ZOE PLOT SUMMARY: The episode opens up with Zoë doing her hair and makeup at Degrassi, then she accidentally burns her wrist with her curling iron. Zoë auditions to host Degrassi’s 60th anniversary show with Winston, but loses the role to Esme because she wasn’t magnetic on stage and couldn’t sell the sexual tension bit in the script. She asks Esme to show her how she auditioned, and as they practice the sexual tension bit Zoë finds herself kissing Esme a little too passionately for her liking. Tristan is convinced Zoë is a lesbian, but she keeps denying it because that’s not who she wants to be. When he tells her she’s better off being honest with herself, she offends him by saying she’d rather “be normal” instead of being out like him. Later, Miles tells Zoë that she shouldn’t care what other people that the only people that matter should be those who like you for who you are. He also tells her that Winston likes her. Despite the fact Zoë has no romantic interest in Winston, she kisses him and the two start dating, allowing her to avoid dealing with the fact she’s struggling with her sexuality.
Zoë Rivas is Degrassi’s poster child for how dynamic a character can be, constantly challenging the predictable mindset that characters (or real-life people for that matter) are either completely good or completely bad. While her bad moments have been extreme levels of vindictive behavior, a constant with Zoë has always been her desire to fit in and be wanted.
“No one likes me for me,” she tells Miles. Zoë is clearly in a closet, closing herself off from even entertaining the idea of exploring her sexuality because of how much it hurt when she allowed herself to be open and vulnerable, only to be rejected by Grace. There’s also the point she made about not imagining her life “like that,” aka being anything on the LGBTQ spectrum.
Both Zoë and Tristan have reputations for not being the most upstanding Degrassi characters, but for me they have the most underrated friendship on Next Class in terms of the humanity we see them bring out of each other at times. Instead of a gushy, “We’re BFFs <3 4ever” type depiction of friendship, Zoë and Tristan love roasting each other, and they give each other the most brutally honest of opinions, right or wrong. Tristan oversteps his bounds though, with his insistence that Zoë is definitely a lesbian. Even dating back to Season 1 of Next Class, he has a consistent history of biphobic comments and assuming other characters’ sexuality based on nothing. Another factor in Tristan’s mindset in this episode is that he’s been out and proud for forever and he assumes that coming out can be an easy transition for other people, just like people think it’s easy for those suffering from anxiety to just “get over it.”
This storyline is heartbreaking because we can see and feel Zoë’s discomfort in regards to the gap between her idealistic view of who she wants to be versus who she really is. “It just seems so hard,” she says about being gay, a decision that leads her to hide from the truth by jumping into a relationship with Winston.
In the Degrassi: TNG episode Take On Me, Sean Cameron directly asked Ellie Nash why she was a cutter. “It was the only pain I could control,” she told him, a line that resonates throughout a Degrassi episode over a decade later as Zoë flicks the burn on her wrist. It’s a haunting reminder of the inner turmoil teens are still facing as they figure out who they are in a world that would rather them be something else.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: These didn’t really fit in the direction I took with the review, but they’re worth mentioning:
*So apparently Winston rejecting girls while in a position of power because he likes them is a thing. It’s pure nonsense on his part, but just like Tristan always commenting on other people’s sexuality, at least he’s consistent?!? #continuity
*Zoë and Esme’s scenes are fantastic in this episode. Together they could form a toxic implosion of nuclear proportions, but on the flip side they have next-level chemistry. Ana Golja has always delivered her lines as Zoë effortlessly, and Chelsea Clark has shown she can do the same thing in her short time as Esme.
GRACE PLOT SUMMARY: While Grace is minding her own business, Baaz walks up to her and insults her appearance, saying that she looks like she’s damaged and actively trying to avoid attracting men. While even Maya and Jonah think Grace’s style means she doesn’t care about trying to dress to attract guys, it causes her to become self conscious that Zig might not like her because of how she looks. She ends up wearing a pink dress to school, and gets upset when Zig and Tiny casually joke about her drastic change in style. Zig apologizes, and Grace reveals she’s afraid her look pushes might scare people from wanting to be close to her. However, Zig tells her he liked the old Grace and that she should only change for herself. Later, while scaring Baaz for his previous comments, Grace and Maya learn he was only saying those things because was reading tips from a dating advice book. Her plot ends with an awkward moment as Zig walks up, Maya avoids looking Zig in the eyes and Grace has to continue hiding her feelings for him.
