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  • Writer's picturecasey

Abbott Elementary episode 2.16 "Teacher Conference"

Quinta has said she’s not trying to reinvent the wheel with this show, Janine and Gregory in particular, and I think she’s proving that she doesn’t need to. Abbott is cozy and cute and laugh out loud funny, all precisely due to the sense of familiarity that it evokes. I can go into every episode knowing that everyone will be kind to each other, live happily ever after, and maybe even score some new glue sticks.

Quinta Brunson, Tyler James Williams, and Janelle James in "Teacher Conference". Image courtesy of IMDb.

I’ll come back around to everyone else, but let’s get right to it: the kiss! Gregory is my favorite character, but to be honest I don’t think I would actually enjoy being friends with either him or Janine. But Abbott walks the fine line of character personalities that I wouldn’t want to encounter in real life, but that I love to see on my TV. They’re also great characters for a will-they/won’t-they because they’re both so intensely innocent that the smallest hints of sexuality have me like “woo! Get it!”. The two of them grinding in the club was one of those moments, and so was Janine grabbing Gregory by the lanyard (lol) for another kiss.

It was inevitable that they would chalk that up to a mistake and try to get back to business, but I almost wish they wouldn’t. Janine is still dating Maurice and of course she wouldn’t cheat on him, but at this point I feel ready to see them together. Which is why I was kind of surprised to see that the question everyone seems to be asking this week is if Abbott jumped the shark with the kiss, if it happened too soon.

Quinta Brunson and Tyler James Williams in "Teacher Conference". Image courtesy of Entertainment Weekly.

I say no, but maybe the skepticism of others means they’re right to at least not have Janine and Gregory leaping into a whole relationship right now (though who knows what next week holds). Regardless, I think it brings up an interesting conversation about audience involvement with story.

I read a lot about story structure, and as a writer I’m extremely wary of books that are so specific with their breakdown of story structure that they can tell you the exact page every piece of action needs to occur on. I think structure is really important- it can almost always explain why something worked or didn’t work- but I see it like musical notes. There are a finite number of notes, and rules to be followed when writing and playing music, but is there a way to put them together that hasn’t been done yet? There better be, or a lot of people are out of a job.

Part of new and innovative storytelling is, of course, the creativity of the storyteller, but it’s also an awareness of the audience’s own grasp of story. Fight Club, in its time, was doing something brand new. Watching it now, though, I find it to be a kind of exhausting three hours. We just don’t need to go that slow anymore; we’re an audience who’s already been taught all the clues to look for, and we can keep up just fine.

I’ve written before about Frasier- Niles and Daphne’s will-they/won’t-they went on for about eight years. Abbott isn’t reinventing the wheel, and, as viewers, this isn’t our first rodeo with a sitcom romance. I would be tearing my hair out if I was going to have to wait another six years for this kiss, the one everyone knew was coming by episode 3, if not the pilot. This is one of those times where we can slide our hand across the piano keys and get there a little quicker.

Quinta Brunson and Tyler James Williams in "Teacher Conference". Image courtesy of ABC.

But Abbott Elementary is more than just Janine and Gregory! And I would like to talk about Jacob, who I actually find myself thinking about a lot when this show comes up. I’m not gonna say he’s not corny, but he is definitely a really great friend to Janine. They’re platonically perfect for each other, and the two of them jumping up and down about this conference, while I’m sure it would annoy me to witness for real, made me smile.

He's a dork, but I was happy to see him making some other friends outside of the Abbott crew, and to see him appreciated for who he is. I actually thought this storyline was going to take it a step further: he and the teacher from Addington hit it off so well that it really seemed like she was going to mistake their chemistry for flirting and try to kiss him.

Maybe they didn’t want to step on the toes of The Kiss of this episode, but thinking that was going to happen made me realize that I actually would like to see that happen. I love every glimpse we get into the pureness of Jacob’s heart (the way he stood up for Janine when she was out sick was sooo sweet), and I bet him letting this girl down easy would have been a really cute moment. It’s also not too often that we get to see Jacob in his element where he’s actually popular among the people around him.

I hope this isn’t the last we see of that dynamic. Addington is just a couple blocks away, after all, maybe there’s an arc to be seen where the Addington teachers try to poach Jacob. Now that I’m thinking about it, there would be a lot there with Melissa’s sister and Barbara’s surely hurt feelings of not being the desired teacher. I can already feel my heart growing like the Grinch at everyone wanting to prove to Jacob that he’s valued at Abbott.

Well if that happens, you heard it here first folks! And what do you think, was the kiss too soon? Do you still think Fight Club is the right length? Let me know!

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