Mercy Street
Season: 4
Episode: 4
CTV Airdate: 9/21/04
The-N Airdate: 10/15/04

PLOT A SUMMARYRick Murray returns to Degrassi, months after the incident that landed Terri in a coma.  Paige, Spinner and company are outraged, and Emma takes it upon herself to get Rick kicked out of school.  Rick tries to make amends with Paige, but she refuses to accept his apology.  Emma offers to help Paige pressure Rick into leaving Degrassi, allowing her to slowly slip into Paige’s clique.  They meet at The Dot, but Rick shows up.  Emma confronts him and tells him no one wants him at Degrassi, and throws him out of The Dot.

Emma and Paige begin a silent protest, supporting students against violence by selling ribbons to pressure Rick.  This campaign ultimately leads to Rick being harassed everywhere he goes at Degrassi.  Rick tries to give Emma a check worth his entire savings ($554.16) to the campaign, but Emma says that he can’t buy forgiveness.  He then says the donation can be anonymous.  Alex spots them and tells Rick to get lost, then rips up the check.  Emma blasts Alex for “not caring about the cause,” then Alex points out Emma knows nothing about the cause by asking if Emma’s had to witness her mother getting abused like she has.

Paige, Emma and the gang are hanging out at The Dot again when Rick walks in.  Paige starts to wonder if Emma is starting to feel sorry for Rick, and she insists that’s not the case.  Rick tries to talk to Emma, but she ignores him then trips him as he tries to leave.  With Rick visibly upset, Jay jumps up to grab Rick and drag him to the alley behind The Dot.  With a crowd of people watching, Jay breaks Rick’s glasses and punches him.  Alex steps up to hit Rick next, but Emma steps in and ends it.  The next day Emma tells Rick that just because she stepped in to help him it doesn’t mean they’re friends, then asks why he decided to return to Degrassi.  Rick says he came back because he liked the school and wanted to prove his haters wrong by showing them who he really is.

Mercy Street provides a very strong beginning for one of Degrassi: TNG’s most powerful storylines.  Degrassi crafts a story that does a brilliant job of showing all three perspectives: it’s just as easy to be outraged like Paige and the gang as it is to feel sorry for Rick, and be torn between both like Emma.  Emotions blur the line between speaking out against Rick and bullying him.  There’s so much irony within Emma and Paige’s silent protest: students in the hall sporting ribbons are doing so to support students against violence, yet they mercilessly harass Rick without question.

Paige and the others aren’t concerned with the cause, they’re only concerned with punishing Rick.  Emma’s focus is the cause, but it’s one she knows nothing about.  A tense scene with Alex exposes this, and is a preview of Deanna Casaluce’s talent as an actress.

But the only noteworthy flaw within this plot is a hole that gets larger the more you stare at it.  Why did Emma get in the middle this situation?  She obviously had a reason stay in it after Paige welcomed Emma into her inner circle, but there’s really no clear reason as to why she got involved to begin with.

While it’s really not that big of a deal and in no way hinders Mercy Street‘s progress, it does become a big deal when you begin to look at Emma’s character as a whole in Season 4.  Her actions are the driving force of this fantastic plot, yet it shows another erratic side to Emma, whose character seemed to be written with little to no focus in the opening episodes of such a crucial season.

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PLOT B SUMMARYLiberty is having a hot tub party at her house with Manny, JT, Toby and Liberty’s little brother Danny.  Danny sets up an ironing board and JT tries to use it as a diving board.  While standing on it Danny yanks down JT’s pants, exposing his privates in front of everyone.  JT thinks Manny might be freaked out and tries to talk to her, but their conversation is interrupted when Craig walks by.  JT feels threatened by Craig and decides to talk to him while in the locker room.  While talking, Craig is getting dressed after a shower and takes off his towel, revealing that he has a “big package.”  JT feels inadequate, and Danny helps him by buying him a penis pump.

Manny is ready to break up with JT, but doesn’t know how to tell him.  JT invites her over after school and she agrees, planning in her head to finally break up with him.  When she arrives things are nervous between the two, and Manny leaves the room to “freshen up.”  While doing this JT breaks out his penis pump, and while using it Manny walks in on him.  Freaked out, she quickly leaves.  The next day JT apologizes and says he was trying to measure up to Craig’s size, but Manny says he’s not as mature as Craig because he’s always joking around…then Manny finally breaks up with JT.

If someone walks up to me and asks me about Degrassi subplots, this is one of the first ones that will instantly come to mind.  It’s one of the funniest and most memorable in TNG history.  Whoever thought of writing a story about a penis pump deserves all the awards.  JT, Toby and newcomer Danny do their job of providing a comedic subplot that brilliantly contrasts the heavier main plot.

