So, we’re back at it again. Spencer (Daniel Ezra) is still trying to adjust to living in Beverly Hills and tending to his family and friends in Crenshaw.
“99 Problems” — Episode 2 of The CW’s All American — deals with a huge lesson to be learned for Spencer, who wants it all for himself, family, friends and team, but finds the weight of the world is becoming too heavy for the star high school football player. It seems that Spencer is trying to replace his father with himself.
As a young African American man it can feel like the logical thing to do, but you only get one chance at being young and following your dreams, a message everyone is trying to drill into Spencer.
The episode opens with a young Spencer playing his first pee-wee football game and he’s so excited when his team wins. He runs over to his mother, Grace (Karimah Westbrook), beaming with joy and asks if his father made it back into town to see him play. His mother delivers the bad news that his father is never coming back. A disappointed Spencer runs away from his mother.
Cut to teenage Spencer running across the beach in Beverly Hills as he catches a football and lands in the water. I feel like this moment shows that the absence of his father didn’t hinder him from his passion for football.
Asher (Cody Christian), is still jealous of Spencer, but Jordan (Michael Evans Behling) has become more accepting. Asher is very passive aggressive and it can be annoying at times. Spencer overshadows him because he is very confident in who he is and what he wants, which is a quality both Asher and Jordan lack. The tension could be ramped up a little; maybe Asher will do something more to Spencer or maybe he’ll choose to fall back since Jordan has.
Spencer sees Layla (Greta Onieogou), his love interest (and Asher’s girlfriend). It’s hard to believe Asher and Layla are a couple, because we never actually see them doing things together. Spencer sees no threat when he casually starts talking to her. I understand that Asher is intimidated by Spencer, but he doesn’t even fight for Layla. Moreover, after Spencer and Layla have a heartfelt talk, she wants him to stay longer and have a beer, but Spencer is responsible so he declines. As Spencer and Layla’s relationship continues to grow, Asher gets pushed further into the background. Layla doesn’t seem like she cares about losing Asher, and I doubt she gives much thought to him since Spencer is willing to be more open and very observant when it comes to her.
Later that night, Spencer is back home in Crenshaw on a weekday, when he’s not supposed to be. It’s obvious Spencer is homesick, and matters get worse when he learns that Coop (Bre-Z), his childhood female friend, has been spending time with Shawn (Jay Reeves), a neighborhood gang member.
Spencer is taking a shower at the Baker’s home in Beverly Hills unbeknownst to Olivia (Samantha Logan); he steps out just as she walks in. It’s an awkward moment that she can’t shake, but what girl wouldn’t want that to happen? Ezra is gorgeous.
Jordan and Coach Baker (Taye Diggs) are running plays together but Spencer interjects and steals Jordan’s thunder and Jordan is clearly hurt. Jordan is intimidated by Spencer and he has to live with him. He doesn’t even catch a break at home! I can empathize with Jordan because it’s hard fighting for your parent’s attention when someone else can take it effortlessly.
Following Spencer’s disapproval of Coop’s friendship with Shawn, she tries to break ties but Shawn knows she’ll came back around. Shawn knows Coop is in need of a friend since Spencer has found a way out. Coop’s vulnerabilities are taken advantage of.
Back at Beverly Hills High during football practice, Spencer causes Asher to sprain his ankle so Coach Baker takes Asher out of the upcoming game. Spencer takes on the load, “I didn’t come here to get protected, I came here to win”, but Coach doesn’t want to exhaust his best player. I don’t understand football, but it has to be physically, emotionally, and mentally draining to continuously play without a break and everyone is counting on you to win. Spencer is in over his head.
The night has finally arrived for Spencer to get scouted, but he’s quickly reminded of how much he doesn’t fit in when all he has is a tracksuit instead of a business suit for the event. This is a reoccurring theme for Spencer and he is fully aware of where he stands in these two worlds. Luckily, Olivia finds one of her father’s suits for Spencer to wear. I can relate to this because when I go to special film events, all I can think is, “They know I don’t belong here.” It’s uncomfortable being the newbie because all you want is to make a lasting impression but it’s scary! Then I obsess about my clothes because I don’t ‘dress up’ everyday but I want to at least honor to the dress code. It can be overwhelming.
During the actual party, Spencer still feels out of place, so he clings to Olivia until Layla walks in and the tension between these two is intriguing. At first, I thought they both have a crush on Spencer but Layla isn’t trying to fight Olivia, so what’s really going on?
Off in a corner, Asher’s father, Mr. Adam, is sizing up Spencer and he’s pissed that his son can’t play due to his sprained ankle. Mr. Adam tries to stick to subtle jabs but his anger takes over and he creates a whole scene in the middle of the party. He drops the bomb about Spencer’s residency. I know Spencer is on the team and he’s a student at Beverly High, but I never see anyone going to class, speaking with teachers, having lunch; it feels like all the drama happens outside of school.
When everyone calms down, Spencer wants to show what he’s made of and he tries again to convince Coach to let him play offense and defense in the next game. The Coach agrees but I don’t think it was for Spencer’s sake. The Coach has to prove he’s capable of doing his job: win games.
Jordan and Olivia confront the Coach about giving most of his attention to Spencer. They feel unimportant to their father but the Coach tries to reassure them that’s not the case.
Once again, Spencer is at home in Crenshaw and Dylan shows him a comic book that Shawn bought him. Spencer is agitated and heads out to confront Shawn, which leads to a scuffle. Fortunately, Coop saves the day but it’s not a warm embrace. “You cannot save the world Spencer, you have to save yourself ‘cus out here every man is for themselves.”
Back at Beverly High, this time it’s the actual game, but Spencer has injured ribs due to the scuffle with Shawn and it impairs his ability to play. The Coach sees that Spencer is hurting and benches him, but Spencer’s pride is Spencer’s worst enemy. Beverly High loses in the last four seconds when a not-so-talented player is called into the game and misses the winning catch.
Olivia secretly meets Asher in his car and they reveal that they slept together a while back when Olivia was on drugs and it ended her friendship with Layla. Asher knows that Spencer is interested in Layla, but he doesn’t know how to win her back. Olivia wants no part in his plan that he wants to create.
The Bakers have a family meeting to air out their feelings and reach a solution.
Coop and Spencer finally reconcile. Jordan apologizes to Spencer and the Coach lets him know that the family wants him to stay. They have a nice loving family dinner.
This episode concludes when it goes back to the beginning to Spencer as a kid at his football game. Coach Baker is Spencer’s father. I knew it! When the Coach made a visit to Grace and was like, “We need to talk”, I was like “That’s Spencer’s daddy”. In the last five minutes, when Spencer runs away from Grace, he gets far enough away for her to look in the other direction and Coach Baker is on the other side of the field watching everything. So, why did Coach have Grace lie all these years? Cliff hanger.
- Laura (Monet Mazur) is a great mother and wife. She doesn’t get much screen time but she’s very loving and understanding.
- Spencer may not want to speak to the Coach after the truth comes out. I thought Mr. Adam almost gave up that secret too, but he was talking about Jordan.
- Coop may turn into an actual gang member, I hope not.
- Olivia could be catching feels for Spencer even though she knows he’s into Layla. I think Olivia is a better love interest for him.
- Asher could devise another plan to get rid of Spencer because he’s so jealous of him. I mean I would feel the same way, too, if I was being overshadowed by a newcomer and he was taking my girl from me.
All American airs on The CW Wednesdays at 9/8c