TV Recap: All American – Boys and Their Fathers …

All American
“99 Problems” (Episode 102)
October 17, 2018

Last week, we met Spencer James and learned that he’s kind of a football God, good enough to be recruited to come play ball in Beverly Hills (which may or may not be really against the rules).  His whole story is recapped here!

Now, on to the next chapter of Spencer’s story … BEWARE OF SPOILERS!

We open on Lil’ Spencer James taking it to the house on a Pop Warner Field. He comes off the field and his Mama is there and so proud of him. But all Spencer wants to know is if his dad showed up like he promised. Nopers, your father is coming back.  Lil’ Spencer throws down his helmet and takes off running. Running. Running.

Right into the present where the entirety of Beverly Hills High School is allegedly at the beach on a Tuesday afternoon.  He catches a long pass from Jordan before going down to sit with Leila. These two continue to flirty flirt while Asher gets more and more agitated about Spencer needing “to go.” Jordan explains to him that they tipped off Chatsworth about the transfer and nothing happened. Well, except that Spencer moved in to Jordan’s house. Asher isn’t satisfied.

“Face it Ash, he’s here to stay.”

Back to the cutie couple. Spencer is getting ready to go and Leila tries to lure him to stay. The promise of JJ  getting out his guitar doesn’t sell it though, Spencer has business to attend to. Mysterious!

Back in Crenshaw, Spencer’s business is helping Dillon with his math homework. Grace comes in and chastises him for being there again. Apparently, Spencer is making a habit of coming to Crenshaw every night and she’s all, sweetie, we miss and love you but keep your ass in Beverly Hill during the week.

“You’re gonna blow your shot, baby.”

Outside, Spencer sees Shawn dropping off Coop and he loses his shit. he can’t understand how Coop is “rolling with gang bangers” now and Coop assures him that she’s got it handled.  Seems like Shawn has taken to keeping an eye on all of Spencer’s business (the threat here to his family is implied) while he’s away and Spencer warns him to stay.away. Shawn rolls off and we hit the Title Card.

The next morning, after a terribly predictable but no less enjoyable “Olivia walks in on Spencer as he’s getting out of the shower” debacle, Spencer comes down to a lavish breakfast spread (they’re making omelets) and he’s highly amused that people live this way.  He hears Billy and Jordan talking about Hawthorne, the team they’re playing this week, and Spencer chimes in on strategy. he’s been watching game film late at night.  Spencer and Billy hit on the same play ides first and its adorable … except to Jordan who is watching on, completely cut out of the conversation, like “what the fuck is even happening right now in my own house.”

Olivia comes down looking dazed and extremely embarrassed. Spencer laughs at her too. He’s living his best life right now.

Crenshaw. Coop walks by Shawn and his blood boys playing hoops. She tries to keep her head down but Shawn is persistent.  She tells Shawn that Spencer was right, the gang banging aspect of their friendship isn’t working for her. Shawn warns Coop that she needs his protection and she tells him, she doesn’t need anything from him.

“You’ll come around.”

Beverly Hills. Practice time and Asher can’t wait to square off against Spencer. Except. on their very first play, Spencer intercepts a pass from him and Ash is cashed to the ground. He’s grabbing his ankle and as Spencer looks back at his fallen teammate, he doesn’t seem particularly beat up about it.

Photo: Eddy Chen/The CW

In the locker room, we learn it’s only a sprain but Asher is definitely out for this week. Jordan tells his father they need to rotate their receivers but Spencer has another idea – put him in. He tells Coach Baker he can play offense and defense but Jordan isn’t about that idea, asking him what happens when he gets exhausted. Billy asks for a moment alone with his new son and Jordan leaves.

Alone, Jordan tells Spencer that he sees him burning the candle at both ends off the field, with the going home to Crenshaw every night. He says he can’t let Spencer burn it from both ends on the field too. Coach Baker tells Spencer that he’s trying to protect him.

“I didn’t come here to be protected.  I came here to win, and the way I see it, I ain’t the only one with it all on the line here.”

Spencer isn’t wrong. And Coach Baker knows it as well.  These two need a win more than anyone’s ever it needed it before.


