“Grown-ish” Series Premiere Recap: Welcome to College

(Freeform/Kelsey McNeal)

What went down on the latest episode of grown-ish? Get all the tea with Sesi‘s weekly recaps.

Watch out world, grown-ish has finally premiered — and it is most definitely about to go down this season. The one-hour debut blessed us with two episodes: “Late Registration” and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” — or, as we like to call them, the Kanye and the Kendrick (more on that later). The first one opens with Zoey as narrator, chillin’ in her dorm room’s swivel chair, on the phone with her dad (Dre from black-ish, obvi), and so over his dramatics. He’s ugly crying since she’s away at the fictional California University, albeit not far from home, like at all. “It had only been three days since I left home and my dad had already gone 51/50,” she laments directly into the camera.

See, Zoey is so Kanye in this episode. First of all, the premiere shares the same name as Ye’s sophomore album, and secondly, most freshman are mad homesick when they leave for that first semester (we know we’re not the only ones who walked around campus on the first night thinking to themselves, “We have, to LIVE here?!”). That’s normal and completely ok. Maybe she acts so hard because she’s truly just a few minutes away and can visit at any time — understandable. Or, maybe it’s because, as she admits, she thought she’d have this whole college thing on lock. Her first realization that she doesn’t? Enrolling in Charlie’s (Dre’s coworker from black-ish) — AKA “Professor-Doctor” — midnight class about drones. Why drones? Because he likes them.

It’s in this random drones class that we meet the five students who Zoey says will become her closest friends. There’s Zoey’s crush Aaron (Trevor Jackson), who’s woke af — at one point, he even shares that the Black Student Union (BSU) is protesting Cal U’s decision to change the blackboards to whiteboards; twin track stars, Jazz and Sky (Chloe and Halle); “Baby Basquiat”, Luca (Luka Sabbat); Nomi (Emily Arlook), the rebel; and Vivek (Jordan Buhat), National Merit Scholar and hustler. Upon the start of class, Charlie explains that the school is suspicious of just how legit his class is, so he has to leave the room while everyone takes a survey saying why they signed up to be there. As the six try to decide what to write, each one spills the tea on how they actually ended up in a random course about all drones everything.

Aaron’s there because he’s rooting for everybody Black. If there’s a course taught by a Black professor, he’s all about it. For the rest, this was most definitely not their first choice: Nomi traded her spot in her original registration line for a makeout sesh in the bathroom; Vivek stepped out of line to, how should we say, make some sales; Jazz tore up Sky’s registration card; and Luca just didn’t care either way. Zoey, though? Turns out, the day before registration, Zoey met another student named Ana (Francia Raísa) at a nearby coffee shop. They vibed immediately and decided to hit up their first college party together. But when Ana drank too much and threw up in the inflatable pool while everyone captured it on their phones, Zoey ignored her cries for help and dipped. When she saw Ana the next day at registration, she dipped again to avoid her, and consequently, missed the registration deadline for the class she was supposed to be in. (Why they have paper registration sheets and have to stand in line to register doesn’t really make sense, though. It’s 2018 and college students have been registering for classes online — not by standing in line — since the late ’90s, so…).

(Freeform/Kelsey McNeal)

Anyway, back to the story. Zoey finishes explaining how she ended up in drone class and feels good about getting it off her chest. That is, until Aaron looks dead at her and says, “Dude, you are a monster.” Everyone agrees. Zoey breaks the fourth wall again, looks straight at the camera and says, “Shoulda just put down, ‘drones.'”

Aaron asks her why she did Ana like she did, and Zoey admits it’s because she was scared of what the upperclassmen at the party would think of her. Sky reveals, too, that “Caring about what people think is me and Jazz’s whole life.” They feel like being fake perfect is the only way to make their #lifegoals come true. Then, Nomi shares that she’s afraid of what her family would think if she came out as bisexual to them. Zoey starts feeling like a terrible person and sums it all up in the voice-over: “I realized the first time I was out on my own, the first chance I had to make my own decision, and I made the wrong one. And I’d done it so easily. What did that say about me? Was that the person I really was? The thought of that scared me, but I wasn’t alone in my feelings. We were all scared.” Bonding ensues.

