"It's about breaking a person. Their spirit. Taming them. Making them into someone they aren't. Making them into a lesser version of themselves."
Ashley talking about Taming of the Shrew.

Dressed In Black is the eighteenth episode of Season 2 of the Canadian television series, Degrassi: The Next Generation.

Main Plot

Ashley and Jimmy are finally back together, but they are having trouble reconnecting. Things are too different now that Ashley is goth. She tries changing back to her old image, but realizes things are never going to be like they once were, so she shouldn't try to change herself for Jimmy. Realizing she is being tamed, she converts back to goth style and breaks up with Jimmy.

Sub Plot

J.T. convinces Toby to buy condoms in case the opportunity to sleep with Kendra arises, although Toby isn't interested in having sex at all. Spinner soon finds out and makes it his priority to get revenge on Toby. 

Extended Overview

In her bedroom, Ashley is playing Jimmy part of a new song that she wrote to express her feelings about the two of them getting back together. Jimmy seems uneasy about how much his girlfriend has changed since their relationship the previous year but Ashley doesn't seem to notice in her excitement. She promises him that whatever happened last year was just a thing, and that now that they are back together things will be better than ever, but from the look on Jimmy's face, he doesn't seem to completely agree.

The next day, Ashley is touching up her eyeliner when Jimmy approaches her and shows her that the grade 8 yearbook is here. She seems reluctant to reminisce about last year as Jimmy likes to, saying that it wasn't exactly her best year. Jimmy insists that she sign his yearbook anyway and she scoffs at her picture and how "awful" she used to look. Jimmy assures her she looked great but as Sully and a couple of guys walk past, they overhear and tell Ashley that it's not true and that she's a freakshow. Jimmy tells Sully to take a look at himself, and Sully responds by telling Jimmy to keep on dating the creepy girls and to leave the hot ones for everyone else. Jimmy apologizes to Ashley and tells her that if jerks like Sully knew how beautiful she was on the inside, they wouldn't mock her. Ashley is visibly hurt by his comment, which implied that he doesn’t find her beautiful on the outside, but says nothing as the bell rings.

Meanwhile, J.T. and Toby are on their way to a much-anticipated event among the grade 8 students: Dr. Sally’s sex talk. Toby seems reluctant, groaning about how J.T. has been unable to stop talking about it for weeks, but J.T. is excited and sure that with his newfound sexpertise he’ll soon be able to impress girls like Paige. Unfortunately for him, when they arrive in class, they discover that Mr. Armstrong will be giving the sex talk today, not Dr. Sally. Armstrong talks to the visibly uncomfortable students about various methods of birth control until J.T. raises his hand and says they might all feel better were Dr. Sally there to teach them. Armstrong reminds J.T. that Dr. Sally is in China and they’re stuck with him, moving on to talk about abstinence, which means refraining from sex. While his back is turned, J.T. accidentally launches a condom that had been passed around class at the oblivious Armstrong, causing it to attach itself to his shirt as everyone smirks.

Elsewhere, Ms. Kwan’s grade 9 English class has just finished watching a video version of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” Everyone groans when they receive their latest assignment: to work in pairs and reinterpret Act II, scene i in a way that reflects who they are. Ashley frowns and shows Jimmy that she’s been paired up with Craig, while a bummed out Jimmy reveals his partner is Hazel. After class, a jovial Craig approaches Ashley about the assignment, but Ashley is still upset over not being paired with Jimmy. She and Craig decide to use the assignment to show that they are unimpressed with the play and find it boring, unfunny and sexist.

At lunch, J.T. and Toby discuss the sex talk they just received. J.T. is no longer enthused, instead choosing to be angry with Dr. Sally, who he thinks let them all down. Toby, however, admits that he’s confused about how condoms work. J.T. scoffs and says they’re simple enough to use – just take one out of the package and slip it on – but Toby says he’s more confused about when to buy them, as in when is the right time to have sex. This gets J.T. thinking, and he suggests that they go and buy some as soon as they can so that they can “practice” in case they meet the women of their dreams soon. Toby smiles and waves at Kendra, saying he’d already met the woman of his dreams. J.T. tries to convince him that dating Kendra is even more of a reason to be prepared, although Toby assures him it’s far too early for he and Kendra to consider having sex. J.T. points out that passion could take over and that the smart thing to do is to be prepared. A hesitant Toby agrees to go with J.T. to the drugstore after school.

