Abbott Elementary “Holiday Hookah” Review: A Good Break

Ava Coleman in Abbott Elementary's "Holiday Hookah"

Abbott Elementary “Holiday Hookah” Spoilers Ahead

Abbott Elementary Season 2, Episode 10, “Holiday Hookah,” is the kind of episode you wait all year for that delivers on the promises you were expecting to see much later. And while we still have so much to wait for when the series resumes, the mid-season finale confirms what we’ve all been begging to hear: Gregory and Janine are endgame.

The show’s holiday special is a doozy of sorts—it takes you through an unexpected route in a riveting format I can’t wait to see where next year will go. As the teachers prepare for their two-week (give or take) vacation, Abbott Elementary’s “Holiday Hookah” shows us where they’ll all be while simultaneously giving us a small taste of their traditions. Jacob, the corniest of the bunch, turns out to be a bit of a grinch, Barbara and Melissa generally have dinner together, and Janine’s going out to a party outside of school. Yet, despite the clear separations, the episode threads the characters together beautifully by reminding us that the spirit of Christmas leans on showing compassion as best you can. 

Holiday Hookah? No, Almost Kissing in the Snow

Gregory and Janine in Abbott Elementary "Holiday Hookah" Christmas episode

In the Halloween special, “Candy Zombies,” Janine understands that spending time with friends outside work is also essential. And it’s lovely to see that in the Christmas episode, Erika (Courtney Taylor) is still in her life, trying to ensure that Janine lives to the fullest. Thus, instead of staying until the school’s holiday gathering ends, Janine nervously goes to a party at a hookah lounge with Erika. While she’s anxiously optimistic that she might let loose and meet someone there, Gregory and his buddy show up right behind them.

Gregory and Janine’s slow burn, friends-to-lovers, is already one of the best exhibitions of the trope yet, and everything we see in this episode cements why they’re meant for each other. But before we analyze their conversations (and the almost-kiss), we need to talk about the fact that Quinta Brunson and Tyler James Williams make distinguishable conversations feel incredibly organic. Because they both have such a firm grip on who their characters are, it makes the moments they share that much more realistic. Yes, of course, they’d both be awkward. Of course, they’d both get tongue-tied around each other. But at the same time, they’re not so similar that they wouldn’t be able to challenge each other and bring out the best in each other.

Gregory and Janine in Abbott Elementary 2x10 "Hookah Holiday"

When Janine gets quiet, Gregory will speak up. When he’s stumped, she’ll be his voice. And because of their ability to be each other’s strength in trying (or, in this case, awkward) times, they move as one, swaying in the kind of ideal unison that exhibits that everything they feel inside translates to effortless beats of comfort that are unveiled in each other’s presence. Strobe lights have never been more tantalizingly romantic or achingly palpable in exhibiting a couple’s admiration for one another.

The chemistry is scorching hot, but the tender moments of quiet serenity make Abbott Elementary’s “Holiday Hookah” such a crucial episode. Gregory is still with Amber, but at what cost if every time he looks at Janine, he knows he’s looking into the eyes of his person? What’s the point of anyone else when the first sights of snowfall pale in comparison to Janine’s beauty and the ways she’s etched herself into the parts of him no one else can venture toward? Williams shows us all of these things and more in their scenes this week, proving that when Gregory and Janine finally get together, they’ll stand with greats like Ben Wyatt and Leslie Knope, plus Jake Peralta and Amy Santiago—you know, the workplace comedy legends.

The Spirit of Christmas

CHRIS PERFETTI, SHERYL LEE RALPH, LISA ANN WALTER in Abbott Elementary Season 2 Episode 9 "Holiday Hookah"
(ABC/Christopher Willard)

This week’s episode is as much about Gregory and Janine’s romance as it is about getting to know Jacob Hill a little more. He isn’t raining on anyone’s parade to be a smartass or an overt negative Nelly, but because Christmases have always been a little rough for him, making it difficult to see the beauty in the holiday people adore for various reasons.

After one too many grinchy facts, Melissa and Barbara go outside to get some air from him. Mr. Johnson then points out the obvious to him, resulting in Jacob making the decision to go out and buy snacks to apologize and open up a little. And it’s in scenes like this where we could see that as much as they all need to focus on the people outside of work, there are tremendous reasons why they’re still a tight-knit family. They’re forgiving, but more importantly, they care about each other despite the colossal differences charting them each to different places in life.

Ava and her boyfriend Andre Iguodala in Abbott Elementary "Holiday Hookah"

It’s also why, though sketched by selfish intentions, Ava invites Janine to party more with her boyfriend. Yes, Ava’s boyfriend, whom she’s been dating for two years, is NBA star Andre Iguodala. Oh, but he’s been dating her for five. And yet, she also considers Gregory her work husband and Janine her work nemesis. Only Janelle James could make a character like Ava Coleman surprisingly heartfelt, even when she’s deeply selfish (and stylish)! Ava’s gesture, like Barbara’s and Melissa’s, proves that they all genuinely care for one another in a way that no one else might understand. There are no real rivals here. The show isn’t going to take anyone out because they’re the villain in the story; instead, it’s blending differences with stunning string lights and glittering tinsel to create the kind of Christmas tree that people will want to examine for hours on end. Was that too corny? Good, that’s the point.

Abbott Elementary’s “Holiday Hookah” is the kind of Christmas episode that not only feels suitable for the show but earns a spot in the “yearly rewatch” list. It’s clear that this is only the beginning of a lot of greatness, and what we’ll get when they return is about to change everything for the better. 

Further Thoughts

  • “You know short people freeze the fastest.” My life has never made more sense than it does at this moment and I never thought Ava would be the one to disclose such crucial information to me.
  • Janine’s dress. Janine’s hair. Janine’s everything.
  • Gregory in a white shirt? God is good. But you’re really going to tell me he wasn’t cold in 30-degree weather?
  • Zach’s Christmas songs?!?!?! When’s the album coming out?
  • Ava needing a cheap drink to do a spit take after seeing Gregory and Janine dance? She’s so valid.
  • I want to be invited everywhere with Barbara and Melissa.
  • Jacob’s poinsettias. Yes.

Now streaming on Hulu or ABCWhat are your thoughts on Abbott Elementary’s “Holiday Hookah?” Let us know in the comments below.


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