Fast forward 24 hours when Zoey runs into her roommate, Tara, in the hallway of their dorm and learns she is moving to a single room in a different building. Tara tells Zoey her new roommate is currently moving in.

It’s Ana. (But y’all already knew that because plotlines.)

(Freeform/Eric Liebowitz)

And right into episode two we go!

This one kicks off with an intro into another segment of college life — parties. Against the backdrop of Zoey’s voice-over, we see her dancing in a room filled with students drinking alcohol and doing drugs. (Right? We were like, oh wait, this is really happening?) The narration explains that there’s all sorts of partiers — those that lightweight use and those who go hard. “My thing? I dabble,” she says. Hold. Up. She “dabbles”? For real, for real, we clutched our metaphorical pearls at that one and looked around the room, like, you’re seeing this, too, right? Oh, ok.

But as the scene played out into the next, we realized the genius. This episode was really ’bout to teach us all another lesson on the complexities of growing up by being all the way real instead of all the way preachy. “The tricky part to having a thing,” Zoey says, “was knowing how to balance it all. And I hadn’t been doing so well.”

Cue the next scene in which Zoey wakes with a start in bed, alarm blazing. She’s missed her first class of the morning. And do you know this girl had the nerve to ask Ana why she didn’t wake her up? Ana’s facial expression (and her blurred out middle finger) says it all. Indeed, life is not a Kendrick Lamar video, and an uncomfortable roommate situation and slumping grades will most definitely kill a vibe.

Enter Luca with his boho self to see why Zoey missed their class and to let her know he covered for her by lying to the professor that Zoey was having an abortion. For being under the influence of super laid-backness, his tales have absolutely no chill. Understandably, Zoey freaks out and says she’s already dealing with enough stress as it is. Luca offers to give her something that will mellow her out, and we just wanna know how Cal U students are so open and free with displaying substances all out in the open and what not.

(Freeform/Eric Liebowitz)

Zoey explains she’s not down with that and Luca tells her she needs to find out what she is down with because the way she’s running her life right now doesn’t seem to be working all that well for her. To be all the way 100, though, Luca is hella funny. He lightweight delivered some truth Zoey needed to hear about how she’s perpetrating like she’s got it all together, when in reality, none of them do, but he said it as a backhanded compliment. It seems he’s so invested in Zoey’s ability to hold it down because they have a project to do together. Zoey lets him know she can’t work on it that night, though, because she has a “James Baldwin thingy” to attend.

The “James Baldwin thingy” turns out to be a socially conscious art exhibit, and the real reason for Zoey’s interest in being there is to see Aaron, who organized the whole thing. We’re not mad. TBH, Zoey is all of us when we’re feelin’ a potential bae — inserting ourselves wherever they are; thinking of ways to get their attention; and replaying every convo we have with them in our minds, trying to find a clue into their feelings (or lack thereof).  Following some flirty banter, Aaron invites Zoey to come to Papa K’s restaurant after the event. She plays it cool and tells him she’ll see what happens.

Obviously, she shows up — with Nomi and Vivek in tow. She meets eyes with Aaron, walks over, and tries to get another student to “scooch over” so she can sit next to him. Nomi and Vivek realize she’s about to embarrass herself and save her from disaster by pointing out a table in the back. There, they find Jazz and Sky, who, to Zoey’s dismay, reveal that Aaron invited a “whole gang of people,” so he isn’t checkin’ for her like she’d hoped — definite vibe killer, not to mention she still has a fashion project and a 25-page paper on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who until recently, she thought was Judge Judy. (Why 25 pages, though? That just seems excessive.) Seeing that his new friend is feeling down, Vivek offers her Adderall. Zoey freaks out and tosses the bag back to him, but he gives it back to her “just in case.”

