Every week, we're recapping season two of Degrassi: Next Class. You wanna pizza this?
The Degrassi empire is impressive not only because of its multi-decade run, but also the amount of students with significant storylines during their time walking those hallowed halls. Each year, students come and go, and those that remain have an amount of screen time that ebbs and flows. Now four episodes in, season two takes a sharp left to touch base with characters that have been appendages to the bigger plots thus far.
We start with Zoë, our resident teen queen and former child-star mean girl. So far this season, we've hardly seen her. She said something snarky to ex-girlfriend Grace during the première, and had a brief supporting role to the Miles/Tristan plot in episode three. At the end of it, a love-struck Tristan tells her that she should find a nice girl to shack up with so they can double date. She quickly shoots the idea down, insisting that she's not gay.
Fast forward, and we find her getting ready and practicing for an audition to be the emcee at the upcoming Degrassi 60th anniversary alumni gala. While distracted, she burns her wrist with her curling iron and lingers for a while as she runs water over it. As you might expect, this will come into play later on. During her audition alongside nerd captain Winston, they are doing the ol' banter bit, where in the script, he ends up kissing her. As they run through it though, she stops him before they kiss, frantically moving the process past it. Esme, who was giving some very pronounced eye rolls the whole time, heads up to the stage next. On the way, Zoë swaggers past and tells her not to even bother — she nailed it. Esme points out that it looked as if she'd "rather walk on a bed of nails than kiss Winnie the Chu." (That's her nickname, not ours, but we wish we had thought of it.) When Zoë searches for her words, she finds Esme's chest, which doesn't go unnoticed.
After the audition, Zoë is decompressing with Tristan. She huffs and puffs that Esme was messing with her. When he asks for clarification, she asks him, "You believe I wanna kiss boys, right?" Based on the last episode, it hadn't even crossed his mind again, especially given Zoë's history with Grace. She tries to explain that she only liked Grace because she thought she liked her back. He points out, "You're suffering from fatally low self-esteem, then? Being gay is way better than that." She tries to change the subject to focusing on things like the gala, but no sooner does she do that than she gets a rejection e-mail from Winston. Unable to accept it, she confronts Winston in the hall. She goads him by dangling his former crush on her in his face, to which he claps back that they needed someone magnetic — someone like Esme — who could sell the sexual tension.
This puts her in a continued tailspin, dropping her into Esme's class to confront her, too. She wants to know how she auditioned, and Esme skips almost immediately to the kissing portion. They share an impassioned kiss, at least coming from Zoë's end of things. This frazzles her (which was obviously the point), and she goes running out of the classroom, past a group of students who saw the whole thing. She goes back to Tristan and tries to hit on him to prove that, hey, sometimes everyone is curious. He couldn't have been less interested, and continued to harp on her owning up to being a lesbian. She says she never saw her life as one, instead picturing a big wedding and kids and long hair. Oof. He assures her that she can be gay and have all those things. It's much easier, in his experience, to be honest with yourself. She bites back, "I don't want to be like you, I want to be normal." His face drops to a snarl, telling her to take her self-hating homophobia elsewhere.
Deflated, she tracks down Miles to try and find Tristan and apologize. Miles shares that he also had a hard time caring what people think and was in a very similar situation of coming out. Zoë sulks that no one really likes her for her, to which Miles assures her that Winston still does, he just figured it'd be too weird working with her at the gala. This lights a fire in her eyes, and she sees her opportunity to wash away all this doubt. She finds Winston and tells him what Miles said, then kisses him. He immediately asks if that means she's his girlfriend, and she agrees. Now, there's real high school for you. This gets her the emcee gig back, but as chatter fades into the background, she flicks the burn on her wrist. This harks back to Ellie in season two and Cam in season 12, who both suffered from self-harm. It took her a while to get air time, but this story is far from over.
Bandmates Maya, Jonah, and Grace are hanging outside school, talking about performing at the gala, when Baaz walks up. He looks Grace up and down and says, "It takes courage to dress like you're actively trying to repel male attention." Understandably taken aback, she shifts from shock to rage, threatening to remove his face. He runs off and she looks defiant, but shaken. Her friends "assure" her the all-black thing is kind of terrifying, but it's cool that "you don't care about looking attractive to guys." Ouch. She gives a longing look over to her estranged friend Zig, who she fell out with when he cheated on Maya with her girlfriend at the time, Zoë. Everyone tracking now? Great.
