Degrassi S1: Family Politics

February 2, 2004 No Comments »

Ashley Kerwin falls back on her bed, talking on the phone. She has a just below the chin length bob, and she’s wearing her bathrobe. She declares that this is going to be the “best.year.ever.” to Terri. The first thing they need to do, apparently, is get Terri a boyfriend. Ashley swears it’s going to happen, and demands that Terri trust her. She giggles and makes emphatic noises, juggling the phone in one hand, while coloring in a poster with the other. She walks away from the bed, telling Terri that she, Ashley, is not a shoe-in, as the camera pulls back and the poster is revealed to us. Ashley Kerwin is our choice for Degrassi Class Prez! Ash is off to the shower, but not before she tells Terri that they won’t know that she’s President until the final votes are counted. She sounds pretty confident, though.

“Oh, no. Not again,” Ashley says, for no reason that I can fathom. She tells Terri that she’ll see her at school, and then goes to bang on a closed door. We are led to believe that it’s the bathroom by the gargling sounds coming from within. And, indeed, there’s someone spitting into the sink. Mmm. Toothpaste spit. Ashley tells Toby – the producer of the spit – to get out. Toby is still not wearing glasses. He wants to know how she knew it was him, why she didn’t think it was her mom or his dad. His argument fails, because the parental units have their own bathroom. Toby tells Ash to take a hike, because he just got there, and Ash wants him to be reasonable, because she has to get to school to put up her election posters.

It is possible, Toby points out, that no one will even run against her. This scene is edited so that we’re in the bathroom, then outside the bathroom, and it’s kind of making me dizzy. Toby glances over to the shower, and sees a black lacy bra hanging there. It totally makes his adolescent life. Ash is droning on about how their family therapist told them that a generous attitude makes for a generous family. She’s very ungenerous when she starts yelling at him through the door. Toby is all smug as he stares at her bra. He wants her to say please, and also that he’s the coolest kid in school, way cooler than any Grade 8 student could hope to be. Ashley starts rattling the door handle. Her plans for a shower are blown, now she just wants to “get something.” I wonder what that could be? Toby names off some items – hairbrush, eyeliner – and then he opens the door, Ash’s bra held up to his chest, and sing-songs, “Your training bra?” I hate to break it to him, but that bra is a least a B cup. Ash doesn’t need training anymore. She’s a woman. The camera focuses on Ashley’s lips as she yells one word, “Mom!”

I am particularly fond of the part in the opening credits where Ashley and Terri are singing in the choir, “I know I can make it through!”

Extras are arriving at school. A kid on a skateboard, a girl getting out of a minivan, a boy bouncing a basketball. We hear Toby bitching about Ashley before we see him and JT walking together. JT thinks that bathroom time should be private time. Ashley seems to have a history of crying to her mother. She has no sense of humor and is a neat freak. Toby is now wearing glasses. I don’t know why I care about this. I guess I just wonder why he wasn’t wearing them when he bumped into JT last episode. Did they give Toby glasses later, after the pilot, when they decided he’d be the nerdy one? Toby left his gym socks on the couch, and Ash freaked out. His gym socks can reek “something fierce” according to JT, who is riding on a little scooter. Toby is indignant that Ash treats him like dirt, gum stuck on the bottom of her shoe. The two boys pause, and look at the school together. It’s the first day of the last year of their junior high lives. And so it begins.

Terri is helping Ashley put up her posters. Ash is spouting more nonsense from the therapist. She and Toby are supposed to work together, so that they can learn to be brother and sister. Terri points out that they fight all the time and can’t stand the sight of each other. Pretty much, they already act like siblings. Ash is happy that her mom is happy with Jeff (Toby’s pa), she just wishes that the package didn’t come with Toby. He’s like a mosquito, buzzing in her ear. Terri offers that, when Ash is president, she can get Toby expelled. She says she wants him expelled from her life.

The girls are about to walk off when Paige comes running towards them. She’s wearing black jeans with an extra wide cuff, and a little red shirt that says “Hottie” across the chest. She has about three inches of stomach exposed. She’s also wearing big pimpin’ glasses that cover her entire face. Terri and Ashley both give her the once over. They look confused. It’s a new year and a new look for Paige. I wonder what she looked like before? Directly behind her, a gawking JT walks straight into his locker door.

Paige and Ashley start snarking at each other about the election. But before I get into that, remember that this is the first day of school. Ash decided over the summer that she wanted to be president? That’s hardcore. Paige notes that Ash has already put up her posters. She’s chosen to focus on the issues, rather than her appearance. The election is on Friday. Paige says Ash is “admirable,” but she’s being sarcastic. Ashley glares at her as she walks off, and Terri mouths “admirable” in a snotty way. Does Paige want to be “prez” too? I don’t get the dynamic there.

