Episode: 11 & 12
CTV Airdate: 12/17/03
The-N Airdate: 12/19/03
PLOT A SUMMARY: It’s almost Christmas time, and there’s all sorts of drama happening in the Jeremiah household. For Craig, he’s still stuck in his dilemma: he’s still dating Ashley while secretly dating Manny. What Manny wants for Christmas is for Craig to break up with Ashley, but he doesn’t want to. Manny tells Craig that even though Ashley may love him, Ashley will never love him as much as she does. After receiving some advice from Caitlin, Craig tells Manny that she’s the one for him, not Ashley. This means that Craig has to break up with Ashley, but when he tries to she “ruins” the moment by giving him a classic guitar passed down from her grandfather. Manny is angry after finding out that Craig didn’t talk to Ashley, with him saying he doesn’t want it to affect him and Ashley’s performance together in Degrassi’s Christmas program. Craig promises Manny that things will be sorted out soon.
Craig winds up getting Christmas presents for both Ashley and Manny. While in Craig’s garage, Ashley finds the presents (Manny’s main gift being a bracelet with ice skates on it), but thinks they’re all for her. Before the Christmas program, Craig give Manny her gift. While getting her makeup done by Manny, Ashley recognizes the bracelet, and Manny tells her she got it from “a guy.” Ashley then spots the gift bag she saw in Craig’s garage and realizes “the guy” is Craig. Manny said she didn’t tell her because she would’ve been upset about Craig moving on too soon, but Ashley tells Manny she and Craig are still together…leaving them both shocked. It’s time for Craig and Ashley to finally perform, but Ashley refuses to sing. She then slaps Craig in front of the audience and walks out. Ashley is at a loss for words as she confronts Craig in the hallway, and she storms off (taking the guitar with her). Manny then walks up and tells Craig the reason she and Ashley found out about his lies is because he’s stupid. She drops her bracelet on the floor and walks away.
The Ashley/Craig/Manny love triangle will forever be one of the most memorable storylines in Degrassi’s history. Craig Manning is one of my favorite characters not because he’s a “stud” (as Spinner would so eloquently put it), but because in these earlier seasons his character was given such quality material to work with. If this show were to have a star, Craig Manning would be it from the moment he first appeared in “When Doves Cry“ until his exit in “Together Forever.” He’s the Joey Jeremiah of this generation, a title that’s figurative, but also becomes hauntingly literal in an episode such as this one as well as the episode “Drive.”
Despite it being a love triangle, we’re only really subjected to such interesting layers of emotions provided by Craig and Manny, because of course Ashley is completely unaware of what’s going on. And when she does become aware, the scene where she is unable to even process what to say to Craig, while he in return has no excuses for his actions is perfect. What do you say in that situation if you’re either of them? The writers letting the characters’ emotions do the talking in that moment is brilliant. There is no sympathy for Craig, even if his plan shifted from arrogantly “trying before he buys” to *planning* to do the right thing and end it with one of them…eventually. Just following the way his thought process evolves throughout this episode is fascinating.
And when it comes to the great “Is Manny Santos a slut?” debate, I’ll never believe she was one because of this situation. You have to understand what having sex can mean to a girl her age, especially with her being someone who believes in fairytale love. The Season 2 episode “Take My Breath Away” makes my point. Her emotional “I love you, Craig” in this episode makes it even further. She’s young, naïve and believes that in the end she will be with her prince, which is why she’s willing to stick around even when Craig refuses to break up with Ashley. It’s not about being a boyfriend stealer; in her mind she loves him and she believes that if Craig could see that she loves him more than Ashley then he’d realize she’s the one for him.
I still can’t get over how much depth was crafted not only into the characters and this episode, but into this storyline as a whole, which was ultimately sparked by a bizarre date tale in Season 2…and their story isn’t even close to being finished.
PLOT B SUMMARY: While Joey and Sydney are happy together, it’s becoming more and more apparent that Caitlin still has feelings for Joey. Sydney is busy with work stuff which allows for Joey and Caitlin to spend a lot of time alone together. Sydney asks Caitlin to babysit Angela, and she agrees. Caitlin lets Angela wear her pageant costume, which annoys Sydney upon her return. This upset Caitlin who rushes out of Joey’s house, and while Joey apologizes for Sydney’s behavior he and Caitlin share a kiss.
Caitlin writes a letter revealing her feelings for Joey and slides it through the letter box on Joey’s door, but she immediately regrets doing so. She tries to break into his house to retrieve it, but winds up getting stuck in a window. She makes up a lie about losing her phone in Joey’s house, which Sydney doesn’t believe for a second. Sydney confronts Caitlin, telling her that Joey and the family doesn’t need her around. Caitlin leaves upset, grabbing the letter from Craig. Joey learns about Sydney ripping Caitlin and confronts her about it. Their relationship ends when Sydney realizes Joey still loves Caitlin. As Caitlin’s about to leave for her Christmas getaway she gets a call from Joey, who is at the airport with Craig and Angela. Caitlin gets off the plane, and Joey tells her that he broke up with Sydney. He also tells Caitlin that he wants to be with her, and the couple reunites.
As much as I wanted to love this plot, I couldn’t. Adult romance storylines on this show just aren’t entertaining, unless they DIRECTLY cause an emotional impact on the teenage characters. This is the first episode where we get an extended look at Sydney, and it feels weird compared to all of her previous appearances on the show. In this episode it’s like they’re demonizing her in order to make it “easier” to justify Joey breaking up with her. She didn’t necessarily need to be a jerk to Caitlin, but wouldn’t you feel threatened too if you’re dating someone and their ex (who still has feelings for them) is always hanging around?
Ultimately, Joey and Caitlin’s reunion was underwhelming. I didn’t flat out hate it, but it’s a forgettable plot within the scope of Season 3. It was predictable from the beginning…they didn’t even try to hide where this story was headed. Don’t get me wrong, I love Joey and Caitlin as characters. After watching Degrassi Juinor High and Degrassi High, I sit there in awe watching Degrassi: TNG because we’re watching characters whose existence and relevance in the Degrassi timeline has lasted almost two decades. Before the likes of Semma, Eclare and other major ships, Joey and Caitlin were THE Degrassi couple of this franchise. The original Degrassi series spent 3 out of its 5 seasons covering Joey and Caitlin’s relationship…I recommend watching them instead of this episode, which doesn’t do the couple justice.
And speaking of old school Degrassi…
Let’s watch one of the most memorable moments in Degrassi history, which happens to involve Joey and Caitlin (and Snake back when he had hair). “School’s Out!” was a made-for-tv movie that was also the show’s series finale. It’s the first time the F-bomb was ever used on broadcast television in Canada. It’s also relevant to “Holiday” because Joey tells Craig about the time he cheated on Caitlin with Tessa Campinelli, which was the main storyline of this movie: