So much of the grown-ish cast of characters has flourished before our very eyes over its first season. Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi) went from the too-cool-for-school eldest Johnson kid to a veritable weirdo with enough awkward tendencies to merit her own sitcom. Ana Torres (Francia Raisa) has left her puke-drenched first day of college behind in favor of a descent into obsessive social media trolling and the constant possibility her entire family is sleeping with each other. Even art bae Luca Hall (Luka Sabbat) has been given some real layers after revealing he lives in constant fear of growing up to be like his alcoholic father (Zoey did not care enough about that last little detail, but I do).
Poor comedic relief Vivek Shah (Jordan Buhat) has not been given the same kind of character-developing treatment. Tell me what you know about Vivek other than his drug dealing, computer expertise, shame over his sweet-sounding dad being a cab driver, and general air of desperation, all of which was laid out in the premiere. Is it nothing? Do you know absolutely nothing else about Vivek Shah? Well, all of that finally changes with "Who Gon Stop Me."
One of grown-ish’s best freshman season decisions was to be unapologetically and aggressively honest about college party culture, starting with its one-hour premiere, where Zoey picked up an Adderall habit. While Zoey’s Adderall abuse is only used as a plot line for a single episode, second installment “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” it’s actually followed our heroine ever since if you’ve been paying attention. Every once in a while, someone will mention the prescription pills or casually question Zoey’s dependency on the drug.
After all of this subtle plotting, we end up at the natural conclusion: a deep dive into drug culture at Cal U. When a rumor runs through campus claiming a drug dealer has been “popped” — “a classic two to the back of the head” — our BFFs assume it has to be bumbling low-level businessman Vivek. “Yo, deadass, Vivek’s dead,” Luca cooly says with the air of someone who’s definitely smoked a little that evening. Then, as the grown-ish crew witness emergency services dragging a body into an ambulance, Vivek shows up, alive and well. “Hey guys. Did somebody get shot?” he asks, loudly sipping on a large boba tea.
That is the last we see of harmlessly funny Vivek.
Although Vivek isn't dead, the murdered student was legitimately a dealer, top dog Arturo. The unexpected death leaves a vacuum in the campus drug supply; a supply that is further hampered by a movement to crack down on all narcotic contraband on school property. With so much heat on dealers, everyone leaves the game… except for Vivek. Within days, he’s the king of campus, with the threads, VIP tables, and high-powered connections to prove it.
Even Luca is jealous, quietly muttering he’s “been to Paris” in an attempt to one-up Vivek. No one even responds.
Vivek’s new status leads him to make new friends, like Balty Winthrop (Josh Plasse), the wealthiest student at Cal U and direct descendent of Ronald J Winthrop, founder of Cal U. Balty is obviously one of Vivek’s best customers, and that’s proven when the rich kid invites the dealer to “The Box.” In an aside, Zoey explains the bizarrely titled locale, which sounds the name of literally anything from Twin Peaks, is actually a building on campus where the Winthrops used to store their crew boats. Now Balty throws baller parties there with people who appear to be roughly 43 years old.
Zoey and the wonderful Nomi Segal (Emily Arlook) follow Vivek to The Box, which happens to look like the exact same set grown-ish used for the Luca-Zoey date from a few weeks ago, but let’s ignore that. Despite the fact Zoey’s entire personality was built on the fact she thrives in social situations, she walks around the party alone roughly 20 times before finally deciding to track Vivek down and leave. She finds him behind a red curtain supplying Balty with enough cocaine to take out Tony Montana.
The next day, Zoey tries to lecture Vivek about dealing in serious narcotics like cocaine, but he brushes his friend off, reminding her she has had no problem buying copious amounts of Adderall from him. Adderall simply has the PR of kale and Cuties mandarin oranges, while coke does not. “Too much of either and your heart’s gonna stop,” he warns.
Unexpectedly, this conversation leads to the most emotionally revealing moment for Vivek all season. He explains that when he’s with Balty and his crew, it’s the first time in his life he doesn’t feel like the cab driver’s son. If he can get in with Balty for good as his “party concierge,” Vivek will never have to feel like “the poor kid” again, including well after graduation. Upper middle class Zoey can pretend she gets where Vivek is coming from, but she never can, he tells her. He’s right. The conversation ends with Vivek essentially telling Zoey to step off.
Even after this brutal confrontation, Zoey still rushes out of bed when she finds out Vivek was jumped and is now in intensive care. She finds him badly bruised laid up in a hospital bed, with a broken arm. Of course, he was attacked in the middle of a deal. When Vivek’s parents arrive terrified, Zoey still protects her pal by concocting a comforting story, claiming no drugs were involved in the assault, and their son protected her from a robbery.
How sweet? LOL nope.
Zoey assumes a near-death encounter will snap Vivek out of the drug trade. Instead, the lesson he takes away from this entire ordeal is to farm out the dirty jobs like on-the-ground dealing to underlings. Ladies and gentleman, Vivek Shah is well on his way to becoming a drug kingpin.
- Thanks to all the Vivek chaos, Zoey announces she is kicking her Adderall habit and tosses the pills into the garbage.
- As everyone momentarily mourns for Vivek, please peep Aaron (Trevor Jackson) comforting Zoey with a casual, strong arm around her shoulders. Grown-ish is subliminally messaging you these two lovable fools aren’t done yet.
- The B-plot is dedicated to Aaron spreading a horrific flu virus to the Foster sisters (Chloe and Halle Bailey). It results in lots of Jazz and Sky burns, which are always extra spicy when tossed at Aaron.
- We also learn Dean Parker (Chris Parnell) has a bad habit of letting 1 million birds hang out on his body during feeding time, which created that awful flu in the first place.
- Ana joins the campus prohibition movement, revealing her very strong, dormant conservative politics. And a crush on Dean Parker, a.k.a. Modern Day Ronald Reagan.
This week's Drone Class lesson: Who has time for Drones Class when people are getting murdered, beat up, and coming down with the pigeon flu?
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