Abbott Elementary Season 2, Episode 14 Recap – Vulture

Let’s give a standing ovation to the brains behind Abbott Elementary for the serendipitous scheduling of the series’ first Valentine’s Day-themed episode to be the 14th installment of the second season. This, plus Zach, Barbara, and Gary’s gestures to their respective significant others, is possibly the most romantic part of the episode, as the rest is ironically rife with bad timing and miscommunications — two things that can suck the romance out of any situation. Instead of Janine and Gregory’s tension slowly heating to a sexy boil, Jacob accidentally spills the beans about Gregory’s feelings and sends Janine into an anxiety spiral leading to a less-than-fulfilling Valentine’s Day.

The last time Abbott graced our screens (I hate these little two-week intermissions they’ve been having), Jacob inadvertently got Gregory to admit to having somewhat of a crush on Janine. Jacob has somehow managed to keep this from Janine — until his nosiness bites him in the ass when he jumps into a conversation without knowing the full context. One of Janine’s students has set his eyes on her as his romantic interest, stating he’s ready for a “real woman,” and slipped a Valentine in her mailbox. Donnie, the student, continues to pursue her throughout the day, and she vents to Melissa about how to handle the innocent crush. Jacob inserts himself midway through, assuming that Janine is talking about Gregory because, coincidentally, both Donnie and Gregory display the same behavior toward Janine. Both gift Janine candy, get her attention by knocking on the door, and Donnie tidies up the classroom, which sounds like something Gregory would do. Once they realize they’re talking about two different people, it’s too late to put the cat back in the bag, and Janine is left grappling with this new information.

On top of the fact that Janine and Gregory could go toe to toe in the overthinking Olympics, the timing of this revelation of feelings couldn’t be worse. Janine is officially dating Maurice and Gregory is dating his former student’s mom Amber. I love that they make it known that Gregory is no longer the teacher of Amber’s child because, in hindsight, now that Gregory is a full-time employee at Abbott, it would be inappropriate and unprofessional to continue that kind of relationship. Very murky waters for a sitcom in 2023 … in 1993, or even 2013, you know the writers would’ve run with that story line, but I digress.

Unaware that Janine knows about his conversation with Jacob, Gregory confides in her about his Valentine’s Day gift to Amber and ignites yet another miscommunication. He pulls her aside with a gift bag in his hand, beginning the conversation by saying he needs to ask her something important. She assumes it’s about her and rambles about how complicated “it” is, only to find out that Gregory wants her advice on a Lego flower bouquet he intends to gift Amber since she’s allergic to real flowers. Janine loves this gift and gives him her blessing, though there’s clear disappointment in her heart.

Even though all of her co-workers agree that it’s obvious Gregory has a thing for her, Janine convinces herself that everything is fine — Gregory likes Amber, and she likes Maurice. But when Maurice shows up after school to give Janine her present, it couldn’t be more evident that the couples are mismatched. He brings her a large platinum-silver Telfar bag that immediately catches the eye of Amber (and myself), who is at the school assumedly to pick up her kid (though she leaves with Gregory and no child in sight). Janine, who would admit she isn’t exactly on the cutting edge of fashion, has no idea how popular Telfar is and thought the purse was the gift bag concealing her actual present. Meanwhile, Amber opens up her Lego set from Gregory and asks if it’s a gift for her kids. It’s painfully apparent that they need to do a partner swap, with Amber receiving the Telfar and Janine the Lego set. The couples both walk off to enjoy their separate Valentine’s Days, but not without one last look back from Gregory. Sigh. These two will get together one day, but today is not that day — let the slow burn continue.

Although February is most associated with Cupid’s holiday, brands won’t let you forget that it’s also Black History Month. Or rather, four weeks of pretending to care about Black people and making tone-deaf ads to show their “support” before abandoning it all on March 1. I can’t help but be snarky about America’s unique brand of performative diversity [insert picture of Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats kneeling in kente cloth to “honor” George Floyd] because I’ve seen time and time again how white America believes visibility and opportunity is the answer to systemic racism without any effort to change the actual living conditions of Black people. Jacob, Abbott’s anti-racist Icarus, knows this all too well and teaches Black history throughout every month of the year. However, one parent decides to make an uproar about a white teacher teaching his Black son Black history and self-righteously complains to Ava, prompting the principal to sit in on Jacob’s class.

After listening to Jacob’s discussion about Martin Luther King Jr.’s true feelings about capitalism and how by the end of his life, his ideology was much closer to Malcolm X’s than white history likes to say, Ava, a self-proclaimed autodidact, becomes engaged and eager to learn more. She then decides to go to night school and continue her learning. Though Jacob and his boyfriend Zach attribute her sudden interest in education to her maturing, I argue that Jacob’s teaching methods actually sparked something in Ava. As someone who was taught Black history from a Black perspective since I was a child and grew up to be a teacher of Black culture myself, I wholeheartedly believe that if certain information was presented more holistically and honestly, more young Black students would be champions of education. Not many people Ava’s age, or even students now, have teachers like Jacob. Yeah, he’ll always be Mr. C for corny, but he has a natural gift for engaging students and facilitating important conversations all year long, not just in February. I’m happy that Ava read that parent for filth in support of Jacob. Our education system has failed too many people, of all races, by presenting learning as a one-size-fits-all militant system and teaching us racist revisionist history.

All in all, Valentine’s Day at Abbott wasn’t the sweetest or most sentimental, but it was heartwarming as ever. And finally, Gregory and Janine’s romance is becoming unavoidable. In the meantime, I can’t wait to see how she styles that bag.

Teacher’s Notes

• A few weeks ago, I was watching the first season of Abbott with a friend, who noted that Amber reminded him of me. I didn’t see it at first, though it was a compliment, but with the Telfar (I have four Telfars of my own), I can’t unsee it! I wish you all could’ve heard my gasp when Janine threw markers in that bag.

• For those who don’t know, the Telfar shopping bag, which was nicknamed the Bushwick Birkin, took over the fashion space a few years ago. It led to such a frenzy that Telfar Clemens himself instituted a bag-security program that ensured that anyone who preordered would eventually receive the bag, living up to Clemens’s mission of inclusivity in the luxury-fashion space. Oprah even named it one of her favorite things in 2020. I like to not-so-humble-brag that I got each of my Telfars before this program. I called a boutique in San Francisco to secure the final Telfar they had in store, literally stealing it off the display mannequin to have it shipped to my house in Ohio.

• I love how Donnie found a new girl his own age who has an uncanny resemblance to Janine. He clearly has a type!

• Jacob reminding his students to question everyone and everything is another example of his great teaching skills. We need to create more critical thinkers.

• Janine’s sister is finally shown! I am so happy that Ayo Edebiri from The Bear was cast as Ayesha. She and Quinta have a sweet relationship, and her comedy style blends with the show.

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