An initial viewing of this story gives off the “Oh no, are we really having Grace off all people change herself for a boy?!?” vibe, but what I love about this plot is that it’s full of assumptions coming from every angle. I mean that’s what we do as humans, right? We assume pretty much everything until we’re proven wrong. Baaz makes disparaging comments about Grace’s looks because a book told him the way to win a girl’s heart is to treat her like crap (not true). Maya makes a seemingly innocent remark about Grace not caring about looking attractive to guys (not true). And as viewers, we’ve made the assumption that while Grace is a badass, it means by default that she never lacks confidence in herself, never cares about what anyone thinks about her and doesn’t let anything get to her…again, not true. Our perception of reality doesn’t always align with actual reality, and there’s nothing easier for the human mind than for it to talk you into doubting yourself.
“I’ve just worked so hard not to let other people get to me about this stuff,” she tells Zig. As for Mr. Novak, he acts like he’s lost his damn mind when it comes to his relationship with Maya, but that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of being a good, supportive friend outside of that. “If this is the new you that’s cool, but the old you was awesome too,” he says before telling her that she should only change who she is because she wants to do it for herself.
Her lapse in confidence because of her feelings for Zig isn’t that bad by itself. I’m also in the camp that, based on their conversation in this episode alone, believes there’s nothing unrealistic about Grace falling for a guy she’s actually known since before we first saw them co-exist in the rubber room some 60+ episodes ago. However, it becomes scary if you think about it in the context of her being dragged into a what could be a messy Zaya love triangle. As for this episode, I can appreciate the depth they’re continuing to provide to one of my favorite Degrassi characters in Grace Cardinal.
*If you exclude his behavior, which is 10000000% unacceptable, I love the fact that Baaz has a crush on Grace. I also love that Degrassi foreshadowed his misguided idea of how to pick up women in their Degrassi TV web series.
LOLA PLOT SUMMARY: When Tiny finds out Lola uses the “Teendr” dating app to flirt with other guys solely for pizza, he demands that she stop. Goldi and Shay agree that a girl should never delete an app because her boyfriend wants her to, until Lola says it’s Teendr. Those two as well as Frankie say that you shouldn’t need a dating app when you’re in a relationship, and Lola admits she keeps it because she’s afraid Tiny will eventually break up with her. With Tiny still mad and Lola afraid to become too attached to anyone, she decides to break up with Tiny. After browsing Teendr and meeting a Tiny lookalike named Anton who’s crude, she immediately regrets her decision. She tells Tiny she’s been afraid to form close relationships with people ever since her mom abandoned her, but that she doesn’t want to miss out on something great with him. The two get back together, but Anton shows up at the school with a pizza. Anton sucker punches Tiny, and because of Degrassi’s zero-tolerance policy Tiny gets suspended for fighting. As Tiny’s escorted off of school property, Lola vows to fight his unfair suspension.
Remember when Clare Edwards lost her mind in Season 11? She went on an angry, self-centered tear for a while there, acting out because her parents’ divorce devastated her emotionally. She was annoying as hell during that period while watching the actual episodes, but it wasn’t until looking back at the big picture after the fact that I was able to have an appreciation for what Degrassi was doing.
While Lola’s “voice” remains consistent from season to season, her usage has been kind of confusing in Next Class Season 2 leading into this episode. She’s basically a background character with one-liners in Frankie’s racism plot, but her commentary on Zig’s relationship in #TurntUp is as alarming as her relationship behavior throughout #BuyMePizza.
When it comes to relationships on Degrassi, the most popular fan trend over the years has been to choose a side, dig in and form arguments that are strongly motivated toward “sticking it” to fans of the other side, instead of analyzing the underlying mechanics of the couple in question, both good and problematic. In reality, the dynamic of a character allowing past negative experiences to dictate how they treat people currently is probably one of the most widely relatable concepts this show’s dealt with since Mirror In The Bathroom.
Amidst the entertainment of mic drops and having “another dude’s pizza in your mouth,” Lola’s abandonment issues present an opportunity for introspection when it comes to one’s own behavior. It’s overwhelming to genuinely think about how your behavior has affected the people you’ve met in your life, for better or for worse. And as we’ve seen in all of the plots in #BuyMePizza, people can be far more motivated by fear when it comes to romance, often leading to self-sabotage and self-fulfilling prophecies of failure. We want love and acceptance, but so many of us aren’t willing to risk fully putting ourselves out there to get it.
Lola’s personality type paints her as more immature than her peers, but it’s a step in the right direction to see her become aware enough to realize why she’s so hesitant to form a connection.
*Tiny has become my favorite male character on Degrassi.
*Lola’s been problematic in Season 2, but man has her comedic timing been sharp. Amanda Arcuri’s delivery is consistently on point.
*This isn’t true, but I choose to believe that #BuyMePizza is actually the unreleased Degrassi episode “Combination Pizza Hut And Taco Bell” from years ago.