Degrassi Junior High “The Great Race” (part 2 of 4)
After the credits, it’s right to the swim meet. The girls swim while people in the stands cheer, and hold up signs with encouraging slogans. Eventually, it’s Melanie’s turn to swim, and she straps on goggles and dives into the pool, and the rest of her team cheers her on.
Melanie beats the girl on the other team, and wins the match, and the rest of Melanie’s team dives into the pool to huddle around her and celebrate their victory. And I can’t help but notice in the background, right in front of the bleachers, is Melanie’s druggie friend Wheelchair Girl #1. Enjoy your moment in the sun while it lasts, Wheelchair Girl #1. Because Wheelchair Girl #2 is waiting in the wings, to roll right over your hopes and dreams.
Random pedantic note: The opening credits are in a different font from every other episode of Degrassi Junior High. They’re actually in the same font used in Kids of Degrassi Street. There’s really no point in mentioning that. I just figured if I’m being this obsessive about a show, I might as well go all the way with it.
But the whole point of this scene is to establish that Melanie is a good swimmer. I honestly don’t mind it so much, because at least they actually show Melanie being good at swimming. They could have gone the lazy route, and just had other students constantly raving about what a great swimmer she is. Sort of like how we were convinced of Troy Bolton‘s dazzling basketball skills.
Cut to the Grade 8s coming out of Rockin’ Rompin’ Raditch’s classroom. Among the crowd are Joey (Jeremiah, esquire, at your service) and Stephanie (Kaye, nominal Degrassi school president). And hey, speaking of splitting up the boys and the girls into separate classrooms, Joey tells Steph, “Did you know I got an A plus in sex education last year?” I don’t think kids actually get graded on how well they do in sex ed, but given that this is just another Joey-esque crude come-on, I’m not dwelling.
Steph is wearing one of her signature outfits. It’s actually the outfit she wore the very first time she whored herself up, in the pilot episode. Ah, memories. (And you know what? Just a few months ago, Nicole Stoffman, the actress who played Stephanie, auctioned off this outfit on eBay. It sold for the astonishing sum of $60 US. Is it sad that I really wish I had learned about the auction sooner, so I could have put in a bid? Stephanie’s outfit is to me what Travolta’s white leisure suit must have been to Gene Siskel.)
Speaking of nostalgia, Joey tosses off one of his signature tag lines: “So if there’s anything you want to know, Joey P. Jeremiah—the P is for ‘playboy’—at your service!” Putting aside for a moment that I’m not sure when his middle initial became “P” instead of “F”, you really have to wonder why this tag line never caught on. If it were up to me, “Joey (F/P) Jeremiah, at your service” would take its rightful place beside “whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” in the venerated pantheon of great TV catch phrases.
Joey then opens his locker to reveal… something. Which Stephanie stares at. I’m pretty sure the direction here was “Nicole, look this way.” Just then, L.D. runs up to lisp that her team won their “sthhwim meet” and they’re in the “cthhity finalsthh!” See, poor L.D. is making a tragic supposition here. She’s assuming that just because Stephanie is Degrassi school president, she actually cares about Degrassi school sports. Unless… wait, is whoring a sport?
L.D. wants Stephanie to announce the win to the school. But Stephanie, already bored beyond belief by this conversation, says she has nothing to do with those announcements. She instead refers L.D. to a student named Jason Cox.
Cut to the two guys who form Degrassi’s legendary bromance duo: Arthur “Astrodog” Kobalewscuy, and Yick “The Disorganized” Yu. Arthur’s got his locker open, and inside the locker door is a homemade measuring tape. There are two marks on the tape: one for “Arthur Sept 3” and another for “Yick Sept 3”.
Yick backs up to the measuring tape, and Arthur informs him, “Same as before.” So I’ll make the educated guess that they’re keeping track of how tall they’re getting, and on a weekly basis, too. I’ll avoid the obvious “Yick and Arthur are measuring each other” jokes, at least for now.
Arthur backs up to the tape, and it turns out he hasn’t grown any, either. He says it’s “frustrating”, because he hasn’t had a “decent growth spurt in months!” Though I’m sure he’s had other kinds of spurts lately, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. But please be patient: the Very Special “Wet Dreams” Episode is coming (cough) soon.
Just then, they spot Snake walking past. Snake, as you might recall, is the lanky red-headed loner who sang the Presidential Blues while Steph was getting gang-banged on the front steps. Suffice to say, he’ll become a much more important player as this series goes on.
And for all you Degrassi: TNG fans, this explanation is much easier: It’s Mr. Simpson.
But at this point, Snake is probably about 5’7″, and truly a giant among junior high men. Arthur and Yick stare at him as he walks by, their eyes ablaze with height envy.
Snake goes to his locker, and beanpole Melanie stands there, staring at him with a goofy smile on her face. He grabs his guitar from his locker—oh man, dude is gonna shred!—and then he notices Melanie staring at him. He glances over, and she immediately looks away. Aw, someone’s got a crush.
