It’s tempting, as good as about 90 percent of this week’s Friday Night Lights was, to just ignore the continuing fallout for Landry and the Incident and focus on the great stuff within the Taylor family, with Street and with Riggins.
It’s tempting, but it’s not possible. Friday’s episode only compounded the problem; the show doesn’t seem to want to let it go, and so I can’t either.
(Spoilers coming, bad stuff first. Don’t worry, it gets better.)
As the investigation to the rapist’s murder drags on, the detectives discover some carpet fibers still attached to the guy’s clothes. They come from a certain vintage of GM wagon, the expository detective tells Landry’s dad, and they’re about to cross-check the DMV for matching cars in Dillon.
There’s a superbly acted scene between Glenn Morshower and Jesse Plemons when Mr. Clark confronts his son with this news — and if that’s as far as it had gone tonight, it would have been fine (maybe better than fine). It would also have been fine if Mr. Clark had told his son to be calm, get a lawyer and tell the truth, because given the circumstances he didn’t probably have too much to fear.
Instead, though, the heretofore very levelheaded cop has Landry follow him out to a desolate spot and torches the Landrymobile. Why, why, why are the men in the Clark family so bad in stress situations? And why do the writers of this series, which everywhere else is built on the small, everyday-sized peaks and valleys of life, insist on making this one piece so outlandish and over-the-top? The characters’ actions are so wrongheaded and extreme, it’s as if they’ve been drugged or something.
It really is no fun to keep hammering on this point week after week, but it wouldn’t be right to act as if it’s not there. So as long as Friday Night Lights keeps insisting on going there, we’re going to have to go there too.
Fortunately, Friday’s episode had lots of wonderful stuff in it as well. The Taylors had their lives further upheaved with the arrival of Tami’s sister Shelly (Jessalyn Gilsig, last seen being Claire’s real mom on Heroes), who needs all of about 30 seconds to get under Eric’s skin and not much longer to start bugging Tami.
Shelly plays the cool-aunt card with Julie, giving her a ridiculous bikini-top sort of thing from Brazil and offering to take her to a Dixie Chicks show and on a trip to Costa Rica. Tami doesn’t say anything, really, but the pain at seeing Julie light up around another adult is on her face.
She finally lashes out when Shelly has the nerve to tell her she ought to read more and be more aware of the world, because she’s a new mother with a job and a surly teenager and that’s about all she has time for at the moment. "And it may have just occurred to me that I’ve got another 16 years of child-rearing, and then [Grace] will turn into Julie and be mean to me, and then I’m gonna be in a walker," she concludes, and it’s as funny and sad as it should be.
Eric, meanwhile, has his own set of issues, most of which are Buddy-inflicted. MacGregor’s buyout has depleted the booster funds that are used to help pay Coach’s salary, so he’s making less than he did last year. Buddy and his money guy insist that things will be OK if Eric takes the athletic director job, which is really just a "gravy train" paycheck anyway. That, they assure him, will get him within "spitting distance" of his prior salary.
Buddy apparently has never met Bobbi Roberts. I missed the name of actress who plays Dillon’s girls soccer coach in the opening credits, but I hope she pops up again, because man was she fantastic in her one scene. (Incidentally, this was the part Rosie O’Donnell was rumored to have been up for; hooray FNL for rejecting the stunt-casting. It would have completely detracted from the moment.) Eric’s barely contained seething in all the scenes with Buddy was fantastic.
Getting a little long here, so let’s go roundup style for the rest of it:
- Another fantastic scene between Coach and Street, this time when Jason explains that coaching isn’t doing for him what he thought it would. In other circumstances, Eric’s "I hope I haven’t let you down" would feel pretty sappy, but it’s entirely in keeping with their relationship over the course of the series. Street’s search for life beyond Dillon, I think, could be really interesting. Even though he seems to be coming to terms with his physical situation, the realization that there can be more to his life than being a jock is only now creeping in. I hope we see more of this as the season progresses.
- Glad to see there were consequences for Riggins’ Mexican sojourn ("I don’t know what a sojourn is," he tells Tami. "A sojourn is what’s gonna keep you back a year. … You can look the rest up," Tami fires back), and that it finally dawns on him that he’s going to need to be sincere in his efforts to rejoin the team. And could it be that he might take to coaching? He seemed pretty comfortable putting Santiago through his drills.
- Julie’s contrition with Matt also struck the right note, but much as I love the dynamic between her and Saracen, I kinda like the little wrinkle with the new girl too, if only for the fumbling, stumbling, "Why’re you hittin’ me?" reaction Matt had when she first stopped him in the hall. Every great romance needs its obstacles, right?
- Sequence of the night, for me, was Tami calling out Eric after he meets with Glenn, the man who was all up in Tami’s icemaker earlier in the season. "What’re you meeting him in the lounge for? I thought you ate in the cafeteria," Eric sputters. Tami: "Are you jealous?" Eric: "I’m just asking a question." Tami: "That’s adorable — you’re jealous." Eric: "You like that?"
- Runner-up: Shelly compliments Tami on getting her pre-pregnancy body back. "Honey, she said you could bounce a quarter off my ass," Tami enthuses. To which Eric replies with a wave of his hand, "You can bounce all kinds of things."
Your thoughts on this week’s Friday Night Lights? Can you separate the Incident from the rest of the show?