Friday Night Lights Episode 4-8 Review

You can mark me down for any episode where Coach’s first line is “Gracie doesn’t have any pants.”

That’s what we were treated to on the eighth episode of the superb fourth season of Friday Night Lights. And it only got better from there.

“The Toilet Bowl” saw some of our favorite characters struggling with the notion of self-acceptance and the notion that, to some degree, a tiger can’t change his stripes. In true FNL fashion, these realizations came with results both uplifting (In Julie’s case), downright tragic (In the case of the Riggins boys) and hilariously in-between (oh, Landry).

“I guess what I’m trying to say is that…I’m surprised at how happy I am to be from where where I’m from…Does that make any sense?”

Does it ever, Julie. Dillon’s most adorable and most eager to escape resident took a good long look in the mirror during Wednesday’s ep, and what she saw was startling.

Julie and Tami headed north for Boston College for a college visit, and Jules seemed somewhat checked out for much of the time. At first, this didn’t make a whole lot of sense, as one would logically assume that Julie would be chomping at the bit to bid Dillon adieu. Then it came to light that Julie felt this decision wasn’t hers at all, but Tami’s. Now, we all know Tami about as far from one of the vicarious living type of parents as it gets, but that doesn’t make the scene where Tami explains to Julie that she already has all of her dreams any less poignant.

Their trip amounted to watching two brilliant actresses who are so on the same wavelength with these characters that it borders on precognition. Connie Britton brought the heat as usual, but between Julie’s interview, her moving Thomas Wolfe tribute last week and her heartbreaking collapse as Matt skipped town the week before, Aimee Teegarden has really stepped up her game this season.

The best is still ahead for Julie. She knows this, but she also began to realize that Dillon has shaped her as a young woman and that if her circumstance had been different, she wouldn’t be the person she is now.

“Some guys are meant to be in a suit, and some guys aren’t”

We can almost certainly pencil in the Riggins brothers for the latter. Tim continued to learn the hard way that opportunities dry up pretty quickly in Dillon when you’re not winning state championships, and Billy, though his reasons are noble, is fighting just to stay above the Mendoza line of respectability.

For Tim to be gifted his dream property or take a crummy sales job would be a total copout, so in their effort to be loyal to the characters they’ve created, the FNL writers took us to a very dark place, wherein Tim has no choice but to aid his brother in stripping cars just to make his dreams something resembling a reality.

I was a really big fan of the scenes between Tim and Becky, as we’ve been granted the opportunity to watch this relationship gradually materialize this season. I particularly enjoyed Becky using her pageant mentality for Tim’s job interview preparation, not to mention the downright beautiful vignette on Tim’s would-be plot of land. I’m still not sure how I feel about these two kissing each other, but for the second time this season, Tim gave Becky an ever so delicate brush-off. I can’t even explain how this moment transcended “awkward discomfort” and went straight into “quiet satisfaction”. Though I’d bet that it has something to do with that beautiful Texas sunset.

Meanwhile the Tim and Billy sequences were once again ingeniously heartbreaking. Watching Billy come clean about his business venture and Tim break down his tough guy facade about as much as we’ve ever seen, you can’t help but think of the scene in last year’s finale when Billy implored Tim about how he ad to go to college in order to give future Rigginses hope for a better life. The tragedy of this brotherly arc is downright Shakespearean.

“I have other really nice shirts. I have a bunch of really nice shirts!”

Caught somewhere between progress and stagnancy was Landry, as it looked as though Jess was going to join the growing list of women who’ve given everyone’s favorite ginger kicker the heave-ho.

Jess pre-empted their date after rekindling a flame with Vince, opting instead for a fairly uncomfortable dinner at Vince’s house (mostly thanks to his mom).

But we were given a glimmer of hope when, given the choice after the big game, Jess went the way of  Landry. But I will always keep my guard up when it comes to this poor kid, though last week’s exorcism of his inner Tyra demons would seem to suggest that this Jess situation may have some legs.

Oh, and speaking of that game

“East Dillon Lions win! We won! We won a game!”

Those glorious were spoken by one Buddy Garrity, over Spanish radio, no less. This is the same man who bled Panther blue and lived and died with state titles. There he was, up in the announcer’s booth celebrating one ultimately meaningless win late in the season over fellow cellar dweller Campbell Park.

Now you might think the Lions finally cracking the W column flies in the face of my whole “tiger can’t change its stripes” notion of the episode. I would argue, however, that we’re subtly being sent the message that the team truly is a winner, but is only now actually scratching the surface of its potential. Think of it more like “the tiger has yet to even acquire its stripes.” Is this Lion/Tiger stuff getting to obtuse? Anyway, we’re about out of room

Extra points

  • I totally dug Vince’s transition from raw athletic punk to savvy, knowledgeable quarterback. furthermore, I loved that calm routine feeling that presided over the practice scenes early in the episode as Taylor quietly refined Vince’s skills.
  • The episode’s only falter was Luke’s encounter with the fly-by-night pharmacist. I’m not sure what we’re really supposed to feel about him taking those. If it’s a good thing, then it wasn’t to clear, and if it’s a bad thing, then aren’t we somewhat retreading the Smash-steroids storyline? At this point, I feel like I’m nitpicking.
  • I think we’re overdue for a quality Coach/Tami scene.

Well, that’s it. I thought episode 7 was a bit of a step back for the show, all things considered, and “The Toilet Bowl” certainly got things back on solid ground, and then some.

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