L.D. walks up and immediately picks up on Melanie’s budding affections for Snake. But that’s a whole other thread for another episode, and it’s quickly forgotten when random people walk up to L.D. and Melanie and congratulate them on their win at the swim meet. Oh yeah, they won the swim meet. Now I remember! It’s been one whole scene since that happened, so I’m thankful for the refresher. Okay. Now I’m ready for the next plot point.
Cut to the principal’s office, where Doris Bell is… doing something. School secretary stuff. A boy enters, and he’s got a soccer ball under his arm, and a pair of cleats slung over his shoulder. So, either he’s into sports, or making a very odd fashion statement.
Soccer Ball Kid wants to make an announcement, so Doris hands him the Grease microphone and says, “Keep it brief! I’ve got a date!” And the way Doris says it, I think she really means a date date, as in… with a man. And I… can’t even comprehend what that has to do with anything currently going on in this scene. Regardless, I’m eternally grateful for this all too brief window into Doris Bell’s social life.
At the same time, Melanie and L.D. pass through the halls of Degrassi, basking in the glow of congratulations on their swimming victory. Just then, Soccer Ball Kid comes on the PA, and it turns out he’s that “Jason Cox” we’ve been hearing so much about. I have no idea who Jason is supposed to be, in terms of the official Degrassi chain of command, but he appears to be the guy who announces sports stuff on the PA. Hey, every school’s got one, am I right?
Jason talks about the boys soccer team, and how they have a game today. After half a minute of talking about this soccer game and nothing else, he says, “That’s all for today, sports fans!” What, that’s it? That’s his entire announcement? Hey, what about spurts fans, like Arthur and Yick?
In the hallway, Melanie and L.D. are indignant. They can’t believe Jason didn’t announce the girls swim team win. But given all the people who congratulated them just now, it seems the whole school already knows about it. So I don’t see why this is such a big deal. Regardless, the two girls march off on a mission.
Out in front of the school, Arthur and Yick are keeping an eye on Snake. Get this: they are actually stalking Snake to figure out why he’s tall. Yick even asks, “How come he gets to be so tall?” I don’t know. How come you get to be so lazy and self-entitled? My guess is that karma’s a bitch.
Eventually, they come to the conclusion that Snake must be tall because of what he eats, and so they resolve to find out what he eats. And that, my friends, is our “B” plot. And yes, it’s going to be exactly as exciting and interesting and provocative as I’m sure you’re imagining in your heads right now.
The soccer team is also out front. They’re hovering around a van, about to head off to their match, when L.D. and Melanie come out to confront Jason about not announcing their win. They complain that he’s supposed to be “everybody’s sports rep, not just the soccer team’s!” Is that what he is? “Sports rep”? What is that? Like a lobbyist? Can he be bribed?
In response, Jason gets a big ol’ patronizing grin on his face, and starts off with a very condescending, “Ladies… ladies…” He goes on to explain that “people aren’t interested” in girls’ sports, and as proof, he points out that all professional sports shown on TV are men’s sports. Actually, I’m pretty sure GLOW was doing well around the time this episode aired, but other than that, he speaks the truth.
Jason goes a step further and insists that “girls aren’t good athletes”. He says, “Don’t blame me! It’s human nature!” The rest of the boys on the soccer team agree, so this can only mean one thing: it’s time once again for the feminist agenda of Degrassi Junior High to come alive in the most ham-fisted way possible.
L.D. points out that the girls swim team actually wins their matches, whereas the boys always lose. Yes, because god forbid things be stacked evenly here. We were almost in danger of having a reasonable, unbiased debate there. Whew!
Jason insists that swimming is easy compared to soccer, and if they were “swimming against a bunch of girls, we’d win, too!” Yawn, I’m sure you can all see where this is leading.
Just then, every kid in school comes wandering past, and stops to listen to the debate. The story reason for this becomes obvious when L.D. and Melanie challenge the boys soccer team to a swimming match against the girls swim team, to happen Friday after school. In response, all the boys who are not Jason Cox flash gutless looks at each other. Despite everyone else’s clear desire to wuss out, Jason heartily accepts the challenge on behalf of his entire team, and hey, good thing the whole school was here to see it!
Okay, so who do you think will win this match? Will it be the boys, thus proving that males are inherently superior athletes, and totally justifying the lack of attention paid to girls’ sports? What’s that? You… you really think so? Have you ever seen an episode of this show before?
Out in the crowd, Snake is one of the many people who have stopped to listen. As the debate wraps up, he flashes a smile over at Melanie. Remember that, it may be important later.
So I’d be shirking my recapping duties if I didn’t talk about Tyson Talbot, the boy playing Jason Cox. Talbot also appeared as “Billy” in a few episodes of Kids of Degrassi Street, but this is the only Degrassi Junior High episode where he features prominently.
It seems that after Degrassi, Tyson Talbot’s life took a dark turn. After years of run-ins with the law, including seven convictions for violent crimes, he was tried in 2004 for second degree murder. Talbot was apparently involved in a street brawl where a guy died, and he was tried for beating the guy to death, but later acquitted. Eerily enough, this brawl happened on the streets of Toronto, only about two blocks away from the real life De Grassi Street. Creepy, no? And this won’t even be the creepiest real-life event that sort-of kind-of relates to this episode. But more on that later.