PLOT A SUMMARY: Jenna’s singing in the Degrassi garden when Becky approaches and starts singing with her. Becky invites Jenna over to her house to perform in front of a group of people and Jenna agrees. When she gets there she realizes it’s a youth group from Becky’s church, but plays for them anyway. Afterward, Jenna is upset Becky didn’t tell her and storms out because she feels like Becky is being a judgmental Christian, and Jenna doesn‘t know if she believes in God yet. The next day Jenna needs a partner for a class assignment and is approached by a guy named Luke. He invites her to join his group, which includes his sister, Becky. Jenna is suspicious of Becky wanting to be friends and tells her about getting pregnant and giving up her child for adoption last year. Jenna’s expecting that will scare Becky away, but Becky is supportive instead.
Jenna, Becky and Luke work on their assignment at the Baker’s house, and Jenna and Luke are left alone after Becky takes a phone call. Luke tells Jenna that he never feels alone because he has God in his life, and he knows he’ll be okay if he follows the path God has planned for him. Jenna is mesmerized by Luke looks and his words, and the two kiss. However, the next day Luke tells Jenna that she tempts him sexually, and that them kissing was a mistake because she‘s not a Christian like he is. Jenna decides to become a Christian and get baptized, even though Alli and Becky worries that Jenna might be getting baptized for the wrong reasons. After the baptismal ceremony Jenna tries to pursue Luke again, but he tells her he lied when he rejected her the first time…in reality he didn’t want to be tied down to one girl. Jenna is upset and vents her frustration in the bathroom to Alli, revealing that she’d only become friends with Becky to get close to Luke. However, Becky overhears their conversation. Jenna regrets becoming a Christian for Luke, but does feel lost and hopes that it can fill the void in her life. She apologizes during a church service to Becky, who forgives Jenna, but also tells her to stay away from Luke.
While bland and predictable on the storyline front, this episode is kind of important in establishing Jenna with another social group. A lot of the characters in Season 12 are paired off in either pairs or groups, with some being capable of floating back and forth between multiple social circles. With Katie taking over Jenna’s position as his “girl friend,” and Alli being preoccupied with schoolwork and Dave, Jenna is almost literally alone. At least establishing a friendship with Becky gives her something to be a part of as Alli begins her farewell tour.
More intriguing than Jenna’s quest to find something to fill the void in her life is the consistent theme throughout the episode that Becky is just as lonely. It’s not a secret that the existence of the Baker family is based off of the Florida Family Association, who has spent God knows how long going after Degrassi’s advertisers on TeenNick because Degrassi “promotes a gay agenda.“ It’d be easy to follow the standard protocol of setting up an over-the-top Christian who can be used as a punching bag to mock those with extreme views. But Degrassi once again implements its tactic of showing a completely different angle of a character, challenging the boundaries of “good and bad.“
The assumption, until now, was that Becky would probably be a one-sided caricature who spends every waking moment pushing an anti-gay agenda until her character eventually levels out in a season or two. Just as isolated as Jenna is, even with her faith, Becky feels a type of void because she has no female friends at Degrassi. Closer To Free shows how desperate Becky is to have a gal pal, thanks to two things getting in the way. Her being so open about and dedicated to her faith gets her the judgment in the form of people assuming she’s going to judge them or force her believes down people’s throats. Irony lies in the former, as Jenna was quick to judge Becky because she assumed Becky had already judged her.
Another thing is that Luke seems to have a knack for women that destroys any chance for Becky to maintain female friendships. It was mentioned a couple of times in passing by Becky, but her facial expressions while talking about it speaks volumes. While Luke is ultimately the kind of tool you’d expect based on his previous behavior, it’s interesting that Becky is the only character that provides any surprise in this plot. I like how Jenna realized she was lost and realized she’d messed up by getting baptized because of a boy. However, for Jenna’s path as a character this storyline feels like a quick means to a quick end, in order to make sure she remains somewhat of a relevant character in the future. Things might’ve been more interesting if more of the focus had been on the plot’s more polarizing character instead.
PLOT B SUMMARY: Clare’s internship boss Asher takes a quick look at a geography assignment for school and gives her pointers on how to make it better because quote, “There’s no reason every piece of work shouldn’t be your best.” Clare tries to use his advice when meeting with her partners Connor and Adam, but they’re not interested in doing anything fancy so she takes on the assignment by herself.
Asher asks Clare to show him how to get things trending on twitter. With her twitter feed open Asher spots several hashtags that catch his eye: #StuffClareSays and #AsherSays, both started by Connor tweeting things Clare had said to him and Adam. She’s flustered and immediately slams her computer shut. Clare confronts Connor and he tells her it was a joke. She tells him she’s afraid it could cause her to lose her internship, but he continues and #StuffClareSays becomes a trending topic at the school, and when Asher sees that Clare obsessing over it is getting in the way of her work, he sends her home.
Clare, Adam and Connor present the project, but their teacher says it’s off topic from the original assignment. After calling the assignment pedestrian, Connor calls Clare out for being full of herself and walks out. Later, Clare apologizes and shares a laugh with Connor and Adam as they watch a “Stuff Clare Says” video the guys (plus Dave and KC) made.
