It would have been safe to assume that after last week’s bag-over-the-head emotional express elevator with no brakes, we may have been treated to an episode with a little bit of levity to assuage our despair.
What we got instead was a deep, occasionally tragic and ultimately liberating meditation on the strains that distance–both physical and emotional–can put on a relationship, and when it might be time to move on.
The fifth episode of the obscenely stellar fourth season of Friday Night Lights was fittingly titled “Stay”. Within the hour, several Dillon couplings were placed squarely under the microscope and each taught us something a bit different.
Consider first the Julie-Matt delegation. These two are a beacon of hope in the otherwise dismal Dillon landscape. Julie dutifully submitted her resume for “best girlfriend ever” by consoling a grief-stricken Matt with tickets to a sick SxSW-esque music festival in Austin. This seemed like a good idea on paper, until you realized that the Taylors wouldn’t be too keen on the idea of their daughter driving across the state in the middle of a school week. Julie, being the rebel that she is, of course carried out the plan anyway. Things started innocently enough. Adorable picnics on the hood of the car, slow dancing in the hotel room, etc.
Things quickly turned, though, when it became clear that Julie was harboring feelings of guilt for Matt having stayed in Dillon. The two buried the issue for as long as they could until emotions came bubbling to the surface in the front row of a Heartless Bastards concert, of all places. Matt laid it on the line and asked Julie if she wanted him to stay. I thought the episode was a hallmark one for Aimee Teagarden, beginning with this scene. Julie ahs been something of a guarded creature, thoroughly obsessed with maintaining that “cool girl in a town of hicks” demeanor. But, man did she ever look vulnerable pleading with Matt to stay, even if she knew deep down it was all for naught.
As Matt and Julie were AWOL, Tami was losing her damn mind bouncing off the walls fretting for Julie’s safety. A season 1 episode likely would have seen her following through on her haphazard plan to follow the happy couple to Austin. But, given the tone of last night’s outing, the incident forced the Taylors to deal with their spirited daughter’s impending exodus from Dillon. Connie Britton killed these scenes, as she always does.
If Matt and Julie were meant to make us think about when to cut bait on a strained relationship, then the ballad of Tim and Lyla was a great example of taking things at face value. Lyla Garrity blew back into Dillon like whirlwind, throwing herself at Tim with the pent-up passion of a Siberian nun. This whole storyline was right up my alley, which is somewhat ironic, considering I’ve never been the biggest Lyla fan. But I just dug it. We were largely spared her giving Tim any lectures about dropping out of school or being reduced to living in a trailer located in a bartender’s backyard. Even when Tim made a half-serious plea for her to stay and manage the business of Riggins’ Rigs when it goes global, the knowing silence exchanged between the two said volumes. There was no getting around it. Lyla has to leave. She’s got a lot of stuff going on and Tim does not. But right now, in this moment, it does not matter. In this moment, they can sleep together, stare longingly into each others eyes, and ride mechanical bulls. Besides there largely-silent goodbye at the bus depot, the most telling scene between the two took place in Tim’s trailer, when Lyla simply asked “What do you want?” A question that was simply met with silence by Tim. That’s about all there is to say.
Silence was a big theme in the Tim-Lyla reunion, as it was much more about things unsaid rather than said. To drill the point home, Becky tried to soothe Tim’s worries by running her mouth about soul mates and fate and destiny and blah blah blah. Tim just needed silence. Again. He kindly told Becky to shut up, allowing the soulful sounds of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”
For the second time in as many weeks, football was a complete afterthought on the show. This is not a complaint. This a show that has put in time and effort to build complicated, emotionally diverse characters that deserve to be explored. However, we’ve got quite a little situation on our hands here regarding the East Dillon Lions. We’re facing a lot of dramatic intrigue week to week as to whether or not they will have a moral victory or an actual victory. I predict they crack the W column next week, provided Luke and Vince have more film sessions in the middle of Sears.
And now we arrive at that beautifully cryptic last scene. This show is known for a lot of things, but cliffhangers aren’t exactly one of them. Is Matt really peacing out of Dillon forever? We know life insurance and military benefits have set up his mom and grandma for the foreseeable future, and there seemed to be a sense of finality within him as he peered into his house to seem them futzing with the broken TV.
Did this episode have you all torn apart inside? Who do you want to stay in Dillon? Is it better if everybody just moves on? When will Stan Traub stop shooting his mouth off at inopportune moments? Have we seen the last of Matt Saracen? Most importantly, why aren’t more people watching this show?
Tags: Friday Night Lights