Emma and Manny push through the front doors. Emma is telling Manny that there’s nothing to worry about. Except, Manny says, the Grade 8s, who’ve had an entire year to think of ways to be mean to them. Emma bends down to pick up some papers that have fallen to the floor, and a big shoe steps on them. It’s Spinner. He tells them that they aren’t allowed on school property without a hall pass. His face is puffy, and he’s wearing lots of earrings. I think he’s supposed to be menacing. Of course they don’t have a pass. Spin tries to kick them out. Jimmy is with him. Manny says they can’t go, because it’s the first day of school. Jimmy gives up the ruse by smirking at Spinner. Grade 7s are such geeks. The boys walk off.

All the Grade 7s have arrived at the Media Immersion Lab: Manny, Liberty, JT, Toby and Emma. Looks like they’ll have Mr. Simpson for homeroom. For those who have forgotten, that’s Snake from the original series. They all look in the window and mention how cool the lab is. At least four of them have already seen it before, but are pretending they haven’t. Snake arrives to unlock the door, and recognizes Emma as he lets the kids in. They get to choose where they sit. Snake sounds like a goober as he tells them that his homeroom is the coolest one in the school. Manny and Emma look really excited about this news. Snake hands out the Code of Conduct forms, governing the computers and Internet use. Toby and JT are grappling at each other for absolutely no reason. Snake takes off JT’s hat for him. JT can’t wear his hat, but Paige can prance around with her tummy hanging out?

The Grade 8s are in Ms. Kwan’s class: Ashley, Paige, Spinner and Jimmy. I wonder where Terri is. Ms. Kwan calls Spinner “Gavin Reginald Mason.” He prefers Spinner. She doesn’t care. Last year, she gave him 14 detentions, and wants to know if she’s going to have to do it again. I’m not sure she should be calling him out in front of the class like that, but in later episodes I’ll think it’s funny. He tells her she doesn’t have to give him detention if she doesn’t want to. Jimmy laughs like it’s the funniest thing in the world. Unlike Snake, Kwan doesn’t think her class is cool. She thinks that learning is important, as is getting involved in the school. Paige is going to start a spirit squad. Kwan calls that “industrious.” I call it “cheesy.” But you know who’s really industrious? Ashley, of course. Kwan calls her presidential campaign “professional.”

The bell rings. We get to see one of Ashley’s posters hanging on the wall. A bunch of extras walk purposefully through the halls. So do Emma and Manny. If you haven’t figured it out already, this episode is the one where we get to learn about everyone’s relationships with everyone else. Hence all the best friends walking around in twos. Emma is in the process of telling Manny that school isn’t so bad. Sure. As long as they don’t run into Spinner. They are joined by Toby and JT. Emma, by the way, is a full head taller than the other kids. She points to Ashley and asks Toby if that’s his stepsister. She’s not, though. They happen to be stuck in a forced living arrangement. Our mistake. Toby and Ash’s parents are living in sin. Woo!

Manny thinks Ashley is pretty. (Oh, god. Manny thinks Ash is pretty now, but she’ll steal her boyfriend in two years!) Toby bitches some more about how much Ashley hates living with him. Blah blah blah, Ashley has obviously never heard of democracy. Huh? I think he was talking about how Ash wants everything to go her way at home, but I got bored. Toby says, “Like this election. No one is even running against her. She’s a shoe-in.” Emma urges Toby to run. It’s his turn to quote the therapist. He can’t run because “it would cause a rupture in our fragile family dynamic.” Manny comes up with the brilliant idea for Toby to find someone else to run against Ash. Who’d want to do that? JT calls the whole thing a joke.

“Did you say joke?” The boys are on their way to lunch, and JT is refusing to run for president. It’s the perfect way to stick it to Ashley. JT doesn’t want to start out Grade 7 on the wrong foot. It’s just his first day! According to Toby, here’s why JT is electable: A large percentage of the student body is ALSO experiencing their first day at Degrassi. They will feel at one with JT in his newness. In fact, they will love him. Toby is pouring it on thick. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! For him to stick it to Ashley? No! For JT to practice his stand-up material in front of a large audience. JT is such a sucker. He wants to be famous, and Toby plays him like a piano. “Just picture it. Assembly. The whole school hanging on your every word.” Toby agrees to do all the other work. JT asks what happens if he wins. Toby assures him that he doesn’t stand a chance.

Ash is being picky about the hanging of her posters. Terri’s up on a chair, trying to get one straight. Liberty rushes Ashley and starts shaking her hand. Liberty is going to run for secretary. She thinks that she and Ash will be a great team. And, in order to be a team, they should discuss their policies, so that they’ll be *NSYNC. Er. In sync. She wants to tackle the lack of a school newspaper. Ash wants to wait until after the election. She looks like she stepped in something icky. Liberty takes the hint. She tells Ash that her poster is a little high on the left. Before Ash can look too sad about that, Jimmy shows up to put his arm around her. Hey, they must be dating!

