CAM/MAYA PLOT SUMMARY: It’s Spirit Week, which means students have been split up into teams that will compete against each other in various competitions. Cam is on the red team, and isn’t pleased when he finds out both Maya and Zig are on the green team. He asks Dallas if he could switch teams, but Dallas says no.
The first Spirit Week event is floor hockey. Cam spots Zig being flirty with Maya, and becomes so enraged that when the match starts Cam viciously elbows Zig in the face. He then pushes Zig down and yells at Zig to fight him, attacking him again. In Simpson’s office Cam tries to say it was an accident, hoping Maya will take his side, but she doesn’t. Simpson suspends Cam for the rest of the week, and Maya’s upset with Cam for his outburst. Dallas calls Cam selfish for what he did, believing that his actions put the hockey team’s future at risk. Cam tells Dallas that he doesn’t want to play hockey, and Dallas continues to tell Cam to pull himself together.
Cam freaks out in a classroom he thinks is empty, only to discover Alli is there. He vents his frustrations about Maya and Dallas, and how he wishes he could go to sleep and never wake up. Alli tells him he should make things right with Maya by getting her flowers. Later, Cam stops by Maya’s house to give her flowers and apologize. At first she’s not interested, but eventually she warms up to Cam and forgives him. They even convince Katie to let Cam spend the night, and he and Maya cuddle on the couch. The next morning Maya wakes up and Cam is gone, but he’s left a video message on her phone telling her to meet him on the front steps of Degrassi. While Cam is waiting for Maya, Zig walks up and tells him that Maya will eventually see that he’s a psycho, and that he should get out of her life now. Later, Maya arrives to find Cam is nowhere to be found, but receives a text from him saying their relationship is over.
The next day Eli is apologizing to Clare when he discovers a body in the greenhouse. As police and firefighters arrive at the school, Maya and Katie are sent to the principal’s office, where they learn Cam has committed suicide. Shocked by the news, Maya is in denial, and instead of choosing to go home she opts to practice for an audition. Later, she’s asked to speak at Cam’s candlelight vigil. She doesn’t want to, but Katie eventually convinces her to. While Maya struggles to type her speech she looks at the last video message Cam sent her. Tori appears and tries to comfort her, however, Maya gets angry and thinks Tori is being nice to her just because Cam is dead. Before the candlelight vigil Maya talks to Zig, who feels guilty for what he said to Cam. She laughs, and Zig doesn’t know why Maya is so indifferent about Cam’s death. At the vigil Maya is angry, saying it’s Cam’s fault he died because he should’ve tried to get help and she refuses to cry. The next day Maya apologizes to Tori and the two become friends as Maya finally breaks down.
When thinking about Degrassi tackling suicide, I often think about the comment a fan once made a long time ago, saying that if Degrassi were to ever tackle suicide again, they’d probably bring in a character specifically for that storyline. The primary argument against this will always be the fact that Cam wasn’t “developed enough” for us to care about his death, or for it to make an impact on those at Degrassi, even though Claude Tanner received virtually no development before killing himself in the forever-acclaimed Degrassi High episode, “Showtime.” We’ve seen subtle and not-so-subtle hints of Cam’s emotional struggle throughout season 12, ranging from his anxiety over schoolwork to making himself sick just to get out of hockey practice. Two things were made blatantly clear: 1) Cam was always homesick, and 2) he hated hockey, despite being so incredibly talented that he was guaranteed to make it into the NHL. He felt isolated. Maya is the only thing that mattered to Cam. Him intentionally throwing himself off the balcony in Rusty Cage set off red flags, making it more than obvious that he’s capable of hurting himself in a more severe way.
Just like with Claude, Cam doesn’t receive extensive introspection, but in Cam’s case we get just enough to show viewers that he’s indeed troubled. At times it’s a frustrating aspect that’s brilliantly realistic in its application to real life. As human beings we feel we need answers, insight and as many details as possible as to why things happen, and if we don’t receive them, we’re left uneasy. But in the case of suicide, there aren’t always going to be answers.
