Abbott Elementary “Work Family” Spoilers Ahead
ABC’s Abbott Elementary continues to be a beacon of light on television, and its eighth episode, “Work Family,” is the strongest yet. The staff at Abbott might not be the best of friends, but they’re getting there—they’re closer to a family now more than ever, and that’s especially the case with how they comfortably mock each other. Ava’s behavior wouldn’t be tolerable if this weren’t the case. But at the end of the day, as much as there are stark contrasts between them, they’ve found an unlikely home with each other where experiencing joy is possible.
When Janine learns that Jacob didn’t tell her about his boyfriend of two years, she attempts to bring the staff closer together during a rainy afternoon by buying lunch in exchange for secrets. It backfires, however, when the teachers mock her after learning that she’s been with her boyfriend Tariq (Zack Fox) since the eighth grade. In an attempt to comfort her after she storms out in the middle of the rain, Gregory realizes that he needs to take his own advice and not care about what his father thinks of his teaching job.
Abbott Elementary’s “Work Family” shows its audience that these characters work so well together because they can bring out the best in each other effortlessly. While some family members will sit in a room and mock someone, another will take an umbrella and walk out with you. Gregory’s continuous kindness and efforts to look out for Janine are what shipper dreams are made of.
The thing is, no one can or should judge another person’s relationship, and quite frankly, watching everyone laugh at Janine made me deeply uncomfortable. They felt like a family at this moment, but it was wrong regardless. Still, Gregory does the most important thing a friend can do by asking what they all should’ve done in the library. Does Tariq make you happy? Janine’s silence tells us all that we need to know, and it’s something we could’ve guessed from day one.
Janine and Gregory are fascinating individuals because they’re both new to Abbott, and they’re both dealing with personal issues we don’t know the full lengths of yet. “Gifted Program” revealed that Gregory was never one of the gifted students because he was terrible at taking tests, and “Work Family” shows us that the immense pressure he constantly feels because of his father stops him from experiencing joy.
In both episodes, Gregory takes a leap of faith and allows himself moments to understand that his past doesn’t need to define him. He might want to be a principal, but right now, he’s aware that teaching is something that could potentially make him happy. This somewhat of a confession is the second time he allows himself a moment of vulnerability with Janine as he opens up about something that’s essentially weighing him down.
And by the end of the episode, Gregory is one step closer to loosening up than when we first met him. As Barbara and Melissa try to teach him earlier, learning can be fun. A child asking questions isn’t a bad thing (not that Gregory thinks it is), but going along with those imperfections could make the classroom a more fun place. He might not sing to memorize or use squeaky voices like Melissa does, but Gregory Eddie can dance, and he can find joy through it.
It was one thing to watch him as the audience, but it was another to have Janine and Jacob see him, too, as they understood that Gregory’s fire is infectious with his walls down. It’s moments like this that make a genuine family because they want to see their colleagues experience the kind of joy they know they are worthy of. And Gregory Eddie is worthy of it, as are Janine and Jacob.
After realizing his secrecy hurt Janine, Jacob tells the truth about why he didn’t tell her about Zach, voicing that he was afraid he’d have to give his honest opinion about her relationship. And as graciously as possible, Jacob tells her about his ex-boyfriend, stating that nothing happened between the two, but rather, he merely outgrew him.
Of all the people at Abbott, Jacob’s friendship with Janine has been the most endearing one thus far, and to have him voice his valid concerns means that he understands his friend better than anyone else right now. It’s why they are friends—not just coworkers. Jacob’s decision to tell Janine that she should give herself the chance to be the best version of herself was a satisfying conclusion to their conversation. As a friend, he’ll be there for her through everything because her happiness, much like Gregory’s, matters tremendously.
Abbott Elementary’s “Work Family” spends its time carefully crafting friendships that will be worthwhile. Most of us want Janine and Gregory to be together, but the “friends to lovers, slow burn” will be beautiful to watch because we already see just how much they care about each other. We see the true joy in their friendship through subtle glimpses that reveal how the best kinds of love are effortless. In the same way, the best types of friendships are fortified through loyalty and a genuine desire to see a person reach their highest potential above all things. (Relatively similar to what we watched in last week’s episode, “Art Teacher,” through Melissa’s advice to Janine.) Teaching at this school matters because the staff caring about each other more and more will be reflected in what the students take away as well.
Now streaming on ABC: What are your thoughts on Abbott Elementary’s “Work Family?” Let us know in the comments below.