Toby is using school equipment to copy JT’s campaign posters. He holds one up to admire his handywork, and Snake arrives to kill his buzz. It’s ten cents a copy. Toby frantically stabs at buttons, trying to make the machine stop.

JT’s posters say, “Unknown, unremarkable, underachieving. VOTE. The underdog for President.” Toby is hanging a bunch of them side-by-side when Terri and Ashley walk by. Ashley is preaching about all the changes she wants to make to the school once she’s president. They stop so that Terri can point out that Ash has competition. She wants to know what “that” is. Toby says it’s a poster without her picture on it. Hey. That’s kind of funny. Ash is pissed. JT is nothing but Toby’s annoying little friend. He’s wasting his time. School President is always in the 8th grade. Not this year, if Toby has anything to say about it.

Some unknown kid has a camera. He catches JT coming down some stairs and asks him why he wants to run for president. He stalls. Toby jumps in front of him. “In one word people! Democracy. The backbone of our fine nation. He is, people, our great alternative. In a world dominated by cruel, selfish 8th graders, JT is our last shining hope.” JT agrees with whatever he says. The camera focuses on Liberty. She says she wouldn’t be caught dead voting for a Grade 7 for president. Plus, she and Ashley will make an excellent team.

JT is in the middle of a crowd, giving his stump speech. If elected, he’ll do exactly what a real politician would do – absolutely nothing. Also, like a true politician, he will accept bribes. The crowd goes wild! Ashley can’t believe people are actually listening to him. Terri thinks he’s pretty funny… if you like totally immature humor. Nice save, Terri. Ashley says she isn’t worried about JT.

Emma’s caught on camera. “Personally, I think it’s great. Grade 7s have just as much right as anyone to run for school president. I’m voting for JT!”

It’s Ashley’s turn to speechify. Terri is standing by like a good campaign manager. Here are Ashley’s campaign promises: 1) Greater representation on the school board, 2) An updated recycling program and 3) A night dance. All it costs is your vote! Across the street, JT is campaigning from a picnic table. He’s saying something about soft toilet paper. People are still listening to him. Ashley can’t take her eyes off him. Toby is starting to gloat. I pretty much hate Toby. Sorry, Toby fans. His stunt is just plain mean.

At the Kerwin-Isaacs house, the not-siblings are fighting. Ash wants to know why Toby is doing this to her. He’s not doing anything. JT came up with the idea all on his own. But his doesn’t care about the school! But anyone can run! Ash is getting frustrated. JT’s an idiot who can’t possibly know anything, because he just started going to that school! Ashley’s mom comes home and wants to know what’s up. Ash assumes she’s going to take Toby’s side – like she always does – so she starts babbling about how she put all her energy into the race. Toby interrupts to remind her that there wasn’t a race before, and now there is. Fair point. There’s some more discussion, but trust me when I say it’s more of the same. In the end, Mom takes Toby’s side.

Fight, fight, fight. Ashley has curlers in her hair. Toby taunts her with JT’s possible victory. She needs to write a concession speech, she’s going to lose to a 7th grader, blah blah. I hate Toby so much, I almost turn off the TV. Also, it should be noted, I’ve never seen this episode before, and I don’t know what the outcome of the election is. I’m nervous for Ashley. That makes me hate Toby more.

The mysterious camera is on Paige. “Hi, my name’s Paige. And of course Ashley is going to win. Sure, some students might resent her for being so perfect, but Ashley always gets what she wants, so why should today be any different? Actually, I’ll tell you why today’s different. See, I just got these brand new glasses, and I think they look rather nice with my outfit. (camera focuses on her face) Don’t you? Oh! And my belt. Please focus on my belt. (camera focuses on her bare midriff, and her belt) Thanks. Beautiful, eh? And my new purse, so everyone can see all that I own. (camera focuses on a clear, square, plastic purse) What do I have in here? This (she holds up a tampon), this isn’t mine.” The camera walks off down the hall. Paige yells that she wasn’t done. The answer to our earlier question, regarding Ashley and Paige, seems to be that Paige resents her for being so perfect.

Toby and JT are looking at some poll results. How very West Wing of them! JT and Ash are running neck-in-neck, with JT a little ahead. This is before they give their speeches. Toby tells JT to forget Ashley. They’re on the verge of making Degrassi history! JT doesn’t look so happy. The plan was to make Ashley sweat, not to actually beat her. The closer JT comes to beating her, the sweatier she gets. JT is also getting sweaty, because he doesn’t actually want to be president. I wish they would stop talking about sweat. Toby doesn’t care. Go away, Toby.

