Degrassi is not a show that has ever shied away from controversial or intense topics, so it’s hardly surprising that they went there this week. And, being seasoned with these kinds of storylines, it’s also not surprising they handled it so well. But handling it well doesn’t make it easy to watch, so I doubt I was the only one who discovered barely two minutes into the episode that someone must have hidden an onion somewhere in the vicinity of my computer…
The episode starts on a fairly light-hearted note, with Eli apologizing to Clare for snooping in her diary, an apology so successful, in fact, that she announces she’s now ready to “take the next step” with Eli. For the moment, though, the next step Clare will take is to find a teacher to call 911 – for Eli has just spotted the body of a fellow student in the school greenhouse.
Maya arrives at school still upset about Cam maybe-dumping her via text, while Katie encourages her to keep it together at least until her National Young Musician’s Orchestra audition; her relationship woes can be figured out later. After all, “Cam’s acted weird before,” Katie says.
Just then, an ambulance and a police car pull up outside the school, and the French teacher quickly ushers Maya – and Katie for moral support – to the principal’s office, where the principal tells them that Cam has committed suicide.
Pushing aside any emotions she might have about what has happened, Maya opts to skip class to focus on practicing for her audition instead. As a counselor narrates and Maya plays her cello, the camera pans throughout the student body – Dallas and the hockey team, Alli, Zig – finding out the news.
Fiona announces to the student council that in light of Cam’s death, all Spirit Week events are cancelled. “So the whole student body has to suffer because of what one kid decided to do?” Becky lashes out. “I’m sorry,” she argues, “but suicide is selfish.”
Marisol suggests that the council organize a candlelight vigil, and Mo jokes about getting so many candles on such short notice. Dallas and Alli, both close to tears, are not amused.
As the students on the council wonder what might have brought about Cam’s suicide – whether he was under too much pressure, or being bullied – Dallas storms out of the classroom, wrecking havoc in the hallway. Alli tries to assure him that it’ll be OK, but he’s not able to hear it. “We failed him!” he shouts, implicating both of them in Cam’s death. “You did nothing!” he screams, and she just lets him, tears streaming down her face.
Elsewhere, Katie tries to convince Maya that she shouldn’t go through with her audition that afternoon. “What will people think?” she argues.
“I don’t know,” Maya snaps back. “Not like I’ve ever been the girlfriend of the guy who killed himself before.”
Marisol comes into the room just then to see if Maya will say a few words at the candlelight vigil – which happens to overlap with her audition. Then Tori, who hasn’t been on speaking terms with Maya since the incident with Zig, comes in as Maya is working on her speech for the vigil, but Maya snaps at her, too. “Don’t be nice to me just because Cam’s dead.”
Meanwhile, Dallas starts to get drunk on the school roof. Fiona – who once used a school roof as a hideout in a time of trouble as well – finds him there before he can do anything to harm himself, having overheard students saying there was a guy on the roof.
Dallas confesses that he had thought about jumping. He feels like it’s his fault Cam killed himself, that he should have been easier on Cam, and Dallas laments that no one would miss him if he, too, were gone.
Fiona tries to reason that that’s not true, rattling off the names of family and friends who care about Dallas. “There must be someone you should stick around for,” she says.
“Yeah,” he finally admits. “There is.”
“Good,” she tells him as she pulls him into a hug, “because I’m going to need your help to make sure this never happens again.” He tries to argue with Fiona that he’s not in any shape to help anyone else, so she reassures him, “Let’s start by helping you.”
That afternoon, Jake and Eli hang out, each avoiding the vigil for different reasons. Jake jokingly thanks Eli for finding Cam’s body, as he suspects it would have been him otherwise. “Is my garden going to be haunted now?” Jake wonders.
“Nah, just me,” Eli responds. I wish I thought he was joking.
When Zig comes over to Maya later that day, she’s relieved to see him, hoping finally to be around someone who won’t treat her like she’s made of glass. But Zig’s too wrapped up in his own guilt. “I told him to get out of your life, and he did,” Zig confesses, concluding that it must be his fault Cam died.
“That’s ridiculous,” she laughs, but he looks at her, incredulous that she could laugh at such a statement. “People keep saying ‘do whatever you feel,’” Maya fumes, “but I guess what I feel is wrong!”
When she takes the stage at the vigil to address the student body – Imogen and Fiona amongst them – her anger at Cam suddenly hits her. It’s no one’s fault but Cam’s, she tells everyone flatly.
Katie tries to reason that Cam was sick, but Maya throws back that he should have fought his depression harder, that he should have reached out for help, that she would have helped him. “I’m not lighting any candles,” she declares, “and I won’t cry.” Instead, she storms off.
Dallas finds Alli waiting outside the counselor’s office and apologizes for implicating her in Cam’s death. “Sometimes I feel like anger’s the only thing I’ve got,” he confesses.
Fiona passes them in the hallway as Dallas tells Alli that, with the encouragement of a friend, he’s going to talk to the counselor, too. When the counselor comes out for the next student, Alli tells Dallas to go first. As he passes Fiona, he nods his thanks.
Meanwhile, Fiona is putting the signs back up for Spirit Week, having convinced the principal that it will be a good way to get the school’s morale back up.
Though Maya’s still grappling with her anger at Cam, she tries to return to class, and normality, the next day. When Tori comes up to her in the hallway to say that she really did want to be friends again before Cam’s death, Maya reaches out for a hug.
“Good, because I really need my best friend right now,” she admits, letting a few tears out for the first time.
For anyone interested in more coverage of this episode and its topics, there’s a MuchTalk that aired after the episode on MuchMusic, an inside look at the episode, as well as a list of resources via TeenNick.
Or, if you just want cheering up the AfterEllen way, you’ll find a quick glimpse of a certain fan-favorite couple in this promo!
Whatever it takes, I know I can make it through…