‘All American’ 1×08 Review: ‘Homecoming’

There’s just something different about All American. How the emotional implications of an episode has the power to affect you in an unexpected ways. Yes, it’s a show about football. Yes, it’s a show about teen drama. But it’s also a show that doesn’t shy away from the truth of the reality that we either live in or exists around us.
In All American’s midseason finale, the stage was sent for the second half of the season where characters will be forced to confront the consequences of their actions. Whether it’s Jordan and his using drugs or Coach Baker covering for him or Asher throwing his team under the bus or Coop losing Shawn or Spencer and learning why his father left, there’s a lot to be explored in the new year.
Let’s break down the midseason finale, where I discuss how you can’t save everyone, how it’s about more than football, how I want more Chris, Coach Baker’s hypocritical behavior, and a new question regarding Spencer’s father:

You Can’t Save Everyone

There’s a reason that All American doesn’t exist merely in Beverly Hills. It’s because it wants to shed a light on the place that Spencer still calls home. A place where gang activity m.
While Spencer is getting closer to his dream playing football in Beverly Hills, Coop is stuck back in Crenshaw and forced to fend for herself. And along the way, she’s been pulled into the gang life by Shawn. But throughout it all, Coop began to learn that with Shawn, he looks at his fellow members like family. Being a gang member is a way to make a living when it’s the only option you feel you have. But Shawn always treated it like family. He’d always take care of them.
So we watched as Coop and Shawn’s relationship went from enemies to family. Shawn helped Coop in a way he felt was helpful. Coop tried to help Shawn realize he can be more than a gang banger. It was an interesting dynamic that had genuine emotional implications.
Coop had spent most of her time trying to get Shawn to understand that this wasn’t the life he had to accept. He wanted to be something more, so he could be something more. So with the arrival of Tyrone, who threatened to ruin everything, Shawn bought his way out. For his daughter. And for himself. And just when Shawn thought he was getting out, he lost everything.
Shawn was gunned down outside of his place by one of the many enemies he’d made over the years. Coop had to listen to Shawn die on the phone as he bled out on the sidewalk.
Since the pilot, there’s been this discussion regarding playing superhero and trying to save everyone. Spencer was someone that wanted to save everyone, but Coop finally convinced him to start living for him. So now, Coop finds herself in his same shoes. Feeling like she could save Shawn from this life. Until she realized she couldn’t.
“It’s not over,” Coop says in the end. And you get an understanding that Coop is going to
She’s staying in the gang to no doubt get revenge for Shawn’s death. And that’s going to take her down an even more dangerous path. Especially now that she doesn’t have Shawn looking out for her.

It’s About More Than Football

A football moment I can distinctly remember to this day is Dec. 23, 2003, when Packers quarterback Brett Favre (a Packer, ew) came out and passed for 399 yards and 4 touchdowns in a 41-7 win over the Raiders just one day after his father’s death. It was a moment that transcended sports. And hated rivalries.
Sometimes, it’s about more than football. It’s about life. It’s about the individuals that play the game. It’s about love.
And that’s exactly the message that Spencer conveyed to his team — and a message his team understood — after one of his own, Shawn, was murdered when he was trying to get out of this life he’d fallen into.
Football players play for the love of the game. But they also play for each other and the love they have for their teammates. Sports are emotional. Sports are about passion. So when people say that, “It’s just a game,” know that it’s really not. It’s about brotherhood and sisterhood. It’s about your family.

Can I Get More Chris Please?

One of the things I absolutely love about All American are the diverse group of characters that inhabit the world and their different dynamics with each other. But even more, there are characters that surprise you in the best way. Chris is one example for me.
I didn’t expect to love Chris as much as I do. Especially with Olivia. Especially after an understanding with Spencer. Especially now that we get to see a different side to him. When we first met him, he was one of Spencer’s old teammates at Crenshaw. And once he left them for Beverly, we saw how that betrayal affected him and how he reacted to Spencer. And because  Spencer is our main character, we saw this interaction from his perspective and felt for him.
But now that Chris has become a somewhat regular staple on the show, due to his relationship with Olivia, he’s finally getting a voice and getting to show who he really is. And I really like it.
Chris is someone who’s passionate, cares a lot to the point where he can get heated, but has a good heart. He’s sweet, and it’s not an act. And we’re getting to see this new side to him through his relationship with Olivia.
Now, I’ll be the first to gush about how much I want Spencer and Olivia together because the chemistry was instantaneous. And I feel like this show has been playing with the “will they, won’t they” to the point where you were expecting this big payoff. But instead of a payoff, we got a tease of what could’ve been or what might be, and then they went with the predictable and less chemistry-driven Spencer/Layla relationship. Spencer and Olivia both seem to be fighting an obvious attraction in a way that foreshadows an eventual confrontation of feelings.
But is that the best direction still?
One of the most exciting things about television is when you watch expecting one thing and unexpectedly get something even better. You watch how actors’ chemistry breathes life into a dynamic that was never the plan, but just might end up being better than what was intended.
And I can’t help but feel like Olivia and Chris could be something special. There was an instant chemistry (Olivia has chemistry with everyone, seriously), and they seemed to soften each other in a pure way.
Even though he knows Olivia likes Spencer, he doesn’t hold it against her. He understands. But all he wants is a chance to get to know her and hopefully get his chance one day. And I really hope that day comes. Because they’re damn cute together.
And as if I couldn’t love Chris more, watching him mend his relationship with Spencer and watching as he helped Spencer’s team overcome a cheating Malibu squad, my immediate reaction is: Can Chris come to Beverly, too?

