Spencer has been struggling with his grief since Billy passed away. After losing his father and other male companions leaving or dying, such as Shawn and Darnell, Spencer refuses to allow himself to feel that pain again.
He pushes everyone away, desiring to place as much separation between Billy’s passing and himself as possible, which includes pushing away a new brother figure, Coach Kenny, and transferring to a new football program.
But Spencer’s refusal to grieve healthily has grown into a toxic personality. He is quick to anger, even to the point where Dillon is scared to be alone with him, and Coop worries Dillon would not be safe if left with Spencer. Dillon’s fear of him is Spencer’s breaking point. So when even his little brother has determined he does not want to be around Spencer, he knows it is time to accept help.
Throughout “United In Grief,” Spencer discusses his past with his therapist Doctor Spears, who helps Spencer work through his connection to the feeling of loss and how it connects to his father leaving at such a young age.
Doctor Spears also helps Spencer find a healthier way to deal with his grief regarding what his loved ones left behind and how, for those who had passed away, they had not chosen to leave Spencer.
“United In Grief” is an essential episode for discussing what grief can transform into if left to rot and how therapy can positively impact one’s mental health. But, of course, it is always okay to ask for help and admit to needing it; in this case, Spencer is surrounded by loved ones to help him through it and want to be present.
All American has not been shy about showing different perspectives of loss, what it means for the individual, and how their loved ones have played a role in helping to move forward.
But, it is also an episode that shows how much Olivia is willing to step up for Spencer. She is his most prominent advocate throughout “United In Grief.” Olivia reminds Jordan and Coop that they should not give up on Spencer, even when uncertain about where his head is. Olivia organizes the group’s gathering at the episode’s conclusion to ensure Spencer knows he has a family to lean on.
Olivia comes through as the backbone to help Spencer through this and moving forward, it may play a role in if or how long it takes for Spencer and Olivia to get back together. Even Grace moving back to Crenshaw will give Spencer a more extensive support system.
Otherwise, the main subplots followed Jordan’s desire to figure out where he stands as a leader amongst his teammates and the danger Patience may be dealing with.
Layla recognizes the threat that Miko poses, having gone through something similar herself. However, while she and Patience seem to agree that Miko has gone too far, Patience’s meeting with Miko only results in more trouble, as Miko secretly increases her stalking behavior by putting spying access on Patience’s phone.
Even JJ’s plot line was incorporated more into the episode, even though it played a background role. While he wants to separate himself from drinking and his partying lifestyle, it may not be so simple. It will depend on how easily JJ will be tempted by the fraternity and what he recognizes as a problem for himself.
However, Asher’s suggestion that JJ was supposed to give him a ride and never showed up suggests that JJ may already be slipping, even though it is never shown where he is and what he is doing.
All American has gone above and beyond in portraying different versions of grief and how everyone handles Billy’s passing in their way. But, with the Spencer-centric episode now concluded, it may mean that things will move beyond grief-centered episodes. Even if Billy’s death still plays a role in everyone’s life, it may no longer be the main focus.
“United In Grief” would be a solid way to bring a close to the main grief-centric arcs for those most directly connected to Billy and his legacy. But the season is not over yet, and with plenty of things still hanging in the air, there could still be massive plot twists that could shake everything up.