(Greetings Friday Night Lights fans. A few words of explanation: Because of NBC's production arrangement with DirecTV, I wrote about this (pretty great) season of Friday Night Lights back in the fall. I'm now reposting last fall's pieces each week as the episodes air on NBC. So now you know. No spoilers, please, if you've already seen the season. Enjoy.)
“When I picked you up in that bar I had no idea what a good guy you were,” Becky’s mom Cheryl tells Tim Riggins. The spirit of the compliment is nice, but it’s the sort of praise/come-on that could only come from someone who’s learned to live with some pretty low expectations. She’s right. Tim is a good guy, but for reasons beyond the ones she mentions. She’s giving him points simply for hanging around, pitching in, and not being an asshole when really his sojourn in their backyard trailer has helped him turn into the giving, responsible person he could never quite become as Tim Riggins, Dillon Panthers star. Old Tim probably would have slept with Becky and Cheryl and charmed them out of whatever beer they had in the refrigerator in the process. Sure, he might have felt bad about it, but not bad enough to stop simply going with the flow of being Tim.
Which isn’t to say that New Tim’s stopped making stupid mistakes. There’s still the Riggins chop shop, which he effectively shut down, but not before using some ill-gotten funds to buy the future site of the Tim Riggins homestead, a choice I suspect will catch up with him before season’s end. But he has grown up remarkably from the live-for-the-moment hedonist of season one whose regretful, downcast expression didn’t necessarily speak to the feelings beneath. Once he was the sort of guy Cheryl’s used to bringing home. Now he’s someone better.
This was another wrenching episode, even by the standards set by last week’s “I Can’t,” but no moment got to me quite as much as Becky’s “Goodbye, Tim Riggins” address after she watched her mother throw him out for reasons I’m not even sure Cheryl believed. After his respectful rejection of her advances, his days there were almost certainly numbered no matter what he did. Tim deserves better than her dressing down. In fact, he deserved exactly the kind sort of impromptu panegyric Becky delivered. We’ve spent years watching this character grow up—and watching Taylor Kitsch grow as an actor—and Becky’s words rang true. This is someone who’s exceeded the expectations set by a town where just drifting along is considered good enough by too many.
Still, some try to make Dillon a better place, however misguided their efforts. Disturbed by Becky’s abortion, Luke’s mom offers a hand of kindness but keeps her true motives to herself, using the information to attack Tami by accusing her of steering Becky toward her choice. Here Tami’s insistence that she followed protocol saves her job, but as her husband’s career has proven, doing everything right can still blow up in your face. By the end of the episode, it’s become clear that following protocol won’t save her from being tried in the court of public opinion in a town known to make up its mind quickly.
Coach, meanwhile, has problems of his own. He hasn’t even played this week’s football game and already the whole town’s looking ahead to next week’s Panthers/Lions match-up, a confrontation that the series has been working toward all season. But with a strategy that hinges on an injury-hiding, increasingly Oxycontin-dependent Luke—seen here literally praying to God for more drugs—the Lions can’t even get through a gimme game against the Westcocks. (At least I’m assuming that with a name like the “Westcocks” it would be a gimme.) Buddy’s working overtime as the Lions hype man on ¡El Fuego! even, amazingly, taking off his Panthers ring, but by episode’s end Coach needs his services as a drinking partner even more. Why? He doesn’t want to go home for unstated reasons, though it’s undoubtedly tied to the piling up of his team’s failure and Tami’s troubles. Coach ordinarily loves going home. The sight of Tami facing her problems without her husband by her side ranks among the series' most unsettling images.
They don’t even know about Julie eyeing the door to work for Habitat For Humanity, finding herself in the grips of house-building fever even after the apparent departure of dreamy Habitat Ryan. If anyone could keep her in one place, it’s Matt, who returns to the show this week (yay!) but only briefly (boo!) and only long enough to get a stern, if well-deserved, teary talking-to from Julie for taking off without even saying goodbye after nearly four years of high school sweethearting. (Julie apparently doesn’t factor that awkward season-two away time into the count.) He seems genuinely surprised at her rage, as if he expected everyone else’s lives to hit pause while he sorted out his next move, a decision that’s left him lonely in an improbably high-ceilinged Chicago apartment.
Landry, however, is having a better time of it, finally winning Jess’s undivided attention and even keeping it after an awkward dinner at the Landry house. (“What do you think about Obama so far, Jess?”) She ends the episode with her arms around someone else, however, namely Vince, whose adventures in involuntary thuggery take a bloody turn during a collection gone bad. Like Tim, he’s taken steps to remove himself from the life expected of a young man born into his circumstances. But it’s a quicksand sort of town sometimes.
• Two steps to make Texas look like Chicago:
1.) Make it look cold.
2.) Put a Tribune truck in the backgrond
• I thought naming a character “Tinker” and making him handy with fences was a bit too spot-on a choice. Then I learned reading the credits that he’s played by an actor named Lamarcus Tinker. Whether the real-life Tinker is as handy as his TV counterpart remains a mystery, however.