What looked like was going to be a very tough plot to grade after the end of Part 1, shaped up quite nicely after Part 2. Of course Connor makes this plot what it is, an entertain-enough B plot. You’ve gotta love the continuity with Connor’s character spending most of his time practicing joking around with people since Not Ready To Make Nice. His serious demeanor makes it even funnier as even Adam and KC join in on the “let’s knock Clare down a peg” train. It’s not shocking that Clare would start behaving so intense and uptight, and start forcing Asher’s advice into places where it doesn’t fit (aka a high school assignment). However, what makes little sense is the sudden burst of egomania she displays during the class presentation. That seems like an out of character move that is thankfully rectified by the end of the episode, even if it is meant to show how overly loyal and dedicated she is to impressing Asher. But in a way it does make sense; she’s so hyper focused on being a picture-perfect intern that it’s terrifying the amount of control Asher has over Clare’s actions, and he’s not even trying.
PLOT C SUMMARY: Drew’s disappointed that he can’t even participate in gym, and is given a health assignment instead. Fiona and Drew decide to split the assignment, but forgets his sheet at home and blames it on his concussion. Frustrated with the concussion and feeling like he’s dumb, he skips school and heads to the mall. There he finds himself hanging out at the CoastLight kiosk. He helps a woman with her phone, and is encouraged to apply for a job there. Drew’s mom doesn’t want him to apply for a job because she wants him to recover from his concussion, but he applies anyway and gets it. Audra tells him that he has no choice to go to school if he lives under her roof. Drew decides that he’s going to move out, and moves in with someone who was in search of a roommate: Fiona.
Let’s get the ridiculous parts of this plot out of the way first: the insane idea that Drew is going to make all of this money working at a kiosk in the mall (this is almost as silly as Fiona’s yard sale last season), and Drew moving in so quickly with Fiona. With that said, this plot is underrated in how thorough it’s dealt with a character who lacks book smarts. It’s been a long time since Degrassi’s had a main character who had a storyline built around them wanting to drop out of school, and them legitimately coming close to doing so. With Drew’s plot you feel as if that’s the option he’s going to take, and that he’s going to follow through with it because he has no other choice. If a character doesn’t leave the show in some manner before graduation it’s expected that they’ll walk with the rest of their class, or be held back until the following year: how interesting it would be if a main character on Degrassi chose neither.
How do YOU grade Closer To Free?
You can now grade the plots in Closer To Free by voting below!
I normally create this review post before I actually post my review, and post my thoughts before Part 2 airs. Below is what I wrote after Closer To Free Pt. 1:
Kary, I’ve gotta take a time out to give you props (as I forgot to the other day). I think you run the best Degrassi site on the web, bar none. You take really good care of the site and always post interesting materials and extras for the fans. You are one of the fairest and most honest reviewers I have ever read (and I go back to s1 of TNG). I love how well spoken you are and how I know you’ll always have an argument behind something instead of unfounded statements. It’s such a miracle for this show to find well-written, reasonable analysis, so I really appreciate it. And I love that you allow people to post different opinions and not just slam down the ban-hammer on them!
I don’t know how often you get praise, but you definitely deserve some, so here it is! :)
Thank you so much. Kind words like that are much appreciated, especially when it’s 1am and I’m still working on an episode review :). Now piggybacking on the part about being fair, the initial feeling (as shared by many) is that this a boring episode. Jenna’s plot isn’t very engaging, and everything happening in Closer To Free for Clare is a setup for the next two episodes. I feel like it’s going to be difficult to grade both Jenna and Clare’s plots in Closer To Free because, especially Jenna’s plot, exposes the fact that there’s more than one way to look at and analyze plots in any given episode.
There’s at least 3 ways actually…you can look at an episode from an entertainment standpoint, you can look at it from a thematic standpoint, and you can look at it from an odd combination of both. For years Degrassi has been an entertainment show, which is far different than the educational foundation the storylines in Degrassi Junior High were based upon. But the Zig, Alli and Cam plots from week 2 of “Showdown” show a slight shift into being less dramatic, and more thematic. They’re not mind-blowing episodes that will grace the Degrassi hall of fame, and most people will forever remember the first week of “Showdown” instead of them, but they hit on different and sometimes deeper issues that are more broadly relatable. Season 2’s “Mirror In The Bathroom” will forever be the prime example of an episode with surface content that isn’t eye-catching, but closer inspection shows two plots that intertwine their themes to provide a simple, yet amazing statement about the most basic motivations of human behavior.
And that’s what we *might* have here in Closer To Free with Jenna’s plot. The grade of this plot probably depends on what they’re trying to show with these individual characters as opposed to the general story itself (unless the story becomes so utterly ridiculous that it detracts from any character depth they’re trying to establish in the episode) This is one that’s going to take multiple viewings to figure out.
If Clare’s plot is the same in Part 2 as it was in Part 1, the difficulty in grading it will expose something that hopefully people already know: NOT ALL GRADES ARE CREATED EQUAL. If two different plots are given an A- (even if they’re in two different episodes that are in two different seasons), it doesn’t mean they are equally good…they can both be good for different reasons. The same would apply for two plots if they were both given a C+ or something. Ultimately, any grading scale is too subjective to be relied upon as an end all, be all because sometimes arguments can definitely be made as to why a plot could be say an A instead of an A-, or a B- instead of a C+. I’m not even sure what grade I’m even leaning toward with Clare’s plot, but whatever it ends up being I’m sure it won’t carry as much weight as plots that I’ve given the same grade to.