With what little he had to do, Dylan Everett sells Cam’s anger and depression during this episode. In Degrassi’s second ever suicide plot, a Part 2 episode once again carries the burden of its aftermath. A lack of explanation as to why Cam committed suicide, or lack of further digging into his mental state lends itself to an overall theme that has hovered over Cam’s existence on this show: no one really knew what was going on with him. Though clear as day to viewers at times, his actions came off as subtle or nonexistent to characters on the show. Everyone was consumed with their own thoughts and desires, and for all they know he was suffering in silence. With that in mind the realization is that the message here is more about the need for people to be more cognizant of those around them.
Maya’s reaction to Cam’s death makes sense in every aspect. The fact that it almost seems like she’s pushed into speaking at Cam’s candlelight vigil once again hammers the idea that people aren’t paying attention to other people’s behavior, that if you don’t come across as sad or aren’t crying your eyes out, you’re grieving the wrong way. I’m not sure how to process the vigil. On one hand I’m glad Maya vocalized what she was thinking at the time. However, it’s hard for me to envision that scene actually playing out in front of a crowd at a memorial in reality.
I read a comment where someone said the people in Degrassi High as a whole seemed more affected by Claude’s suicide than the characters did by Cam’s suicide in this episode. That may be true, but the reactions in this episode are also far more realistic than everyone at school walking around devastated, as if Cam were the center of their universe and there‘s no way life can move forward without him. Degrassi covered every range of reactions in this episode, from denial to sadness, guilt, anger and indifference. Bitter Sweet Symphony’s most underrated moment is the classroom scene with Mo, Marisol, Connor, Jenna, Becky, Fiona and Dallas. Mo is awkward because he doesn’t know how to react. Brilliantly, Connor doesn’t grasp the situation, questioning why Spirit Week was canceled and not understanding why Cam killed himself. Becky pipes in to say what Cam did was selfish.
Despite not knowing Cam, Marisol walked around in a somber mood, organizing the candlelight vigil as if that’s what one is supposed to do during a tragedy, because that is what happens in reality. Some become sad by proximity in the moment, even though Cam’s death won‘t really affect her emotionally, if at all. I’ve experienced that with the death of someone I went to school with who I only knew by name, or the death of a friend‘s family member who I didn‘t know at all.
In that classroom scene the group wonders why Cam killed himself. They speculated that he was depressed and under pressure because of hockey and school. “Why didn’t he reach out for help?” “Was he getting bullied?” In one of the episode’s most important lines Fiona responds, “I guess we’ll never know.” We’ll never know why Cam didn’t try to tell anyone or get help, or what his life could’ve been had he done so. In the end Cam’s suicide is less about Cam, and more about the effects it will have on people now and in the future, something the show failed to adequately cover after the death of J.T. Yorke.
Degrassi had a specific plan going into season 12, one they carefully crafted leading into the climax that is Bitter Sweet Symphony. The story isn’t over yet. This is one of the few episodes where everyone’s acting was on point. Everyone delivered something memorable, no matter how small the role. It might not have the weight of being the first of its kind (Showtime) or killing off a character that’s been around forever (Rock This Town), but Bitter Sweet Symphony still stands on its own two feet.
DALLAS PLOT SUMMARY: Dallas is interested in Alli, but he’s afraid to ask her out. He eventually does, but she doesn’t think that they’re meant to be. Dallas is able to get Alli to agree to a bet: she will go out with him if Dallas’ red team wins Spirit Week. However, after hearing about the way he treated Cam, Alli tells him she refuses to date guys who are bullies.
The next day Dallas and the hockey team are left speechless upon hearing that Cam committed suicide. As Marisol, Mo, Connor, Alli, Jenna, Becky and Fiona question why Cam killed himself, Dallas sits there fuming. He kicks a chair and storms into the hallway, throwing a trashcan into the Icehounds’ glass display. Alli chases after him and he says that they failed Cam, that it’s their fault he died. He screams at Alli because she knew Cam was upset, but didn’t do anything about it. Devastated, Dallas decides to get drunk on the roof of the school. Fiona finds Dallas on the roof pacing around; he blames himself for pushing Cam too hard, even after Cam said he hated hockey. Dallas tells Fiona that he contemplated jumping, and she tells him there must be someone he should live for. He says there is and Fiona hugs him, convincing him to get help. The next day Dallas apologizes to Alli for yelling at her. He tells her he’s going to talk to the counselor thanks to Fiona, and that he’s grateful for Fiona reaching out to help him.
