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Netflix Documentary ‘Athlete A’ Review – A Difficult But Important Story

Credit: Athlete A/ Netflix

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Maggie Nichols was the 4th child and first-born girl to Gina and John Nichols of Little Canada, Minnesota.  She always had a lot of energy and her mother, who was a fan of gymnastics, decided to enroll her in the sport when she was still in pre-school.

Athlete A, a Netflix original documentary directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Schenk, tells the story of Maggie and many other gymnasts who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of coaches and more specifically, Dr. Larry Nassar, team doctor for USA Gymnastics for 29 years.

Maggie excelled at gymnastics.  She had a natural talent and was the only 10-year-old at Nationals in 2007.  She gained the attention of Bela and Martha Karolyi, famed Hungarian coaches who defected to the United States in 1981 and began coaching the US Women’s Gymnastics Team.

Athlete A is not an easy watch, but it is an important one. At times both shameful and sad, it shows what adults were willing to overlook to win and to bring gold to the United States.

Centering on the staff at the Indianapolis Star, a small local paper, who’s investigative team including Investigations Editor Steve Berta, and Investigative Reporters Marisa Kwiatowski and Mark Alesia, we see how the team broke the story.

In 2016, Kwiatkowski was working on a story about the failures to report sexual abuse in schools when a source pointed her in the direction of a lawsuit brought up against a predatory coach in the gymnastics community who, once accused, rather than being removed, was just relocated to another gym.

The investigative team got a copy of the deposition where it was indicated that USA Gymnastics had been warned about this coach and did nothing.  The story entitled “A Blind Eye” went to print while the USA Olympic Team competed for gold during the 2016 Rio Olympics, bringing the interest in gymnastics and the team itself to an all-time high.

Seeing a link on Facebook for the story, former USA Gymnastics gymnast Rachel Denhollander realized what she knew as the truth, that USAG had been burying sexual abuse occurring under their watch for years.

Denhollander reached out to the Indy Star and told them that she was a victim, but that her abuse had not come at the hands of a coach, but by team doctor Larry Nassar. Jessica Howard, another former gymnast, also reached out to the news team with the same story.

Athlete A Netflix documentary review

ATHLETE A Jamie Dantzscher in ATHLETE A. Cr. NETFLIX © 2020

Attorney John Manly of Manly, Stewart and Finaldi got a call, this one from former gymnast Jamie Dantzscher after she read the story.  He reached out to the Indy Star team and mentioned that his client was implicating Dr. Nassar and USAG.

The team at Indy Star began to wonder if there were three different women who didn’t know each other and had the same story, how many more could there be?

Dr. Larry Nassar, along with being the team doctor for USAG, was also a Michigan State University doctor, seeing athletes and students from that school.

During training in 2015 at the Karolyi’s camp in Huntsville, Texas, coach Sarah Jantzi overheard Maggie and another athlete discussing Nassar and how Maggie found some of his techniques disturbing. Vaginal entry with his fingers during one particular treatment was brought up and the fellow athlete confirmed that he did that to her as well.

Jantzi spoke to Maggie and got the information and immediately reached out to Maggie’s parents.  She also brought the information to the attention of Rhonda Gaehn, the Vice President of the USA Gymnastics Women’s program.

The next day, President of USA Gymnastics Steve Penny called Maggie’s mother and promised her that he would report the incident to the police. Maggie remained at training with the promise to her parents that Nassar would be handled.

Almost a month later, Maggie’s parent had not heard anything but were told they now were to speak to investigator Fran Sefler. Penny told them there was an ongoing FBI Investigation.

As Maggie’s parents pushed for information, Maggie was suddenly removed from events like appearing in a commercial with fellow gymnast Simone Biles. During the Olympic trials, Maggie’s parents weren’t treated like the other parents. No cameras, no reserved seats, and although Maggie finished 6th in competition, she was not among those picked for the five-member team or even as one of the three alternates.

Former USAG gymnasts describe a “fine line between coaching and child abuse” happening at the Karolyi camp and of being “beaten down” to the point where when you are abused, you think you are imagining it.

Athlete A Netflix documentary review

ATHLETE A Maggie Nichols in ATHLETE A. Cr. NETFLIX © 2020

Nassar was described by many of the gymnasts and the only one that was nice to them at the camp, with some abuse sufferers even looking forward to the treatments because he was the only one that seemed to be concerned about them.

The Indy Star team knew that USAG was aware of the abuse, but how much did they know and did they work to cover it up? They found evidence of USAG knowing and working to hide the information from the very start.

