All American: “Sabotage” Works As A Mental Health Discussion

All American -- "Ludacrismas" -- Image Number: ALA501a_0196r.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Cody Christian as Asher Adams and Hunter Clowdus as JJ Parker -- Photo: Troy Harvey/The CW -- (C) 2022 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
All American -- "Ludacrismas" -- Image Number: ALA501a_0196r.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Cody Christian as Asher Adams and Hunter Clowdus as JJ Parker -- Photo: Troy Harvey/The CW -- (C) 2022 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

“Sabotage” finally confronts the growing issues JJ has been facing and causing throughout season five. But is it too late to place him in such a central plot line?

For most of All American, JJ has been relegated to the background. He is a part of the group but never as forefront to the storylines as the rest of the Vortex. He has played a role, but most of his involvement has been as the party boy. Although he has been there for his friends in the past, JJ has rarely been at the center of the storyline, making season five difficult for the character.

JJ’s role is still mainly on the sidelines, but throughout season five, he has taken his partying to the extreme, almost always drunk or causing a scene. All American has tried to show a shift in JJ’s behavior, from a regular fun-loving guy to someone going beyond their everyday actions and demeanor.

But, instead of keeping JJ an upbeat party boy, he has actively been misbehaving toward his friends. JJ slut-shamed Layla and spoke against his friends when they were trying to help him. It has been clear that JJ was spiraling and his actions would eventually amount to something. But “Sabotage” tries to give JJ a deeper backstory rather than explaining his actions through current growth.

Rather than JJ losing his way in college, distracted by several different opportunities and needing to return to his core, “Sabotage” attempts to give JJ more depth, but in doing so, also briefly contradicts his history.

According to “Sabotage,” JJ never knew who he was without his party element. He was the fun party boy; that is all he saw himself as—someone who knew how to have fun and bring out the joy in others. But, when things started getting bad, and grief began to fill an enormous void, JJ’s drinking got worse, and without having fun, he explained that he lost his identity.

But, in previous episodes, JJ did not attach his identity to his fun partying nearly as much. Although it has always been a part of him, there are moments when JJ is more than a party boy, and he is fully aware of it.

When everyone leaves the time capsule in preparation for graduating high school, JJ says he hopes one day his friends can see him as more than a party boy. He also reveals that his childhood had a more serious background connected to his love of the Fast and Furious movies. When JJ hosts the murder mystery party, he does so because of his serious intentions to gather the Vortex together in hopes of keeping the group close.

But, JJ’s breakthrough finally occurs when he faces Olivia, knowing that he owes her an apology and the truth about what has happened to him lately. Being honest gives JJ the space to breathe and clarity about what his next steps should be. His answer is to temporarily step away from football to focus on his mental health, and given how lost he has been throughout the season, it may be the best thing for him.

Otherwise, “Sabotage” also highlights the growing problems between Layla, Patience, and Miko. After realizing that Miko must have placed spyware on Patience’s phone, Layla decides to speak with Miko alone.

Patience’s willingness to speak to Miko previously after Layla had advised against it offered slight conflict between Layla and Patience, purely out of Layla’s concern for Patience’s well-being if Miko is half as dangerous as she is coming across.

Miko’s past of crossing boundaries is something Layla plans to put an end to, which involves a restraining order against Miko. Of course, Layla is unwilling to take the chance of something happening to her friend, but that is not the end.

Patience’s live discussion with her fans, which includes a heart-warming call out to Coop, also has her directly name Miko’s screen name as responsible for leaking her privacy. Layla mentioned that she did not see the humanity in Miko’s eyes. Miko’s inability to distance herself from Patience online is a massive cause for concern.

As All American heads toward the season finale, there are still plenty of things up in the air.

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