a hard edit here that makes me suspect some footage was lost. Suddenly, it’s a new day, and Arthur and Yick are entering the school.
Cut to Raditch handing back papers. When he hands back Melanie’s paper, he tells her, “Very imaginative. Where do you get your ideas?” Hah! A drug reference! See, aspiring rock musicians? You don’t need drugs to be creative. Just take vitamin pills and trip out on yourself for a while!
Yick walks up to get his paper, and it turns out he got an A-minus. Mr. Raditch (now wearing a very interesting lavender sport coat) warmly congratulates him on this real improvement. For those keeping track at home, this means he got a better grade than Stephanie did when she originally turned in this paper. Hey, it’s all in the penmanship, baby.
Actually, I’m thinking this is just another example of what I like to call the Jamie Foxx Effect. If you really want to be recognized by your peers, make sure to suck at your craft for as long as possible, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, do something passable. You’ll be showered with unbelievable praise. Or perhaps I should call it the Fourth Season Enterprise Effect. When something goes from shitty to adequate, people have a tendency to hail it as the Second Coming.
Right, this episode. Yick looks confused as he returns to his seat. In the background, Raditch talks about how next week’s assignment is to write “a letter to a world leader”. Hey, cool! Next week, Yick can just copy Jeremy’s homework from last year!
Cut to Arthur and Yick heading to the park to shoot some hoops. Yu is bothered by the grade discrepancy, however. Arthur tries to convince him the good grade means that Raditch doesn’t hate him. Yick, however, considers this more proof that he’s “an unfair marker”. Actually, I think all this “proves” is that Raditch hated Stephanie as much as the rest of us, and only wanted to give her good grades so he could pass her and let Avery deal with her.
But Yick is convinced that Raditch “was so impressed I could do anything! He gave me too good a mark!” You know, there’s not a whole lot of difference between a B-plus and an A-minus, Yick. Regardless, it appears the results of this “experiment” are inconclusive, at least in Yick’s mind.
Arthur suggests just, you know, talking to Mr. Raditch, like a human being with some common sense might do, but of course that’s not going to happen. Now that Yick is getting good grades, “everything’s perfect”, and he wants to continue copying Stephanie’s papers for the rest of the school year.
Arthur is outraged. He says once as an experiment is fine, but “twice is cheating!” Yeah, come on. You’re allowed to copy at least one paper word-for-word. It says so in the Degrassi school charter! But two papers? This time, you’ve gone too far.
Abruptly, Arthur shoots and makes a basket. Thankfully, this provides visible evidence of the help that Yick has provided, right when the story needs it most. “See what my coaching’s done?” Yick asks. “I help you, you help me, right?” Yu are one manipulative bastard, Yu know that?
It appears the guilt is far too much for Arthur to handle, because in the next scene, he returns to Stephanie’s room. This time, Steph is painting her nails, and hides her foot behind the bed when Arthur knocks. Is this what Stephanie does all day and all night? Secretly determine ways to be even sluttier? Arthur enters and returns the paper, and then just stands there. Steph again has to goad him into just coming out with it, and this time he explains that the experiment was a success.
He says, “But the thing about experiments is, they need to be replicated!” Wow, check out the big brain on Astrodog. Understanding the scientific method and everything.
Steph asks, “Replicated?” So… this is a word she’s not familiar with? How did she get a B-plus last year, again?
Arthur explains the general concept of repeating an experiment to see if it produces the same results. Essentially, this means he needs to borrow another paper. Steph asks if he’s in “some kind of trouble”. Almost like there are loan sharks who accept payment in the form of junior high homework assignments. “I want the life story of George Washington Carver by midnight tonight, or I break your kneecaps!”
Arthur says there’s no trouble, he just really needs the paper. Stephanie flat out refuses. Then Arthur gets a truly pained look on his face. And I sympathize with him. He doesn’t want it come to this, I don’t want it to come to this, but alas, it has come to this. The cycle of emotional blackmail never ends. Guilt begets guilt. Arthur is desperate, at the end of his rope, ready to do and say anything to get that precious paper. This does not bode well for Stephanie.
He swallows hard. “You know, Steph… I don’t tell Mom how you change your clothes every morning, and you go around school wearing tons of makeup when you’re not supposed to.” Ouch. Steph is livid, but there’s not much she can do. I wonder if the Degrassi student body would have ever elected her, if they’d known how vulnerable she is to these kind of personal attacks. It’s like electing a womanizing Rhodes scholar from Arkansas.
Steph recognizes this for what it is. “That’s blackmail!” And Arthur smirks hilariously, and nods ever so slightly, almost as if to say, “Yep, you bet your sweet ass it’s blackmail, and there’s not a goddamn thing you can do about it.” How I wish Arthur would have actually said those words just now. I would have had a recap-gasm. And this is yet another moment that I actually find humorous and entertaining in an intentional way. What’s going on? It’s hard to bag on this episode when it’s actually being good.
Cut to the Degrassi school library. Joey and Wheels peruse the paperbacks, and Joey flirts with Wordly Loosey. Enter Melanie and Kathleen, and Joey is suddenly filled with dread. He assumes they’re onto his vitamin pill scam, and here to demand their money back. Weirdly, as they stomp up to him, Melanie and Kathleen are suddenly flanked by Wheelchair Girl and some random Latino kid we’ve never seen before (and will never see again). I’m thinking Latino Kid may have possibly been on Mr. T’s tour bus at some point in time, but I can’t prove it.
“Look,” Joey says, “I can explain—”
“We wanna buy some more,” Melanie says intensely. She turns to the Latino Kid and Wheelchair Girl and declares, “They want some, too!” Hold on, now. Wheelchair Girl wants to trip out on New Zealand Zappers? Really? Degrassi definitely goes there, doesn’t it? Most TV shows for teen audiences would shy away from showing the disabled indulging in recreational drug use, but not this show. No way.
And by the way, I can now conclusively confirm that the part of Wheelchair Girl gets recast in a few episodes. And the new Wheelchair Girl ends up getting a ton of screen time, especially in the high school years. (Where she’ll actually get to use real drugs, and so will Melanie and Kathleen.) So just think of the girl you see now as the Dick York of Wheelchair Girls.
Joey barely misses a beat, and just goes with the flow, and tells them to meet him tomorrow morning. “You bring the money, I’ll make you funny.” There’s little chance of that happening with these terrible actors, but I get what he means. Is there any reason Joey is rhyming everything? Is speaking in verse a part of the drug trade? Do all dealers talk in iambic pentameter? Just curious.
Cut to the next morning. Joey already has his pushpin plastic case open on the bottom of his skateboard. He pulls out more capsules and hands them to the kids, and gets more cash money in return. It’s all about the Benjamins, baby. Or, in this case, the Abrahams.