Is It Really Not About Winning?

There was an interesting discussion that All American explored in the midseason finale regarding the importance of winning over the importance of moral decency. When it comes to high school football, is it not all about winning?
The simple answer is: No. Of course not, these are young men that are still maturing and who learn discipline and respect through athletics. While these young men learn what it means to play football and what it means to be part of a team, they’re also learning to do what’s right and how to make the most of their athletic talent.
So naturally when Asher was caught drinking on school property and causing such a scene at Homecoming after Layla dumped him, Coach Baker made the decision to suspend him for the Homecoming game much to Asher’s passionate displeasure. After all, scouts were going to be there. He had to play!
But it Coach Baker doesn’t suspend Asher, if he gives in and lets him play, what message is he sending to his team? That it’s okay to go out there and do something that’s wrong and still get to play? Absolutely not.
And after what Asher did out of anger — giving Malibu their playbook to help beat them — he’s going to be even angrier once Coach Baker likely suspends him for the playoffs after that betrayal.
While I respected and admired Coach Baker’s decision to rest Asher because of his actions, what soon followed regarding Jordan’s screw-up just screams hypocritical. During his fun night out with Ripley, Jordan found himself doing things he’d never done before, including smoking pot. That much was clear after he stumbled into his house the morning after the dance and the same day as the Homecoming game.
After Beverly beats Malibu in an uplifting come-from-behind victory, someone alerts the high school football association that a player had violated the drug policy. As everyone’s lining up to take their random drug test, Jordan confesses to his father that he smoked pot the night before.
There were two distinctly different reactions by Coach Baker as a result of Asher’s public intoxication and Jordan’s smoking pot. While he immediately punished Asher — because it was the right thing to do — this situation is different with Jordan, and you can see it in Baker’s eyes.
This isn’t just about the Beverly football team. This is about his son. His son’s future. I mean, it could also be because they don’t have a quarterback near as good as Jordan, but I digress.
Much like Coach Baker would worry about sparing Asher would teach his players, I’m here wondering what the hell he’s going to teach Jordan by changing the drug test results? Yes, he made a mistake that would sit him in the playoffs. But if there’s no punishment — a severe punishment related to football — is Jordan really going to learn anything?

Why Did Spencer’s Father Leave?

I would like to say that it’s safe to assume we’ve moved on from questions regarding whether Billy Baker is Spencer’s father. But there’s always a part of me that’s just waiting for some bombshell to break. So as we neared the end of the midseason finale, I was bracing for some new revelation that might indicate that it might still be on the table.
But instead of reigniting suspicion on the identity of his father, this show introduced a new question: Why forced Spencer’s father leave? Especially when, apparently, he didn’t want to?
Malibu’s coach enlightened Spencer, and us, regarding Billy Baker and the lengths that he’ll go to in order to get what he wants. He told Spencer that his father didn’t just leave on his own. He was incredibly proud of his son, and why would he want to take himself out of his life?

“The Corey I remember wouldn’t leave without a reason…Billy Baker will do whatever it takes to get what he wants.”

So what we’re to suspect here is that Baker is the reason that Spencer’s father left. But why? Did it have to do with Baker’s relationship with Spencer’s mom? Did he want to get back together with her? What did he have to gain from Corey leaving?
But then there’s also a more obvious question: Is this even true or is this the Malibu coach just stirring the pot?
Everything that we’ve seen so far indicates that Baker has wanted what’s best for Spencer and his mom. So if he even did have a part in Spencer’s father leaving, there had to be a good reason behind it. Who should we believe: The man we just met, who just taught his team that cheating by stealing a team’s playbook is alright, or the man that we’ve come to know, who just fixed his son’s positive drug test. I guess the latter?

All American returns with new episodes in January 2018.

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