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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Friday Night Lights: "Every Rose Has Its Thorn"

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[For those just tuning in: I first covered Friday Night Lights here at TV Club when it ran on DirecTV back in the fall. I'm rerunning those posts as it runs on NBC to a much larger audience. I'll be checking the comments regularly, as will FNL fans Scott Tobias and Noel Murray. A further wrinkle: My satellite crapped out on me shortly before the season finale so I'll be covering that as it airs on NBC. —Keith]

Exit Smash, enter Jason Street. Both Gaius Charles and Scott Porter were only signed for a handful of episodes each this year with the promise that their characters would be given fitting exits from the show. It now looks like we'll be getting one goodbye story after the other, even if Jason's story is so far all about staying put. He's currently a part-time dad, struggling to make ends meet selling cars in order to provide a home for his new baby and the mother of his child. Or at least that's what he thinks. Erin (Tamara Jolaine) seemed unsure about having the baby in the first place. With that issue clearly resolved she still seems fence-y about the relationship. Cold barely covers the goodbye she gives Jason along with the vague promise that he could come visit his son out East whenever he likes. Is Jason being delusional about their relationship or is she always this cold? If any storyline has suffered from the writers' strike-induced ellipses between seasons two and three and this one. We've barely seen these two together. Are they always like this?

To be fair, Jason's Riggins brothers-based business path toward economic security isn't all that inspiring. Or particularly believable. Maybe it's just that I'm writing this as the economy tanks, but I have a hard time believing that the collective of Riggins-Riggins-Street-and-Herc could secure a loan for Buddy's mini-mansion, outmoded as it may be. (I was amused, however, that said plan did involve hooking up yet again with the jocularly violent meth dealer from last season.) Still, Jason's scene with Buddy convinced me that he could be a terrific salesman, if he just found the right product to sell.

Meanwhile, Julie now has a tattoo. This plot was about as Family Ties as they come, but I like the way Aimee Teagarden, Kyle Chandler, and Connie Britton played it. And I liked that the parents weren't entirely right. Sure, Julie will probably end up regretting her tat, but she's right when he insists that it doesn't mean anything. It's just some ink, not a first step down a slippery slope.

Tyra's recent activities, on the other hand, do feel a bit like steps down that slope. The jury's still out on whether Cash is just a lonesome cowboy or genuine trouble–well, still out if you didn't watch the give-too-much-away preview for next week's episode–but he's clearly a huge distraction from her vow to get into a better college than anyone expects her to get into. Palicki is, as usual, quite good, but I've got some of the same frustrations with her character as a viewer that Mrs. T (to use her preferred term for Principal Taylor) has with her as a person. I'm not sure who she is this year. Is finding that out her storyline, or is she just not being written consistently from week-to-week?

Finally, there's Matt, who gets the bad, if inevitable news, that he's being All About Eved out of the QB1 position by freshman sensation J.D. McCoy. Does anyone else think Coach caved too soon on this issue? As ever, Dillon's play-by-play announcers functioned as unreliable narrators this week, dubbing the two-quarterback approach a "disaster" despite the fact that the confusion it created won the game in the final moments. (Well, that and Saracen's own drive.) It wasn't pretty, but it worked.

Saracen does not take the news of his demotion well. And while, with its emphasis on set-up over payoff, this was inevitably a less memorable episode of FNL than last week's stirring hour, I think it was as fine a showcase for Zach Gilford as we've seen. It can't be easy to convey what's going on beneath the surface of such a taciturn character, but Gilford pulls it off week after week. He gets a chance to emote during that locker-room freakout and several key scenes with new-to-the-scene mom Kim Dickens, but it's a pair of wordless, episode-bookending moments that really struck me: In the first he walks off the field as the team celebrates the game he won knowing he'll never get the credit. In the second, he's dutifully suited up for practice in order to sit on the bench after toying with the notion of quitting the team then realizing that that's simply not the kind of person he is. And, besides, what else is he going to do? It's still Dillon, after all.

Grade: B

Stray observations:<

- Does anyone know where Buddy and Tim's shared quote about, "It's when all the rats start running away from a sinking market…" Did I miss a moment?

- Crap, I didn't even get to the best scene: "I Remember You" as the otherwise-scarce watches Landry spies Tyra making time with Cash.

- "She's pretty serious about her cookies."

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