‘Abbott Elementary’ Season 2, Episode 7 Recap: ‘Attack Ad’

Photo: Gilles Mingasson/ABC

I admitted a few weeks ago that I’m overusing the five-star rating, so this week I decided to watch with a fine-tooth comb and do my due diligence as a TV recapper. Usually, when I recap a series, I rate each episode singularly, basically deciding if it was good TV or not. By now, it’s obvious that Abbott is a five-star series overall, so I’m adjusting my rating technique for the show by only comparing it to other Abbott episodes. Ironically, when compared to other episodes, this one still gets five stars because we’re treated with a hilarious commercial trashing the school and a Zack Fox appearance, something I’ve been waiting for since last season. The last time we saw Janine’s ex, he was driving away from the first girlfriend he’s ever known while bumping Lil Jon as he ventured to New York to pursue his children’s rap career. Now, he’s back in Philadelphia, and Janine decided to use it as an opportunity to give him the rest of his belongings.

Seeing Fox on my television (on ABC, of ​​all networks) is a feat only Quinta Brunson could accomplish. This isn’t a slight to Fox’s talents; it’s a testament to the fact that Brunson is plugged into areas of the culture that aren’t usually known to the mainstream. I first heard about Fox around 2015; his tweets would always pop up on my timeline because we share a similar sense of humor and his account was popular in my circle of friends. Outside of being a Twitter personality, Fox started making traction in the music and comedy scene for his outrageous stand-up and musical collaborations with people like Kenny Beats and Thundercat. When I first saw that Fox was playing Tariq, I was shocked, but in the best way. His humor isn’t exactly family-friendly on the surface, but once censored it’s very complementary to the series. Kind of like with Janelle James’s portrayal of Ava: There’s the perfect amount of adult humor without it being too explicit for children. Watching Fox as Tariq rap about the harms of drugs to a mosh pit of tiny children waving their hands is still a top-three Abbott moment for me

Janine, ready to further purge her life of Tariq’s presence, packs up all of his anime/manga figurines and plans to meet him at her place the next day. She tells her new friend, Erika from last week, about Tariq picking up his belongings, and Erika suggests they meet in a neutral, non-sexy location to eliminate any chance of sparking their familiar romance. Janine doesn’t have to worry about picking a neutral location, since Tariq shows up at Abbott earlier than their planned time. He crashes her classroom, to the excitement of the kids, and reminds Janine of how charming and funny he can be. After grabbing his stuff from the car, he asks Janine if they can have dinner at Bahama Breeze and she accepts the invitation with open arms.

Although I’ll always be a part of what Fox calls the #tariqhive, I’m team Gregory and Janine. When Tariq stumbles upon Gregory tending to the school’s garden that Barbara and Jacob started, he tells him about his dinner with Janine. He says that on the surface it’s just a dinner, but he wants to continue the night by taking a Redbox of her favorite movie (which he doesn’t remember) back to her place. He blames not knowing the favorite movie of the woman he spent over a decade with on his new “brain pills.” Gregory, so smitten with Janine, asks her if going to Bahama Breeze with Tariq is a good idea, but she shuts him down and tells him it’s none of his business. He tells her he’s just looking out for her as a friend, and I telepathically willed him to profess his love.

Tariq’s charisma quickly wears off the longer he’s around Janine. Between picking flowers from the school’s garden to drawing a cartoon of him and Janine on one of the desks in permanent marker, it’s clear why Janine has outgrown Tariq. In true deadbeat-boyfriend fashion, he leaves a voicemail saying he’s unable to provide a ride to the restaurant — and he ate half of her sandwich. Realizing that Tariq is the same guy he’s always been, she cancels her plans with him and says it’s best if they have a platonic, non-meal-sharing relationship. Tariq is mostly unbothered and quickly takes out his phone to call his … girlfriend?! Turns out, Tariq wasn’t even single, and Janine definitely dodged a bullet. And guess who was there to make sure she was okay? Gregory. Janine says she’s going to go home to watch her favorite movie, and of course, Gregory knew exactly what it was: Jumanji. His sigh and look into the camera after she walks away tells us everything we need to know.