We come back to the fabulous Baker clan dressed to the nines and looking to get to the Boosters Party.  Except Spencer, he’s dressed up for him but … it falls short of the ideal dress code. Suits and ties are required tonight. Laura politely tells him that these things are … “Stupid and pretentious” Olivia chimes in and Billy tells him to throw on a blazer. The adult Bakers, not sensing the tone coming from Spencer, need Spencer to spell it out for them that he does not own a blazer.  Laura and Billy try to cover saying that actually, he’s fine and to hell with the Boosters but the damage is done. You can see the self consciousness weighing Spencer down like an anchor. Olivia comes to his rescue, tells the rest of her family to go on and she gets Spencer all set up.

**Okay, okay, wait. Billy Baker is not dummy, nor is his high powered attorney wife. They knew this function was coming up and it didn’t occur to them that the brand new ward from Crenshaw may not have Booster Club party-appropriate clothing?!? I call bullshit on that. But oh boy, that line about being a perfect match to Billy … together with last week’s closing episode. Where are we going with this storyline?  I’m so excited!**

We quick cut to Olivia doing some on the fly tailoring (presumably with Billy’s clothes) and she says what we’re all thinking …

“Well, don’t you clean up nice.”

Spencer compliments her skills, not at pants mending but at “making people feel better.” She tells him this suit belongs not to Jordan but to her father, “looks like you two are a perfect match.”

Spencer asks about this Booster Party and why it’s a thing. Olivia explains that it’s a chance for old rich people to celebrate a team they had nothing to do with. And, with the team coming off another losing season, her father is on the hot seat. Enter the reason for Spencer being so important. Olivia tells Spencer that after Billy’s football career was done, he was in a bad way, “distant, no real purpose.” All that changed when he got the coaching job.

“And then the light came back in his eyes.”

Photo: Jesse Giddings/The CW

Party Time!  We’re at the grandiose Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles and Olivia reminds Spencer nothing is done small here. The two walk in arm and arm but Leila quickly comes over to snag him. The Boosters are already lining up to me him.  Leila has the grace to fake mild awkwardness at intruding on Olivia and Spencer’s moment but Spencer is a guy and doesn’t realize the tension at work here over him. For her part, Olivia is rolling her eyes hard.  Girlfriend understands she’s playing second fiddle to Leila for Spencer’s affections — not that she’s happy about it.

Photo: Jesse Giddings/The CW

Quick montage of Billy and Spencer having to listen to game advice from the Boosters. Asher’s father, Harold Adams (guest star, Casper Van Dien), asks Spencer what they’re feeding “the Boys” from Crenshaw to make them all run so fast. Leila swoops in to take Spencer out of the situation before he can respond to the racist undertones of Harold’s question and takes him outside. (I should note that Harold spotted Spencer earlier, as soon as he walked in the party, in fact. Harold asked his son if that  was the one that knocked him out of last week’s game.)

“So what’s your story, anyway?”

Outside in the garden, Spencer would like to know about the clear beef between Leila and Olivia – I guess he was paying attention a little bit, huh? She calls him on his bluntness, reminding him of previously calling her a lonely rich girl. She admits he was kind of right, her father is always traveling, always with the big plans. Spencer grouses that at least she knows where her father is – he tells her about his dad taking off a few years ago.

Leila begins telling her story about how she’s not really sure why her parents had a kid. Two years ago, while on a ski vacation in Aspen (Spencer interrupts with an ill advised “bougie life” joke), Leila tells Spencer, her mom was killed in a car accident going to the airport. Spencer apologizes, he just assumed she had it made.

“You can come from anywhere and have a sad story, Spencer.”

He goes to kiss her but she reminds him they should go back to the party.

Photo: Jesse Giddings/The CW

Inside, Harold corners Billy at the bar. Billy says he’s sorry they are missing Ash at the game this weekend, injuries suck amiright? Harold is condescendingly confused about something though.  He doesn’t understand how Billy let that “South Crenshaw thug” rough up Asher, the best receiver Billy’s got, at practice.?!? “Whoa,” is Billy’s immediate response and it’s perfect.  He advises Harold to “mind himself” before starting to walk away.  Harold takes a parting shot, telling Billy that he had high hopes when they hired Coach Baker, even with his “bust” of a pro career, but that after two losing seasons, “I guess you’re just getting comfortable … with losing.”

As Harold’s voice is starting to get louder, the room is starting to pay attention and Asher jumps in, apologizing to Coach.  Harold tells Asher that it’s Billy’s fault that Asher got hurt. Billy and his son’s. “What are you talking about,” Billy asks?

Photo: Jesse Giddings/The CW

“I’m talking about how Jordan was behind that contested permit, and now your Crenshaw boy is bringing his anger about the situation on our field, injuring my son!”