After releasing a story on the reports of Nassar’s abuse, Michigan State University Police received more than two dozen reports of abut at the hands of Nassar.

Investigator Andrea Munford of the Michigan State University Police and Michigan State Assistant Attorney General Angel Povilaitis began gathering information for prosecution.

After being fired from Michigan State, it was reported that Nassar was treating patients out of his basement of his home and abusing again. With that information, a search warrant was obtained for his home and hard drives containing more than 37,000 pieces of child pornography.

In 2016 Nassar was arrested and charged with the most serious of the cases.

In November of 2017, Nassar agreed to a plea deal on the child pornography, destroying evidence and other charges. As part of the plea deal, survivors of the abuse could make impact statements. Impact statements began in January 2018. Many women came forward and gave their statements.

Nassar was convicted and is serving two 60-year terms.

The Indy Star was not done, nor was Manly.  USAG covered the abuse and allowed it to happen. It was also found that during the FBI Investigation, Penny was discussing the opportunity for security positions within USAG with assigned FBI investigators.

A senate hearing was held in June 2018 on the Olympic athlete abuse and what USAG knew. Penny, who was removed from his position in 2017, was called to testify. He exercised his Fifth Amendment rights and would not answer any questions.

Penny was later arrested in October 2018 at a cabin in Tennessee, accused of tampering with the evidence against Nassar.

The Karolyi’s closed the training ranch in Texas in January 2018.

The US Department of Justice is currently investigating USAG, the US Olympic Committee and the FBI for its handing of the sexual abuse accusations.

Maggie has continued competing, now at the university level for the University of Oklahoma. She and her team won the National Championships in 2018. Maggie won the all-around at the 2019 NCAA Championships.

The Indy Star continues to cover the story.

Athlete A recalls the 2015 Academy Award winning move Spotlight about the Boston Globe investigative team who broke the story of the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Boston Catholic Diocese. It is hard to watch but important to see.

Viewers will be shocked that this continues to happen, everywhere, even to our most celebrated athletes.

Athlete A gives us an example of why investigative journalism and the news media in general needs to be protected, so that stories like the abuse in the USAG and the Catholic Church are brought to the public’s attention.


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Cindy Alexander, experienced journalist but new to the TV Critic game. Mother of Paul, wife to Dan. Excited to see what comes next.

Netflix

Who Will Die On ‘Stranger Things’ Season 4B?

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Who Dies on Stranger Things Season 4B?

Stranger Things Season 4 was quite a bloodbath, but we haven’t seen anything yet.

While Vecna claimed a handful of victims in the first eight episodes of the season, none of them were part of the core cast. 

That’s all about to change come Season 4B, which does not go easy on our Hawkins best and brightest. 

The final two episodes — both feature-length in duration, clocking in at over two hours a piece — have been teased by Joseph Quinn (Eddie Munson) as absolute “carnage.”

Noah Schnapp (Will Byers) has been doing the press rounds and hinting at a major character death, and truthfully, all signs point to Steve Harrington. 

Think about it: His death would have the largest emotional impact. He’s a fan favorite, he’s the “dad” of the group often taking on the protector role and keeping the kids safe when their parents are literally nowhere to be found, he’s an overall good guy, and he has so much momentum and chemistry with Nancy right now, it’s insane.

Per Insider, Joe Keery’s character wasn’t supposed to survive the first season in the Duffer Brother’s original plan, but they simply couldn’t let him go. 

And it’s exactly why his death would destroy a whole fandom, crumbling them at the core. It’s a death that will hit both fans and characters equally as hard. Some might argue that Steve is the glue that holds it all together, never taking himself too seriously but also going boldly right into the danger zone.

Matt Duffer didn’t exactly confirm that Steve would be the big death of the season, but he also didn’t deny it either.

“If he’s going to die, it’s not going to be from the bat bite,” Matt told Variety, which is almost reassuring. He did acknowledge everyone is “worried about Steve,” so maybe his death is too obvious.

If we’re all prepared for it, it won’t be as effective, right?

Who Dies on Stranger Things Season 4B?

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Eduardo Franco as Argyle, Noah Schnapp as Will Byers, Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler, and Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

In that case, could it be Nancy Wheeler? At the end of season 4, Nancy is stuck in the Upside Down in a trance as Vecna explains his origin story to her. It’s unclear why he chose to be honest with Nancy, but that’s a good journalist for you — getting the story even when it could cost her her life.

