Degrassi Junior High “Smokescreen” (part 4 of 4)

The next day, Caitlin, Rick, and Susie are headed to the factory to deliver the petition. They cross the street, and Rick almost gets hit by a car, so focused is he on delivering the petition. Or maybe he really is dumb as a post, and too stupid to remember the lesson about looking both ways. The three kids stand on the sidewalk and look up at the factory. Caitlin suggests just mailing the petition, but Rick yells, “Come on!” I guess he really, really hated having to keep his windows closed in the summertime.

Now they’re sitting in the lobby of the factory, on a big couch. Out walks a dweeby guy in a suit and big SJR glasses who sits down across from them, and over his right shoulder we see some of the wonderfully generic products the factory produces: “automatic dishwasher detergent”, “liquid soap”, “oven cleaner”, etc. Hey, oven cleaner! It’s Wheels’ aftershave! No wonder this factory is pumping out toxic fumes.

Caitlin explains that they’re here to present a petition asking the factory to “stop polluting”. What, is that all? Well, in that case, shut it down, boys! I can only assume there’s a big on-off switch somewhere labeled “POLLUTE”.

Caption contributed by Albert

“My weasely-ness is well within Ministry of Weaseldom guidelines!”

Dweeby Corporate Weasel explains that their emissions are “completely within the acceptable Ministry guidelines!” Ministry? Say what? Oh, right, this is taking place in Canada. I was actually wondering what, if anything, Al Jourgensen had to do with any of this.

Susie brings up how “the newspaper” said the “tests were fake”. I have no idea what that means. So Corporate Weasel Guy breaks it down for the kids, explaining to Susie all about the lying leftard liberal media, and how they make up stuff to sell newspapers, and they “love a good story” and so forth. However, being a corporate weasel and all, he doesn’t outright deny anything; he just says that “nothing’s been proven” and leaves it at that.

I guess the insinuation is that the factory is corrupt, and somehow faking the results of their emissions tests. But you know what? I think kids can get that pollution is bad without making the factory executives out to be Bond villains. There’s plenty of perfectly legal pollution going on in this world, and it’s just silly and unnecessary to add on a whole corruption angle.

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But Rick knows that the factory pollutes, and he has all the proof he needs: “This place stinks!” Corporate Weasel Guy leans back and replies, “We’ve really had no complaints,” almost like Rick was talking about his personal body odor. As a matter of fact, some people think the factory has an enchanting musk.

Rick stands up, looking ready to lodge his own formal complaint in the form of a punch to Corporate Weasel’s jaw. He demands to see the factory president, but the Weasel says “she” is in a meeting right now. Wait a minute! This is Degrassi Junior High, where the groundbreaking achievements of women are regularly forgotten by male historians. So how can a company run by a woman be a gross polluter? This is causing me massive cognitive dissonance.

Caption contributed by Albert

”Yoink!”

Corporate Weasel Guy then snatches the petition out of Caitlin’s hands, and politely thanks the kids for dropping by, and then weasels his way out of the lobby. Once again, the kids of Degrassi have been screwed over by the Man.

Caption contributed by Albert

Rick abuses a soda can, and the cycle of violence continues.

As they head out of the factory, Rick’s rage continues to build. He yells that there’s no way the factory president is ever going to see that petition, and the guy was a “jerk”, and nothing matters. He storms off, kicking a soda can as he goes, because that’s how pissed off he is. I’m kind of thinking maybe Rick doesn’t have the temperament for environmental issues. Perhaps he should stick to threatening kids who are bigger and taller than him.

Caption contributed by Albert

“Stupid factory! Making it so hard for me to breathe!”

After dealing with corporate weasels, you know what Rick really needs? Yeah, that’s right: a smoke. He heads to the world-famous DE GRASSI GROCERY, stands on the corner, and lights up a cigarette. He spits out, “Stupid factory!” Honestly, I’m beginning to see eco-terrorism in his future.

Just then, Kathleen comes out of the store, and she silently observes him smoking. And then she looks down the street, and bam, they insert a shot of the factory, which is so clearly not anywhere near the actual school where they filmed this show. But I can accept the space-time fabric of Toronto being warped for this one episode, as long as it teaches a valuable lesson. And gets Rick laid.