But like the main plot, there’s an issue here that nags me:  the show never gives me a reason to care about JT and Manny as a couple to begin with.  I was one of those people who rooted, hardcore, for the underdog JT (or in his case, underDAWG) to win Manny’s heart in Season 3.  But while he was able to go to the dance with her, we were still unclear about what their status was.  We learn they’re dating when Season 4 starts, but soon after we learn Manny’s ready to break up.  They’ve had all these issues in their relationship, but those pages in the script probably got e-mailed to the Degrassi Bermuda Triangle by mistake.  Since their entire relationship happened off screen we were never given a chance “to ship or not give a shit” about them. I just don’t care that their relationship has fallen apart, and that Manny is too much of a coward to tell JT that she’s grown tired of his immaturity.  Instead, we’re left to be entertained by the “Three Musketeers” of Mercy Street: JT’s penis, Craig’s penis and the penis pump used to uphold the self-evident truth that all penises are created equal…and they do just fine.

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Posted by Kary

14 Comments

  1. People always make the assumption that Degrassi is like most other melodramatic high school fare, so whenever I try to introduce Degrassi to someone, I always start with this episode. Sure, the A plot is a fantastic one that showcases the ambiguity of Rick’s situation — he’s very remorseful, but can you really feel bad for someone who beat up his girlfriend and put her in an accidental coma? — but it’s always the B plot that I focus on. I introduce this episode as the “penis pump episode,” and go on about how the show actually had a plot revolving around a character’s shame about his penis size and gets caught using a penis pump by his girlfriend, and pulls it off with a sense of humor, but not so much so that it becomes a parody. In the end, JT’s still a three-dimensional character and you still feel for JT, even though Manny’s position is entirely understandable. This is one of those Degrassi episodes that should definitely serve as inspiration for future episodes. (Well, along with most of season 4, but that’s just my opinion!)

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    1. Degrassi USED to be different from high school shows. Now, it’s just like any other high school show you see on the CW with MUCH, MUCH worse acting.

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      1. thiss
        Degrassi has become the pooper of teen shows.

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  2. I may be remembering it wrong because I no longer own seasons 3/4, but Emma’s actions made sense to me. In season 3, Emma lost her two most important relationships- Manny and Sean. Why was Emma not invited to the hot tub party??? Because she was out. She pretty much lost her friendship with Liberty when she stepped in and stopped her and Chris from getting together. JT being with Manny would prevent him from hanging out with Emma.
    She was just trying to fit in with whoever she could, and Rick’s return was a perfect opportunity to garner favor with a huge group of people. Which to me makes Emma’s reluctance to stand up for Rick sooner also make sense. Emma of Seasons 1 and 2 and early season 3 would never have tripped anyone or openly participate in a school-wide bullying. She always stood up to Paige before. She would’ve been the person protesting this mistreatment, not causing it. But when the rubber meets the road, Emma is a teenager girl, whose last year at school sucked. She lost her boyfriend, her friends, and her stepdad got seriously sick. I think she was just trying to make sure she had a place to belong. Emma was the only person isolated enough to walk the line between wanting to belong with the in-crowd and trying to do what she believed was right.

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    1. Have to majorly agree with Jacks765 on that one. I didn’t see it that way until I read it in his comment. Definitely makes Emma’s actions make more sense in Mercy Street when you look at the previous season.

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  3. Yay, a review for my all-time favorite plotline. Rick Murray is the best character on Degrassi never to become a regular character.

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    1. Agree. Do not think Degrassi has made a really good plot since then! I miss the old Degrassi when things seemed real. Teen pregnancies abortions stds murder and the list goes on and on.

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  4. I always thought that Manny never really liked JT to begin with. I believed that she just really enjoyed the attention he gave her when she first started dressing sexier, and she found comfort in the fact that he still wanted anything to do with her even after she became the school outcast and rejected him earlier.

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  5. Ephraim Ellis was one of the best actors they ever had, if not the best. Had Rick been cast with a lesser actor, the story line would have fallen apart. It’s heartbreaking because you start to root for the guy (although not everyone shares this view), then it all falls apart.

    My favorite thing about the plot is something I only thought of recently.In “Don’t Dream it’s Over” Spinner says “I’m just like him.” When we next see Rick he is reformed but rejected by his peers, one of which is Spinner. Come season 5, Spinner is also reformed but rejected by the same peers that rejected Rick (although less violently). Such a well written story.

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  6. The thing I love about the Rick storyline and its fallout is that the story arc in general was beautifully written and so many characters had so many different perspectives and consequences, but each episode was strong enough to stand on it’s own as well.

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  7. This really was a good episode. I thought it was kinda weird for her and Paige to be hainging out since they both never liked eachother like that in the first place. And since Paige and every one else wanted Rick out she decied to do something so she could become known and she could have more friends since her Manny and Liberty fell out.

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  8. I thought this epi was so different form Emma because it seemed like she change. She suddenly didnt care about protesting or her acdimics anymore. She just wanted to fit in somwhere since her and Manny hadnt been talking. And the second plot was good too. It was really funny. But im really happ that Manny and Jt broke up because they had no chemistry what so ever. I just didnt feel it.

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  9. This was a powerful episode for sure. It’s easy for me to sympathize with Rick; everyone was clearly in knight templar mode with their vicious bullying of Rick.

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  10. Indeed this was a very powerful episode. I was very uncomfortable while watching it. The endless bullying of Rick clearly put the other Degrassi kids into knight templar territory.

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