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The Gregory and Janine Ship Is Sailing Beautifully After Abbott Elementary’s “Work Family” Episode

You can stand under my umbrella.

Abbott Elementary

Spoilers for Abbott Elementary up to season one episode eight: “Work Family”

I’ve already sung the praises of Abbott Elementary as it continues to be a major television bright spot for me on Wednesdays (it airs on Tuesdays, but I watch it on Hulu the next day). From its charming cast to the way these teachers interact with their students, the show feels like it’s getting better and better with each episode.

One thing I didn’t touch on in my earlier review is how well-written the slow burn romance is between Gregory and Janine. Janine’s already in a relationship with a man named Tariq, but you get the sense that Janine’s doing all the heavy lifting to the point of exhausting herself for the sake of her boyfriend. Gregory hasn’t come out and said that he has feelings for Janine, but the signs are there, and he’s always showing up for Janine and being considerate of her feelings in ways that Tariq isn’t.

All of this culminates in a moment that pretty much made us Gregory and Janine shippers go:

But also:

Are you happy?

As Janine attempts to get closer to her coworkers and combat the idea of work friends simply being work friends, we find out that she’s been with Tariq since the 8th grade. We also find out that this is the only person she’s ever been with. Everyone gives her a hard time (Ava sits in a chair just to fall out of it laughing) and Janine runs off. Gregory, being the wonderful “Janine, girl, please notice him” man that he is, goes after her.

With an umbrella.

Because it’s raining outside and he’s always looking out for her.

As they talk outside Gregory admits that his father (played by Orlando Jones in supremely perfect casting) thinks that he’s wasting his time with teaching. Gregory has definitely been having trouble bonding with his kids and opening up, and I’m pretty sure being told that your job is a waste of time by your father is a huge part of it. Still, he says that he could be happy here, something that Janine has been wanting to see from him.

Then? He asks Janine if Tariq makes her happy.


Sometimes we outgrow people

Janine never gets to answer Gregory’s question, but she does get some sound advice about her relationship with Tariq.

Let’s backtrack to that “work friends” comment from earlier.

The whole work friend conversation stemmed from Janine not knowing that Jacob had a boyfriend (Zach with a “ch”) and him telling her that, sometimes, the friends you have at work are just, you know, the friends you have at work. This frustrates Janine, though, who thought she was closer to Jacob, and she sets out to prove that your work friends can be friends once you clock out for the day.

Initially, I thought that Jacob had been hiding his boyfriend in fear of facing discrimination for being with another man, but Janine was the one who brought up his sexuality because she mentioned setting him up with a guy for a double date with Tariq.

Kudos to the show for just casually mentioning Jacob’s sexuality, by the way, and not making that the reason why Jacob was keeping Zach to himself. It turns out the reason has nothing to do with Jacob’s sexuality at all (bless), nor is it some depressing realization that maybe Jacob and Janine aren’t as close as she thinks they are.

The reason why Jacob hasn’t told Janine about Zach is that he knows if he and Janine start talking about their relationships seriously, then he’s going to have to be honest about what he thinks of Tariq.

And boy, oh boy, telling your friends what you think about their crummy significant other is NOT easy, no matter how many times they insist on wanting you to be truthful with them.

This is probably one of the most serious moments that Jacob has had in the series, as he’s usually depicted as the teacher who tries way too hard to be everyone’s friend. In this scene, however, he’s talking to Janine honestly, telling her the hard truth that we don’t always want to hear but absolutely, positively, HAVE to realize.

Sometimes, you outgrow people.

Tariq and Janine have been together since they were kids, and it’s hard to let go of someone who has been in your life for that long – especially if they’re the first and ONLY person you’ve been intimate with. But Jacob’s right. Sometimes, as you get older, you outgrow the people with who you used to share a significant connection.

Tariq isn’t even the only person Janine’s gone through this with. In the last episode, “Art Teacher,” Janine had to let go of her college friend, Sahar, even if Sahar had, once upon a time, made Janine feel like she fit in as an outcast. In that instance, it was Melissa who helped Janine realize that she needed to stop holding on to the image she had of Sahar. Now? Jacob’s doing it with Tariq.

While this definitely adds more fuel to a ship that’s becoming one of my favorites on television this year, it’s also an extremely valuable lesson for Janine, and one that I hope allows her to be the best version of herself. I greatly appreciate the show treating her developing relationships as moments of personal growth.

That being said… how can she resist this man:

(Image: ABC)

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Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)