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ALLI/LEO PLOT REVIEW:  Degrassi’s longest-running arch in season 13 comes to a close in Better Man, and looking back I’m astounded by its progress.  When Alli and Leo first got together, they were pitched as “an epic romance.”  From my perspective the idea of that was laughable, as week after week viewers had to watch a relationship that never came close to being as good as advertised.

1318-1Then something happened: Alli and Leo’s relationship took an unexpected dark turn.  Things escalated to the point where Alli wanted things to work, but could no longer hide the demons that transformed her dream into a nightmare.  It became more than just a story about abuse, it became a heartbreaking look at the psychological damage that can trap someone in an abusive relationship.

And that’s where we are now in Better Man.  Alli can’t bring herself to turn Leo in, so she continues to lie to the detective asking questions about her “mugging.”  Degrassi rarely uses flashbacks, but they’re effective here as Alli recalls her attack while remembering the good and terrible moments from her wedding day.  Jenna knows something isn’t right, and gets Alli to confess that not only did she and Leo get married, but he was also the one who attacked her.  Alli then begs Jenna not to tell anyone, saying she just needs time to think things over.  Meanwhile, Leo has been calling and texting Alli incessantly.  She finally answers the phone and tells Leo she wants their marriage annulled.  “I can’t live without you Alli…I won’t,” are the final words we hear from Leo before Alli hangs up on him.

The next day Alli is ready for a fresh start, returning to Degrassi for the first time since being attacked.  However, she can’t escape Leo, who continues to text her and reveals he’s waiting for her outside of Degrassi.  Jenna and Clare discover Alli hiding in the bathroom, upset that she can’t escape the situation with Leo.  Clare finally learns that Leo was the one who attacked Alli, and despite Alli’s assurance that she can convince Leo to leave on her own, Clare and Jenna tell her they’re calling the police.

1318-2For me this episode hinged on how they portrayed Alli’s character, and they succeeded in continuing to make Alli’s behavior uncomfortable to watch.  Throughout the episode she’s never really resolute one way or the other, constantly flipping between viewing her relationship with Leo through rose-colored glasses and cutting Leo off and moving on.  Often characters will figure things out on their own, as if a switch went off and they suddenly see the light, but that doesn’t happen with Alli.  Here it took her friends forcing her to go down the path to end things with Leo once and for all.  At first Jenna reluctantly agrees not to say anything once she finds out the truth, but later just her presence alone pushes Alli to confront Leo during their phone conversation.  Clare, who up until this point wasn’t as aware of Leo’s violent potential as Jenna was, refuses to give Alli any other option besides notifying the police.  It’s a gut-wrenching scene; even until the end Alli still believes she can convince Leo to leave, yet when all is said and done she’s just too mentally exhausted to fight Clare and Jenna on their decision.

With Leo getting arrested and Alli now able to get an annulment, this storyline ends on a strong note.  Where Degrassi gets weird is its tendency to have characters go through a major event, then quickly move onto the next thing as if nothing happened.  The hope here is that whatever lies in store for Alli Bhandari, especially in the romance department (Dallas), the culmination of these last eighteen episodes will continue to play a role in Alli’s life.

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1318-3MAYA PLOT REVIEW:  Maya tries to apologize to Zig for humiliating him during their Rubber Room presentation, but he rejects her apology and tells her he hates her.  Maya wants to fit in with the other kids in the Rubber Room, so she pays Grace for tips on how to win them over.  Maya dresses up goth style, wearing black clothes, heavy black eyeliner and a nose ring, and acts up during remedial period.

Despite Zig’s disdain for Maya, she continues to hang out with him, Grace and Tiny.  Because she’s a “newbie,” they give her a BB gun and tell her to hang onto it.  Later they all enter an empty classroom and challenge Maya to break a fish tank by shooting it with the gun.  In order to prove she’s one of them she pulls the trigger, but it turns out the gun is a toy.  Maya’s angry upon realizing the Rubber Room kids aren’t the “bad kids” they’re made out to be, and tells them they deserve better than what they allow themselves to get.  The next day, Grace tells Maya she was impressed with how Maya stood up to her, and the two become friends.