Harold realizes he’s talking to the whole room now and he repeats the tidbit about Jordan tipping off Chatsworth. Spencer hears this time and asks Jordan if this is serious, if he’s really the reason “I can’t go home at night.”

“That boy doesn’t belong here and neither do you.”

Photo: Jesse Giddings/The CW

Spencer has had enough with the “boy” talk and tarts to get in Harold’s face. Billy jumps in and pulls him away, reminding him that him getting into a fight is exactly what “they” want. Alone, Spencer tells Billy he’s done walking away and tells Bill that they two of them should “show these Beverly Hills boys what we’re made of.”  He begs Billy to let him play both ways at the Hawthorne game. Billy agrees but Spencer has to know the playbook, cold. Spencer tells him he will and Billy tells him to get out of there.  Everyone is looking around and it’s awkward as fuck. Worst.Boosters.Party.Ever!


Baker House. We come back to Jordan trying to get up to his room but Billy isn’t having it. In the kitchen, Billy wants some answers from Jordan on why he’d try to take something away from someone with so little when he has so much. Laura chimes in that she’s sure that’s not what Jordan was trying to do … such a mom.  Jordan is straight with his dad.  When he scored the winning touchdown, he was so happy and thought he’d finally made his dad proud. Only to turn around and find Billy with Spencer, praising him and call him son.

**Fair, Jordan, fair. Not that it excuses tattling to Chatsworth.**

Billy asks Jordan why he didn’t say anything to him about it and Jordan scoffs. Billy moved Spencer into their house without talking about it with anyone, why would his feelings matter? Billy looks taken back by this as if he hadn’t realized beforehand that he acted unilaterally and that Jordan might have a legitimate reason here, but he’s still disappointed in Jordan.

“What new, dad?”

Laura starts with her mom mewling but Jordan tells her, all of them, that he always feels like a disappointment to Billy. Jordan throws out the line he overheard Billy say to the Boosters on the phone, about how no one on the team has half of Spencer’s potential. Jordan leaves.

“Is all this about football?”

Billy is having a “it’s hard being a dad” moment and Olivia is shocked at her father’s obtuseness. She tells him that Jordan is desperate for Billy’s approval, why do you think he ever picked up a football to begin with?!? And B T Dubs, Olivia continues, not to pile on but I’m just out of motherfucking rehab and you’re singly focused on trying to save … Spencer?!? She tells him that she’s really happy he’s helping Spencer and that it’s the right thing to do, just …

“There are other people in this house that need you, too, dad.”

She goes to bed and Billy is left alone with Laura who thankfully does not pile on here.

Crenshaw.   Spencer sits down with the playbook as Dillon picks up a new comic book. Spencer asks if he went to the comic book store and Dillon tells him that Spencer’s “friend” Shawn hooked him, he seems pretty cool that Shawn. Spencer flips out, ripping the comic out of Dillon’s hands, forbidding him from ever seeing Shawn or talking about him. “He’s not my friend and he’s not cool, aight.” Dillon says he understands but he’s really not happy about it. Spencer apologizes for losing his cool and gets up to leave. He’s going to make sure Shawn leaves Dillon alone for good.


At the playground, which seems to be something of Shawn’s office, I guess, Spencer comes in full charge, telling Spencer to stay away from Dillon. And to boot, Shawn, you’re “the worst part of what this community is.” Shawn takes offense to this and tells Spencer to watch himself. Spencer doesn’t back down though and tells Shawn he’s the same “piece of nothing that he was in grade school.”

“You’ll always be nothing.”

Shawn laughs before sucker punching Spencer in the gut. As he stands up, one of Shawn’s boys pulls on a gun on him. Coop comes running up, Dillon called her cause he was worried, and throws herself in between Spencer and the gang.  Coop tells Spencer to shut up and turns to Shawn. She tells Shawn they’re all cool and she’ll meet him tonight like her wanted.  It’s not lost on Shawn that the tables have flipped and Coop is protecting Spencer now.  The gang rolls out.

Alone, Coop tells Spencer that she’s been rolling with Shawn since Spencer left, she didn’t tell him because she doesn’t want him coming down to Crenshaw and getting beat up and guns put in his face. Coop tells Spencer that he protected her for a long time but now its her time to protect him. Just like he did when Coach Baker used this protection line earlier, Spencer freaks out that he doesn’t want Coop’s protection, anyone’s protection to be honest, but, Coop tells him, clearly he needs it to avoid things like this.

