Every week, we're recapping season three of Degrassi: Next Class. High fives?
For a show that's covered almost every topic under the sun, we are both surprised and not surprised by Degrassi's ability to push boundaries and tell stories beyond high school romances and unfortunate acne. While they sometimes highlight universal adolescent scenarios with the same reverence as culturally topical situations, Goldi's story in #WorstGiftEver is an exceptionally fearless example of the latter.
In history class, the students are learning about Japanese samurai fighters and kamikaze pilots in WWII. Trying to put it all into context, Jonah asks if suicide bombers are modern-day samurais, and without skipping a beat, several heads turn to Muslim student Goldi. Truly startled, she asks why she should be the one to know? "Aren't they mostly Muslim?" Zig asks. When she argues that Islam doesn't condone killing, he counters with the fact that he doesn't see "G.I. Joes strapping bombs to their chest." She sits there, stunned, until Rasha — a Syrian refugee who is living with Goldi's family — points out that those soldiers drop them with drones. Furthermore, calling suicide bombers Muslim is an insult to Muslims.
The bell rings, and a relived Goldi runs up to Rasha, gushing how excited she is to finally have someone who understands. Rasha wonders how everyone is so clueless — they know how to Google, right? When Goldi suggests an afternoon of TV at the house, Rasha instead suggests that they invite some of these friends over, maybe teach them how to Google. Goldi reluctantly invites over her student council cohorts, Winston and Zoë, for "team building."
Back at the house, they split into teams and play charades. When she guesses her teammate Winston's clues correctly, he jumps over for a high five. She quickly declines, explaining that she can't touch boys because of her beliefs. He counters that she has touched Zoë, who is gay. When he asks what the Qur'an says about gay people, she confirms that it's considered a sin. Zoë gets defensive, and when Goldi asks Rasha to back her up, she deflects. The party breaks up soon after that, and Rasha explains that she didn't want to contradict her in front of her friends. High-fiving a boy isn't a big deal, and if you don't follow all the rules, that doesn't mean you're a bad Muslim. Goldi disagrees, and they split off in a huff.
The next morning, Goldi tries to apologize for implying that Rasha was a bad Muslim. Before she gets a chance to speak, Baaz walks into the room and apologizes because Rasha isn't wearing her hijab and he isn't supposed to see her without it. She says that, in fact, she won't be wearing it that day, and heads off to school on her own. Baaz asks what exactly was going on, and Goldi laments that she thought she had found a friend just like her, and she is so sick of feeling different. Baaz points out that their parents don't make her wear her hijab; she chooses to do so. When she explains that it makes her feel closer to God, he tells her that it's hard enough to fit in without it. Why make it harder?
Later at school, Goldi looks at herself in the bathroom mirror and starts removing her hijab. She lowers her ponytail and walks out into the hall, uncovered. At first, it feels like a slow-motion victory, but then, she freezes. She runs quickly back into the bathroom and puts it back on. She arrives to class late, where Mr. Perino points out that she's just in time to talk about immigration. "How long have you lived here?" he asks. Taken aback, she replies, "My whole life." She asks if he thinks brown people can't be from here, or at least Muslims. When he calls it a "mistake," she asks if it's a "mistake" that people ask if she's bald under her hijab. Or, is it a "mistake" that people assume she knows about suicide bombers? There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and everyone is different. He apologizes and she accepts.
After class, she talks to Rasha, who explains that she didn't even wear a hijab until she was forced to in Syria. She used to go to the beach and play games with boys and shake their hands without fear. Breaking the rules doesn't mean you aren't a good Muslim; it's how you feel most like yourself.
Meanwhile, Miles and Lola are still spending a lot of time sending each other pics over Oomfchat, after bonding over their "grief" (her breakup and his boyfriend, Tristan, in a coma after the crash). While distracted by this, Zoë interrupts and asks him to take flowers to Tristan after school, assuming he was going anyway. He tells her he isn't planning on going, and asks her why she can't just take it. She's horrified by his response, because "Tristan needs you." Aware that he's being grilled, Lola jumps into action, saving him with a story about needing him to work at her family's restaurant. He thanks her, explaining that it's becoming hard for him to see his boyfriend just lying there in bed. She tells him that the "working at the restaurant" thing was real, and she actually needs him.
