On the first day after the September holidays, Ishmael has to break the bad news to Ignatius, Razza, and Bill: according to Miss Tarango, Scobie has gone somewhere with his father and won’t be back for the debating finals. And for the semifinals, the topic is a secret until that night. They’ll be locked in a room with encyclopedias for an hour to prepare. Razza is in disbelief; he insists it took a week to explain the last topic to Bill. Then, Ishmael shares the worst news: their opponent is Preston School. Preston School is known for their debating team.
Losing Scobie puts the team in a tough spot, as they no longer have their star debater to swoop in and clinch the win. For Ishmael, this also means he won’t have Scobie’s friendship to rely on—instead, he’ll have to let the other boys in more than he has at this point. There are clearly still some issues among the teammates, given Razza’s sly insult about Bill’s intelligence. The team doesn’t fully trust and appreciate each other yet.
Ignatius says they’ll “be drowning in [their] own offal.” Razza says they should at least pretend like they can win, but Ignatius argues that they should forfeit. Bill says he doesn’t care, and Razza asks Ishmael for his opinion. Ishmael thinks hard before he says that for Scobie’s sake, they should at least try. Razza and Ishmael continue to argue with Ignatius. Finally, Ishmael says that if Ignatius agrees to stay on the team and help them prep, Ishmael will speak in his place. Ignatius agrees.
This is a huge turning point for Ishmael. Not only does he think the team can and should stay in the competition—he’s also willing to get up and try speaking again. Since last time was such a fiasco, this highlights that something has changed for Ishmael. These days, he’s feeling more confident in his abilities—and in his teammates’ support.