Friday Night Lights: Stay

Posted by sara December 10th, 2009 at 09:00am In Friday Night Lights General

Thank the Lord for small mercies, Friday Night Lights fans. This week’s episode was mostly lighter than last week’s, which is good, because I don’t think I could handle that kind of emotional upheaval two weeks in a row. To recap: Matt buried his father, who was killed in Iraq. Julie struggled to support Matt in the face of enormous and staggering pain and cope with facing mortality for the first time in her life. Becky hit on Tim Riggins and was rejected, which drove her into Luke’s slightly less muscular arms. And Vince went in two directions at the same time, earning player of the week honors and learning to hotwire cars. So, now for something a little bit lighter? Please, Jason Katims, don’t make me cry again.

I'm not so think as you drunk I am.

I'm not so think as you drunk I am.

This week opens with sports talk radio telling us that the East Dillon Lions’ opponent this week is the undefeated McNulty Mavericks, who have the best shot of upsetting the Panthers (later in the season, I guess. Probably conference semis). We see Luke running like someone’s chasing him and Vince at the barbershop. Bug Eyes tells Vince that it’s one thing to play on a team that sucks, but a whole other ballgame playing on a team that sucks on TV. (He says it “TEE-vee,” which I find kind of adorable and hilarious.) There’s a painting of President Obama’s face superimposed on the American flag on the wall of the barbershop, which is a nice little detail.

The Lions coaches are half strategizing, half commiserating about their upcoming Waterloo. Coach says there’ll be press at practice wanting to talk about the game, and that they need to stay on message and not get carried away. At the press conference, such as it is, Coach is circumspect and stonewalls the reporters, because for crying out loud, he’s the coach of a team that basically didn’t exist three months ago and they’ve never won a game. Which doesn’t stop Coach Closet Case from guaranteeing a victory. Oh, man.

Julie and Matt are making out in broad daylight at a drive-through, which is so teenage and normal. She’s gotten tickets to an indie music festival in Austin, and their relationship seems to be a little freer and less fraught, at least for a few minutes.

Speaking of free and fraught, remember how Lyla came back for the funeral? Now, if you’d taken a bus from Tennessee to Texas and gone to the funeral of one of your peers’ fathers and your ex-boyfriend was in town and he looked like Tim Riggins and lived in an Airstream, would you stay away? I didn’t think so. Because my readers are not idiots. She shows up to talk and they have kind of a broken and disjointed conversation, with Lyla prying about why Tim gave up on college, and then sarcastically saying, “I am so glad I came home.” And then Tim kisses the bejesus out of her and backs her into the Airstream and her knickers burst into flames and huh, I guess that wasn’t sarcastic AT ALL.

So Tami won’t let Julie go to Austin for two school nights with her boyfriend. Surprise! Because that’s what normal parents do. Julie tries to appeal to Coach, which, since her parents are still married to each other, doesn’t work. Spoiler alert: She goes anyway.

Matt and Landry are throwing the ball around in Matt’s sad postage stamp of a front yard, and Matt expositions that the Army death benefit was $100,000, which along with the life insurance sets Grandma Saracen up for life. One by one, Matt is snipping the tiny threads tying him down in Dillon with the world’s most poignant pair of nail scissors.

At Dillon, Tami’s secretary tells her some boilerplate school stuff, and then, offhand, tells her that Julie called and she’s gone to Austin and will see her on Saturday. I once took my younger brothers to Baltimore for the day, just for fun, while my parents were on a college visit with my brother Phil, and even though we got back before they did, my parents kind of lost their shit. I do not know how they would have reacted if we’d been gone overnight. Or I was with someone other than my ten- and fifteen-year-old brothers. Tami begins to lose her shit, then calls Julie’s cell phone and leaves the most polite I-am-going-to-kill-you-and-then-ground-you-and-then-kill-you-again voicemail message in the history of electronic parent-child communication.

Landry goes to talk to Jess about that time they sucked face over the barbecue. He bungles it, because even sleeping with Tyra didn’t turn Landry into a smooth talker. He rambles about how there’s “a big part of him” (heh heh) that’s totally into her, but a tiny little part in the back of his mind that’s still hung up on Tyra. Jess smacks him in the face and stalks away. Violence is never the answer, friends.