Later that night, Miles is juggling plates, learning the difference between Mexican and Argentinian food. He drops off a plate of chips and guac at the table where Esme and Zig are sitting. Coldly, she tells him that they offer their condolences about Tristan, who is definitely still alive. He asks what she's talking about, and she feigns surprise that he's still with them, because obviously Miles has "developed a taste for Argentinian spice." (i.e. — Lola). Damn, Esme. Don't make us regret all those good vibes we had for you last episode. Unfortunately, that's not the only terror she causes this episode (but more on that later).
At any rate, it's weird that she knows anything about it at all, but apparently there are rumors, and they've gotten to Zoë. She confronts him in class, where he's learning Spanish on his iPad. He denies that he's hooking up with Lola, but she questions if he'd be spending that much time with her if Tris was awake. Tired of everyone thinking he's a bad boyfriend, he calls her out for not showing up to see him either, even though she's his "best friend." As class begins, a visibly flustered Miles texts Lola that he won't be able to work that night. Instead, he goes to the hospital, where he completely unravels. He talks about feeling trapped, and like he's talking to a corpse. "I don't wanna leave you, but I don't know how I can stay," he explains. He starts begging Tristian to wake up, and Zoë — who was waiting at the door watching the whole thing — comes over to comfort him.
It's truly heartbreaking and exhausting to think about being put in that situation. He may be blurring the lines a bit with Lola (who should know better herself), but he truly loves and cares about this person who may not even make it through. However, he decides that he's going to channel it all into action, and pitches the idea of a heartbroken lover finding comfort in an online friend to Jonah and Grace, the authors of a bus crash rock opera being pitched to Simpson for the school play. In typical Miles fashion, this could go very well, or very badly.
Elsewhere on campus, we find ourselves watching Shay and Frankie excel at yet another sport, track and field. Once again, Coach Armstrong (who also moonlights as a math teacher) is in charge. Can someone please give this man a vacation? Or at the very least, a raise? Anyway, they're met at the end of the course by their significant others, and Shay jumps happily into Tiny's lap. When she gets up, Esme points out that she brought her "monthly visitor to practice." Indeed, she left a big red stain on Tiny's very khaki pants. Horrified, she bolts for the locker room, wanting to hide forever.
The next day, she gets to class, where Tiny is waiting. She sheepishly sits down, apologizing for what happened to his pants. He shrugs it off, instead presenting her with a pink gift bag. She discovers two giant boxes, one with tampons and one with pads. When she understandably freaks out, he truly doesn't know what he did wrong, explaining that he had talked to Esme, who told him that's what he should do. We told you she was up to some evil this episode. However, we get that he's a teenage boy, but he should have some clue that it's a bad idea, right? From like, watching TV and stuff, maybe? Shay runs off mortified, and when she confronts Esme, she retorts, "Wow, someone's prepared. That's what I've always liked about you, Shay. Always willing to go with the flow." Fine, Esme, well played on the period puns, but just this once!
She debriefs with Frankie in the locker room, contemplating not showing up for practice, or for the meet at all. She's just going to be ridiculed if she has another "incident." Frankie argues that Esme obviously doesn't get it, because she's probably a girl who has perfect little periods, which sparks an idea for Shay. During class, while Esme is doing a presentation, she pours red paint onto her seat. She immediately feels it and starts yelling at Shay, who only defends herself with the fact that Esme embarrassed her. "You're the one who is embarrassed for having a vagina!" she bluntly, and rightly, explains.
Later that day, she apologies to Esme, even though she kind of deserved it. She dishes out one last dis, handing Shay a box of adult diapers. Shay finally resigns to the fact that if she doesn't show up to the meet, this will keep happening. She just wishes that periods didn't make women so weird — how can we stop letting them affect us? Her idea comes once again with red paint — this time, smearing it on between the legs of herself and her teammates. Much like in Billy Madison, all the cool kids are doing it, leveling the playing field. This is one of those every day stories that seems silly in comparison the major issues of the other two plots, but an essential story of the awkward high school experience.
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