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Joanna "Jo" Polniaczek was a fictional character on "The Facts of Life." She appeared at the start of Season Two and was played by actress Nancy McKeon through the rest of the series and two movies.

Bio[]

Joanna "Jo" Marie Polniaczek is a Polish-American student at Eastland Academy and native of New York City. She used to date Eddie Brennan, but after they got in trouble for unrevealed activity, her mother sent her to Eastland to get her out of the city. Arriving at the Eastland Academy on her motorcycle, she almost immediately formed a dislike for Blair Warner, considering her stuck-up and over-privileged. Likewise, Blair found Jo classless and masculine in her attire.

On her first day at Eastland, Jo convinced Blair to go to the Chugalug Bar to get some beers, requiring them to steal the school van and use fake IDs to enter the bar. Blair's friends, Tootie Ramsey and Natalie Green, tagged along out of curiosity. Getting caught by a local officer, the illegality was worsened by the theft of the school van which ended up wrecked. The four girls were forced to work in the Eastland cafeteria to pay off the repair cost of the van and placed on house probation, forced to live in a room adjoining Mrs. Garrett's for a year. When the punishment subsequently expired, all four of the girls found other living arrangements, but they became responsible for cleaning and painting their former room. By this time, the close quarters had began to take a toll of their friendships and they got into a fight while painting. Their friendship began to rekindle as the fight became more fun than adversarial, which severely ruined the hardwood floor, requiring expensive repairs. Once again close friends, the girls decided to stay together and continue to work in the kitchen to pay off the bill for the wasted paint and damaged floor.

Over the years, Blair and Jo's attitudes toward each other wavered. They worsened when Blair's boyfriend asked Jo to a country club dance which Blair wanted to attend. However, when Jo's date tried to rape her, Blair stood up for her. Jo also got into extra trouble when she shoplifted a gift for Mrs. Garrett, which she tried to return. Another problem for Jo came when she shoplifted a blouse for Mrs. Garrett's birthday.

In 1981, Eddie showed up Eastland and convinced Jo to marry him. They planned to elope to West Virginia, where the marriage age was lower, but Mrs. Garrett and Blair tracked her down at a nearby motel to remind her she was still on probation. By that point, Jo had already begun to change her mind when she realized just how difficult teenage marriage could be. She returned to Peekskill without Eddie, but he visited again later and they discovered themselves moving in different directions. By this point, keeping their long distance relationship going was proving to be very difficult, and they decided to see other people for the time being. When Jo saw Eddie again in 1984, Eddie returned as an officer in the Marines and married to a girl in Italy.

In addition to Blair, Jo developed a friendship with her English teacher, Gail Gallagher, due to their similar backgrounds. Gail inspired Jo to think about becoming a teacher herself, but Jo became very disillusioned to hear Gail was leaving Eastland because of an illness. Jo felt aimless afterward, but Mrs. Garrett again counseled her and helped her come to terms with Gail.

Through their friendship, Jo and Blair often got into verbal spats over Jo being "not feminine enough" and their relationship with boys. She had exception mechanical aptitude, often fixing things at Eastland and for the other girls. She also a job at a local garage, but tomboyish image softened considerably around Blair, and she became more amiable and friendly as a result. Her relationship with Blair became more traditional, and she even began to refer to Blair as her best friend. Although the two still argued, traded wisecracks and made fun of each other from time to time, they stayed close, becoming more like dueling sisters. At one point, she used a computer to analyze their friendship, later rejecting the results.

Jo graduated from Eastland as valedictorian of her class in 1984 and went on to attended Langley College with Blair, later losing her access to the dorms and going to live with Mrs. Garrett, Natalie and Tootie over Edna's Edibles, which later became Over Our Heads. She graduated from Langley with a degree in education, but she instead pursued a job in law enforcement, becoming a police detective. She soon met and dated Rick Bonner, a concert musician, who she married with Blair as her maid of honor. Together, they had a daughter, Megan.

In 2021, when the girls reunited with Mrs. Garrett, Jo was unable to attend the reunion with them while she was escorting a material witness to testify in a major trial. In her absence, Rick and Megan meet the girls in her absence.

Trivia[]

  • "Polniaczek" (Polaczek) is a Polish-Jewish surname which originates from immigrants who arrived from Europe. These Ashkenazi Jews migrated from small towns or "shtetels" of Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Germany, Romania or Ukraine, leaving behind most of their Jewish relatives. After two or three generations, those Jewish families lost track of their relatives, having been saved from the war and emigrated to other countries like the United States, England or Australia.

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