Who needs pants?

Who needs pants?

Lyla and Tim have temporarily stopped banging each other into little steaming puddles of lust. She says she has to head back to Vanderbilt in three days, and Tim thoughtfully observes that he can work with three days. Tim is lounging about in his drawers, for the record. I thought you’d need to know that. Their relationship here is just so easy and sexy and playful and damn, I have actually missed Lyla. Tim is so much fun with her. He’s not drunk or sad or frustrated; it’s just glorious. They are starting to go at it again when DAMMIT BECKY bangs on the door of the trailer to demand a ride to school. The sight of Lyla with I-just-fucked-Tim-Riggins-and-you-didn’t hair is enough to send Becky scampering away to write some rageful, cornified, poorly spelled and inconsistently capitalized acrostics on her MySpace page.

On the field at East Dillon we get a sequence that mirrors the pilot. The Lions players and coaches are doing one-on-one interviews with TV news. The boys are adorable. One of them rhymes, “We been through the storm and we been through the rain; now we’re gonna bring the pain.” Landry cites his perfect SAT math score as proof of how well he does under pressure. Coach Closet Case has apparently been instructed not to talk. Vince explains that he’s both brains AND brawn. Aww. I just love him. The reporter asks Tinker if the Lions will win, and he starts chuckling, and moves up to full-on belly laughs. It’s great. And then the reporter asks Coach about his “history of quitting,” first back when he left the Panthers for the TMU job, and then forfeiting the first game. Coach mutters something and his sunglasses glare at her, and he just walks away.

Matt and Julie are lounging like Henry and June or something on the roof of his car eating peanut butter sandwiches. She ignores a call from Tami. Oh man. Tami is gonna kill you. Later we see Tami leave another scalding message on Julie’s voicemail and then tell Grace through gritted teeth, “You are my favorite daughter.” Ha.

Over at Virgil’s BBQ, Vince shows up for some ribs. There seems to be some history, not just between Vince and Jess, which we knew about, but between Vince and Virgil, who tells Vince he can get his ribs at the counter (rather than table service from Jess) and get out. I wonder what the bad blood there is? Is it connected to how Jess was able to teach Landry to kick? Ooh, did they play Pop Warner together, and also Doctor? I am intrigued by this.

Luke brings Becky some candy and steps up for some more of The Matt Saracen Program: Making That Guy Who Was Totally The Hottest One In Your High School Play a High School Kid Who Can’t Catch a Break. Come on, that is sweet. Because they met over candy, and because it would be unwise for him to bring her a six-pack at school. Becky’s all, you don’t know me!, and totally blows him off like the UNGRATEFUL HO BAG SHE IS. God, I really do not like her. She’s going in my small but potent file of Friday Night Lights Things That Should Not Exist, along with Alejandro; the murder plotline; hell, all of season 2; Smash losing his scholarship for that bullshit racial incident; and Julie’s boyfriend the Swedish lifeguard.

Football practice. Jess and the pep squad are working on their routine. And Coach has some surprises to help the team prepare for McNulty: They’ll be playing 11 on offense and 13 on defense today. The extra two? Tim and Billy Riggins, in their college and high school uniforms, respectively. OH GODDAMN. I have missed Tim Riggins in uniform so much, you guys. The Lions start off on the wrong foot, getting totally shellacked, until they start to work together and manage to punch a hole through the Riggins-fortified defensive line. It’s great to see them cohere like that.

That night, Mindy is somehow STILL pregnant (I know TV time is different, but season 3 ended in January. She was pregnant then. Good lord!). Billy, Tim and Lyla are enjoying some beers while Lyla eyes the mechanical bull in the corner. I guess they don’t have those at Vanderbilt? She declares she can ride it. Of course she can; if she can ride Derek Jeter, a west Texas mechanical bull shouldn’t give her any trouble. It does, though. Lyla faceplants into the mats and Tim saunters up all kind of concerned and pretty and damn.