I’m not exactly sure what to say except that Demetrius Joyette is incredible in Part 2, delivering one of the best performances in the history of this show. It manages to outshine even Dylan’s performance, and to an extent, the suicide itself. The only times I cried during Bitter Sweet Symphony were during every one of Dallas’ scenes after Cam died. I did during multiple viewings, and still do just thinking about it. Every moment is raw and gut wrenching. Dallas is a character who breaks the idea of characters being black and white. He carefully treads that line of being a guy who can be the nicest person ever, or a total jerk. His grief is amplified by the fact that as leader of the Ice hounds (and fiercely loyal to his teammates), he knew the team’s success on the ice as well as their NHL hopes depended on Cam; he ignored Cam’s direct statement about hating hockey because of how much was on the line. There’s tragic irony in Dallas feeling as if he failed Cam, when what he was trying to do was keep Cam in line so that the team as a whole wouldn’t fail.
The rooftop scene is flawless, down to the perfect in-house music, which enhances a scene that is emotional enough on its own. Come next awards season, I don’t see how Demetrius walks away empty handed.
ELI PLOT SUMMARY: Clare’s locker is going to be relocated to a different part of the school for electrical maintenance, so Eli suggests she share his for the time being. She overtakes his locker with all of her stuff, and Eli accidentally grabs Clare’s diary. He doesn’t have time to return it to their locker before class, so he takes it with him. Dave asks him if he’s going to read it, and Eli says no because he knows Clare doesn’t hide secrets from him. Eli ends up reading Clare’s diary in class and discovers that while she was dating Jake she was in love with him, and wanted to have sex with him. He confronts Clare about it and she storms off upset because Eli invaded her privacy.
The next day Eli tries to apologize to Clare. As they’re talking, Eli spots something shocking in the greenhouse. He shields Clare from seeing it, and tells her to go call 911. As she runs off, Eli walks up to the greenhouse and finds Cam’s body. Later, Dave is asking Eli questions about what he saw. Dave mentions that his dad, who is a cop, sees dead bodies all the time. Eli asks how his dad deals with it; Dave says he tries to forget it. Eli says he wishes he could forget, and decides to not go to Cam’s vigil. Instead, he goes to Jake’s house and gets high. Jake in a way thanks Eli for finding Cam’s body; if Eli hadn’t, Jake is sure he probably would have. To continue getting his mind of the day’s events, Eli and Jake continue to eat popcorn and play video games.
Before all hell broke loose, the Eclare relationship plot was enjoyable. Dave might have been playfully instigating, but his points to Eli about him and Clare made sense. Sharing a locker might seem trivial, but it’s like the teenage equivalent of adults moving in together. Sharing a space is a big deal, and a big commitment. And no teenage boy is going to pass up reading their girlfriend’s diary if the chance arises. Though he shouldn’t have invaded her privacy, Eli’s concern after reading Clare’s diary is understandable. Often we want to believe that our significant other’s past relationships were meaningless, hence the reason they’re over. It would sting to see that your virgin girlfriend said she was in love with and wanted to make love to her ex when they were together, especially if you assumed that their relationship didn’t mean much to her.
I like how Cam’s suicide abruptly interrupts Eclare’s plot. One of the common questions is “Where is Clare during all of this and why isn’t she comforting Eli?” In the haste of all that’s going on, it doesn’t really matter. This episode not only wonderfully foreshadows Eli dealing with lingering trauma, but the lack of Eclare in Part 2 also foreshadows the distance his trauma could create in their relationship.
I love Jake and Eli’s scene at the end. Jake on rollerblades while high has been a running gag for a while, but their conversation takes a more serious turn when Jake points out that he very well could’ve been the one to find Cam’s body if Eli hadn‘t. It’s writing like that which shows how the show’s dialogue is constantly improving, adding just that extra bit of detail and continuity into a minor scene that makes it stand out.