FNL-kingdom.jpgJust when you thought Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) couldn’t get any cooler, we learn that he has a griddle in his office. He serves his pep talks with a side of bacon.

And the Lions need motivation this week. They have an away game at South King High, the school that caused their humiliating forfeit at the start of “Friday Night Lights” fourth season. But coach wants everyone to know that this is not a bout revenge — despite that conspicuous “revenge” banner their bus drives through on its way out of Dillon. Did we mention this is a road trip episode!?

Julie Taylor (Aimee Teegarden), sweet Julie Taylor, has been spending so much time with married TA that she hasn’t bothered to return her mother’s phone calls. Tami (Connie Britton) is not happy about this, especially because the Lions’ athletic vision quest has left her all alone for the weekend. Good thing overly anxious coworker is down for a ladies’ weekend. She offers to come over for white wine, Chinese and, we fear, some unwanted lesbian canoodling.

Married TA, by the way, is laying it on thick. He steals Julie away from her poetry reading for an impromptu road trip of their own… to the far less exciting “fried bread” food truck somewhere outside their college town. Hopefully this goes somewhere remotely interesting sometime soon.

On the drive down to Kingdom Billy Riggins (Derek Phillips) asserts his masculinity for the first time all season by fixing the engine to the bus. Then he takes it all back, marring an otherwise endearing road-side urination montage, when we learn that Billy pulls his pants all the way down to pee standing up — like those kids you stopped being friends with once they were held back in early elementary school.

The team arrives at the hotel, and their excitement is not matched by the man at the concierge, who’s basically Tim Curry from “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.” Also at the hotel? Vince’s dad (Bad Bad Leroy Brown), whose good behavior finally scores him a meet-and-greet with the coach. Eric wants a word with him about planning Vince’s future, seeing as how he has two daddies now.

So while the other boys are off enjoying the pool and scaring the hell out of the hotel guests, Vince (Michael B. Jordan), Eric and Leroy Brown meet on the lanai to talk about college plans… and gossip! They decide, as Dillon players often do, to field all college offers and inquiries through Eric. Even dad agrees, but we’re worried this won’t go according to plan. It all feels too optimistic.

Are you clutching your breast to keep your heart inside? Because this is one of the greatest scenes in “Friday Night Lights” history. Vince, Luke (our dear, dear Matt Lauria), Tinker and Hastings all meet on their respective balconies to talk about boy things while the coach casually eavesdrops from his own, secluded patio. Vince recalls the forfeit, saying that Eric must have had his reasons and it really isn’t their business to know them. It’s all painfully endearing, and Chandler’s pseudo-expressionless face during the whole ordeal makes us proud to be even tangentially related to these characters.

At the game, some shady referees keep making calls in favor of South King, including one major blow to Buddy Jr. (already starting?). Hastings, who may be hazing him the most, immediately comes to his defense. These boys are bonding. They’re down at the half, but we think some inspiring banter from Coach Taylor could turn things around.

Make that definitely turn things around. Not only is South King obnoxious, they’re also racist. They’re going down. Coach beams when they bring it home.

Back at the hotel, Texas Tim Curry is absolutely beside himself over the victory melee. Good thing the boys leave to go out of the town. And since there really isn’t a “town” to speak of, they opt for a moonshine-field trailer park rave.

Vince opens up to Luke about what happened at TMU, and Luke is nothing but thrilled about the idea of them both playing at the same college, bringing us that much closer to the spin-off of our dreams. Buddy Jr. loses his virginity after the best pick up line ever (“I really like the way you’re putting your lipstick on.You look like you’re in a commercial”), and after Luke calls everyone his brother, bringing Tinker to tears, they crudely brand each others’ arms with “L”s in what might be the most horrifying metaphor for becoming men. Lions forever! (No, like, forever.)

Meanwhile, at the grown-up party, Eric turns out to be a bit of a lightweight. After nursing the same drink all night with Buddy, Billy and other men whose names presumably start with “B” and end in “Y,” he gets absolutely blitzed and drunk-dials Tami. And despite the fact that anxious lesbian coworker has plied her with 47 bottles of wine and a few roofies, she’s more or less sober and complaining about their inattentive daughter who left for college.. This woman has a constitution.

Julie’s off listening to married TA explain that he and his wife are both unhappy with their loveless marriage, and we start thinking maybe he isn’t such a bad guy after all. Oh wait. His wife shows up in the dorm/library/quad/whatever and exposes the poor girl as an adulteress, slaps her, notes that she’s definitely not the first to fall for married TA’s act.

“You’re a frickin’ cluh-shay,” she says — going all meta and simultaneously acknowledging the storyline, even if she her command of the English language is way off for a woman we’ve been led to believe is hyper-literate. She leaves screaming “Julie Taylor is a slut,” a slogan we’re already turning into a CafePress store.

Humiliated, and possibly done with the University of Generic College Experience forever, Julie returns home to “do some laundry,” inadvertently making her poor mother so happy.

The lions wake up hungover, not regretting their body mutilation at all, getting sterilized and bandaged by Nurse Jess (Jurnee Smollett) — who really got the short end of the stick on this episode. Vince acknowledges this and he says he’ll make it up to her by giving her at least five minutes of storyline next week.

They load up the bus and roll out of Kingdom, and in a profound, if frickin’ cluh-shay, moment, Hastings asks Eric, “Are we there yet?”

“We’re getting there.”

Honestly, one of the best episodes ever.

Posted by:Mikey O'Connell