At East Dillon the next day, Tami shows up to thumbscrew the truth out of Landry as to Matt and Julie’s whereabouts. The southern politeness and spectacular dissembling from both of them is a joy to watch. Of course, Tami wins.

Coach gives Vince and Luke some game tape of McNulty to watch, and it’s a very precise illustration of the circumstances his new players live in that the boys take their DVD and go to Sears to watch it on a big TV. And now it’s time for our court-mandated J.D. McCoy Asshole Appearance of the Week, as the little shithead and some of his miserable cohorts show up to start some trouble. J.D. remarks that he’s surprised Vince hasn’t stolen one of the TVs yet. Vince is about to get his third strike when Coach Closet Case (who works at Sears, remember?) shows up to save the day. He boots J.D. and the clown car of jerkwads out of Sears. Vince and Luke go back to their lawn chairs and game tape.

Matt and Julie are in a hotel in Austin, and Matt puts on some Patsy Cline, because as my lovely viewing companion says, hotel sex is better. He calls it “pretty music,” and they dance, and the tender beauty of this relationship makes my heart ache a little. Patsy carries over to Tim’s Airstream, where he and Lyla are whispering together in bed.

Vince and his mom come out of a convenience store with their groceries, and she starts discussing her plans to come see the game. Vince tries to dissuade her from making a long trip just to see him lose, but his mom, who’s looking a little better, says that she needs to see him play, and that she’ll be cleaned up and won’t embarrass him. He acquiesces, with some of the same resignation Tyra used to have about her mom.

Baby, I like the way you wear my football T-shirt.

Baby, I like the way you wear my football T-shirt.

Tami is spitting mad chez Taylor that night, declaring that she’s going to go to Austin and snatch Julie bald-headed and drag her back to Dillon and turn the key on the chastity belt her own damn self, and she has herself worked up into a fine lather that makes me wonder how she’ll be able to sleep. Also, come on. No one with long hair sleeps with it down. That’s just a recipe for Gordian knot–style snarls. Coach just says quietly, “I support your decision one hundred percent.” And that is why I want to be married to him. The next morning, Tami wakes up in tears and decides that it might be a bad idea to drive all the way to Austin like a banshee and destroy their daughter, and like last week, Coach holds one of his women while she breaks down, and he says a whole lot of things that are right. “The more we make her try to stay, the more she’s going to stray,” he says. “I know, but I hate it,” Tami says. But she decides not to go to Austin.

Tim is explaining the Riggins Rigs business model to Lyla, such as it is, about how Billy is going to have a kid after Mindy’s forty-seven-month pregnancy, and he’ll be busy and Tim will be busy and they’ll need someone to manage the business while Tim is out towing people, and that should totally be Lyla. She gives it a bit of mock consideration and then sees that he’s serious, and asks soberly, “What do you want?” Tim replies simply, “You.” She absorbs it like a punch in the face and then struggles to ask, “What else do you want.” Same answer. Lyla! Sweetheart! The economy is shit. That’s a great deal.

Landry calls Matt at the hotel in Austin to tell him about the whole Tami interrogation thing. And lets slip that Julie lied to her parents about going to Austin. Which Matt didn’t know. He hangs up and starts a fight with Julie because now it’s like he’s lied to her parents, and he cares what the Taylors think about him, and Julie says she just wanted to give Matt something to get him out of Dillon, because she feels guilty that he stayed in Dillon just for her. (Julie has apparently forgotten about Grandma Saracen. She actually says, “You only stayed there because of me and for once I didn’t want the responsibility of making you stay in Dillon.”) The argument resolves as fast as it came up and they apologize to each other and head off for their music. The band they’re seeing, incidentally, is the Heartless Bastards. You may (or probably won’t) remember that the Heartless Bastards song “All This Time” was playing in an episode back in season 1 when Lyla went for a jog and ended up in Tim Riggins’s bed. I like that song a lot.