And now, it’s time for yet another meeting of the Degrassi EAC. Trish reads the first item on the agenda. Can you guess what it is? C’mon, just try. That’s right, item number one, yet again, is changing the club’s name. Does Trish actually spend time writing down the same damn agenda every day? That seems like a huge waste of time. But okay, we get that this particular organization has a case of terminal paralysis.

But wait! Kathleen has something more important to discuss. She thinks they should kick Rick out of the club, because she saw him smoking. She says it’s “hypocritical” to be a smoker and also on the Environmental Action Committee.

“So I had a smoke,” Rick says. “So what?” What is she, his social worker? Caitlin looks disappointed in him. Kathleen says they simply can’t have a “polluter” on an “anti-pollution committee”. She has a point. You don’t see Stephanie Kaye joining the abstinence club, do you?

Caption contributed by Albert

“What are you, the woman who checks me for head lice?”

So Rick calls them all “a bunch of jerks”, and finally lets them have it about their tendency to talk about the same damn thing every day instead of actually doing anything. He storms out, engaging in a little more locker punching as he heads down the hall. Kathleen sure is brave, isn’t she? That certainly could have ended much uglier.

Kathleen smugly tells Caitlin she was wrong about Rick, and she just made a mistake, that’s all. Kathleen says, “You can’t be perfect all the time!” Yes, she can, as a matter of fact. Stacie Mistysyn is always perfect at all times. Even while rapping. Kathleen says Rick is “no good”, then simply carries on with the meeting. Which, of course, means starting up the discussion about the club’s name again.

Later, the whole committee leaves the school, and Rick is standing there in the hallway waiting for Caitlin. When she finally comes out, we can see that she’s wearing some very odd high-waisted pants. Does she plan to go hiking through floodwaters later?

Caption contributed by Albert

You’re never too young to wear Mom Jeans.

Rick grumbles that the club is nothing but “a bunch of do-gooders”, but Caitlin doesn’t want to talk to him. She yells at him for making her look dumb in front of everyone, because she stood up for him, especially after she tried to “help” him.

Rick gets angry again. “What am I, your project or something?” So it’s official: Rick is not dumb as a post. He says that he was the one who helped her, by writing her funky fresh announcement, and making her actually go into the factory to deliver the petition. Rick yells, “So I’m not rich like you! So I don’t do too good in school!” And maybe I’m illiterate! And maybe I don’t know too much about “proper hygiene”! So what?

He says he’s not a “charity case”, and he only joined the “dumb committee” because he liked her, and not for her “help”. He takes off, and Caitlin looks sullen and full of regret. So, congratulations to Rick for finally calling Caitlin out on this. The unfortunate thing is, she never really learns this lesson, and ends up making at least two other guys her pet projects in the coming years.

It’s the next day at school, and Arthur and Yick meet up at the lockers. Arthur finally comes clean about what happened to the Ming/Manchu vase, pulling out the shattered remnants. Arthur offers to pay for it. Right. He’s going to pay for what he thinks is a priceless, thousands-year-old relic. He might as well just sell himself into indentured servitude to Yick right now.

But Yick is more concerned about how he’ll give his family tree presentation with nothing to show. Okay, so what stopped him from just going out and buying another vase for $4.99? Yeah, yeah, I know, dramatic license.

Arthur again suggests just talking about how his family first came to the country. Yick says, “Who cares about boat people?” We all do, Yick! (Positive lessons! Positive lessons!) Arthur assures him it’s a great story, and Yick just glares at him and heads into a classroom.

Caption contributed by Albert

“They were pirates. So I did the only thing I could do. I hid the watch up my ass. Five long years, I hid that uncomfortable hunk of metal up my ass.”

Next thing we know, Yick is telling the whole class about how his whole family was at sea for a month, and he’s delving into terrifying details about having to watch out for pirates who were only out to rape and pillage. He says his family only escaped with their clothes, which is why he has nothing to show, and with that, he sits down. Oh yeah, totally lame story, dude. All the other kids are going to laugh at you for that one, for sure.

Caption contributed by Albert

Yick Yu is a mack daddy.

Naturally, everyone breaks into applause. Carl Rivera who? Was there some emblem Susie showed off? Ms. Avery gives Yick a reassuring shoulder rub and tells him his report was excellent. And we’ve seen nearly a full minute of actual classroom time, a new record for this show, so of course Avery immediately dismisses everyone. And now all the girls crowd around Yick’s desk, just to tell him how great that story was. I can guarantee you Yick’s getting laid tonight. Trish is totally going to put out.

