The AP Bio Season Finale Is High Comedy and Triumphant Tragedy

Not Creon, thou thyself art thine own bane.

-Tiresias, Oedipus Rex

Many of you speculated after last week’s A.P. Bio that the Stanford job offer Miles told Jack about was a prank somehow, a plausible option if Miles had figured out what Jack had been up to this whole time. But the actual outcome is even better: One of Jack’s “Miles Missions” finally pays off in a way that seriously damages Miles’ reputation… but Jack getting the Stanford job was contingent on Miles’ recommendation, and without that, Jack has no job offer, no prospects, and nowhere that wants him except Whitlock High in Toledo, OH.

But let’s step back and look how he got there. Jack walks in with a bag of (severely damaged) biology textbooks, content to let the class learn biology with their new teacher now that he’s leaving. The class reminisces on some classic Miles pranks: Victor still checks the river each morning for a dead body; Heather successfully catfished Miles into thinking she was a 32-year-old named Linda. Then Dallas, head of the drum squad, comes in with an elaborate presentation to ask Colin to the Sadie Hawkins-dance (still Congo-themed), only to reveal it’s all a prank when he accepts. It’s a shockingly cruel thing to do, but the class thinks they have to take it, since they’re below everyone on the social totem pole except the Russians (who are adjusting fast). Jack can’t let this go, because he’s had one lesson he’s been trying to teach the class his whole time: “There’s no greater pick-me-up than taking down somebody who’s wronged you.”

Jack is determined to help the kids get the revenge they deserve, so he helps the class brainstorm– Heather comes up with the idea to Carrie Dallas, getting her named queen of the dance then dumping pig’s blood on her. (Unsurprisingly, Heather is capable of providing it– if she can procure a whole pig, she can surely supply pig’s blood.) Jack, however, takes a call from Miles and the Stanford dean, where he learns from Miles that Stanford is carefully scrutinizing its hires and personnel, so Jack should stay out of any trouble. Thus, he can’t officially involve himself with the plot. So he decides to just look for his “bang pad” in Palo Alto, though he’s pretty careless with his internet usage: “Bang pads… bang pads… nope, nope, that’s not a good website.” When the kids struggle with a plan to sneak the blood in, Jack can’t help but help. “I’m not getting involved, but every teacher keeps a master key in their top drawer. So steal it when they’re not looking.”

Jack goes and says his goodbyes to Helen, who tells him a strange story about a dead bird, and Ralph, who has been going through the stages of grief, has hit stage three– bargaining– and asks Jack to give an inspirational speech at “the hip ’90s movie Congo“-themed Sadie Hawkins dance. He obliges; what’s it to him?

The teachers plan a goodbye tribute video to Jack (Michelle wants to use “What a man what a man what a man what a man” by Salt-N-Pepa), and they think they see a ghost in it, which sounds silly. Ghosts only haunt places they’ve died, after all, and no one’s died here… until Helen tells the legend of Beehive Beverly, the home economics teacher forced to keep her hair in a beehive by the principal, until one day while pulling zucchini muffins from the oven, it caught fire and “flash-cooked her scalp.” Well, that’s got them freaked out and thinking about a ghost, not helped by Ralph’s confirmation at the dance itself: “There’s no such thing as Beehive Beverly. Let’s not say her name a third time, though, just in case.”

At the dance, the bio kids rig up the blood, though only Dan has the sense to tell them not to hang around looking shady as hell. Dallas wins as expected… but Colin can’t get the blood rig to come down. Fortunately, Dallas and the dance king (I forget his name, because who cares) aren’t going anywhere. First, Jack gets up and gives the worst inspirational speech in history, kicking off with “I guess my message to you is, you gotta get the hell out of Toledo, but you know, in any way possible,“ and going from there to a bizarre rant about gypsies and other inappropriate topics. After he gets off stage, the teachers present their tribute video, although they warn the crowd that if they see something on there that looks like a ghost, it’s definitely not. Someone asks how they can be sure. And one of them responds, “I’m sure if it was a ghost, we’d have seen a sign by now.”

Cue the blood finally tipping over and “Drenching Dallas.” (Sorry for the late title drop.) Everyone flees the dance in a panic.

Jack misses this happen, because he’s outside, having taken a phone call from Miles. “They traced the IP address of a woman I’ve been talking to online to a high school… it turns out I’ve been messaging a 16-year-old. Now I have to go on Oprah and explain all of this.” Jack fakes his condolences, until Miles drops the real bomb: Jack’s hiring was entirely based on Miles’ recommendation, and since Miles has become toxic, so has that recommendation. Jack’s job offer has been withdrawn.

