BARK AT THE MOON
CTV AIRDATE: 11/23/04
THE-N AIRDATE: 3/11/05
MANNY PLOT SUMMARY: Spinner wants to make his relationship with Manny official, but she’s hesitant to do so. While giving a tour of the school to new kid Chester, Craig stops Manny to apologize to her. However, Manny rejects his apology when he refers to her as a “mistake” and wishes he could’ve stopped and saved them through going so much pain last year. Manny accompanies Marco to the principal’s office where they learn Mr. Raditch is being assigned to a new school, and Ms. Hatzilakos is now the interim principal. She gives the two the task of coming up with a way to boost school spirit so the school can move past the shooting. Spinner approaches Manny and gives her a stuffed toy, and asks her again to become an official couple. She avoids the question by saying she’s too busy and runs off. While Manny and Marco discus potential school spirit ideas Chester gives them one: a dance where people are electronically paired up with each other based on their compatibility. Chester shows Manny how the computer program works and she begins to have a crush on him. Spinner tells Manny he won’t be able to make it to the dance because of work, and she gets upset because she feels as if he isn’t really willing to commit to her.
Manny logs into the cupid program to see Chester has been paired up with Darcy, and rigs it so that she is paired with Chester instead. However, Marco goes back in and changes it, then scolds Manny for the way she’s been treating Spinner. Spinner surprises Manny at the dance and lists the reasons he wants her to be his girlfriend, but she’s convinced they will never work out. She spends the evening dancing with Chester, and embarrasses him with her weird dancing. The two end up meeting again in an empty hallway and kiss, but Manny realizes that she’s making a mistake. She finds Spinner outside of The Dot and tells him that she’s afraid of being treated the way Craig treated her last year. Spinner promises to never hurt her, and the two share their first kiss as an official couple.
Spanny is one of the most forgettable couples to have ever graced the halls of Degrassi. Their origins were kind of out of left field (fueled by some random and questionable behavior by Spinner), and they received virtually no development before their also out-of-left-field demise. However, the one good thing to come from this couple comes in this episode: a look into the mind of Manny Santos well after the events of the Season 3 love triangle and “Accidents Will Happen.”
Manny’s abortion in Season 3 ranks in my head as one of the most disappointing storylines in Degrassi’s history. Keep in mind I place no blame on the show for this, and it doesn’t mean I think Accidents Will Happens was an awful episode, but one can only imagine how powerful and in depth Manny’s abortion storyline could’ve been had the show been given free reign to do as they please. In the episodes that followed we saw hints of AWH’s effects on how people started treating Manny, most completely unaware of her abortion, but it amounts to being little more than a generic aftermath.
Keeping the knowledge of AWH in the back of one’s head makes Bark At The Moon a more powerful episode than it is on the surface. The abortion as well as the way Craig treated her beforehand, unfairly sucking her and Ashley into a love triangle fueled by lies, still resonates within her, causing her paralyzing fear of committed relationships. Not all backstories are this extreme, but if a guy destroying a girl’s heart and her trust in relationships isn’t a relatable feeling for females of all ages, I’m not sure what is.
Craig’s brief conversation with Manny in the hall seems abrupt at first, but makes sense on multiple fronts: the show needed to link Manny’s current behavior back to Craig by briefly re-establishing contact. Craig’s poorly-worded apology makes sense because of his current state after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. When it comes to Spinner and Chester, they are simply caught in the crossfire of Manny’s emotional turmoil.
Where this episode lacks is having Manny go through this with Spinner. If you watch Degrassi enough, you can easily tell which couples are intended to be established and developed, and which ones are slapped together with a quick expiration date tattooed on both characters’ foreheads. Even having watched this episode when it originally aired in 2004, years before I even thought of looking at Degrassi with a critical eye, I knew then Spanny was the latter.
“If you can’t commit to a simple dance, how can you commit to me?” is the most important thing to come from Manny’s mouth in this episode. Degrassi makes it easy for us to finally see Manny show emotion in regards to the biggest chain of events in her life, even if it is difficult to see Spanny and “commitment” in the same frame.
PAIGE PLOT SUMMARY: Paige apologizes to Mr. O for showing up at the bar the other night and Matt tells her that he and Charlie broke up. Paige says that if she and him started dating it would be no different that Marco and Dylan dating age wise, but Matt reminds her that he’s her teacher and that’s inappropriate. She’s frustrated that Matt refuses to make a move, and is even more disappointed when she learns Matt has stopped teaching the yoga class. At the dance Paige has Marco create a cupid page that says she’s been paired up with Matt, even though he didn’t sign up for the program. He walks off and Paige confronts him in an empty hallway. She’s tired of not knowing where he stands, but as he goes in to kiss her Manny walks by and spots them. As Matt leaves the dance Paige runs after him. The two share a kiss and Matt agrees to their relationship with conditions: they must keep it a secret until he’s finished student teaching, and they can only act like a couple off school grounds.
An underrated aspect of this storyline is Christopher Jacot’s acting. A continuation of the events from Neutron Dance, Mr. O’s actions continue to speak mounds while his words say very little. Have you ever known something and know that you’re the only person that has this information? And the only way for anyone to find out is for you to tell them, but you’re convinced that somehow people will magically find out anyway? That is how Matt behaves throughout this entire episode. Even in the moments where he’s not turning down Paige’s advances, he’s obviously paranoid that someone will find out about the feelings he’s been hiding for her.
As an adult it’s disturbing reading stories in the news about teachers having romantic relationships with their students. Don’t get me wrong, Matt and Paige’s relationship is inappropriate, but it doesn’t fall into that creepy category of “teacher using their power and influence to take advantage of a student.” Because of how close they are in age, oddly enough their relationship has more a vibe of an employee at a workplace getting involved with a college intern. On the flip side this is also a situation where Paige is the aggressor, completely unaffected by the thought of what potential consequences of said relationship could bring. Degrassi uses all of these elements in a unique way to show that not all forbidden relationships are equal, and it works.