'All American' season 2 episode 1 review: Spencer James comes back to Baker House in emotionally-charged premiere

Titled 'Hustle and Motivate', the first episode of the new season sheds light on another aspect of NFL Superbowl champion Spencer Paysinger's real-life story.


                            'All American' season 2 episode 1 review: Spencer James comes back to Baker House in emotionally-charged premiere

The review contains spoilers from 'All American' Season 2 Episode 1 — 'Hustle & Motivate'.

At times, life can leave you at a crossroads where you have to choose which path to tread. Spencer James (Daniel Ezra) is in a similar situation after winning the state championship. The second season dives right into the difficult decision that could make or break his life. Titled "Hustle and Motivate", the premiere episode sheds light on another aspect of NFL Superbowl champion Spencer Paysinger's real-life story.

The 42-minute episode begins with a wall spray-painted with a portrait of Nipsey Hussle that reads: "My thing is that I don't give no person that much power over my path that I'm walking. Not one person can make or break what I'm doing, except me or God." Spencer and his best friend Coop (Bre-Z) look at it and share a deep conversation about their life dreams. 

On the home front, Dillon (Jalyn Hall) and his father Corey James (Chad L. Coleman) share an endearing moment fighting over whether to put chips on their sandwiches. Grace (Karimah Westbrook) enters the room and smiles at them. Soon, Grace and Corey have a tough conversation regarding their family. Corey is adamant about finding out who's Dillon's father. When he quizzes Grace, she tells him that she isn't avoiding him but the two are interrupted by Spencer.

A still from the first episode titled 'Hussle & Motivate' from 'All American'. (The CW)

With adrenaline-pumping rap songs as the background score, the series swings between emotional notes and high-school drama. Back at Beverly Hills, he is the hot favorite among girls who surround him for a selfie at a beach party after the big win. "Well, hello there, Mister Popular," his girlfriend Layla (Greta Onieogou) calls him as they share a loving kiss. 

There is a new twist. Spencer realizes that Coach Billy Baker (Taye Diggs) is "quitting" from his position and he expresses his disappointment about the fact that Baker didn't have the balls to "tell him on his face" or give him a "heads up". "I would never do that to you," he tells him and confesses how he is torn between going back to South Crenshaw to play for his dad and staying put. When Baker asks him what he would do, he replies, "Why do you care? You are no longer the Coach of Beverly Hills."

Meanwhile, Grace and Corey finally find some alone time to talk things through. When Corey insists on getting an answer, she says, "The truth is I don't know. At first, I was too scared to even ask the question but you left anyway." When he tries to clear the air, Grace snaps back, "You punish yourself by leaving the boys for eight years. So you don't get to walk in here and question who is the father. They are mine." The powerful performance of Karimah Westbrook speaks volumes. She is a delight to watch!

A still featuring Karimah Westbrook as Grace James from 'All American'. (The CW)

Back at Beverly Hills, Billy, Laura (Monét Mazur), Jordan (Michael Evans Behling) and Olivia (Samantha Logan) are struggling to adapt to the new normal of their broken home. Spencer gets to know that the college got a tip-off that he isn't staying with the Bakers and they might come for a spontaneous check-up the next day. With just one day in hand, Spencer has to make the decision quickly. "What am I supposed to do. Beg Baker to take me back?" he tells his mother in a heart-to-heart conversation. She consoles him by saying, "You don't ever have to beg anyone for anything. You are a king. Remember that."

In the next scene, Olivia confesses to her dad that she took the letter in a hope to give him time to come to his senses. "Everyone is giving up on this family and I refuse to do that. But if this is how you behave, maybe we are better off without you," she strongly tells him.

The next morning, Grace comes to talk to Laura. Her heartwarming confession is the soul of the episode. "For weeks I have been trying to figure out how to say what needs to be said... It doesn't matter that I didn't know you at the time. What matters is I knew Billy was married and at that moment I should have respected that and walked away," she tells her, adding she is not there for forgiveness but to accept the blame and show that she means it.

A still from 'All American'. (The CW)

Soon after, Mrs Baker visits Spencer and tells him: "I realized today that hiding from my pain doesn't make it go away. Whatever is going on between me and Billy and your Mom has nothing to do with you. The one thing we can all go on is how much we love you." It is clear from this scene that she has forgiven Grace when she repeats her words: "Sometimes it is important to say what you want to say face to face so that the person can see that you mean it." She adds, "Whenever you are ready, you are welcome to come back to my house." 

Meanwhile, Grace tells her husband that she will get the paternity test done as "everybody deserves the truth." But by then, Corey has had a change of heart. "Blood or no blood, I love Dillon as my son," he tells her, adding, "It's time we stop making kids pay for adults' mistakes."

Spencer comes back to the Baker House and Olivia jumps with joy. She gives him a big hug and they are a happy family again. In the last scene, Spencer is still in two minds as he texts his dad: "Need more time with my decision. Hope you understand." The episode is a sentimental roller coaster that moves at a good pace to keep you intrigued and touches your heartstrings. However, the genuine performances of Karimah, Daniel, Chad and Taye are the ones that will stay with you after the episode plays out.

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