“i” (Episode 103)
October 24, 2018
Last week, Spencer was trying so hard to save the world, he forgot to save himself first. And as a result, he made a crucial error and cost Beverly Hills an important game. Also, we got more proof that Billy really is Spencer’s biological dad and Coop is rolling hard now with Shawn’s crew – her own way of protecting herself with Spencer gone. Get the full recap here.
On to tonight’s episode, “i,” … after the jump (BEWARE OF SPOILERS)!
Tonight opens early in the morning. Coach Baker is having his team run two a days until they start acting as a team. He’s not feeling yet. In the locker room, Asher is busy running his mouth about how they are all paying the price for Spencer’s mistake, and he’s “not even one of us.” Jordan comes to Spencer’s defense, tacitly, but Spencer walks out of the locker room.This is progress. An episode ago, he would have tried to fight the scrawny white kid with the racist dad.
In Crenshaw, Coop checks in with her mom at the local church. Mama Cooper runs the church choir. Coop wants to know when her parents will be gone for their religious retreat. That Coop is going to have people over seems a foregone conclusion. No boys, Mama Cooper says. Well, at least make sure her parents don’t hear about it.
Up in Beverly Hill,s Spencer walks the halls and gets the distinct impression that people are laughing at him. He grabs a kid’s phone and see that someone has made a meme of him where he is fumbling a “40oz” instead of a football. Its crass and we see right away that it was Asher and his boys that did it. Jordan stops Spencer from busting up his wide receiver’s face. One fight and you’re out, Jordan reminds him. Jordan tries to say that this is just normal hazing after someone makes a bad play – they even do it him, he says. “It’s not personal.” Spencer is incredulous … a meme of him fumbling a 40 seems pretty personal. Asher and his boys, “those are your people,” Spencer says to Jordan as he walks away.
That afternoon (Friday) at practice, Asher takes a blatant cheap shot at Spencer. As Coach Baker is throwing Ash off the field, Jordan (finally) steps up and gets in his best friend’s face. Jordan tells Asher he crossed a line as the boys begin to push each other. Spencer stands off to the side, confused that someone is standing up for him.
Afterwards, Coach rips his team a new asshole for being nothing more than an embarrassment and that, if they haven’t bonded by Monday, they’ll think this week of two a days was a vacation. After he walks off disgusted, Jordan calls a mandatory team workout session – time to get it together. Before he’s fully done, Spencer begins to walk away. Jordan can’t believe he’s not staying around – he fought his best friend for Spencer. Spencer tells him that it’s the weekend and he’s back to Crenshaw to see his family. besides, echoing Asher’s words, Spencer reminds Jordan that Spencer isn’t one of them anyway.
We come back to Olivia and Layla; they’ve been paired to work on a Shakespeare project together for English. Layla is all about making the best of it but Olivia is being as standoff-ish and cold as she can be. Things only get worse when Asher and JJ show to “work” with them. Ugh, this guy is the worst.
Crenshaw. Coop is busting Spencer’s chops about being super sensitive to the jokes and calls him on not being the most inviting teammate ever. Spencer counters by calling Coop out for not telling her parents that she’s gay. Coop’s only response is that how can she not be gay and it’s her parents’ fault if they can’t see that.
“I’m not responsible for their blindness.”
Coop brings it back to Spencer and reiterates that Spencer is giving off a major, “I’m not one of you” vibe with his new team in Beverly Hills; he’s even still wearing his South Crenshaw Football ring. Spencer doesn’t want ot hear it though and goes down on to the field where his old team is practicing. Him and the QB (Spence Moore II) give each other some shit about leaving and Spencer’s replacement. But they’re cool though, Spencer’s mom is throwing a cookout and QB is invited.
Back in Beverly Hills, Olivia and Asher find themselves alone for a minute and Olivia goes at Ash telling him that she already agreed to keep their hook-up a secret from Layla, he doesn’t need to appear when the two women are together. Asher says he’s not trying to cover his own ass but rather, protect the lives of the 3 people he cares about most (which are Layla, Jordan and
Himself Olivia, he says). LIAR!