“You cannot save the world, Spencer. You go to save yourself. Cause out here, it’s every man for himself.”


Game Time. Beverly Hills is the home team for the big game against Hawthorne.  Hawthorne has the ball. Before the snap, the motion temporarily slows down and we see Spencer looking at the field. He calls an audible and the defense switches their formation. Whatever he saw was the right call and Spencer makes an impressive play on defense.

“This kid’s a one man wrecking ball.”

The team switches to offense and Spencer stays on the field. His ribs are sore from the night before and you can see it’s bothering him. Things aren’t going great on offense though with Spencer running a wrong route and missing Jordan’s pass by a mile. The announcer makes the comment that playing both ways may be taking its toll on Spencer.

Photo: Eddy Chen/The CW

We see Hawthorne kick a field goal and go up by three.  Half Time.

Crenshaw. We pop back into Crenshaw and see Coop decked out Shawn’s gang red colors. Bloods? Or just the same fashion sense? He has her make a drop at Apartment 12. He can’t be caught walking around wherever they are and stop asking questions, we had a deal Coop. She takes the bag to Apartment 12 where and old woman answers. She takes the bag and we learn its an egg salad sandwich inside. The old woman tells Coop that Shawn is such a good boy.  Back in the car Coop is confused as Shawn his boys laugh.  He explains that the woman is the grandmother of one of their gang. Said gang member is currently in jail and they take care of their own. Shawn reminds Coop that they’re not like Spencer, they don’t have a way out.

Back to the game. We Spencer still limping and Jordan tries to tell his father that Spencer is hurt, not just winded.  Billy dismisses his son and tells him to worry about his job.  Jordan calls the play and snaps the ball but Spencer doesn’t run the right play and gets caught standing there. Jordan pitches him the ball before being sacked and Spencer gets laid out, fumbling the ball and allowing Hawthorne to score, taking the lead.

Photo: Eddy Chen/The CW

With his team on the sideline, Billy calls the last play they’ll have time to run.  He pulls Spencer off the field and puts in a kid named Butler. Billy tells Spencer to go see the trainer and then walks away from his star player. Spencer tries to argue but JJ puts a hand on him and he stands down.  The balls snaps and Butler takes off, down the sideline and no one is around him. The pass comes in and … Butler just misses catching the pass. It’s a shame because it would have been a sure fire touchdown. Hawthorne wins and “Beverly loses another close one.” The team walks off the field and Spencer realizes he’s let everyone down, to say nothing of himself. Good luck getting him to admit that, though.


Spencer hangs around in the locker room until it’s just him and Coach Baker. He goes after coach hard for pulling him, even after being forced to admit that he’s hurt. Spencer tells him that the loss is on Coach because he pulled Spencer and Spencer would have definitely caught that pass. Maybe, Billy says but you could have really hurt yourself in the process.  Also, every loss is on me, Spencer, Coach Baker says. His jog requirement consists entirely of “win football games.” He tells Spencer that he learned tonight he cares more about Spencer than he does about winning.

“One play. Four seconds. You leave me in and we’re celebrating right now.”

Spencer leaves and Baker closes his eyes for some deep meditative breaths.

The next morning, Spencer wakes up in Crenshaw and as he goes to grab the OJ, Dillon stops him.

“Just make sure to be careful. Don’t want you fumbling the juice.”

He sits down and gives his wiseass brother a new comic. He apologizes again for flipping out and then he apologizes to Dillon and his mom for losing the game. Grace tells him that he’s more than what he is on the football field, win or lose. And, she appreciates he’s been trying to take care of all of them since dad left but he can’t do everything on his own. That’s twice in as many days now that an important woman in his life has told him that he can’t be Superman. Maybe he’ll start to listen.

In Beverly Hills, Olivia gets in Asher’s car.  He apologizes for not really talking to her since she got back from rehab.  He tells her that with Spencer in the picture now and Leila maybe on her way out, he wants to make sure that they are “on the same page.” Olivia tells Asher that there is no “you and I” and that she made a drug-induced screw up with him and that because of it, Olivia lost her best friend in Leila. And now, Olivia has to live with that for the rest of her life. Olivia is very over Asher and everything to do with him. She gets out of his commercials.

Huh, I didn’t see that coming as the source of the ladies’ disagreement.


