The Gregory-Janine Slow Burn Reaches a Boil on “Abbott Elementary”

By Terrance Turner

Feb. 22, 2023

Photo from Twitter.

This recap contains spoilers.

Tonight, viewers tuned in to the latest episode of ABC’s hit series “Abbott Elementary”. Produced and conceived by actress Quinta Brunson, the series follows the teachers and staff at an underfunded elementary school in Philadelphia. Tonight’s episode revolved around a much-anticipated teachers’ conference. Some reveled in the educational content; others

As the episode opens, Janine (Quinta Brunson) and Jacob (Chris Perfetti) are psyched about their upcoming trip to the annual Pennsylvania Educators Conference for the Southeast Area, held in nearby Allentown.

“Oh, Allentown, PA?” Janine asks. “You mean the education destination of eastern PA, where teachers come together to swap ideas and knowledge that will help them grow into the greatest educators of all-time?” Janine’s so excited that she already knows the keynote: “I heard the keynote speech is going to be about individualized educational plans,” Janine enthuses. She and Jacob burst into the teachers’ lounge, dancing with the promise of educational growth.

But veteran teachers Barbara Howard (Sheryl Lee Ralph) and Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter) aren’t nearly as excited. “The only keynote I plan on listening to is the sweet, sweet hum of the indoor pool filter,” Barbara says while high-fiving Melissa, who agrees and says, “I’ll know I nailed this conference if it takes me a week to get the chlorine smell out of my hair.” These two have no intention of doing anything but partying. And party they will — but not without some strings attached.


Janine and Jacob jeer their co-worker Gregory (Tyler James Williams), who’s blowing off the conference in favor of a romanic getaway. He and his girlfriend Amber are planning a trip to the Poconos, a picaresque region in northern Pennsylvania.

Photo taken in Delaware Water Gap, United States
Chairs in a circle overlooking Lake Wallenpaupack at sunset, Silver Birches Resort, Hawley, Poconos Region, Pennsylvania, USA

But things swiftly go south when Gregory presents an itinerary to Amber. He’s planned a million-and-one fun activities for them to do on vacation. But that’s not the reason Amber wants to go on vacation.

“I don’t want to do any of this,” she tells Gregory, who feebly suggests other non-essential activities. But Amber feels he’s missing the point. “I just feel like we’re not on the same page” [Again.],” she tells him. “We need to talk.” T

The minute she says this, some students walk by. “Damn,” one of them remarks. Gregory shoots one of his trademark glances at the camera. He knows what’s coming — and so do we.


The Abbott crew arrives at the conference. Janine and Jacob are their usual bubbly, overeager selves. Barbara and Melissa remain unbothered. Jacob embarks on a seminar for white teachers at black schools. (Which definitely tracks.) Janine embarks on a series of educational seminar events. But she’s surprised to find Gregory checking in at the hotel desk. Janine walks up to him and asks why he’s not in the Poconos.

Gregory fibs about the conference being too important to miss (yeah, right), but Janine is smart enough to recognize that he’s being evasive. She asks where Amber is. Gregory says he has no idea. “You want me to help you find her?” Janine asks. Gregory says no. Eventually, he admits that Amber dumped him. “Damn!” the hotel clerk interjects.


Janine tries to cheer him up by including him on her slew of seminars. She knows that keeping busy will keep his mind off the breakup. (And that’s his favorite way to decompress.)


As expected, Barbara and Melissa live it up. We see them lounging by the pool, margaritas in hand. No intention of attending the seminars. (They only showed up at the conference’s main hall to show their faces.) Later, they attend the big PECSA party. There, they join a table with a woman we learn is Dawn Nichols. (She happens to be the most powerful school supplier in the land, apparently.)

Barbara instantly recognizes an opportunity to get better school supplies for Abbott. She and Melissa start chatting the lady up. But when Melissa’s sister (and longtime nemesis) joins the table, their age-old rivalry rears its ugly head. They trade insults in a continuation of their earlier run-in on the conference floor:


Melissa fumbles the school supply bag, leaving the table to avoid her sister. Barbara joins her. Meanwhile, Jacob finds instant connection with a teacher from another school. He joins her and her fellow instructors at a hotel room, where they play a murder mystery game called “Werewolf”. But by the end of the night, he realizes he doesn’t like them as much as he thought.

Meanwhile, Barbara tells Melissa, “it is time for you to settle things with your sister.” They return to the table. Melissa and Kristen trade barbs over each other’s culinary skills. But when Kristen bumps into a fellow teacher, the woman tells Kristen to watch where she’s going. The two sisters team up to dress down the rude woman, and as she leaves Kristen realizes, “Hey, we still got it.”

Gregory and Janine

Meanwhile, Janine and Gregory bond over drinks at the bar. Janine consoles a dejected Gregory over his breakup. He wonders aloud why he’s the one always getting dumped. He figures he’s the problem. A Janine assures him that it’s not. Gregory muses that he “always felt like a weirdo” around Amber.

“You are a weirdo,” giggles a (slightly tipsy?) Janine. She then clarifies, “I mean that in a good way. I think that everyone deserves to be with someone who likes them exactly as is. Especially you. Seriously. Look at that sweater right now. Look at that mustache. Not many people could do that.” 

Gregory returns the compliments, saying: “Don’t sleep on Janine, either.” She appreciates that. And it’s easy to see that these two awkward, dorky people understand each other in a way that nobody else in their circle ever could.

What happens next changes EVERYTHING.

The Flower Room

After an adorable (if basic) shoot at the photo booth, Janine realizes that they’ve missed the window to see the “flower room” — a classroom made entirely of flowers. (This was one of the attractions she had wanted to see.) Janine feels the exhibit is closed by now. “It’s definitely closed,” she says. Gregory (donning a costume mustache) assures her it’s not too late. Janine agrees. She and Gregory head to the classroom.

What they find is simply breathtaking. The room is a mesmeric display of flora and fauna — flowers galore. As Decider noted, it’s “a room so gorgeous that tears will well in your eyes. Colorful bouquets of yellow, orange, and pink flowers mixed with moss cover the walls of the living classroom. A strip of green grass lays on the floor, white and pink petals hang from the ceiling, tree stump chairs accompany desks hidden by greenery and blossoms.” And the backpacks assorted through the room are actually mini-terrariums.


The room holds special significance for both Janine and Gregory. “It just represents how I feel about teaching — the growth and everything,” Janine says. “It’s corny, but…” Gregory gets it. “Plants and teaching — it’s how I grew up and how I am now.”

Janine plucks a flower from a nearby bouquet. “You have to smell this,” she tells Gregory. But before he can, they hear security (?) in the vicinity. Janine pulls Gregory down to duck under a display. And what happens next is a game-changer. After 28 episodes of mounting tension and simmering chemistry that everyone notices but them, these two finally have the moment we’ve all been waiting for.


The fans are in SHAMBLES.


Plausible Deniability

Both of them deny and downplay the moment afterward. “That was a whoops,” Janine says in a post-kiss interview. “We got caught up in the moment.”

“That’s what she said about it? Just two friends getting caught up in the moment. Good. ‘Cause that’s precisely what it was — just two friends getting caught up in the moment,” Gregory insists during his talking head interview.

Janine uses an analogy to explain herself: “Like when I hang up with my internet provider and I say ‘Love you. Bye’ — do I really mean that? No, because they’re not reliable. And I’m dating Maurice.”

For now.

The next day, the two bump into each other in the hallway. They blame the moment on the floral setting and the “sexy city” of Allentown. And they manage their discomfort around the moment by agreeing to “throw it out”:


This story will be updated.

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