The Tenners have been drowning in mediocrity in season 13, but after multiple viewings of Better Man there’s slight improvement in this eighteenth episode.  Degrassi spells out the underlining theme plain as day through Ms. Grell’s lesson about perception, in terms of how people are perceived by one another.  Maya believes everyone in the Rubber Room thinks she’s princess who thinks she’s better than everyone in the class, so she sets out to prove them wrong.  Maya’s wardrobe change is extreme, and it’s surprising how no one seemed to mind how she drastically changed who herself overnight just to please a handful of people (except for Zig, who’s constant “What the hell are you doing?” facial expression seemed on par with how people would normally react).

On the other hand, Maya believed this group were made up of bad kids who skip class and set out to create trouble in their free time, and while the former is true Maya quickly discovers her perception of them is just as incorrect as their view of her.  The two kind of end up canceling each other out and we see a new friendship form between Grace and Maya.  Oddly enough, Grace has been more interesting in the past two episodes than Tristan and Miles in this entire season.  Zig, while present in this episode, offered nothing beyond being rude toward Maya the entire time.  While there was no positive resolution between Maya and Zig, Grace’s random line, “Trust me, you don’t want that Zig as your friend,” is a slick hint that we’re still slowly, but surely on track to find out what’s turned Zig into a complete jerk.

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1318-4DREW PLOT REVIEWThe World I Know kind of leads one to believe Drew’s sole mission in life is to make Clare jealous, but for the time being that plays a miniscule role in Better Man.  Drew’s stressed out over prepping for his interview with Mr. Hollingsworth, and when Dallas can’t help him Zoë steps in.  She gives Drew tips on how to present himself, and Zoë’s lesson eventually turns into a makeout session.  Drew does so well in his interview that he gets the Youth Advisor position, and afterward he asks Zoë out on a date.

“What you need is someone with all the time in the world who will adore you.”

Dallas says that to Drew, and like clockwork in walks Zoë Rivas.  It’s nothing new mentioning that Drew has confidence issues, and any behavior perceived as arrogant nowadays is purely a front.  That’s apparent when Drew’s eyes light up as Zoë willingly strokes his ego, calling him a “strong leader” and “handsome.”  That bit of attention gives him the confidence he needs to breeze through his interview with Mr. Hollingsworth, even as they digress by discussing the hickey Drew received during his prep session with Zoë.

In the plot’s final scene, as he and Zoë walk out Drew’s line to Clare, “I guess some girls like sideburns,” is so absurd it’s hilarious.  However, this final scene quietly sets up for what could be a messy situation between Drew and Zoë.  Drew seems genuinely surprised when Zoë tells him she knew he’d get the job, and she also tells him that he’s awesome.  There’s a bit of hesitation from Drew when Zoë asks if them going out to celebrate is a date.  He says yes, but it feels like he’s just going with the flow of the situation as opposed to saying yes because he has feelings for her.  More importantly, Drew’s seems drawn to Zoë simply because she doesn’t hesitate to reassure him that he’s great.

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Posted by Kary

12 Comments

  1. The question is is Alli going to cont with boys, is going to be afraid of men or is just going to be single and get therapy for her battered womens syndrome.?? Hopefully its the 3rd option.

    I am loving Maya even more, I know and understand where she is many of us have been there. As for Zig it seems hes blaming Maya for something. Is it that he is heartbroken or still blaming himself for
    Cam’s suicide or did his family loss there business?

    Drew, I really love Drew but you are right about his insecurities. I hope by the end of this block that changes. And maybe Clare will be that person? I think Drew actually likes Clare more than saying.
    Also note Drew doesn’t realize that hes messing with a 15 year old girl who doesn’t understand between casual and a boyfriend yet. Zoe still acts like a 12 year old girl trying to be much older. That has to do with the industry she is in.. Growing up to fast.