When we come back, Olivia enters her house to her family waiting for her.

“Is this another intervention?”

Billy sits his kids down and apologizes. He tells them he did bring Spencer here for him (and for Spencer, he adds) but that if they’re not okay with it, then he’ll change the situation. He needs them all to be cool as a family, above all else – job or no job. Jordan confirms that if they said “no,” Spencer will be gone … just like that.

In Crenshaw, Spencer finds Coop on the swings. They reminisce a bit and then Spencer admits that he’s worried about Coop. Coop tells him, again, that he doesn’t need to be, that he needs to worry about himself. Coop’s got it handled, but Spencer’s got to trust her.

That night, Spencer comes into the Baker house as they are about to sit down for Billy’s famous ribs. Despite what Olivia says, its more than just two sauces mixed together.  Spencer asks if, “you’re sure.” And Billy tells him “there is plenty for everybody.”

Spencer goes to clarify what he was really asking but Billy stops him. He knows what he meant; the family discussed it and “there’s plenty for everybody.” Jordan apologizes to Spencer about the permit thing, rehashing about being mad at his dad. The boys patch up their differences (for now) and then do a secret handshake thing on it, so you know it’s real. The Bakers Plus One sit for dinner.

We hold on Billy’s face and we go to the same Pop Warner flashback that opened the episode. The flashback goes further though. When Lil’ Spencer runs off, Grace turns around and we see Billy way in the background. Watching. Watching Spencer. Watching Grace. Taking it all in.

We come back to the present and as the family eats and laughs, we hold on Billy who is smiling at his family … his whole family(?!?) united under one roof.

And scene.


Lots of things going on in this second episode. First off, let’s deal with the elephant in the room – it seems more and more likely that Billy is Spencer’s biological father. We got that cliffhanger last week and then tonight, the episode ends with the reveal that Coach Baker was watching Spencer in the background for a long time. If this ends up being the case, I think we also maybe see the explanation brewing for why Grace’s husband left her and the boys for the greener pastures of Nevada. Finding out your son isn’t really your son maybe an insult too far for most people.

There was a recurring theme tonight of the words, “boy” and “son.” Certainly, Asher’s father was using boy in the pejorative sense that privileged white racists have used for generations but I was really more taken back at Harold’s several uses of “son” and “your Crenshaw boy.” Replay that bar scene altercation and it really begins when Harold blame’s Billy’s boy for Ash being hurt. Billy turns around all, “the fuck you say” but my initial read was he was thinking of Spencer in this moment – not Jordan. Not until Harold clarified he was speaking about Jordan and the Chatsworth tip. Billy is worried his biological secret may be out in the world.

At home, Jordan is clearly feeling the brotherly competition with Spencer for Billy’s fatherly affections. After he’s exposed as the one who tipped of Chatsworth about the permit, he straight out tells his dad that he was jealous of the love Spencer was getting and always feeling like a disappointment to his father, to  boot. That’s a lot of weight for a son to carry around on their shoulders.

And of course Spencer, as everyone has pointed out to him, is almost singularly motivated by trying to be a better man than  his absentee father ever was.

Another recurring theme tonight was Spencer not being able to save the world and that he has to take care of himself first before he can take care of anyone else. His mother tells him this when she busts him for coming home to Crenshaw every night and Coop repeats the same verse to him when he almost gets shot by Shawn’s gang. Interesting that it’s the women in Spencer’s life giving him this message – the question is, how long until Spencer listens and learns.

And the last Spencer theme tonight: protection. Twice he’s told that someone is looking to protect him and he recoils from the thought. As part of his “save everyone” complex and his “be better than his father” issues, Spencer can’t fathom a world where people are trying to protect him and yet, that’s exactly what Coach Baker AND Coop are doing in this episode. And he doesn’t like it but he’s going to have to learn to live with it if he’s not going to waste his shot.

Last thing I want to touch on, that Olivia reveal that she fucked around with Asher before rehab and that it cost her a best friend in Leila.  They’ve done a quick 180 on Leila from the first half of the Pilot. Initially, it seemed like it would be easy to root against Leila and be pro-Olivia, no questions asked.But now they’re positioning her not only as sympathetic with the loss of her mom and absentee dad of her own but also having been betrayed by her bestie. It’s going to be interesting to watch the love triangle between the Ladies and Spencer and see what kind of wrench Asher will try and throw in to it.

I continue to enjoy the ride All American is providing; just us next week for another installment!

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