Swagger Season 2 Episode 5 Recap – who is John Carlos?

By Adam Lock
Published: July 21, 2023 (Last updated: last month)
View all
Apple TV+ series Swagger Season 2 Episode 5 Recap


“Are We Free?” is a powerful political statement from the series, exploring issues of racism and modern slavery. This works as a timely message, while it also fits perfectly within the show’s storyline, as the team players face the possibility of being incarcerated. A cleverly written highlight from the series so far.

We recap the Apple TV+ series Swagger Season 2 Episode 5, “Are We Free?” which contains significant spoilers.

Apple’s sports drama series Swagger gets political in episode five, “Are We Free?”

The Cedar Cove players head to a Maryland detention center for an exhibition game with former players, who are now incarcerated. This exploration of modern prison life covers important issues, including racism and slavery.

Swagger Season 2 Episode 5 Recap

The episode begins with a montage of former basketball players who are now all behind bars.

This introduces viewers to the teenagers that the Mustangs will be playing against. Of course, this exhibition match is a little too close to home for Jace and his friends, as they could all be facing a similar fate due to the Coach Warrick allegations.

Jace talks about the upcoming game with Crystal. He explains how he is allowed to play in this game, which could end up being his last.

Jace mentions securing a fancy lawyer, and he then tells Crystal how he’s broken up with his girlfriend. Crystal is also single now, and the couple hold hands, hinting at the possibility of these two getting back together again in the near future.

Due to the controversy surrounding the team and the scandal, only six players showed up for the exhibition game.

The Mustangs’ coaching staff have only Jace, Phil, Musa, Drew, Royale, and Nick to choose from. They drive to Maryland Youth Facility, a detention center for young offenders.

Who is John Carlos?

On arrival, the team is introduced to John Carlos, who plays himself in this special installment. John Carlos is an Olympic-winning medalist and renowned athlete. He is most famous for performing the Black Power salute on the podium at the 1968 Olympic Games.

John Carlos talks to the players about the current issues with racism and the American prison system. He states that there are more black people in penitentiaries in the USA now than black people who were enslaved before the Civil War.

This shocking statistic is left to hang in the air. John Carlos then concludes his rousing speech before the game.

Meanwhile, Emory and Alonzo talk about the scandal. Emory is considering expelling the boys, but Alonzo doesn’t want to be that hasty.

He suggests that they let the governing board decide the students’ fate, that way, they can avoid any bad publicity themselves. This is, of course, a ruse by Alonzo, who actually wants the opposite to happen.

The players are given a tour of the prison, observing classes and activities. They are then reunited with a former team player called Vince Charles, who you will remember from the first season.

There’s even time for them to get involved with the prison debate team, where the topic of slavery is discussed.

Who wins the exhibition game?

Then we are shown the all-important exhibition game. The show utilizes some adept camera work during the game, with the audience feeling like they are literally inside the game itself. This breathtaking handheld camera work is the best from the series so far. The prisoners take an early lead in the game, but the Swagger team wins in the last second.

The inmates are sad and angry, having placed a lot of emphasis on winning the game. John Carlos brings them all together, though, talking about unity. He raises his fist into the air, and all the other players, coaches, and spectators follow John’s lead. It’s another powerful moment from the episode.

After the game, the teams enjoy a meal together. Ike talks with Vince in private. He tells Vince to stay strong and to write to him while on the inside.

Then prisoner Deandre Wright has a sudden outburst of anger and is forced to be restrained. This unforeseen breakdown has a real effect on Jace, who now sees the fragility of the players’ mental states and the injustice of the prison system all in one action.

Swagger Season 2 Episode 5 Ending Explained

The episode ends with the Swagger team players returning to their bus. They have all been deeply affected by the visit and sit in silence, contemplating their own futures. Coach Ike then receives a phone call that the DA will not be charging the players. They will have to do some community service, but they will not be serving any jail time.

The players are relieved by this good news. Ike then receives another message, all the players are suspended, but they will all be reinstated if they apologize for their actions. This is not a bad conclusion for the players overall, considering the other options.

What did you think of Swagger Season 2 Episode 5? Comment below.

More Stories

Apple TV+, Streaming Service, Weekly TV
View all