Crenshaw. Spencer and Coop get back to his house to find Jordan there (and his red convertible). Jordan has already ingratiated himself upon Grace and Dillon but Spencer is all, “what are you doing here man?!?” Jordan came to talk about the team and Spencer tries to shut him down. He’ll play, he’ll practice and he’ll bust his ass on the field, but he doesn’t want to have fake friendships with people that don’t want him around.
Jordan takes offense saying that he welcomed Spencer into his home (well, Jordan, that’s a very favorable retelling of how Spencer came to be in your home). Jordan seizes an opportunity and decides to stay for the James cookout – what better way to get to know Spencer AND Crenshaw? Spencer is not happy about this but it’s already done. Jordan – 1, Spencer -0.
“It’s going to be one long-ass day.”
We come back and the cookout is in full swing. Coop has her girlfriend at the party, Patience (Chelsea Royce Tavares), but Spencer is more concerned with Shawn who he sees is calling Coop. “Not today, man” Coop tells Spencer. On the other side of the yard, Jordan is sitting by himself. Dillon comes over and tells “Beverly Hills” that he’ll talk to him.
At the Baker House, Billy is (overly) excited to see Layla back with Olivia and suggests they watch the movie, Anonymous, as a way to take a break from their English project but also stay on theme. Olivia doesn’t have enough room in her head to roll her eye balls the way she wants.
Back in Crenshaw, Spencer catches Jordan’s eye and calls him over to the cool kids table. Coop gives him some crap, calling him Baby Face (her “DeBarge” comment earlier was one of the funniest things I’ve heard in a long time), but he sticks up for himself correcting that his name is Jordan (Coop appreciates this). Meanwhile, Patience tests Jordan’s Crenshaw bona fides, which are tenuous at best. South Crenshaw’s QB shows up to the party and Spencer is happy to see him. He brought Cam, Spencer’s replacement, and Spencer is not happy to see him. But, he covers his disappointment as quickly as possible.
Back in Beverly Hills, the movie is over and Olivia busts Layla’s balls about crying at every movie. Layla wants to reminisce but she brings up a party from last Fall at Angel’s Point. Olivia throws up a roadblock hard, denying any memory of such a party – she was “high a lot” back then – so drop it, mm kay? Layla is uber-offended and says “this”was a mistake. She gets up to go, she doesn’t want to force anyone to be her in life that doesn’t want to be there. Olivia looks a little confused.
** Can Layla maybe already know about Olivia’s hook up with Asher but wanted to give Olivia a chance to come clean?!? If so, epic fail on Olivia’s part.**
Back in Crenshaw, a classic cookout discussions is happening round the table, every one making their case for best rapper of all time. Jordan lays out a case for Rakim having the best flow of all time. He stuns the group into silence and has immediate street cred with the peeps.
“Look at Carlton dropping knowledge.”
Spencer gives a look to the Crenshaw QB when he says the Carlton line but Jordan is taking it all in stride. Later that night, Jordan’s good luck is continuing as he guesses an answer correctly from Coop. This game seems to be trivia on Blackness in the Hood. Crenshaw QB, who’s name is Chris we finally learn, drops the Carlton name again. The next question is about church and Chris digs Jordan on his church knowledge before the question is even out. Spencer tells him to chill.
The next question is about who black people would take with them in a hypothetical “Blacks-It” (think Brexit but with black people leaving the US). Chris says he takes “Carlton” and Eminem and he leaves “Spencer and Stacey Dash.” Spencer stands up – he’s not about being disrespected in his own house. Chris, predictably, calls him too sensitive, saying Beverly Hills has made him soft. Chris stands up now too. If you’ve got something to say, say it, Spencer tells Chris.
“You ain’t got no business wearing that Crenshaw ring no more. You don’t belong here.”
Chris continues that if Spencer thought he needed to leave to succeed, he should’ve stayed gone. Besides, Chris says, they’ve got Cam now – a definite upgrade. Jordan stands up now and calls BS on that noise, Spencer is the man – Beverly Hills got the upgrade. Chris responds that they can settle it in the playoffs and then zings that he forgot, Beverly Hills never makes the playoffs. Jordan calls his bluff and says they can settle right there and then -give him 45 minutes and the Beverly team will be down, grab your squad and we’ll go. Spencer sweetens the deal that if Chris and his boys win, they can take the Crenshaw ring off Spencer’s finger for good.
