Photo: Gilles Mingasson/ABC
Halloween episodes are a staple in the world of sitcoms, and Abbott Elementary did not disappoint with its first spooky-themed installment. My favorite costume? Mr. Johnson as Lil Uzi Vert. I immediately got the reference and experienced a jump scare as I remembered the pictures of Uzi’s diamond-encrusted forehead, but Jacob sees the third-eye adornment and assumes he is Vision. I’m going to add a disclaimer before I jump into this recap: I am not a Marvel fan. When Jacob said VisionI had no idea what he was talking about until I saw Melissa dressed as the Scarlet Witch (WandaVision and Black Panther are the only Marvel content I’ve consumed). No shade to the MCU, but it’s just not my thing, which means I might have missed some obvious references from tonight’s episode. I’m going to attempt to piece together what I do know about the franchise from being an aunt to three nephews under the age of 10. Bear with me and feel free to add anything I missed in the comments — I’d love to read it.
Anyway, back to the show. Naturally, the Abbott writers had to create some suspense to kick off the episode. The school’s Halloween-celebration day is accompanied by a thunderstorm, creating the perfect weather for spooky activities. Before the school day starts, Mr. Johnson tells Jacob to make sure he throws away all his trash lest he is haunted by the janitor whose spirit now occupies the school’s basement after his mysterious death on Halloween years ago. According to Mr. Johnson, “Every Halloween, if you listen closely, you can hear the wheels of his mop bucket rolling down there.” Jacob being Jacob is startled by this information, especially after a loud clap of thunder fills the room once Mr. Johnson is done telling his story.
As the kids file into school, we get our first looks at everyone’s Halloween costumes. Well, some of our first looks — since the images from this episode have been circulating around social media for at least a week. We have Jacob as Wage Theft, wearing a burglar costume complete with a bag of wages; Ava as Storm from the X-Men; Barbara in a bee costume with ABC on her chest, making her a Spelling Bee; Janine as James Harden; Melissa and her aide both opted for the Scarlet Witch (although one put more effort into their costume than the other); and Gregory as … Sully Sullenberger? The kids came dressed to impress, too — specifically the boy who came as Mr. Johnson. Seeing all their costumes brought back memories of youth of sitting in those blue plastic chairs and sneaking pieces of candy from inside the little cubbies attached to the desks.
Not much has changed in the decades since I was a first-grader: The students are still eager to be out of their uniforms and are laser-focused on the amount of candy they’re about to consume. Not helping this sugary distraction from the school day is Amber, Joel and Carolina’s mom, whom we first met in season one when Gregory had to approach her about dropping her son off late. While Janine is speaking to the aunt of another student, Amber passes out the candy that was meant to be given out at the end of the day. Janine is busy catching up with Erika, her student’s aunt with whom she happened to go to high school. Erika, knowing Janine just got out of her relationship with Tariq, invites Janine to a Halloween party that evening. Declining the invitation because she won’t know anyone at the party, Janine decides to spend her night monitoring her security camera to keep her house from getting egged. They’re interrupted when Louis, dressed as Baby Thanos and munching on a Ring Pop, appears in Janine’s peripheral view. Amber apologizes for giving the kids candy so early in the day, then slips Janine a special candy bag for Gregory — one containing her phone number.
After getting a taste of the best part of Halloween, Baby Thanos is unable to let go of the thought of all that candy. Like he said, “But it’s Halloween! We should be able to eat candy whenever we want!” He can’t shake the temptation when he sees the school’s candy stash in the makeshift haunted house in the library. Ashley, who is supposed to be guarding the loot, is completely distracted by her phone and doesn’t notice when Baby Thanos takes off with all the candy and distributes it throughout the school, creating classrooms of little sugar-fueled zombies. Soon, the students are so wired from all of the candy that the teachers are unable to keep them under control. Things get so bad that the kids start taking over the school with their unruly behavior, forcing the teachers to contain them in the gym so they can burn off all their unhinged energy.
With the kids temporarily controlled, now the teachers must hunt down who stole the candy and gave it out — because like Melissa said, only a real sicko would share their candy on Halloween. In the meantime, Melissa hides the contraband candy they were able to confiscate in the human-sized safe she keeps in her room (first testing its size by locking Jacob inside). While the teachers were getting rid of the candy, however, the sugar zombies figured out how to lock the teachers out of the gym. Baby Thanos takes the stage to show off his victory. Now that the teachers know who the candy culprit is, a chase breaks out as Baby Thanos hides throughout the school after taunting them over the loudspeaker in Ava’s office.
