fnl swerve 'Friday Night Lights': Gracie Bell assumes unlikely status as favorite Taylor child

A Season of “Friday Night Lights” is a lot like any good song. It has to completely break it down before they can build it back up again. So if you’ve gotten used to the soul-validating optimism of the last five episodes, we’re very sorry about the crushing sorrow you’re likely to now endure in the run up to the series finale. It’s only fitting.

Texans sure do love their church. And as much as it goes against everything we know about organized religion, all of the people of Dillon seem to belong to the same congregation. Unlikely, but it does allow for some post-service crossover.

Luke’s (Matt Lauria) playing off the praise of his evil farmer parents, who like the family of most corn-fed American males, can overlook the whole teenage abortion thing as soon as a football scholarship enters the equation.

Eric’s (Kyle Chandler) on the cover of a Texas football magazine — possible ‘Texas Football Magazine’ — with the headline “Kingmaker.” This makes Buddy (Brad Leland) beam and Tami (Connie Britton) roll her eyes. Gracie Bell just tugs at her mothers dress, with plaintive groans for “braaaaaains.”

That other Taylor child is here too, Julie (Aimee Teegarden) the embarrassed adulteress. She’s reluctantly heading back to her boring storyline when she gets the idea to drive her Chevy Aveo full speed into a ostentatious brick mailbox. But this isn’t just an objection to the box’s odd juxtaposition in their working class neighborhood. She thinks it will get her out of returning to college, where “Julie Taylor is a Slut” t-shirts are already available at the campus American Apparel.

Billy (Derek Phillips) gets a call from Tim (Tim Riggins), and though we’re positive prisons only have landlines, they have a bad connection. We were sort of hoping that he was going to be calling from the front door with that sexy, terminally nonplussed grin of his and an armful of early Christmas presents, but he was just making sure Billy’s paying his mortgage — on the land he somehow gets to keep despite the illegally-funded deposit. Tease.

Dead necklace guy’s gangster friend from Season 4 is here to ruin Vince’s (Michael B. Jordan) fairytale and tells him he’s got two days to pay back the five grand Vince borrowed to send his mom to bourgie rehab. Did we mention this was going to be a rough episode? Opening credits.

Julie, now a burgeoning sociopath, tells her parents a dog ran out in the middle of the street, and they believe her, showering her with sympathy and home cooking. This rouse will not last long. In fact, it only lasts until lunch when Tami’s magical mom powers sniff out boy problems as the source of her daughter ennui. She probably wasn’t planning on the whole married and a TA thing.

Eric is not as understanding as his wife and immediately realizes that the whole car crash was not an “oops” as previously reported. When confronting their daughter about her choices, she pulls the cluh-shay “maybe I should go to Europe” instead of going back to school. Sorry Julie Taylor, this isn’t “Gossip Girl.”

At least Eric is drama free at work. Justkidding! Luke tells Eric that Vince told him about TMU and that Eric told Vince not to tell Luke and he wants to know why — and if that jersey makes his shoulders look to broad. Eric then has the tough job of breaking the news to Luke that TMU just used him to get to Vince. Colleges, like boys, lie. Luke is understandably devastated.

Outside, Eric punishes the team for their away game self-mutilation by making them run laps. He also rips Vince a new one for being such a gossip.

Becky (Madison Burge) and Mindy (Stacey Oristano) are shopping in the swimwear section of the 99-cent Store for what amounts to a 20-second interlude of lightheartedlness.. “Rhinestones make me look trashy,” Mindy admits, knowing we need a break.

In a moment that shakes the very foundation of our belief system, Eric, distraught over the Julie debacle, leaves practice early. Thanks a lot Julie, there goes the Lions season.

Don’t you hate it when people ask you where “their” money is when they know you don’t have it? Us too. Vince, however, is a bad-ass. So when crazy-eye gangster gives him trouble for not paying in full, he gets primeval on him. In hindsight, this is sort of a bad idea, because he then goes after Jess (Jurnee Smollett), jumping her behind her father’s BBQ joint. It’s sad. When Vince finds out he tears up a bit and it’s even sadder.

Billy, equally distraught over the call from Tim as we are, is watching tapes of #33 and crying. Luke, drunk and whiny, comes to ruin his only redeeming scene of the season. You couldn’t save Tim, Billy… but you just might be able to save Luke. Why don’t you start by drinking with him and encouraging him to drunk-dial the head coach of TMU and yell into the phone? They both let out primal screams at the unjust world, and it’s really beautiful. 

Vince almost pulls a Saracen, going to ask Coach Taylor for help, but decides to consult his father, Bad Bad Leroy Brown, instead. He says he’ll take care of it, which he does, by beating the ever-living crap out of crazy-eyes. We knew this guy was going to screw up eventually, but we’re glad he did it protecting his own. Thank you, Leroy Brown. As your reward, we’ll now refer to you by your real name… Vince’s dad.

In just half of one episode, the Taylors are at their lowest point ever. Eric physically tries to kick Julie out of the house to get her to go back to school, and it’s more or less horrifying. He’s not too proud, either. The whole ordeal makes him late for the game, where, the morale in the locker room is low until Billy channels the spirit of Knute Rockne, exciting everyone into a frenzy. Eric arrives, apologizes, we see zero game play, but the Lions win. 

Maybe Luke shouldn’t have drunk-dialed the TMU Coach so soon, because he was apparently in rare form during the game. Billy’s assuming mentor duties for him now, to fill the Tim-shaped hole in his dopey heart, and promises him he’ll be getting scholarships from whatever school he likes.

Across the bar, Mindy is trying to get Becky to warm to the idea of dating Luke — which is funny, because in all of their bonding at the Landing Strip, Becky has yet to bring up the abortion. Mindy sees both her husband and Becky trying to fill the void Tim left, and it’s boring her, so she tells Luke and Becky to just bone already and whisks her husband off for a drink. Billy and Mindy are the white trash heirs to the Taylor role model throne, and, more than ever, we’re really thinking that this series will end with the Taylors leaving Dillon.

Eric returns home to gaze lovingly at a slumbering Gracie Bell, the sweet, if slightly forehead-y Taylor daughter who presumably isn’t sleeping with married men.

Posted by:Mikey O'Connell