In the hall, Ashley catches up with Jimmy and Hazel, who have just been laughing and practicing their scene. Ashley says it looks like they're having fun, and Hazel laughs and tells Ashley that her boyfriend is hilarious before leaving. Jimmy smiles but tells Ashley that everything would be better if they’d been paired up together for the scene, but Ashley has other things to worry about. Horrified, she sees an old picture of herself taped inside Jimmy’s locker and demands that he burn it. He refuses, telling her that she looked cute, and changes the subject to whether she’d like to have dinner later. Ashley explains that her dad is cooking, admitting to Jimmy that her parents miss him and that she’s glad he’s going to come eat dinner with her family.

At the drugstore after school, J.T. and Toby are in the condom aisle. Toby chastises J.T. for picking up a box of extra-large condoms, saying that there’s no way he needs such a big size, but J.T. ignores him and asks what “ribbed” means. Toby decides to purchase a box of glow in the dark condoms and he and J.T. head for the register. The teenage girl who rings them up isn’t very amused by their antics and awkward behavior, even less so when J.T. asks for her phone number.

At the Kerwin-Isaacs residence, everyone is about to sit down for dinner. In passing, Ashley asks Toby whether or not Dr. Sally visited his class earlier, and he explains that Armstrong gave the sex talk instead. This prompts a discussion on whether or not teachers should give out condoms to students. Ashley believes that it is an important issue and that having access to condoms teaches kids to have safe sex, but Jeff disagrees, stating that he thinks this just teaches kids that they should be having sex. Jimmy tries to stay out of the discussion until Ashley explicitly asks for his opinion, at which point he says that he’s unsure and that they all make great points. Ashley starts to get frustrated and asks what his point is and he admits that he disagrees with her, saying that Jeff is right and that free condoms just encourage kids to be having sex when they shouldn’t. She tells him he’s allowed to have his own opinion but that she wishes she didn’t have to pry it out of him.

At school the next day, Toby approaches his and J.T.’s locker and puts his condoms onto J.T.’s top shelf. J.T. protests, asking what’s up, and Toby says that he’s the one who made him buy the condoms in the first place and that they’re his problem now before he walks away. Spinner comes down the hall, trying to correctly recite his lines from Kwan’s play assignment, when J.T. makes a remark about his inability to walk and talk at the same time. Spinner shoves him against his locker, causing the condoms to come spilling out for everyone in the hall to see, including Emma and Manny. Spinner laughs, but J.T. insists that they’re not his, explaining that they belong to Toby. Emma and Manny are grossed out by the thought of Toby having condoms and walk off smirking, but Spinner is dumbfounded and angry at the thought of Toby planning to have sex with his sister Kendra.

Ashley is outside her locker trying to take a photo of herself, presumably to give to Jimmy to replace the old photo of herself that she hates so much. Craig approaches and offers to take the photo for her as it looks like she's having trouble and she obliges. As Craig leaves, Jimmy walks up and Ashley gives him the new photo. He tapes it inside next to the old photo, and she explains that it was supposed to be a replacement. Jimmy shrugs it off and says that he likes to have multiple pictures of her, but she is visibly annoyed, turning away from him when he ducks in to kiss her. He asks that she tell him what's wrong, but she only wants to know which picture he likes better. He says he likes both, but she demands that he speak his mind. He admits that he likes the old photo the best. Hurt, Ashley says nothing.

Later on, Ashley is poring over the grade 8 yearbook as she sits in her bedroom. She is obviously conflicted as she looks at the pictures of herself last year, before the black eye-shadow and spiked chokers, and makes the decision to go to school the next day dressed like her old self.

The next morning, Ashley is walking down the hallway, wearing some of her old clothes and completely make-up free, as students laugh and point at her. Embarrassed, she ducks into the English classroom to avoid the stares. As she is reading, Ellie comes in and sits with her, admitting that she doesn't get it. Ashley explains that she's been this girl since before she and Ellie met. Jimmy and Spinner walk in, hardly believing their eyes at the sight of the un-goth Ashley. Jimmy tells her he was just getting used to the goth Ashley as Ellie sneers that her best friend is now so "tamed."