Of course, Steve is in the Upside Down with Nancy, so I don’t think she’ll die there just yet. There’s no way he’d leave her behind without bringing her to safety. But if Nancy is already connected to Vecna, that means she’s running out of time and unless she can find a foothold in the real world to keep her safe a la Max’s “Running Up That Hill,” she might just be his next victim.

Other possibilities:

Dr. Benner or Dr. Owens — Both of them care for Eleven and want to help restore her powers so that she can defeat this evil once and for all. But the FBI is coming for them, and they don’t take kindly to betrayal. I can see them sacrificing themselves to help Eleven escape for the greater good. Owens would be slightly more upsetting because Brenner might just deserve it.

Eddie — Eddie is a fan favorite, and if look at the show’s track record of killing off the lovable, new guy, well, it doesn’t bode well for the newcomer. He’s already been to the Upside Down, and based on the teaser, we know he returns there for some epic guitar solo. Maybe that’s his triumphant moment before death?

Jonathan — The only way that Nancy and Steve could work is if Jonathan is out of the picture. And while it’s cruel to kill him off for the sake of another relationship, there’s also not much that Jonathan is actually contributing to the storyline anymore aside from getting high with his friend Argyle. His death, however, would shake the core group as he’s Will’s brother and rock.  

Eleven — It’s unlikely that the series would risk killing their biggest asset, but she is gearing up for her biggest battle yet. It’s going to take everything that she has. Some might say, you don’t make it out alive after using up all that power. And Eleven loves her friends deeply, so we know she would sacrifice everything for them.

Who Dies on Stranger Things Season 4B?

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Tom Wlaschiha as Dmitrti, Brett Gelman as Murray Bauman, Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers, and David Harbour as Jim Hopper in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Joyce, Murray, Dmitri, and Hopper are in a dangerous situation in Russia, but considering that they’ve managed to survive a plane crash, Siberia, imprisonment, and a Demogorgon, I have full faith in them! 

Who do you think is going to die on Stranger Things Season 4B?


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Fans React to Chilling Netflix Doc ‘Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey’

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Fans Recall Feeling 'Sick' After Watching Chilling Netflix Doc 'Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey'

The latest true-crime series on Netflix that’s gripping/disturbing audiences everywhere? Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey

The four-part series is based on the polygamous religious section known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). It examines the rise of leader Warren Jeffs, who, at one point (prior to his arrest), had about 69 wives, some as young as 12.

If you find the synopsis disturbing, you’re pretty much on the same page as viewers who recalled feeling quite “traumatized”  and “sic” after watching the show. 

Here are some of the tweets and reactions about Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey:

https://twitter.com/Rachel_Andrews/status/1534644130634244099?s=20&t=mGy6HiJYfutUpVJ-y_4Mgw

https://twitter.com/SpaaceWitch666/status/1534952940695437319?s=20&t=mGy6HiJYfutUpVJ-y_4Mgw

https://twitter.com/ClaretteWaithe1/status/1534545816442097665?s=20&t=mGy6HiJYfutUpVJ-y_4Mgw

https://twitter.com/KimMannix/status/1534947655909904384?s=20&t=mGy6HiJYfutUpVJ-y_4Mgw

https://twitter.com/oucrimsongirl/status/1535261255686148098?s=20&t=mGy6HiJYfutUpVJ-y_4Mgw


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WATCH: ‘Manifest’ Season 4 Sneak Peek

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WATCH: 'Manifest' Season 4 Sneak Peek from Geeked Week

The fourth and final season of Manifest is on the horizon! 

As part of Geeked Week, Netflix gave fans a first look and the upcoming season.

The clip features Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh), who takes an unsolicited trip to the docks to locate a shipping container decked out in images of cherry blossom.

The shipping container that she needed to locate is glowing, so it’s likely that a vision brought her here.

But when she opens that bad boy up, it doesn’t seem like she knows what she’s looking for at all. In fact, she’s terrified to find a hand reaching for her. The man, who doesn’t seem to be doing well at all, has “Stone 828” carved into his hand. I really hope they aren’t introducing zombies into the mix. 

Netflix knew that they would pique our interest with this snippet, but since we have no other context about the scene, there’s not much to theorize or go off of in terms of what’s happening. 

All we truly know is that the Stone family is doing their best to crack the mystery of what happened to Flight 828 before time officially runs out. 

What do you think about the sneak peek? 

There is no season premiere date just yet, but according to Netflix the final season is “coming soon.” And it was confirmed that it will be released in two batches of 10 episodes. 


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