'Friday Night Lights': A birthday, a burnt car, and a rowdy relative

Julie_lThis was a really intricate episode of Friday Night Lights — the producers set out to do so much, and, for the most part, succeeded.

• This week saw Jason celebrate his 19th birthday and quit the team; his emotional journey was the heart of the episode, and helmets off to Scott Porter for allowing us to see Jason’s torn ambitions and dashed dreams, while still pulling off that fine moment at the party when he acknowledges, after Buddy’s typically heedless joke, that his life really would have been golden had he not had his accident, and yet that life now is not a waste, either.

• The other big dramatic subplot involved Landry (Jesse Plemons) and his dad burning the kid’s car to destroy crime evidence. I still don’t know how this profound act — a gesture of love on the part of his father (helmets off again to Glenn Morshower) — is going to ease Landry’s conscience. It may eventually allow him to get back together with Tyra (Adrianne Palicki), but… let’s face it, we as viewers just wish this burden was completely lifted off everyone’s shoulders, that the show could simply deal with Landry, Tyra, football, and his friendship with Matt (Zach Gilford). Am I wrong?

• I must confess I’d nearly forgotten Lyla’s Christian-ethics project, the ex-con Santiago, but here he was being positioned as the team’s new potential savior. All in all, I like the way he was portrayed on the field — strong, but weak on skills. Not much personality, of course; I bet if there wasn’t a writer’s strike, the Friday Night Lights staff would be sitting around mulling over whether he sparks a romance with Lyla or just gets used as a way for Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) to redeem himself.

• The new brunette cheerleader: a rebound-date for Matt before he gets back together with Julie, or a character who’s going to stick around? I vote for the former.

• How ’bout that sister of Tami’s — quite a piece of work, eh? Jessalyn Gilsig, late of Nip/Tuck and Boston Public, tackled the rather thankless stock TV role of Rowdy Relative Brought In To Shake Up The Family and did as well as she could in a brief amount of time, managing to freak out both Tami and Eric, and give Julie (Aimee Teegarden, pictured) a reason to remain a little rebellious. But I don’t want Sis hanging around much longer, do you?

addCredit(“Friday Night Lights: Bill Records”)

The best scenes last night, by my measure, were the dinner sceneat the house of Smash — finally, Gaius Charles was given a few goodspeeches and got to show some warm humor to both Riggins and his ownfamily — and the whole Coach Eric subplot. Loved the way Eric was soangry with that relentless doofus Buddy about his reduced paycheck andnew position as athletic director. (And that female soccer coach:really funny, or too cartoonish for your taste?).

In fact, overall, it was a great night for both Kyle Chandler (who notonly had his salary tussle, but really displayed his low-key comedychops in his reactions to Tami’s sister and the guys on the footballfield) and Connie Britton (who got to whirl through a whole range ofemotions with her sister, and during her scenes returning to her schoolguidance-counselor job).

Summing it up, I’d say Friday Night Lightsbuilt on last week’s excellent episode. This is one of the few networkdramas that can cram in extra characters and not show the strain. (Takethat, Heroes.) It also, thank goodness, still has enoughemotion coursing through it to move us not once, not twice, but anumber of times throughout the hour. Boy, am I going to miss it whenNBC yanks it due to the strike. My only comfort is that I doubt ABC hasmany more episodes in the can of Women’s Murder Club, the show that’s thumping Friday worst in the ratings.

Comments (45 total) Add your comment
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  • Anne

    The episode proved why I love this show and why it should stick around. The moments in this show aren’t showy or too melodramatic but quiet and significant in their own way. I love the way Riggins interacts with everyone. Taylor Kitsch is underated. three of my favorite scenes last night involved him. When he was in Tami’s office, at dinner with Smash and at the end when he starts helping Santiago. In fact that last scene with Matt, Smash, Riggins helping Santiago was great for me. Just a small slice of life scene that also advanced stories, characters and relationships.

  • Debbie

    I loved this episode and the series. By the end of the hour I had a big smile on my face. There wasn’t a moment i disliked, even enjoyed the controversial Landry scenes. Keep up the good work FNL.

  • Margaret

    That final scene with the four guys running plays reminded me of the season 1 episode when Riggins, Street, Smash and Saracen are running plays at night, with Street giving Saracen great coaching direction at QB.

  • snarky

    no one mentioned the funniest scene – Riggins and his bro using the breast pump and Tammi buttoning her shirt in front of them. Gold. I agree with Anne, I love, love love, Riggins, and not only b/c he is HOT HOT HOT (and he is) but because he manages to show Riggins as a full person, not just a lush, or loser, or football player. He is loyal to the team and to Jason, wants to protect and help Lyla and although he messes up, keeps trying to redeem himself. I heart Riggins. If I was only 20 years younger and he was not just on TV!

  • ragdoll

    The show’s so good that it’s frustrating that Angie Harmon’s responsible for taking it down. Regardless, my favourite part of the episode was Tami being all grumpy about her irresponsible sister and then jumping up and down when she finally arrived. “She’s here she’s here she’s here.”
    And Julie’s face was priceless when she saw Matt in the car with his nameless cheerleader “oh you’re so talented” “Stepford” date.

  • Virginia

    This episode was the best this season. FNL got its mojo back. I hope the strike doesn’t do it in.

  • Ceballos

    I agree with Ken…my favorite scene was the dinner at Smash’s. They need to keep giving Gaius Charles things to do. He’s been mostly MIA this season off the field.
    Also, I thought the scene where Landry’s dad asked told his son that he needed to stop lying to him and Landry confessed was very emotional. Kudos to Glenn Morshower and Jesse Plemons!

  • lisa

    Love this show more & more every week!!! Never a boring moment. I to loved Tami’s response to her sis being there right after griping about her so typical of sisters.This show never ceases to amaze me.THE BEST ON TV !!!!!

  • Jer

    She’s not Jessalyn Gilsig of Nip/Tuck or Boston Public. She is now to be known as Clare’s Mom.

  • Tony

    YES! That was the FNL that I fell in love with last season. I loved how the show managed to float multiple storylines and characters and still gave each of them meaningful emotional oomph. I loved how both Jason and Tammi began to question their lot in life and saw how Dillon as a town was holding them back. I loved seeing the charming side of Smash again, and not just the ego-centric one we’ve been fed so far this season. I loved Riggins’ attempts to get back in Coach’s good graces. I loved some nice closure (hopefully?) to the murder storyline. And I loved the Coach Taylor/Buddy dynamics. That was 100% vintage Buddy, trying to appease someone but really just snaking his way out of a problem to make it even worse! Thank you, Ken for doing this every week, it’s much appreciated!

  • Frank

    Agree with previous posters – Smash at the dinner table was one of the best scenes yet, and the last scene with Riggins, Smash and Matt working with Santiago was also great.
    They do need to wrap up the Landry murder/self defense story line though…

  • Serjio Toskano
  • MikeknaJ

    Love this show so much. I’ve not been a fan of the homicide storyline, but the scene where Secret Service Aaron told Landry he had to trust him right now – that was powerful TV. Great episode.

  • supergrover

    The way they are handling Tami’s reaction to the new baby is pitch perfect. Love mixed with abject horror as she realizes/remembers that she’s going to be trapped for another 16 years. The inability to get the house picked up, go see the Dixie Chicks with her sister, … what did she get herself into??!

  • Carli

    What in the world happened to Waverly?!

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