We come back and the South Crenshaw field is coming alive with the late night game. Fans are pouring in with their lawn chairs and the field lights come on. Spencer tells Jordan he didn’t need to call them team down, he had it handled. “Too late,” Jordan replies and he’s right, the Beverly team arrives. Even Asher. Asher tells Jordan that just because they’re fighting, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his back. Spencer heads over to Coop and gives her his ring to hold for safe keeping. The game starts and these crazy motherfuckers are playing two hand touch in theory but there is a LOT of tackling going on — no pads. South Crenshaw takes the lead with a touchdown. Grace arrives and Coop can’t find anywhere to hide.
“Did y’all think I wouldn’t notice everyone started disappearing?”
Beverly Hills has the ball. Spencer makes a nice catch but then takes a vicious tackle. He comes up spitting out blood. Grace goes to end it but Coop stops her. She makes the very good point that that these fools either settle it here on the field or out in the street – that that would be worse is understood.
Beverly Hills ties it up and then a montage takes us to a break where South Crenshaw is up 14-7 and in a huddle, Jordan tells Spencer to let someone help out on defense or else they are going to repeat last week’s game. Spencer tell Jordan that it’s not about them, its between Spencer and his old team. He’s got this. Asher gives a meaningful look to Jordan – they both agree that Spencer is being a jackass here.
Chris takes the snap and goes deep to Cam. Spencer, who did his “see the field” slo mo thing gets the read on the play and intercepts the pass. He’s got all of South Crenshaw beat and then Chris tries a flying tackle to take him out. He bounces off of Spencer who rolls into the end zone, tying the game. Which is when security shows up threatening to call the police for being on the field and everyone flees. Everyone, except Chris and Spencer.
Spencer puts out his hand, asking Chris to drop the beef, they’re family. He says it with a sincerely pained look on his face – this rivalry is hurting him. Chris responds by calling him a joke and walking away.
Back in Beverly Hills, Olivia tracks Layla down and apologizes sincerely for being caught up in her own drama and forgetting this is the second anniversary of Layla’s mother’s passing. Layla wipes tears from her own eyes and says she doesn’t need Olivia’s pity. She leaves.
Crenshaw. Coop and Patience walk home and they talk about how Coop has never said the words, “I’m gay” aloud. She tells Patience that she’s never had a need to, she’s not hiding who she is – that’s the second time she’s had to defend herself tonight on this point. She invites Patience to come inside her house and “hang or whatever.” Mmmm hmmm.
On the way back home, Jordan is trying to make Spencer see that Beverly Hills turning out for him is a good thing but Spencer is having a snit. He’s taking his frustrations with Chris and his old team out on Jordan. He blames Jordan’s showing up to the party for ruining everything with his old teammates. Jordan can’t believe it but this conversation needs to get shelved because the two black teenage boys are being pulled over while driving a red convertible.
Jordan asks the officer what he did wrong to warrant the stop; he’s really pressing his point while Spencer is all, “shut up and give him what he wants.” He hands over the paperwork but then questions the officer when he’s asked what the boys are doing in this neighborhood. Spencer is almost whisper pleading for Jordan to shut up but Jordan knows this is wrong and says it. When he mentions his mother the lawyer, the cop asks him to step out of the vehicle.
Jordan gets out but he’s running his mouth the whole time, talking about what his mom is going to do when she gets a hold of these cops. The officer doesn’t want to hear it though and takes Jordan down to the sidewalk, face first. Spencer knows the drill and is keeping his hands high as he’s told to get out of the car. He tries to reiterate that neither of them are resisting but he gets put face down on the side walk too. These cops are too much with their bullshit. Spencer pleads for Jordan to keep eye contact with him.
“Just keep looking at me, aight. Just keep looking at me.”
When we come back, the Baker family is returning home. Laura is already on the phone threatening a lawsuit against the police and Jordan is angry. He yells at his father for not going off on the cop, for not having Jordan’s back.
“I had your back. I got you home.”
