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All American - Day Ones - Review

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After a three week hiatus, All American returned tonight with another powerful and somber episode, as the characters continued to mourn the loss of Billy Baker. Billy was an integral character and so it is expected that the impact of his death will likely be felt throughout the remainder of the season. Billy wasn’t just loved by his family, he was loved by an entire community, including his football team, where many players saw him as a father figure. Grief is a process and the ripple effects of his death are sure to be felt for a long time to come. The writer’s did a brilliant job of showcasing the many ways that grief can affect people, and they highlighted the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress in an accurate and very real way. They should be applauded for bringing such an important topic to the forefront, especially in light of the tragic way that Billy died. 

It is not surprising that the people most affected by Billy’s death are Spencer and Olivia. Olivia was her dad’s only daughter and they had a special relationship. Spencer is not only grieving, but he is also carrying guilt for not making amends with Billy before his death. An opening flashback of Olivia narrating a moment between her and Layla as kids where she spoke about her dad being her hero, segued into a rock bottom moment in the present, where she almost took a drink. Key word being almost because this time, Olivia was strong enough to ask Jordan and Layla for help instead of taking a drink. She also called her sponsor, mom, Asher and Coop for support, which is a huge step forward. 

Olivia is facing her worst nightmare and perhaps the weakest moment of her life, but the difference between now and when she drank in the past, is that she has become so much stronger and a large part of that is because of her dad’s influence and support. Prior to his death, he shared with Asher that he wished he could have been more present when Olivia was struggling with alcoholism so that he could have stopped her. What he didn’t realize then, was that there was nothing he could have done to change the past, but he was very instrumental in helping her turn her life around and become the strong person she is today. Now that Billy is gone, Olivia is relying on her crew for support, and they step up to the plate in a huge way by taking shifts to be with her and support her in any way she needs. But as her sponsor says, they can’t babysit her forever and she is going to need to find her reason not to drink soon, so that she can support herself in staying sober in the future. 

Denial is a normal stage of grief, but Spencer’s denial is concerning for his friends and family. No matter how much they try to get him to feel his feelings over Billy’s death, he won’t allow himself to go there. Perhaps he is afraid to face it, or maybe he simply isn’t ready. The fact is that the only way to process grief and move forward, is to face it head-on. Even the strongest person can’t overcome grief by simply ignoring it. It will eat away at you until you can’t even recognize yourself anymore. But that is exactly what Spencer has done. He has pushed his grief aside, unwilling to discuss his feelings with anyone, especially Alicia. Spencer throws himself back into training and attempts to intimidate Coach Kenny into figuring out the team’s future and fighting for the head coaching position. Spencer is not himself and his behaviour is becoming out of line and belligerent. It causes Alicia to decide that she needs to give Spencer space, and she tells him that she is taking a step back from their relationship. 

When Asher fails to show up for his shift watching Olivia, Spencer steps up and offers to spend time with her. They drive past a pop-up carnival and the two stop to ride the ferris wheel, after Olivia shares how much her dad used to love carnivals. Spencer’s words that the ferris wheel is the closest to heaven that they are going to get, struck a chord with Olivia. At first, she wasn’t ready to go up but she decided to face her fears and with her hand in Spencer’s, she rode the ferris wheel and made it to the top. Being on the ferris wheel helped Olivia feel closer to her father and brought her to realize that her “why,” is to do something good with her life and pay it forward to those who are just like her but don’t have a village of supporters to turn to. Her father was always looking for ways to support others in need, and so it only makes sense that Olivia channel her grief into continuing her father’s legacy of being a helper for those less fortunate. She starts her new journey by bringing back her Liv the Truth podcast, sharing her feelings of grief and the deafening silence that comes with it. 

Jordan also decided to funnel his grief into honouring his father’s memory. At first, he appeared to be managing his grief well, until he was faced with an unexpected moment that sent him right back into sadness. He goes to the Crenshaw house and finds a package addressed to Billy, something he likely purchased prior to his death. He tells Layla that he doesn’t want to open it because once he does, there will be no new moments with his dad. After opening the box and finding ingredients for jambalaya, Jordan is able to experience another special moment with his dad, by bringing the gang together through cooking, which is something his father loved to do. 

Not surprisingly, Jbari is taking Coach’s passing hard. Survivor’s guilt is real and carrying the weight of keeping up Coach Baker’s legacy is a lot for a young man to handle. Although it isn’t actually said, it is clear that he is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is manifesting in erratic behaviour such as giving up on school and being violent with his peers. He is also experiencing flashbacks of the accident. The thing with PTSD is that it doesn’t matter how many people tell you to not let the past affect your future or to “feel your feelings,” re-living a traumatic event over and over feels like a constant punishment. Jbari needed to release the moment that Billy died saving him, and Laura was there to help him do that. The heart wrenching final moments of Billy’s death were finally shown to viewers in a flashback to the accident. Viewers were taken back to the moment that Billy got Jbari safely off the bus and they heard his final words, which brought back the sheer sadness of the moment he died. He asked Jbari to tell his family he loved him, just before plummeting to his death. It was difficult to watch and definitely difficult for Laura to hear, but it was a necessary step towards her healing. Hopefully after finally getting this moment off his chest, Jbari will be on his way to healing as well. 

It was nice to see Laura able to be there for her kids and admit that she is struggling. She was hit hard by the loss of her soulmate, which is understandable, and her kids were there for her when she needed it. Now it is her turn to be there for Olivia during her moment of weakness. She has always been the voice of reason, and tonight she was back to imparting the wisdom that everyone needed. 

Asher and Jaymee are delving deep into Jaymee’s pregnancy by reading baby books and going to extra ultrasound appointments out of an abundance of caution, since it is considered a high-risk pregnancy due to Jaymee’s Lupus. At her first ultrasound, the couple finds out that Jaymee is 7 weeks along and the baby has a strong heartbeat. Despite being reassured by the doctor, Asher is overly worried about the pregnancy and finding it difficult to enjoy the moment. He admits to Jaymee that the shock of Billy’s death showed him just how fleeting life can be, and because of that, he can’t stop worrying that the baby could be taken away from them just as easily as Billy was. He agrees to reach out for support and talk to someone. Another huge kudos to the writer’s for bringing up another important issue, talk therapy and how useful it can be when people are struggling. 

The final moments of the episode had Spencer tearing down Coach Kenny yet again, telling him that he is done with GAU and entering the portal. Spencer not being willing to feel his grief is affecting his relationships and now it appears that it will be impacting his football career as well. What will it take for Spencer to finally succumb to his feelings and take the necessary steps towards healing? Your turn, All American fans! What were your thoughts on the episode? Will Spencer finally feel his feelings before it’s too late? Share your thoughts below and follow me on Twitter @MiddleofCanada.

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