This week proved to be a very emotional time for Spencer, Jordan and Coop, whose storylines revolved around the need to feel accepted into their families — either blood related or on the field.
During the opening, Spencer and Jordan seemed to have reconnected since the previous episode, but Asher still sees Spencer as a threat. This time he was more aggressive and blamed Spencer for losing the game. If only he knew the real reason behind Spencer’s performance, maybe he would’ve curbed his jerkish reaction.
Coop and her mother’s relationship is very charismatic and charming on the surface. Soon, we figure out that her mother is completely in denial of Coop’s lesbian lifestyle, even though Coop presents herself as a tomboy, or, as the streets would say, a “stud.” I like that Coop’s story is being treated as a catalyst to shed light on lesbianism in the black community because I thought this show would be a guy’s story and Coop would just be a supporting character. Black lesbians aren’t usually part of mainstream television, and their journeys don’t get enough screen time, so I want to see how everything from her perspective unfolds. She is my favorite character so far, and I think Bre-Z is a fantastic actress.
While walking the halls of Beverly High, Spencer quickly realizes he is at the center of attention. He notices everyone is staring at their phones and he asks a schoolmate for a look. On the screen is a meme of Spencer fumbling a “40 oz” of malt liquor, instead of the football. Racial tension rises in the hallway when Spencer sees Asher’s friends watching him as well. They’ve made their distaste for Spencer very clear. Jordan prevents Spencer from instigating a fight that could terminate Spencer’s transfer permit.
Jordan is aware of why Spencer and the team have not accepted each other, but he is still blind to his own privilege. He is still not able to have a deep understanding and empathy for Spencer, even though both of them are African American. The difference in their backgrounds show greatly in how they handle each other. Jordan is light-skinned and he lives a comfortable life in Beverly Hills, whereas Spencer is dark-skinned and his life outside the comfort of the home he shares with his mother Grace and brother Dillion in Crenshaw isn’t too pleasant. Spencer sees Jordan as “other” because he’s accepted into the predominately white community of Beverly Hills, despite the fact that Spencer himself also lives in Jordan’s home.
Jordan sees Spencer as someone who has it all, even the attention and praise of his own father, but Jordan still looks down on Spencer for being from Crenshaw. Even with his advantages, Jordan doesn’t accept himself or know who he is, and I believe that’s why his perception is skewed.
Olivia and Leila are friends now — or so we think. I feel like Olivia will have to come clean about Asher or it will nag at her conscience until she does. Meanwhile, Asher is very insistent on keeping the secret hidden, because he is fully aware of the threat of losing Leila’s trust, his reputation and even Olivia. Surprisingly, the budding romance between Spencer and Leila wasn’t included in this episode, instead Leila’s and Olivia’s friendship has priority. It felt like Olivia really wanted to brush everything that happened during her period of drug abuse under the rug and mend their friendship, but Leila unknowingly rekindles the past hoping to gain some connection and Olivia shuts her out. Olivia tries to apologize to Leila later on, but this time, Leila shuts her out. At this point reconciliation isn’t likely.
In an effort better understand Spencer, Jordan invites himself to Spencer’s house in Crenshaw. Spencer doesn’t know about this until he sees Jordan’s car parked outside. Inside, Spencer finds Jordan washing dishes while Grace prepares food for the evening’s cookout. Jordan has crossed a line with Spencer, but Spencer’s family is all open arms and invites him to stay for the gathering. While at the cookout Spencer realizes that his old teammates no longer accept him since his move to Beverly Hills and now Jordan is a threat to Spencer’s place among them. Spencer’s supposed friend Chris calls Spencer a “joke” when Spencer tries to call a truce after a ruthless football game between Beverly Hills High and Crenshaw — one that abruptly ended when security guards showed up.
At this point, Spencer really is an outcast and he’s forced to choose a side, but he knows where comes from. “Crenshaw is who I am, but Beverly Hills is who I’m becoming,” says Spencer when he apologizes to the Beverly Hills team the following day and convinces everyone to make amends –- even Asher. I think Coop was able to give Spencer some insight when she said the Beverly Hills team doesn’t accept him because he doesn’t accept them. She even points out he still wears his Crenshaw football ring when he’s on their field.
Speaking of insight, Jordan gets a handful when he and Spencer are harassed by police officers during their ride back to Beverly Hills. It’s the same old story, but true to the nature of America: the cops see two young black men in a very nice car and right away they assume the worst. Spencer is very cooperative because he knows the outcome, but Jordan has never experienced this and chooses to stand up from himself. Spencer becomes apprehensive when the cops get more aggressive with Jordan and proceed to slam him on the pavement and handcuff both of them. Now, Jordan is very confused but Spencer is fearful.
They finally make it to the Baker’s home in Beverly Hills but Jordan has not yet processed what just occurred so when the coach is frustrated with his son, Jordan says, “I stood up from myself like I was taught,” before he storms out of the kitchen. Spencer questions the coach as to why Jordan hasn’t been taught how to deal with police officers, saying, “…by the time I was 8 my moms made it clear, cops like that see my blackness as a weapon; you talk slow, you do as they ask, you keep your hands visible, and you never run. How come you ain’t tell him that?” says Spencer with nostalgic discomfort. “…I thought Jordan had time before he saw the ugly side of being a black man in America,” replies a tearful Coach. “Can’t nobody shield they son,” says Spencer.
Hopefully, Jordan is able to come to terms with why Spencer is at times very emotional and turned off by certain things that happen in Beverly Hills, especially the incident with the meme. This is an unfortunate reality for black men in America, but it was more interesting when All American showed the difference between two black men. We always see this message with a white man and a black man. Since Jordan and Spencer live in different worlds it brought to the attention that even black people can be ignorant to the issues that affect, other black people.
At the closing of this episode, Leila and Olivia commemorate the passing of Leila’s mother and that re-establishes their friendship. Coop gets kicked out of her mother’s house for actually vocalizing the obvious fact that she is gay after her mother accuses her of being “confused.” Just when Jordan begins to gain some headway with his father during a visit to a local Crenshaw barbershop — a way for his father to get Jordan familiarized with his roots — he finds out that Spencer is the coach’s son via a photo album shown to him by the owner as they reminisced about the coach’s past.
All American airs on The CW Wednesdays at 9/8c
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Credit: Jesse Giddings