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  2. I liked Alli’s plot overall. I could nitpick if I wanted, (and was going to) but your review helped me realize Degrassi did a pretty good job. Like you, let’s hope the lasting effects show in Alli and this plot just doesn’t drop off…

    I loved Maya and Zig’s interaction, but the whole fitting in thing seemed rushed to me. While teens do try to fit in, I don’t think they would change their dress or attitude as quickly as Maya did. It just screamed rushed to me.

    Drew and Zoe, while the big picture of them and their story is interesting, I didn’t enjoy the plot in this episode and saw it as fluff.

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  3. “The hope here is that whatever lies in store for Alli Bhandari, especially in the romance department (Dallas))”

    If the writers were smart, there would be NO romance department for Alli for the rest of her time on the show. Heaven forbid a character on this show actually stay single, so of course she’s going to run into Dallas’ arms. That doesn’t exactly send a great message, IMO.

    I bet the Alli/Dave fans have been pissed off for this entire arc. Alli breaks up with Dave to focus on school, only to und up with another guy (possibly two other guys)? That’s gotta sting.

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    1. “I bet the Alli/Dave fans have been pissed off for this entire arc. Alli breaks up with Dave to focus on school, only to und up with another guy (possibly two other guys)? That’s gotta sting.”

      Thanks for reminding me. >_< The weird thing is I kind of view Dallas as the "new Dave" when it comes to Alli, and as much as people think Bhandallas will get together and live happily ever after, I'm not at all convinced it will happen that quickly and easily.

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  4. I wish that we knew why Zig is in the rubber room & why he doesn’t interact with any other characters.

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    1. I was wondering that as well. Why the hell is Zig in the rubber room in the first place? Where did this attitude come from?

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  5. Kary, quick question: seeing as that Clare, Alli, Connor, Jenna, etc. are graduating this year, what are the odds of K.C. coming back? I know it sounds kind of random because he’s been gone for so long now, but it’d be pretty cool to see him again one last time.

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    1. I doubt he’ll be coming back, which sucks. I wish the writers would film a special with K.C.’s graduating pals going to Vancouver to visit him. It’s a beautiful city.

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  6. I’m probably gonna catch crap for this but here I go.

    I have been a fan of Degrassi TNG since the beginning but for me, the show is starting to have the same problem that TNG had years ago.

    Alli, Drew, Claire, Jenna, all of these characters that have been on the show forever, please go away. They really need to start bringing in younger stars and focus on them. This is like when Manny, Emma, Liberty and Spinner were on the show season after season after season after season years ago. I just do not care about these people anymore.

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    1. I actually kind of agree with you. if theyd actually make the tenners interesting and less annoying, then id be happy to see the current seniors go. i was hoping the show would end with Clare’s class graduating anyway.

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  7. I’m kinda sad that the Alli/Leo plot will be neatly wrapped up (as far as their interactions go) since he’ll just be conveniently deported. It would’ve been cool if they could’ve gone further with the stalking/harassment stuff and had Alli get a restraining order- then the show could’ve brought attention to how useless those things are (assuming they’re as ineffective in Canada as they are in the US). I mean, it’s good to send a message that going to the police is the right thing to do- but it often doesn’t end there, and that can be kind of a shocker in real life. This is kinda how Terri’s domestic violence plot ended up too- with the idea that if it’s not a secret anymore, you’re safe from your abuser…

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  8. Alii’s plot was ok. I wish Clare and Jenna’s roles were swapped though. I like Maya 10x more when she isn’t around Tristan and that annoying jackwipe Miles. When the rubber room (I still have no clue what that means) kids pulled out the gun, I was prepared for the stupidest plot in a long time, so the twist was reassuring. No to Drew and Zoe. She’s a fetus and he’s a two time senior.
    Does anyone else get the feeling there are no lead characters or streamlining plots this season? They’ve kind of burnt out Clare and Drew as the “stars,” and there’s no one stepping up really. I actually think if any noob could do it, it’d be Zig. What the fuck happened to him?? I hope he’s getting some big reveal plot to spice up this dry season.

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