Ava holds down the fort in the gym, facing off against the students in a dodgeball battle only Storm can handle. The teachers run to Ava’s office to find out they just missed Baby Thanos, who has left a bread-crumb trail of candy wrappers and chocolaty handprints. To Jacob’s disappointment, the trail leads straight to the basement, aka the home of the ghost janitor. [Insert sound of thunder clapping.] Not wanting to appear afraid, he agrees to go into the basement with Gregory while the other teachers hunt the halls. After tiptoeing through the creepy and cold basement, they encounter the silhouette of a janitor holding a mop. Jacob runs, but Gregory stays long enough to discover it was only Mr. Johnson, who continues to prank Jacob for the rest of the day.
In the midst of the hunt for Baby Thanos, Janine’s realization that she doesn’t have many friends outside of work since her breakup with Tariq weighs on her. She asks her co-workers about their own Halloween plans: Melissa is comforting her boyfriend since it’s the holiday during which every house turns into a vending machine, Barbara is going to the 26-minute-long church screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (sans all sexual content and cursing), and Gregory is being dragged out by his friends to celebrate his newly single status. Janine vents to Melissa and Barbara about how hard it is to start over, something everyone can relate to. (Especially me, as I’m in my second month in a brand-new city across the country from everything I’ve ever known.) This made Melissa’s advice feel heaven-sent; she’s so right — it’s scary at first, but you put yourself out there because the alternative is doing nothing at all, and that’s truly terrifying.
Mini Mr. Johnson is actually the one who saves the day. The student dressed as my favorite character pushes his costume trash can through the hall, following the trail of candy wrappers all the way to Baby Thanos’s hiding spot in the closet. Baby Thanos is enjoying his loot as he takes pride in all his Ring Pops, just like Thanos and his Infinity Stones (did I get that reference right?). Upholding his code of janitorial conduct, Mini Mr. Johnson turns Baby Thanos over to the teachers right as the candy zombies crash and transform into ornery sugar-hung-over kiddos. Thankfully, it’s the end of the school day and the students’ sugar highs are no longer a problem for the teachers to handle. When Erika arrives to pick up her nephew, Janine asks if she can still tag along to the party, finally opening herself up to new opportunities.
Janine changes into Ava’s extra Marilyn Monroe costume for the party, catching Gregory’s eye. Gregory, who chose to go out with friends instead of with Amber, is so clearly smitten by Janine that it makes my chest hurt. Remember when he grabbed that umbrella for her last season? I need them to hurry up and kiss! Their banter in the hall as they stood guard outside the gym is an example of their amazing chemistry and natural friendship. I’m brainstorming couple names now. Also, let’s give a round of applause to the child actors who played Baby Thanos and Mini Mr. Johnson — they did their thing!
• We need another Zack Fox appearance. I was cackling at the thought of him making a memorial page for his relationship with Janine.
• Did anyone else catch the remake of that James Harden eye-rolling meme? One thing about Quinta Brunson is that she is a child of the internet.
• I was very impressed by the costumes, so I figured I would rank them in order of which made me smile the hardest:
1. Lil Uzi Vert
2. Mini Mr. Johnson
3. James Harden
4. Spelling Bee
6. Scarlet Witch
7. Wage Theft
8. Sully Sullenberger (I did love everyone else’s interpretation of the costume, though)
• This week’s “Teacher’s Notes” was so hard! I wanted to include the whole script, but here are the quotes I laughed out loud from:
Mr. Johnson about Mini Mr. Johnson: “I’ll see you in court, you little [bleep-bleep].”
Barbara: “We’ve watched The Nightmare Before Christmasbut only the Christmas parts; Practical Magic, without the witchcraft; and Hocus Pocus … without Sarah Jessica Parker.”
Gregory: “I truly hate candy unless it’s 96 percent cocoa.”
Jacob: “Truth zone? I’m feeling a little conflicted about the constitutionality of stop and frisk… I feel like Eric Adams.”
Amber, after being asked what she’s dressed as: “A bad bitch.” (Wow, coincidentally the same costume I have this year!)