SHAY PLOT SUMMARY: Shay has an opportunity to attend a summer sports camp that will allow her to play volleyball with national-level athletes and get one step closer to playing in the Olympics. However, after the Toronto Interpreter published a story about the protest featuring an image of Shay yelling at a police officer, the coach of the camp wants Shay to agree to the camp’s code of conduct and write a letter saying that participating in the protest was a mistake. Lola’s angry when she finds out Shay is writing the letter, saying that Shay shouldn’t have to lie in order to achieve her dream. Shay initially chooses the volleyball camp, and she also decides to not join the newly-formed zero tolerance review committee in fear that another protest might happen. However, she becomes conflicted when Goldi and Vijay tell her they joined the committee because her actions at the protest inspired them. In the end, Shay decides not to sign the letter, relying on extra training from Coach Armstrong until she can find another way to reach her goal.
This isn’t a sexy “A” plot by any means; there are no pregnancies, deaths, meltdowns or emotional drama that has earned Degrassi the catchphrase “It. Goes. There.” over the past 15 years. However, this plot kicks ass from a thematic standpoint, as Degrassi has Shay deal with a moral dilemma that, in my opinion, has no definitive right or wrong choice. I say that looking at Shay’s situation from a truly realistic perspective, and not based on how society thinks things should play out.
Having watched this episode during the 2016 Olympics puts Shay’s dream more into perspective. Those athletes train and compete for years just to reach the highest stage in their sports only a handful of times in their careers. On top of that, the chances of actually winning a medal are slim. The angle Degrassi’s taken with Shay is that she has the talent to become an elite athlete, she just hasn’t had the opportunity to receive elite athletic training.
If you asked anyone “Is lying wrong?” we’d all probably give a clichéd answer along the lines of “Yes, you should always be honest,” despite the reality that we all lie to some extent. But a bigger question is are all lies created equal? Does lying to hide a birthday surprise, or say, a woman lying about her relationship status to a random guy hitting on her so he’ll leave her alone, carry the same moral condemnation as lying about robbing a bank or cheating on a spouse?
“She doesn’t have to mean it,” Tiny says about Shay’s letter. “She can write it, apologize, go to the camp and no one will ever know.” But Lola addresses an important point of this storyline when she says that while the camp would never know that Shay didn’t mean what she said in the letter, Shay would.
Shay says in the letter, “I will think before I act, and always act with integrity and respect.” It wouldn’t have been the end of the world if she’d signed the letter, but her choice is based on the type of person she wants to be when she looks at herself in the mirror. It isn’t always going to be about making a clear “good” or “bad” choice because there’s just too much gray area in life, and not every decision carries some life-altering implications. However, a lot of the decisions we’ll make in our lifetime simply come down to our own personal accountability, and what actions and consequences we’re willing to live with.
*Remember how Tiny said in #ThrowbackThursday that he didn’t want to do the protest because he was afraid of how the media would portray him? I love how they addressed that in this episode anyway, using Shay, the Toronto Interpreter’s article and the coach’s perception of what happened to show how just easily the media can skew stories.
*Me mentioning nothing about that brief moment Shiny shared at the end of the episode when their hands touched is intentional…I don’t trust the writers until it happens!
MAYA PLOT SUMMARY: With Jonah already having to bail on their music gig, Grace bails on a planning session with Maya because she’d already made plans to eat lunch with Zig. Later, Grace suggests that Zig fill in for Jonah, but Maya shuts that down and says Peter will play with them instead. Grace is convinced Peter (23) just wants to sleep with Maya (16), but Maya insists they’re just friends. After they perform, Zig shows up to the venue unannounced. He assumes that Maya’s trying to move on with Peter, but she denies it and demands Zig leave. Zig wants to know why they can’t be friends; Maya says she doesn’t want to be friends with him and it’s not fair that she’s expected to act like everything’s okay when it’s not. The next day, Grace continues to lobby for Zig and the fact that he’s trying to make things right with Maya, but Maya tells Grace she can have Zig as a friend because she has Peter. Maya ends up showing up to Peter’s birthday party, has an awkward encounter with Peter’s friends (Spinner and Sav), then is caught listening to Peter talk with his ex girlfriend about how Maya showed up to his party uninvited. The next day, Maya and Grace apologize to each other. Instead of trying to force their group to get back together, Grace says she’ll just hang out with Maya and Zig on separate days.
Despite the fact she’s one of Degrassi’s top female characters, over the past few years I’ve still felt like Maya’s underrated because she’s generally viewed as that “Clare Edwards” type (average girl who gets a lot of screen time, has hot guys throwing themselves at her, “always gets what she wants,” etc). But who in the hell would want their ex trying to force themselves back into their life?
Just when I think Zig can’t be any more of an broomhead in Next Class, he proves me wrong. It’s insane just how normal of a human being he is until it comes to Maya Matlin (a girl he’s practically been in love with for forever in Degrassiland), and then he transforms into emotional hot mess full of insecurity and pettiness.
Meanwhile, Grace is so disappointing in this episode. To be fair, she’s in a pickle of her own: she has lengthy friendships with both Zig and Maya and doesn’t want to have to choose between them (don’t forget she also has romantic feelings for Zig). However, I was completely floored as Degrassi’s voice of reason completely dismissed Maya’s feelings throughout this episode, telling Maya to “chill” multiple times and even suggesting Maya apologize to Zig for embarrassing him at the club. You might be able to make a case if Maya was overreacting to something silly, but these people are acting like Maya’s being unfair for still being hurt over Zig cheating on her. “All I think about when I look at you is Zoë’s hands all over your body when we’re still together,” she says.