Back in their dorm room, Ana’s in bed. As Zoey attempts to turn on the lights and open the closet, all you hear is a grunt of, “Nope!” coming from under the covers. Even when she tries to get something from the mini fridge, she finds all the contents marked with sticky notes that say, “NO!” So, what else is a girl to do at 1:23 a.m.? We’d go with sleep, but ya’ girl opts to begin her paper, and of course, she cannot concentrate to save her life. She tries some exercise moves to up her energy, but an hour and 24 minutes later, she still only has 13 words typed. She pulls out the Adderall and actually takes it. The beat drops for “All the Way Up”, and we’re off! But, instead of staying hyper-focused on finishing her paper, she becomes hyper-focused on shopping. All. Night. Long.

(Freeform/Eric Liebowitz)

The next night in drones class finds “Professor-Doctor” Charlie lecturing on Squatters Rights, which, he says, he’s been both a beneficiary and victim. Zoey comes in a little late and spills to Nomi and Vivek what actually happened, telling them they owe her $3,000 because the pill made her focus on a semi-annual sale and make a lot of “full-priced choices” instead of helping her finish her paper. According to Nomi, this is called an “Addy spiral.” Zoey takes it as a lesson and vows never to do it again. Soon, Aaron joins them and picks up where he left off with his mixed message-giving game, telling Zoey next time they get up, maybe they’ll have a chance to talk more. She’s, of course, thrilled. Her vibe, once again, resurrected.

The next day, Zoey and Luca meet up to discuss their fashion project, and Luca is literally smoking a blunt in the classroom. Zoey asks if he’s ever not “doing his thing” to which he responds that he never smokes at funerals out of respect for the dead. And always with the shade, he adds that instead of worrying about what he’s doing, she needs to get her life together — she didn’t even show up with any project ideas, after all.

Later, Zoey’s working on her paper again and still getting nowhere. She takes another Addy, but this time, she actually finishes her work. She meets up with Nomi and Vivek the next day at a cafe and admits she took another pill, but says she doesn’t want to make it a habit and become reliant on them to get through college. She promises (again) not to take anymore. They are not convinced. To nobody’s surprise, Aaron’s also at the cafe — Zoey’s really committed to this stalking thing, and basically tells us all to give our judgy selves several seats. Aaron hits her again with a party invite and bounces.

At the party, Zoey arrives ready to slay, and just as she’s about to tell Aaron how she feels, there’s the sound of something breaking. Aaron asks Zoey to hand out cups, so he can go check it out, and he apparently never returns and Zoey becomes known as the “cup girl”. It seems she’s finally through with Aaron’s games and turns to leave when Aaron comes up to her to express his gratitude for all her help that night. She keeps it real this time and tells him that’s not how she saw her night going, bye. Aaron says he can’t let her walk home alone, and Zoey’s face lights up. Is this the moment? Is it finally happening? Will this walk be the start of a beautiful relationship? Hardly. Aaron asks his homie if he can walk her home and he agrees.

The episode starts to wind down with Zoey entering her dorm room loud enough to wake up Ana again — who, BTW, she still hasn’t apologized to. And based on all the outfit changes, at least a week or two has to have passed since the pool incident. Ana is over Zoey’s late nights and Zoey acts surprised like Ana has beef for no reason, but at last, Zoey apologizes and tells Ana how she really hasn’t felt like herself since she arrived at school. They confide in each other about how the struggle has been too real for both of them, cementing their newfound bond by dancing it out. Zoey promises yet again to chuck deuces to the Addy. Then, Aaron texts, “U up? Wanna hang?” and all that goes out the window.

This episode’s handling of peer pressure, the emotional rollercoaster that can come with having a crush, and just how difficult it is to reconcile how you were raised with where your current life is was brilliant. We can’t wait to see what’s next for the grown-ish crew.

Catch up on the episodes you’ve missed here.

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About sesimag (339 Articles)
Quarterly print teen magazine for Black girls ages 13 to 19. Covering The Black Girl's Mainstream™

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