She and Maya discuss it further in the ladies room, as the realization hits her that she might be pushing people away by always looking tough. Maya prods her to see if this is about a boy, but she says it just has to do with the fact that she doesn't want people to avoid her or only think of her in certain ways.
Severely lacking in a makeover sequence, the next day, she shows up in a bright pink dress and boots, very much the anti-Grace. Zig and Tiny are shocked, asking her if she's had some sort of mental breakdown. Her angst gets angstier and she storms away. Zig chases her down to try and get to the bottom of things, telling her that he loves that she does her own thing. She shares that she doesn't want to push people away and find out that one day it's too late. Sounds like this is much bigger than just a pink dress, Grace.
Later, she and Maya corner Baaz at his locker, where he's reading a book called The Pursuit, presumably a self-help book on gettin' the ladies. She yells at him again, and he admits that his comments were an effort in "negging" her, which is to say insult a woman so she's less self-confident thereby making her more vulnerable to your advances. Sadly, there's probably a very real book that exists about this very topic. She takes the book and tosses it at him, ensuring that her bad-girl rep remains intact. It was a pretty pointless plot, to be honest, for a character that has some real depth, including a chronic illness, cystic fibrosis. If it gets her back in the game, then so be it, but she deserves so much better.
Speaking of someone who deserves better: Lola. This poor girl is a walking punchline, a token airhead who has yet to truly get her redemption. If giving her a focus plot was an effort in doing that, this particular story will not be the one to give her any more depth.
We find her outside on the school steps, eating pizza with her boyfriend, Tiny, and their friend Zig. Recently single, Zig is browsing through the dating app, Teender. No, that's not a typo. It's one of many amazingly over-the-top social media knock-offs that Degrassi has made into an art form. Facerange, OomfChat and even Hastygram pale in comparison to this A-plus pun. While swiping through, he comes across Lola, who has been very much in a relationship for a while now. Instead of trying to cover it up, she gushes about the photo she used.
Tiny questions her about this, as it's basically the first lesson in Relationship 101 that you should stop looking for other relationships. She very earnestly says that it's not like that, she only flirts and asks guys to buy her pizza. Wait, what? He questions her again, to which she insists that she's not interested in guys, just pizza. "Pizza is never just pizza," he explains. Whatever attempt they made to have this be understood as a metaphor was largely overshadowed by just how ridiculous an argument this is.
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Nevertheless, Tiny is mad and Lola doesn't know why. She asks her friends if it's okay for a boyfriend to tell his girlfriend what to do, and they all agree it's not, until they find out that this is about Teender. None of them can see why she'd need to meet new guys, but her thinly veiled excuses cover a larger issue of her being convinced that Tiny is just going to break her heart. Unable to take it anymore, she decides to send him a break-up text ... while they're sitting in the same room. Lola, Lola, Lola. He rightfully tells her off.
Now that she's free to Teender to her heart's content, she does so with gusto. By lunchtime, she's already connected with another dude across town, Anton. This seems like the perfect solution to keep her from getting attached. He asks her to get burgers, but she knows that won't happen. Instead, she asks him to send a pizza. He responds that he wants a "pizza that booty," which disgusts her, but honestly, is a pretty sweet line. If you're going to use dudes for pizza, you're going to have to roll with the equally weird responses you'll get back. She takes this as a hint that not all guys are as funny as Tiny, which finally flips the switch to her realizing that she's made a mistake.
After school, she finds Tiny and is begging him talk. She tells him she realized that she cares more about him than some app and deletes it on the spot. He says that this still doesn't change anything — she might just dump him out of nowhere again. She explains that that's the reason she did it, she's afraid of people leaving her since her Mom took off. She begs him to let her take back the breakup text, and he agrees. They share a brief, loving moment, when Anton, the "pizza that booty," guy walks up, box in hand. He angrily says that all Teender girls are the same (they all ask for pizza? Seriously, what are we missing?) Tiny steps in and tells him to leave, at which point Anton sucker punches him. The two fall to the ground, but are broken up before Tiny can take a swing. He's brought to the office where he's given suspension — even though he technically didn't do anything — thanks to the school's zero tolerance policy. A blindsided Lola vows to make things right, somehow.