As a side note, it appears the whole story about being a refugee and escaping in a boat is based partly on a true event. Something similar happened to the actor who plays Yick, Siluck Saysanasy (yet another actor whose name is impossible to spell without the aid of Google) when he was a child. I won’t go into it here, because you can read the full story elsewhere, about how his family escaped from Laos. (But for my money, the best part of that interview is where Siluck talks about how much he hated the character of Yick. Join the club, buddy.)

Meanwhile, Rick walks out of class and Caitlin stands at the top of the stairwell watching him go. Kathleen appears behind her and says, “Our kind of committee just wasn’t appropriate for someone like him.” What? “Our kind”? “Someone like him”? Leave it to Kathleen to define this in terms of some sort of class war.

Oh, but good news! Kathleen just came up with a new name for the EAC. She wants to call it “The Degrassi Junior High Anti-Pollution and Pro-Environmental Action Committee! What do you think?” I think they’ll fit right in with the Degrassi Junior High Department of Redundancy Department.

Caitlin replies, “Kathleen, I think you’re a real jerk!” Of course, Caitlin’s feelings about Kathleen will change a lot by the end of this series. By then, she’ll be absolutely certain that Kathleen is a real jerk. In fact, Kathleen is the one they named the restaurant after, not Joey. Anyway, Caitlin goes chasing after Rick.

Back in the classroom, the Yick love-in is finally winding down, and all the Yick groupies leave. Arthur comes over and hands Yick a big wad of cash, and says he’ll give Yick his allowance every month until he gets a job, and “then I’ll give you my salary every year, ‘til I finish paying for it!” Seriously, Arthur, indentured servitude. Look into it.

Caption contributed by Albert

“Actually, this isn’t about the vase, somebody said you could score me some chronic.”

Yick thinks it over for a moment, pondering the fat wad of cash, and the untold riches he will be earning in the future. But eventually, he hands the money back and says the vase was worthless. He says he just bought a cheap piece of junk to have something to show in class.

Arthur calls him a “broomhead” and yells, “Why didn’t you tell me?” Yick rightly points out that Arthur didn’t tell him he broke the vase, either. So, they’re just about even Stevens on this one. No harm, no foul, and that’s it for the boring Arth-Yick subplot this week. Tune in next week, and watch them outright lie to each other some more.

All that’s left is to wrap up the A plot. Caitlin finds Rick out front unlocking his bike, and apologizes for calling him dumb and making him into her personal pet project. She thanks him for helping with the petition. Oh yeah, and it turns out he was right about the factory, because “they did ignore us!” What did she expect them to do? Shut down the next day?

But Rick has an idea. He says they can call those lying leftards at the lying elitist newspaper, and tell them their story, about how “a bunch of junior high kids” took on Big Manufacturing, and got ignored. He then basically takes lemons and makes them into lemonade by twisting Corporate Weasel Guy’s words for his own purposes: “Papers like good stories, right?” He thinks the factory president will be more than happy to see them after that story breaks. Yeah, maybe. I guess not a lot of stuff happens in Toronto if a story like that registers any interest.

Caitlin is so enthralled by this concept that she leans over and kisses Rick on the cheek. Holy shit! Caitlin just goes for it, doesn’t she? Naturally, these two are just 12 or 13, so that’s about as far as that goes. Caitlin excitedly says that Rick is “brilliant”.

Caption contributed by Albert

If he was really “brilliant”, she’d be kissing him somewhere else.

Rick gets another creepy smile. He jokingly shushes her, saying, “I have a reputation!” Which I guess brings it all full circle with Trish’s earlier comment about his “awfully bad reputation”. And with that, the episode ends.

So there you have it. I’m not exactly sure what the primary lesson of this episode was, because in less than thirty minutes I learned that a) you shouldn’t lie about your family history, b) you shouldn’t make someone into your pet project, c) corporations are run by lying weasels, d) you shouldn’t smoke, especially if you’re on an environmental action committee, and e) the best way to spot a “replica” of a vase from the Ming Dynasty is to check the bottom for a price tag sticker.

Next up: “It’s Late”, or as I prefer to call it, “The Conception of Emma Nelson”, wherein Spike gets pregnant with Shane’s baby. In other words, this shit is about to get real.

Multi-Part Article: Degrassi Junior High "Smokescreen"
TV Show: Degrassi Junior High

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