The game! The (McNulty, I assume) marching band is playing “I Believe I Can Fly,” which is fantastic. The East Dillon team is clicking on all cylinders, putting together offense, switching it up between Vince and Luke. Vince at quarterback is running; he breaks three tackles for a touchdown. Their center is still snapping way too high, though; it’s practically going over Vince’s head, and Vince isn’t short. He needs to work on that. Late in the fourth quarter the score is 14-7, the clock is running down, and the boys just can’t put together one last run. Vince’s mom is yelling “Good job! Good job!” in the stands like someone who’s never been to a football game before, but #5 can’t get a pass off and gets sacked in the backfield as time expires.

The crowd noise fades to nothing until Coach yells, “Bring it in, let’s go. Listen up right now. Every single person out here respects you fellas. Every one. I respect you. You need to respect yourselves. Hell of a job.” And it was.

In Austin, Matt and Julie are at the concert, and he asks if she wants to leave. She’s all, no, the set just started. And he asks, no, do you want me to leave? As in Dillon. He explains that maybe he should have left, and asks if she wants him to stay, and she goes from 0 to panic in about a second, shrieking, “I said stupid things! I’m sorry, I love you, I’m sorry!” But you know that’s not over.

Tim takes Lyla to the bus. Their goodbye seems final and bittersweet and it’s agonizing. And very literal: Her bus passes his truck, and he’s standing by the bed just watching her. In Matt’s car in front of the Taylor house, Julie says goodbye and good night, and Matt says (LYING!) “I’ll see you later?” In the house, you expect Tami to lay into her something fierce, but Julie just crumples to the floor against the wall and starts sobbing even as Tami is tuning up. “I think he’s leaving,” she says.

Matt parks in front of his house and watches Shelby and Grandma through the front window, discussing the crappy old TV. He looks at that tire he and Landry have been hucking footballs at for twelve years. He just looks at the sum total of his life in Dillon. If the last episode was about the goodbyes you don’t get to say, this one is about the ones you can say, and even have to say, but don’t want to because it’s like slicing off your skin.

But we can’t end on that sparkling little jewel of pain. At Alicia Witt’s House O’ Pageants, Tim brings a beer to the back porch, where Becky is spinning her candy-flavored web of obnoxiousness. She asks if Lyla’s gone, then asks if Tim has a broken heart, then asks if Lyla was the love of his life, then rambles on for seventeen years about soulmates and Sri Lanka and all the bullshit that you can’t even stomach in your own head when you’re fifteen, until Tim interrupts her: “Becky? Shut up. Please?” Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” is playing throughout this absurdist little tableau.

Final shot: Matt, in the car, driving. He’s still wearing that Livestrong bracelet he’s had on since the pilot. And that’s it.

Don't cry for me, Corpus Christi

Don't cry for me, Corpus Christi

Is this the last we’ll see of Matt Saracen? I was not remotely ready for that. I hope he’ll be happy, in TV graduate land, with his art.

Photos courtesy of DirecTV’s The 101 Network.


  • 1. FNL Podcast  |  December 11th, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I’m pretty sure that Season Three ended in May. Remember Episode 13 opened with a Dillon baseball game being played and Tim/Lyla out by the pool? People were graduating and telling where they were going to college?

    Matt has to have super human hearing to know what his mom/grandmom was saying from out in the car.

  • 2. Jayne Hasselroth  |  December 13th, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    We are never disappointed in “Friday Night Lights”. It remains to be our favorite show on TV and my family and I look forward to it every week. We are thankful to have DirecTV so we can watch the new season early and commercial free at that. This refreshing show is perfect for our family viewing . It is the one show, that at any age can be appreciated. Even the coolest of teens can enjoy it.

    Some people are afraid of the changing cast, but we find it exciting to meet the new characters, especially the way they let you get to know all facets of the individual’s lifestyle and personality. Love the new school at East Dillon HS which is a little more diverse. Many schools in and around large cities are more like East Dillon HS and more teens can relate to it’s atmosphere.

    Changes are ok, just as long as we still have the Taylor family as a constant as the cog in the wheel of life in Dillon.

    Naturally we are all Coach Taylor aka Kyle Chandler fans. We will follow him anywhere. And, of course we also love Tammi and Julie Taylor.

    A great show any way you look at it…too bad so many people are missing out on this wonderful show.

    Thanks for the review,
    The Hasselroth Family


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