Taye Diggs delivers this line to his son with barely restrained emotion, he grab for Jordan’s head, realizing Jordan has no idea how close that night came to a horrifically bad end. Jordan is pissed off, he did what he was taught to do – stand up for himself and he can’t reconcile how this happened. He heads to his room and Olivia follows him. Alone, Spencer asks Billy why he’s never taught Jordan how to deal with the “po-lice.” Spencer makes it clear that by the time he was 8 years old, Grace had him trained on the rules: speak slow, do as they ask, hands high, never run. He says he’s learned that cops like the ones tonight see Spencer’s blackness as a weapon.
Billy gives Spencer the honest answer that he thought he had bought Jordan more time to be protected by being a black man in America. Spencer makes clear what Billy already knows, that you can’t be sheltered from that truth.
Crenshaw. Patience compliments Coop’s keyboard skills and asks why she’s wasting time in Crenshaw with talent like hers. Coops got no confidence here, though. Patience kisses her. Cut to the next morning and the ladies wake up, both on the floor but innocently. They slept head to foot. Coop’s mom walks in and plays it cool. There is a little look to Coop as Mama Cooper tells Tamia to be down for breakfast in 10 minutes and she takes her leave. The girls laugh.
Morning in Beverly Hills has the Eagles assembling on the field. Jordan called them down on Spencer’s request. To Jordan, Spencer says that it took being face down on the concrete to realize they’re not all that different. To his team, he thanks them all for showing up, not only this morning but last night. He apologizes for pushing them all away and for assuming they weren’t about being a family like he had with South Crenshaw.
“Crenshaw will always be a part of who I am, but being a Beverly Eagle, that’s a part of who I’m becoming.”
He finishes by apologizing for losing last week’s game but Jordan stops him. He didn’t lose the game alone. Members of the team name mistakes they made during the game. Jordan’s mentions his interception, JJ a missed tackle, and so on they go. Asher steps forward and says that “clouded judgement” and “unnecessary roughness” is what kept him from playing last week.
“I lost us the game before you even stepped on the field.”
Spencer seemingly accepts Asher’s apology and the team comes together. Jordan looks up and sees his father watching approvingly from the side.
Crenshaw. Mama Cooper tells Coop that she doesn’t want Coop hanging around Patience anymore. There are rumblings in the church that she’s “trouble.” Coop understands that “trouble” is code for “gay” in this conversation and tells her mom that she’s gay, does that make her trouble? You’re not gay, Mama Cooper tells Coop, you’re confused. Coop is all, “nope, I’m very gay.” Mama Cooper says that they won’t condone that lifestyle so either don’t be gay or get out. Coop says that she guesses she doesn’t live there anymore and backs out of the kitchen. She’s almost daring her mother to call her bluff. Mama Cooper lets her go.
South Crenshaw High School. Spencer is waiting for Chris as comes out of school. He tells him that Cam telegraphs where is going with his eyes and if Chris can fix that, South Crenshaw will fly to the playoffs. As Spencer makes to leave, Chris asks why he’s helping them? Spencer was hoping he’d ask this. Spencer tells Chris that no matter what Chris says, Crenshaw is his community, his home, it’s who he is. And family helps family. Also, he wants to play the best version of South Crenshaw when the inevitably meet in the playoffs.
Back in Beverly Hills, Billy is talking to Jordan in the locker room. He apologizes for not talking to his son earlier about the realities of dealing with the police. Jordan realizes that if he “looked like Spencer,” Billy would have had this conversation earlier. Billy doesn’t deny this is true. Jordan also wants to know why his dad has never taken him to Crenshaw, to where he grew up given how close it is? Jordan thinks the reason is that his father is ashamed of Jordan but Billy tells him that’s not it. Billy tells Jordan he doesn’t go to Crenshaw because of his own past. But, he says, Jordan is right, he should know all parts of who he is and where he comes from.
That night, Layla arrives at the bluff where she remembers her mom’s passing and Olivia is there waiting for her. They sit together and cry.
In Crenshaw, Spencer takes his ring off and puts it in a drawer. Downstairs, Coop shows up, she needs a place to stay.
“I didn’t know where else to go?”
Grace hugs Coop as she cries on Grace’s shoulder.