Jack’s scheme of revenge, and specifically, the scheme he launched the very first episode, the scheme pulled off by the student most on his wavelength, gets him the revenge he wants… at the cost of getting back into the prestigious academic position he really wants. (Also, Miles’ Oprah interview went so well that he’s getting his own show on the network.) With this masterstroke of plotting, Jack reveals himself to be the tragic hero of this season of A.P. Bio, the author of his own destruction, trapped in Toledo by his own actions.

A defeated Jack the next day announces his plan to the class to eat Advil PM and “make today into tomorrow.” The class isn’t sure what to do… and then Heather takes charge. She cooks up a scheme to get Miles deported that involves planting exotic animals on him. Dan reveals he has a neighbor who breeds snakes. Jack is revitalized; the other students decide to expand their revenge missions beyond Miles.

Jack may be defeated for now, but his one lesson of the season has sunk in for his class. They come up with plenty of targets for revenge, and we’ll have plenty of plots as a result if this show gets renewed for season two.

STRAY NOTES

  • I know that header image is relatively irrelevant to the episode, but it’s just too funny not to use.
  • “Start to shut up, everybody” has become a pretty regular greeting from Jack to the kids.
  • Jack’s parting words to Marcus, after Marcus points out that academic chairmanships are more administrative than interactive with students: “I’ll miss you least of all, Scarecrow.”
  • And to Sarika, who’s excited to have a real biology teacher: “Yes! You’ll be taught by someone who couldn’t get into med school!”
  • Ralph went through anger, but he didn’t make that hole in the wall: “I tried to do the hammock-in-the-office thing, but drywall does not support a human body.”
  • Coach Novak kills in his one line, for the tribute video to Jack: “Jack, I never got the chance to say this to your face, but your penis is clearly visible through your sweatpants. Okay, have fun in Hollywood.”
  • Miles still has no idea what Jack has been up to, huh? Think that will change in a season two, if we get it?
  • Durbin negotiating against himself to keep Jack around was also a delight, with two non-adjacent parking spaces and the surge protector Durbin is actually using as the highlights. Ralph’s dance after Jack accepts is great too, especially contrasted with Jack’s complete defeat outside of his office.
  • Partial list of revenge targets (I didn’t write them all down): Anthony’s karate teacher; Devin’s “CVS dictator”; and “Denzel Washington, but also just to meet him,” per Heather (and Grace agrees with Heather).
  • The Clash’s “I Fought the Law” closes the season as the kids cook up revenge ideas, making for a neat bookend with The Ramones’ “Listen to My Heart,” which plays over the opening credits of every episode.

HEATHER WATCH

Even more than “Eight Pigs and a Rat,” this episode revealed Heather as the true champ of A.P. Bio. Her catfishing is what ultimately brought down Miles. She’s the one who comes up with the idea to Carrie Dallas, and she provides the pig’s blood, of course. And when Jack is broken by the loss of the Stanford job, it’s Heather who rallies the class to plan another Miles Mission. (And makes the hilarious drawing of Miles being deported with “Cheerio” and “Bloody hell.”) And last but not least, she just looked so darn sad when Jack said he was leaving.

I don’t know if the writers knew what they had from the beginning in Allisyn Ashley Arm and Heather, but they certainly realized it by the second half of the season, when Heather started getting bigger roles, a featured episode, and drove the events of the finale more than any other student. She’s been a gem, and if 2018 isn’t The Year of Heather, there’s no justice in the world.

She may call Jack “boss,” but Heather is A.P. Bio‘s real boss.

FINAL NOTE

There’s still no word on whether A.P. Bio will be renewed, but after some early episodes didn’t seem to get much critical love, the show increasingly dialed in on what made it great and its commitment to serial plotting, developing into a deeper and funnier sitcom that ended up being one of the real surprise delights of 2018, particularly in the remarkable cast of students. Glenn Howerton and Patton Oswalt were both predictably great, but having found such a knockout cast of students is reason alone to keep this show around. The final twist of the plot was such an excellent dramatic punchline that it ought to renew anyone’s faith in Mike O’Brien and the other writers if they had lost it. I really hope we get a renewal, because this gang has plenty of adventures left and plenty of stories to tell.

If not, though, I leave you with a blog I found with a bunch of A.P. Bio GIFs, and one more Heather still, this time wrapping all the way back around to the pilot.

Thanks for coming along for the season.