Zig wants to know why they can’t be friends and Maya going off on him is great, because it shuts down what might be a pretty common occurrence of entitlement. Just because you’re sorry for having wronged someone and you apologize, it doesn’t mean the other person is obligated to forgive you.
The Peter thing is an interesting side plot within this story. Maya thinks more of her relationship with Peter than what it really is as a way to deal with what’s happening with Zig and Grace. I also loved the incorporation of Spinner and Sav to show that maturity is a relative concept. Maya Matlin might be mature when compared to other people her age, but she’s still viewed as a kid by people much older than her (as a 30-something adult in a teen/young adult fandom I can attest to how real this is).
This is the second time in Degrassi: Next Class Season 2 that Zig Novak has tried to insert himself back into Maya’s life, only for her to tell him she’s not ready for that. To this day, Degrassi receives criticisms about always rushing storylines, some valid and some not. However, for what’s been four seasons now, Degrassi has shown the utmost patience in the stories they’re telling through Maya, reiterating time (struggled with Cam’s suicide for at least a season and a half), and time (establishing a friendship with Zig), and time (starting on the ground floor with her music career) and time again (not being ready to interact with Zig after he cheated) that her issues aren’t wrapped up and forgotten in 22 minutes.
*Everyone at Degrassi has musical and/or athletic talent…now they’ve added “Picasso” to the list!
*It’s good to see Maya’s still performing at the club…#continuityFTW
*Call me crazy, but I might actually accept Spemma. Yeah yeah it’s some nonsense, but I’m lowkey loving that the show is shamelessly “all in” on them (they’re getting a house, so naturally we can assume a baby is in their future as well).
*”Text from Maya Matlin…admit it, even you find Mr. Mitchell hot.” Yes, even us straight guys can admit that he is fine as hell.
ZOE PLOT SUMMARY: When their class is given an assignment that requires them to work with a partner, Zoë begrudgingly works with her “boyfriend” Winston, who notices that she always seems to try and distance herself from him. The two do a presentation on Japan, with Winston dressed as a soldier and Zoë fully dressed as a geisha. Esme calls Zoë out in front of the class, saying that Zoë’s outfit is racially insensitive. The class and Mr. Mitchell agree, forcing Zoë and Winston to change outfits. Zoë wants to get revenge on Esme, but Winston calms her down, telling her she’s better than her vindictive nature and that they can find a nicer way to destroy Esme. The two end up redoing their presentation and Zoë apologizes for her costume. Afterward, Esme isn’t impressed and Winston calls her out for bashing Zoë’s costume as racist, but not saying anything about him (a Korean) appropriating Japanese culture with his outfit. After a half-hearted apology from Esme, Winston tells Zoë that he knows she isn’t as into the relationship as he is and says it’s okay if she walks away. But after watching Winston defend her, Zoë then tells him that she doesn’t want out and they make a good team.
Remember Zig and Zoë’s relationship in Seasons 13 and 14? The two never actually dated, but the reason I became fond of them was because Zig liked Zoë, even through everything she was doing and going through regarding her sexual assault. I’m about to say something really wild here, but my feelings for Winston and Zoë have surpassed Zoemund.
I enjoyed the idea of Zoemund as a couple, but knowing that Zoë has zero romantic in Winston, my love for them comes not from a place of shipping, but of loving the fact that one character is providing much-needed emotional support for another. In this episode they reached that point I was hoping Zoemund would reach seasons ago, having that person who accepts Zoë and helps her to become a better person. The “romance” part of Zinston will obviously crumble, but you can tell that Zoë’s in it for more than just having a way to hide her sexuality.
Zoë Rivas is in her fourth season on Degrassi, but the core of her character has always been the same. From sarcastic banter to extremely toxic behavior, she just wants to fit in and for people to like her for who she is. Typically any friendship or support Zoë’s received has been fleeting, but for the first time ever someone actively encourages Zoë to better than the person that everyone’s convinced she is. Even knowing that Zoë isn’t all that into him, Winston’s words are heartfelt…you think Tristan would ever do something like that?
I hope that viewers have actually been paying attention to and critically thinking about the nuances within these racial storylines in Season 2, because once again there’s a lot of moving parts in the geisha plot. The protest about racism at Degrassi has everyone on edge, hence the reaction from the class over Zoë’s outfit. The outfit is racially insensitive, but Esme’s motivation for bringing attention to it is purely to stick it to Zoë. Winston doesn’t hesitate to point out the hipocrisy of Esme using racial insensitivity/cultural appropriation for her own personal agenda. And see? Zoë of all people, who didn’t know that dressing up like that is inappropriate, managed to not get disciplined for being racially insensitive! Hmm, I wonder if it’s because she actually listened when someone told her it was wrong and she gave a sincere apology, unlike another character who’s spent the entire season making excuses and literally trying to run away from the situation…
*More #continuityFTW…the burn on Zoë’s wrist is still there, plain as day
*Also, it’s been a while since I’ve mentioned how much I love when main characters are used as background. Three scenes take place in Mr. Mitchell’s class. Esme has no lines in the first scene (you’ll miss her if you blink), and Miles just sits there in the second and third scenes.
*Hey Degrassi, if you’re still around when I’m 80 years old can I please play the role of “old guy chillin’ at The Dot” like this guy?