The Barbershop. Billy has Jordan in a good old fashioned barbershop, getting his hair cut and listening to the old men talk about his father. They have a section devoted to Billy’s career, including the article from when he got drafted into the NFL. “He was like the Tasmanian Devil.” The barber continues telling stories about Billy and mentions to Jordan that it wasn’t until Billy started dating Grace James, Grace Harper back then, that Billy settled down. He shows Jordan a photo album he has with tons of picture of young Billy and Grace arm in arm. The barber says he was sure they would get married but life is funny. Take, how weird is it that Spencer has come to end up living with Billy and his family now, huh? Funny. Jordan doesn’t seem to think it’s super funny. In fact, the episode ends with Jordan looking pretty worried at what this might all mean.
Issues of police brutality and the sense of what it means to be a young black men growing up in America is always a delicate dance. If you go too far one way, you’re told you’re painting with a biased brush against all cops. Don’t go far enough and you’re told that you’re doing a disservice not depicting what the struggle is really like. I praise All American for taking the route it did; telling the story from Jordan’s perspective was pure genius. A privileged kid from Beverly Hills, much lighter skin than Spencer, is a “white kid” for all intents and purposes for people like Spencer and even more so, his old Crenshaw teammates. Chris’s “Carlton” comment was a veiled version of calling someone an Uncle Tom, questioning Jordan’s blackness. But then, to have the encounter with the police that he did, he is forcefully reminded, maybe for the first time in his life, that he is in fact black – at least in the eyes of certain cops.
But Jordan, never having had to deal with a problem in his life where his skin color was an issue, deals with it the way a kid who knows what he is entitled to would deal with it. “This is wrong, what you’re doing to me is wrong.” Jordan doesn’t realize that, in this moment, right and wrong having nothing to do with what’s happening. Spencer understands because he was raised to always be aware but Jordan is fighting the wrong battle here – he doesn’t understand the real struggle taking place.
All American does an excellent job of framing the race issue because by making Jordan and Spencer go through it, they get to highlight the important lesson that this can happen to anyone of a certain skin color, not just hood kids but even more importantly, they make a point to say it’s not all cops – that would be a hopeless situation – but rather, certain cops that they always need to be on the lookout for.
The idea of blackness, of being from Crenshaw, is very much at work tonight in Spencer’s attempt to hold on to his old teammates at South Crenshaw while continuously trying to fight joining a new family in Beverly Hills. Chris lets Spencer know in no uncertain terms that he no longer belongs on this team but that’s a metaphor for Crenshaw as a whole. Chris is calling Spencer out for losing his blackness. They’re even playing a game about what it means to be black at the cookout. Spencer refuses, though, to accept this banishment. Even after he embraces his new team at the end of the episode, he makes a point of telling Chris that Crenshaw is who he is, always.
This was a critical episode in Spencer’s character development because, for the first time in this show, we see Spencer make proactive steps to reconcile and accept his new life while holding on to his old one. If he is ever going to move forward and grab his shot at Beverly Hills, he needed to get past this hurdle. The idea of “can you ever go home again” was really tested tonight.
The other issue of identity tonight was centered on Coop’s storyline. To Spencer and then later, to Patience, Coop makes a point of saying she doesn’t feel a need to say she’s gay out loud. And she’s absolutely correct that she’s not hiding who she is nor is she ashamed of it. But, BUT, I think she knew how her parents would react and by not saying it out loud, she never had to confront that possible issue. She could assume her religious parents were cool with her (obviously) being gay if she never actually brought it up to them. Mama Cooper forces the issue at the end of the episode by giving Coop an ultimatum surrounding Patience and Coop’s lifestyle choice which, in 2018, we should understand isn’t a lifestyle choice at all.
Coop isn’t about to start lying to herself or anyone else about who she is but now that she’s encountered the fear she’s always secretly worried about, she has to make a hard choice. She chooses Patience, she chooses herself and leaves the house. But, her backing out of the kitchen – that’s the most heart breaking scene in the episode because she desperately wanted Mama Cooper to call her back, to stop her from leaving.
That’s why she’s so heartbroken in Grace’s arms at the end of the episode, not because she’s ashamed of being gay, but because she’s (at least temporarily) lost her mother.
Clean up items, Olivia and Layla – I misread why Layla was trying to be friends again. Which leaves us with Olivia’s still lying to Layla about the Asher hook up. To be continued on that one. And Jordan knows about Billy and Grace now; Billy’s secret is going to begin to unravel … quickly.
Join me in two weeks when All American is back with a new episode.