All American returns from hiatus with probably the best episode of the season yet, an emotional and enlightening hour entitled “Keep Ya Head Up,” where the conflicts on the field and the conflicts off the field are both brought to the forefront and Spencer has to make some decisions – not just for himself, but for the people he loves.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I know, it’s like I basically described every episode of this show ever. Except this time, there’s some actual payoff.
The thing about Spencer is, he moved, he went on the ‘bigger and better things’ but that doesn’t really mean he became a different person, that doesn’t mean you can simply erase the things he went through, the things that made him who he is. And Spencer is not just a good player, but a good man. And the person he is, the person he’s always been, well, that person just can’t walk away from Coop, not now.
Not when she needs him the most.
Especially because Spencer is also consumed by guilt about what happened to Shawn. He feels like he should have been able to stop Shawn from making the decisions he made when his brother got killed, and if he had, then maybe Shawn would be alive now. The thing with this reasoning is that Spencer is, effectively, taking it all on himself, even the decisions other people have made.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Maybe a little much like Coach Baker, perhaps. The one messing with the drug tests so one of his players doesn’t lose a chance at the playoffs, and possibly, a shot at the pros while at it. Not his choice, of course, but in a way, Coach made it his responsibility. He always does.
For him, that’s what being a coach is.
Coach Baker isn’t a role model, though, not really. He’s more a cautionary tale. He carries secrets like that’s a way of life, and he lies, lies, lies, without remorse, and worse of all, he does it with a straight face, and to the people he’s closest to. This all makes him an infinitely more interesting character, but it also makes him anything but the role model Spencer has craved for so long.
The father figure he’s craved for so long.
Because it all goes back to that, it always does, for Spencer, even when the episode isn’t about that. It all goes back to his father, it all goes back to that loss, to the desire to understand why his father left, why they weren’t enough, or more importantly why he wasn’t enough. This is the big mystery of the season, and one I hope this show pays off down the line.
When the detours are as good as this episode, though, I don’t mind having to wait.
The lesson to learn from this hours, from this tragedy, for Spencer, is that as much as there should be a line, we all have a responsibility to look out for ourselves too. That doesn’t mean we have to abandon our people, doesn’t mean to have to forget where we came from, but we can’t make the past define our future. We have to move forward, and carry the people who helped us get there with us.
Spencer is doing just that. He’s trying to fix the world while at it too, but that’s hard, because that isn’t entirely up to us. Coop’s decisions are just that, her decisions. Same goes with Shawn. Spencer doesn’t control that, and no matter how many nice speeches he makes, he never will.
Life is about choices. We all get to decide how we want to live. The rest, well, the rest isn’t up to us, and the sooner we understand that, the better.
Other things to note:
- One of the things this show does well is send the message of team as family, which is essential to a show like this working, and truly, essential to a team working.
- And, as someone who grew up on sports, it makes it all that much harder for me to truly judge Coach for doing what he did.
- The constant lying about other things, like Spencer’s dad? I can sure as hell judge him for that. Not so much for this.
- I like Laila and Spencer together, but boy, we all saw Archer’s reaction coming from a mile away. I can only assume we’re going to pick this mess back up soon, and I am not looking forward to it.
- Spencer’s guilt regarding his success is such a real thing, and it was portrayed beautifully during this episode.
- It’s not that he wants to go back, it’s that he feels so much that it’s hard to take that he’s doing better and so many people he loves aren’t.
- EVEN IF he’s not getting anything handed to him for free, he won it all, fair and square.
- Coop’s journey was also handled beautifully, and my heart broke for how small and yet so sure she looked there, at the end.
- There was something in the way this episode was shot and scored, but boy, I was a ball of emotions all the way through.
- What Shawn did for Spencer, what that meant, that conversation in the back of the church, brought tears to my eyes.
- I’M NOT ASHAMED.
All American airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on the CW.