Outside of Tariq’s surprise pop-up, Janine is also dealing with the creation of a negative commercial about Abbott Elementary. At first, the staff is unaware of the ad, but after one of the students informs Jacob of the commercial and multiple parents express their disdain, Jacob alerts the rest of the teachers. Ava has also seen the commercial — while binge-watching a show about pumpkin hoarders called Gourds on Hulu — and shows her staff. It’s shot in the style of one of those sensationalized political commercials and features each of the teachers at their worst in conveniently edited clips shown without context. Melissa is waving a stack of bills asking her class, “Feels light, which one of yous is holding out on me?” Gregory, in his monotone voice, tells a student to stop dancing; Jacob’s white ass is shown lecturing in front of a room of Black children while saying, “Good job, dawg!” and barking; Janine is caught sternly telling a student to sit down. The entire pretense of the commercial is to bash Abbott and advertise for more parents to send their kids to Legendary Charter schools. The only person left unscathed was Barbara, who was edited to look like one of the charter-school teachers.

Determined to get it taken down, the teachers enlist the help of a lawyer. After reviewing the circumstances, the lawyer informs them that since Ava allowed the camera crew into the school without asking what they were shooting (she assumed it was the regular documentary crew), and the staff signed waivers without reading them, there aren’t any legal grounds to take it down. Melissa takes things into her own hands and tracks down the person in charge of Legendary Schools: a man named Draemond Winding who did a lot of work with New York charter schools and now wants to do the same for Philadelphia. Upon hearing his name, Barbara immediately switches to the opinion that they should let it die down on its own. She denies that her change in tune is due to her being the only teacher represented in a positive light — it turns out that Draemond is actually a previous student of hers.

After Jacob calls the Legendary CEO, Draemond successfully charms him by comparing his voice to Timothée Chalamet and agrees to come down to Abbott. Draemond has the aura of a local politician, and when he arrives at the school, he reveals that Barbara was one of the greatest teachers he’s ever had. She’s the only one who can wrangle him into submission; having had him in her very first class, she looks past the schmoozy grown man and sees the child he once was. She orders him into her classroom for a talk and he reveals his motivation behind taking down Abbott and other public schools. As a kid, he had a rough time at home and the underfunded public-school system didn’t assist in giving him a better life. It wasn’t until he was enrolled in a charter school that he felt he reached his full potential. Barbara tells him that the commercial is actually harming teachers like her and asks him to take it down. Although he agrees to take it down, Barbara’s words of wisdom aren’t enough to keep Draemond from his crusade to turn every public school in Philadelphia into a Legendary Charter School — with Abbott Elementary first on the list. I’ll be anxiously waiting to see how the teachers get out of this one.

• As cute as the younger students are, I love seeing the older kids at Abbott. The comedic timing is so good; Jacob’s student who eventually got transferred out killed it once he let his manners slip and spoke any way he liked.

• When Gregory turns on the TV in the break room to watch the commercial, there’s an ad for Katrina’s Braid Emporium. The “Nigerian braids, American prices” took me out. This is another small joke that’s so relatable to the Black community with humor we actually appreciate; having Black writers on the show pays off in so many ways.

• Okay, I know I always gush over Zack Fox (I have a little crush, I can’t help it), but he isn’t the only rapper on the show. Recently, Tyler James Williams revealed his musical talent in an interview giving me flashbacks of his role in Disney Channel’s 2012 movie Let It Shine. Check out this link to see his freestyle.

• Tariq being the one behind the Legendary Schools jingle was the perfect ending to the episode and a very Tariq thing to happen.

• And finally, here are the best one-liners from this week’s episode:
Melissa, to Janine: “‘Sup, lower case!”
Date: “I’m actually in talks to perform at Nick Cannon’s next baby shower.”
Melissa, after Barbara says “when they go low, we go high”: “Yeah, eyes, nose, throat.”
Tariq: “Tell me about these on-sight words, y’all. What, they trying to catch these hands or something?”
Have: “Is this a diss track? Let me get in the booth.”
Melissa, telling Gregory why she has a “fight or fight” reaction: “I’m not a flippin’ bird, Gregory.”

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