Nearly a year after Abbott Elementary Season 2 came to an end, it’s finally time to get back to class.
This season kicked off with a double-episode premiere, giving us a full hour to catch up with Janine, Gregory, and the rest of the Abbott Elementary staff.
After the Abbott Elementary Season 2 finale left us wondering what would come next for Janine and Gregory, we couldn’t wait to see how our favorite TV teachers were doing and whether there had been any developments in their relationship behind the scenes.
Before diving into the new season, we reflected a bit on Janine and Gregory’s “will they/won’t they” relationship and ultimately decided that it was best for Janine to stay single.
So when it came time to tune in to Abbott Elementary Season 3 Episode 1, we have to admit we were a little nervous about what the writers might have in store for the two of them.
The premiere starts off with more pressing matters, though: Janine doesn’t even teach at Abbott anymore. What?!
So, yeah. I work for the school district now. You guys missed a lot.
Once we get the flashback on board to cover the last five months of what we’ve missed, things start to make more sense.
We get to meet some new characters. Manny, a representative from the school district, is charming and seems to genuinely care about what happens to Abbott Elementary‘s students.
Manny’s the one who pitches the Robeson Fellowship to Janine. We love this moment of recognition that she gets. Janine craves praise and support from authority figures, and she doesn’t get it from Ava, so it’s nice to see.
The writers do a great job here of keeping Janine in character. She doesn’t like the idea of leaving her students and classroom behind, and she’s entirely resistant to the idea of working for the district because of that.
But here’s where we can also see a lot of growth in Janine — she starts turning to her colleagues as peers and asking for their advice.
We get some really sweet interactions between Janine and Jacob, and later Janine and Barbara, as she ponders on the opportunity in front of her.
Barbara has always been kind of stuck in her ways, so the fact that Manny is able to win her over and convince her that he and his team really want to make a difference is huge.
We’ve always known that Janine looks up to Barbara, so it’s really Barbara’s advice that seals the decision for the younger teacher.
Janine: These new district people…they smile in your face, and tell you your ideas are good…but they suck, right?
Barbara: You know, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I actually have hope for this new group. I think they can make change.
Speaking of character development, all of this is going on while Ava is in the background having an entire personality change. Since studying over the summer, she’s a completely new principal, determined to live and die by the rules. She’s busy implementing new protocols.
She’s driving everyone totally crazy.
We really enjoyed watching the other teachers band together to conspire against Ava, trying to figure out how to make her go back to normal. There’s a real sense of camaraderie between Jacob, Barbara, Gregory, and Melissa throughout the episode.
Hilariously, it was Barbara who pulled out all the stops and lured Ava into an empty gym, blaring “Back That Azz Up” by Juvenile to snap Ava out of her new rigid ways.
Barbara’s growth has been really fun to watch over the last few seasons as she lets some of the younger teachers influence her. She’s a veteran teacher with decades of experience, but she’s become more and more open to the idea of doing things in different ways for the sake of her students.
The piece de resistance of Part 1 comes at the end when Ava reveals security camera footage showing a (not-so-private) moment between Janine and Gregory.
In it, Janine confesses to Gregory that she still has feelings for him, which comes as a surprise to exactly no one.
The part we didn’t see coming was when Gregory shut her down, telling her he’s moved on and wants just to be friends.
And look — this is what we hoped for. But we’d be lying if we said it didn’t sting a little watching Janine turn away, disappointed, after putting on a brave face and telling Gregory she agreed that their friendship was more important.
We don’t get to ruminate on it for very long, though, because Part 2 kicks off right away and it’s Career Day at Abbott Elementary.
Janine, Manny, and the other district employees are hanging out at Abbott for the day to help out with Janine’s pet project: Career Day.
In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the day, we’re struck by the fact that Gary keeps making marriage jokes to Melissa, who is clearly uncomfortable with it. The tension is palpable when she takes Gary aside to make sure he knows she has no intention of getting remarried, and she tells him it would take a miracle to change her mind.
This part is a bummer — it’s clear to the viewer that Melissa means that facetiously, but Gary takes it as a challenge.
A really fun part of this episode is that we get to learn more about Mr. Johnson, who, as it turns out, has lived about a thousand lives before landing at Abbott. Jacob specifically requested Mr. Johnson for his class’s Career Day presentation, and the kids are almost as captivated as Jacob is.
This is the first real glimpse into Mr. Johnson’s past that we’ve seen, and we love that his character is getting to expand a little.
Janine is struggling big time with control. She’s handling Career Day like the professional she is, but she’s having a hard time letting go of control in her classroom. It’s subtle, but it’s there.
Down the hall, there’s a marketing professional from the Philadelphia Eagles presenting in Melissa’s class, and the class is getting bored.
The presenter knows just what to do, though, and suddenly the Philadelphia Eagles’ real-life quarterback Jalen Hurts is video chatting with a bunch of students while Melissa and Ava have fangirl moments.
This bit is pretty cute, and we’re a sucker for a cameo. Sometimes these moments can feel really cheesy, but the writers pull it off by having Jalen interact with the cast in an organic way.
This is the part where things go off the rails for this episode. Gary enlists Jalen to help him propose to Melissa, thinking that this is the kind of “miracle” she was referring to. When Melissa says no, Gary is heartbroken, and we have to interrupt Career Day to follow them outside to hash it out.
Gary: I’m okay. I’ll be alright. Even though I feel like a zero right now.
Melissa: Oh honey, you’re not a zero. You’re a Philly eleven.
They ultimately break up, which is fine, but a little disappointing. They were clearly happy together and cared a lot about each other, so it sucks that they couldn’t have found a way to be together without getting married.
Back inside, Janine freaks out about the mess that Career Day devolved into, but Manny is as encouraging as ever.
His compliments are really having an effect on Janine and it’ll be interesting to see how she evolves professionally as a result of his positive reinforcement.
Obviously, Janine is missing her students, but she’s doing really important work at the district. She’s being recognized for her ideas — and she’s got tons of them — and she’s making a difference.
The elephant in the room, though, is still her relationship with Gregory. Thankfully, the writers give us a moment between Janine and Gregory that finally cuts through the tension that’s been building there.
In a burst of vulnerability from both of them, the two finally clear the air and we’re glad to see that they’re on their way to being back to normal.
No matter what happens with their relationship going forward, the two of them have an important friendship.
Gregory: I miss this. Just chatting about our days.
Janine: Oh my God, me too. So much.
We’re looking forward to seeing what’s next this season. The big questions we have for now are whether Janine will stay at the district or if she’ll get homesick for Abbott and go back to teaching.
We’re hoping that she and Gregory are back on track just to be good friends and that they can both move on, but who knows what’s next for those two.
Make sure you stay up to date with the show and watch Abbott Elementary online. Tune in with us next week as we follow along with our favorite educators.
Haley Whitmire White is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow her on X.