J.T. and Toby are in the Media Immersion classroom, trying to figure out Spinner's locker route so that Toby can avoid him for the rest of the year. Toby is more worried about Kendra, afraid that she'll think he's despicable, but J.T. assures him that if he just explains to her she'll understand. As they watch an animation on Spinner's website of him punching Toby, a new mail notification pops up. J.T. opens it and it reads: "Are you afraid? You should be. Look behind you." Slowly, the boys turn around to see Spinner lurking at a computer one row back, looking menacing. They dart from the room and Toby thinks he's made it off scot-free until Kendra shoves him into a locker and angrily confronts him. She shouts at him and calls him a pervert, reminding him that she's only 12 and in grade 7 as people look on and laugh.

Outside, Paige, Hazel and Terri are laughing about a television commercial as a quiet Ashley sits with them. Terri assures her that they'll get her back into the loop, and Paige asks exactly why she decided to start dressing like her old self, saying that the goth look was kind of working for her. Ashley doesn't answer and leaves quickly, telling them that she has to meet Craig, leaving the three girls to exchange confused looks. Craig is practicing his lines when Ashley arrives; he does a double take at her appearance, puzzled by the sudden change. Ashley suggests they get started and Craig begins to say his lines, but Ashley stops him suddenly. She asks whether Petruchio (the male lead) wants to change Kate (the female lead) out of love. Craig says that's what Petruchio claims, and Ashley says that they're making him into a villain and that maybe they're wrong. Craig protests, saying that Petruchio is a "sexist pig" and "abusive" but that even if he wasn't those things, if he truly loved Kate he wouldn't want to change her - he'd love her exactly as she was.

Back at school, Spinner grabs an unsuspecting Toby and shoves him into a classroom and up against the door. Toby flinches and removes his glasses, resigned to his fate, as Spinner makes a fist in preparation to make him pay. But before he can, Toby starts to talk, explaining that the only reason he bought the condoms was because he really likes Kendra and that he wasn't thinking of having sex. Spinner asks why he bought the condoms if he wasn't thinking about having sex with her, and Toby explains that if he was thinking of having sex with her - which he isn't - he'd want to take care of her and make sure they were safe. He admits that sex hadn't even occurred to him until J.T. starting talking about being prepared and Spinner, angry at J.T. this time, stomps out.

The time to present Kwan's assignment has finally arrived and the class begins to file into the gym. Ashley seems upset and Jimmy asks what's wrong, but she tells him she's just nervous and he kisses her good luck. Ashley and Craig get on stage to do their version, which includes a lot of hands-on abuse and anger from Craig's Petruchio. While playing Petruchio, Craig dresses like his abusive father Albert Manning. In the audience, Jimmy seems upset at how strongly Ashley and Craig's version implies that Petruchio was in the wrong to change Kate. Ms. Kwan calls their version "intense" and Ashley explains that she and Craig did not see the play as a comedy and felt it was more about "breaking a person" and (as she holds eye contact with Jimmy) about making a person into a lesser version of themselves.

The next day at school, Toby is in the hall when Spinner once again accosts him and pulls him into a classroom. This time, however, it is not to threaten him, but to show him exactly what he did to make J.T. pay for suggesting that he and Toby buy the condoms in the first place. Spinner put the condoms to good use, tying J.T. up with them, using them to decorate his hands and head, even putting one on his nose. Spinner goes to put the finishing touches on his feet as a crowd gathers and laughs and Toby just smirks. But Spinner's got one more trick up his sleeve - he asks Toby to hit the lights and the crowd roars with laughter as J.T. begins to glow.

Jimmy is at his locker when a once again goth Ashley approaches, gives him his yearbook, and explains that she signed it like he'd asked. As he begins to read what she wrote - a poem about separation - she backs slowly away and tries to hold in her tears. Jimmy looks up sadly as she sniffs and turns away, finishing what she wrote: "Love always, Ashley."

  • This episode is named after the song "Dressed In Black" by Depeche Mode.
  • This is Sully's first appearance.
  • This episode marks Jeff Isaacs' final appearance.
  • Craig dressed as his abusive father Albert Manning during his and Ashley's performance of The Taming of the Shrew which depicted Petruchio as being physically and emotionally abusive towards Katherina.

  • Toby: "Did you see the Pina Colada flavored?"
    J.T.: "Yeah! Too bad they don't have...bacon!"
  • Kendra: "How old am I?"
    Toby: "12."
    Kendra: "And what grade am I in?"
    Toby: "7th."
    Kendra: "And you thought I'd have sex with you? Pervert!"
  • Ashley: "It's about breaking a person. Their spirit. Taming them. Making them into someone they aren't. Making them into a lesser version of themselves."