[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Abbott Elementary, Season 2, Episode 1, “Development Day.”]
The teachers of Abbott Elementary are back to school and getting ready for the arrival of their students in the Season 2 premiere episode, “Development Day.”
A triumphant return for the Emmy-winning network comedy, it didn’t feel quite as triumphant for the ever-optimistic educator Janine (Quinta Brunson) who was dealing with a lot following her breakup from Tariq (Zack Fox). Seemingly enthusiastic about her return to work, Janine drives into the Abbott lot for the start of Development Week, the period of time when teachers prepare for their upcoming school year.
While she claims that she’s been making the best of her situation, there’s clearly an issue brewing underneath the surface. Putting it aside momentarily, Janine is shocked to find that principal Ava (Janelle James) is letting Eagles fans tailgate in the school parking lot, something Mr. Johnson (William Stanford Davis) is enjoying a little too much as he fills a plate with barbecue.
Once Janine enters the school, she reunites with Jacob (Chris Perfetti) — who has returned after teaching abroad in Peru, where the kids called him “El Diablo Blanco” (“the white devil”) — and Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph), who went on a cruise to Jamaica during her summer break and is now focused on finding a desk for an incoming student who uses a wheelchair. Meanwhile, Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter) also had a fun summer before returning to the chaos of teaching, noting that she spent time down at the Jersey Shore with the vending machine guy.
When it’s time for all of the teachers to reunite for an assembly held by Ava, Janine informs her colleagues, including new full-time teacher Gregory (Tyler James Williams) that she’s in charge of the faculty mixer. Her plan? For some good snacks and advice sessions where she hopes more experienced teachers will provide answers to incoming educators. Her assertiveness impresses Melissa and Barbara, but it’s her promise that Philadelphia Flyers’ mascot Gritty will show up for the first day of school that excites Ava and the entire faculty — sans Gregory who sticks to his trend of not understanding mainstream interests (remember his aversion to pizza in Season 1?).
Melissa’s excitement fades slightly when Ava informs her she’ll be taking on a combined second and third-grade class this year, hinting at challenges to come for the teacher. As the teachers meander back to their classrooms before the mixer, Gregory worries about the curriculum he’s expected to cover over the year, but Barbara’s more focused on finding a wheelchair-accessible desk that the district isn’t being helpful in finding for her.
Back in Janine’s room, Jacob helps her prep for an ASL demonstration and teacher questions for the mixer. While searching Janine’s desk for material, Jacob notices a notice about overdue rent. Janine brushes it off, claiming that without Tariq supporting the payments, she’s a little behind, but nothing to worry about. Jacob feels otherwise and asks Gregory to talk with her, but when both men try bringing up the topic, she assures them everything is OK.
In the mixer, Janine begins her presentation, only for Mr. Johnson to interrupt and inform the faculty that a car is being booted out front. It turns out that it’s Janine’s because there are outstanding parking tickets on the vehicle. She said that they were Tariq’s tickets, but the officer explains it isn’t about who they belonged to, but the car they were attached to.
In a meltdown moment, Janine tries moving the car with the boot on the wheel to no avail. Making matters worse, Gritty is just walking up, a week early for the school opening. That’s when Janine realizes she mixed up her days on the invite, ruining the big surprise for the students as the mascot won’t be free to come back another day.
When Barbara and Melissa point out that this is very unlike Janine, she admits that she tried not letting her breakup get in the way of work, but it turns out that it has. She admits she’s sad and Gritty gives her a hug in reassurance. Ava, of course, sneaks her way into the hug for a photo opp, not reading the situation at all.
Back inside, Gregory looks over his uber-organized classroom and tells Barbara everything is chaos and he’ll never be able to accomplish anything with interruptions and unanticipated variables. She tells him that all they can do is their best.
Taking this into account, Barbara says she may not have the desk for her incoming student, but she managed to get the ramp, and that’s an accomplishment worth celebrating. In the spirit of this pep talk, we see on the first day that a desk has been placed in Barbara’s class. Apparently, Gregory went digging in the school’s storage space and found it, giving the educator a big smile as she rolled her student up to the flat top.
Jacob loans Janine money for her rent and to get her car back, claiming he was going to use it on student loans, but his confidence that the president will implement loan forgiveness is what encourages his kind deed. Just as they’re all about to embark on the next school year together, Gregory notes that he likes the change in Janine’s hair part, something she mentions at the beginning of the episode, hinting at hope yet for the pair who clearly like each other.
So, what did you think of the show’s return? Did it live up to the greatness of Season 1? Let us know your thoughts in the poll and comments section, below, and don’t miss more Abbott Elementary when it airs on ABC this season.
Abbott Elementary, Wednesdays, 9/8c, ABC