Camera’s on Liberty, again. “It would be tragic if Ashley lost today. But, if she did, and if I, Liberty Van Zandt, am elected secretary, I will work closely with JT to maintain excellent standards of student government.”

Spinner and Jimmy ambush JT at his locker and haul him off down the hall. He’s a squeaky little thing, telling them that he doesn’t want them to get detention for being late to class. And, if they don’t like what he’s doing, he’ll change it. They put him in a room with Ashley, who’s looking over her notes for the big speech. She’s going to bribe him. Fifty bucks if he drops out of the race. JT is confused. So am I! If Ashley would have just appealed to him about how much work the president has to do, JT would run screaming. I have to say, I’m quite disappointed in Ashley. She’s much smarter than this. I fear this will just strengthen his resolve. She raises it to $60, then $65 and then to $80. For that money, though, she wants a show. He has to quit in front of the whole school. JT’s stoked, because he’ll still get to do his speech, which is all he cared about anyway. Ash gives him half of the money now. He tells her it was a pleasure doing business with her and calls her Ms. President. Okay. So that wasn’t the best move on Ashley’s part.

Manny and Emma. Hallway. Manny’s going home right after the election so that they can avoid Spinner. Manny cries out and grabs the back of her head. Spinner has hit her with a spitball, shot through a straw. He is way amused with himself. Manny starts crying. Terri tells Spinner that he’s cool for making a Grade 7 girl cry. She’s being facetious, of course. Spinner didn’t mean to make her cry. He looks ashamed of himself. Sort of. When he leaves, it becomes clear that Manny was faking it. She knew it would work, because her brother always falls for it.

Toby is outraged that Ashley paid JT to throw the election. He thinks it’s wrong. Ha! JT thinks his entire campaign was wrong. Word. JT offers to split the money with Toby. He doesn’t want it. He doesn’t want her to get what she wants. Shut up, Toby. JT sighs and walks off.

Liberty is giving her speech. She’ll fulfill her duties with “enthusiasm, and even more enthusiasm.” It just dawned on me that Liberty doesn’t have a crush on JT yet. I wonder when that happens?

JT gets to give his speech first. “Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s a long year. You’ve got to vote for me, you need something to laugh at! Now, if I could just say a few words about my presidential platform, the speech would be a whole lot shorter.” Toby pokes his head into the auditorium, and tries to get Ashley’s attention. She gives him dirty looks. JT continues. “If there’s anything I’ve learned in my zero years of political experience. Well, it’s nothing!” Ashley walks out in to the hall to join Toby so they can bicker some more. He calls her bribe “corruption.” She’s thrilled he learned a new word. He threatens to tell everyone and says that JT only accepted the money as evidence. Toby’s going to go into the auditorium and tell everyone what a fraud Ash is.

Like she cares. Her life is already a disaster. She wants her mom to be happy, and she’s tried to be nice, but ever since Toby moved in, everything became all about him. As if, he says. He has to live in her house. But her mother dotes on him, and doesn’t care about how Ashley feels, as long as Toby is happy. He refuses to admit that’s true. She just wants some space, but Toby is everywhere, at home, at school, and now in her campaign. He’s starting to crack! The campaign was supposed to be the one thing he couldn’t take away from her. Toby looks rightly chastised. Ash begs him to listen to her speech before he ruins everything, and then he can decide if she doesn’t deserve to be president.

JT is still bringing down the house. ” She’s got the looks, she’s got the brains, she’s got everything! Don’t pick her! Pick me!” Spinner and Jimmy sit in the audience, trying to look menacing. Spinner just looks pudgy. JT runs back to the microphone. “Oh, by the way? I quit the race for school pres, vote for Ashley!” Well, that’s unexpected. Radditch makes sure JT is really dropping out, and then asks that Ashley give her speech anyway. Toby makes like he’s going to run and tell the whole school about the bribe. Ash asks him again not to. And there’s a commercial.

Ashley and Jimmy are walking. They are having a conversation that doesn’t make sense. She hugs him goodbye and he tells her congratulations. He calls her Miss President. This victory feels far less sweet than it could have. Toby is sitting alone, flipping through a comic book. Ashley asks him if this is what defeat looks like, or if it’s just guilt. He congratulates her. She says, “yeah, whatever.” Toby tells her that he means it. She deserved to win. She’s confused and wants to know what happened to the real Toby Isaacs. Turns out, JT is in trouble for running a joke campaign. It’s Toby’s fault. He shouldn’t have put him up to it. Ash can’t leave well enough alone, and is still being snotty. Toby is trying to apologize. I hate him a little less. They admit that sometimes they hate each other. They have to live with each other, in the same house, and it sucks. Ashley doesn’t think it has to suck this much. They’re bonding! The therapist would be so proud.


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