You guys, Matt Saracen is gone. Julie doesn’t know what to do, and neither do I.
Yes, welcome back to our regularly-scheduled Friday Night Lights recap, only, like, a month late. Sorry.
So Julie is in her room, devastated, as I think we all are. Matt Saracen, to my mind, is as much the heart of the show as Coach is; it was through his eyes that we really saw Season 1, and with him that we grew up in the show. I am hopeful that the writers and actors have some awesomeness in store for us without him, but I sure am going to miss Zach Gilford. At school, Julie decides that the way to salve her broken heart is to sign up for every club East Dillon has. (They can afford clubs?!) Landry interrupts and says that it’s cool that she wants to join the book club, except that this week they’re reading Twilight. Ba-zing! He indulges in a little mope over how Matt was his best friend, too, and Julie’s all, yeah, that’s why I signed you up for It’s Academic, er, Academic Smackdown.
Down on the Cafferty farm, Luke and his parents are herding cows, which I thought people usually had, you know, dogs and horses to do. Luke’s dad tells him he’s going to have to miss some school this week to help out around the farm, and when Luke protests, saying he won’t be able to play in this week’s Big Game of Destiny if he misses too many classes, his dad is all, dude, this is a freaking cattle farm in west Texas, we are broke.
Over at Dillon, Tami has apparently overcome such crippling budget problems that last year they could afford either toilet paper or chalk to bring the school’s academic achievement up to an award-winning level this year. That’s realistic! Also realistic: Becky’s deadbeat trucker dad just showed up. And…erm, he’s white. Am I the only one who thought Becky was biracial? Just me? Okay. So Becky’s dad meets Tim. Oh, I have missed Tim so much.
At East Dillon, Coach names Vince the Lions’ new quarterback. Finally! I’ve been thinking Tinker was snapping to Luke or the ghost of Jason Street or someone all this time. In his office later, Coach is on the phone with someone, arguing about an invoice, when Luke walks in, evidently having missed school. Luke tries out his lamesauce excuse about fixing the fence so the cows don’t get out, and Coach gives him his WTF face and is like, fix the fence whenever, this is football. It’s like Sparta, but slightly less homoerotic.
Tim, Billy, and Mindy are in the truck at Whataburger, scrounging for change while another patron behind them leans on the horn, seemingly on the verge of some Texas-style violence. Mindy suddenly announces that she’s having a contraction and demands to go to the hospital, even though Billy hilariously insists she’s only seven months pregnant. SURE. I’m convinced she’s gestating an elephant in there.
Landry and Julie head to Academic Smackdown as Landry mocks the irony of the name. The caliber of idiot they find there? Jess, last seen smacking Landry in the face in the middle of his I-like-kissing-you-but-I-also-would-still-like-to-be-having-copious-sex-with-Tyra soliloquy. We learn from Principal Levi that this week’s Smackdown is at West Dillon. Of course it is.
Becky has talked her deadbeat dad into getting her a puppy at the pound, because Becky is five years old.
One of the assistant coaches is challenging Vince to do 50 situps in 30 seconds, which, ow, when Principal Levi and two cops walk into the locker room. They tell Coach they’ve heard that Vince has a gun in his locker, so they need to search it. Coach, seeming reluctant, gives the okay, although it seems odd that anyone would be stupid enough to keep a firearm in his gym locker which has a see-through mesh door. The cops toss Vince’s stuff and come up empty-handed. Vince watches with a combination of—what? Sadness, anger, superiority?
At the hospital, the doctor has stopped Mindy’s pre-term labor, and tells Billy and Tim that she’ll have to go on bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy, which freaks Billy out. He doesn’t have insurance, and chases after the doctor to see if they can work something out other than keeping her in the hospital overnight, or, like, a payment plan. Oh, Billy. Write Martha Coakley a letter and tell her what an asshole she is, why don’t you.
Coach and Tami are discussing the police raid at dinner while Julie pokes aimlessly at her plate and generally acts out that part of New Moon where Bella ceases to exist. Hey, maybe she will enjoy the book club! At school the next day, Julie flips out on her Academic Smackdown teammates over the battle of Stalingrad. Landry tries to talk her off the ledge, but she just screams “Nyet!” and stomps off.
Coach calls Vince into his office for a manly tête-à-tête over l’affaire pistolet. Vince looks betrayed that Coach would even ask him, and it appears to me that he lies when he says no, he doesn’t have a gun.
Over at Alicia Witt’s house, Tim is lounging urbanely in his Airstream while Becky’s deadbeat dad paces the back patio, talking on the phone. And it sounds like Papa has a second family, including a baby, which would seem to indicate that he won’t be moving back to Dillon to provide the kind of male guidance that will keep Becky off the pole. Pity. Tim, wearing another of his ten thousand impeccably weathered garments emblazoned with the number 33, comes out of the trailer and Papa Deadbeat advises him never to get married or have kids. Tim inquires about the baby he’s heard so much about, and Papa Deadbeat confesses he’s had another kid with some girl in Seattle, and “there’s never enough to go around.” What a gem. In the house, Alicia Witt is losing it over the dog.
Julie gets to her breaking point and heads to the Saracens’, where Grandma is thrilled to see her. She says Shelby has been taking good care of her, which is refreshing, since just last season Lorraine so loathed Shelby that she threw herself out of a moving car. Grandma rambles about how she was worried about Matt but now that he’s called to say he’s settling in, she’s reassured. Julie is visibly wounded by the news that he’s called his family but not her, and when Grandma totters off to rustle up some ice cream sandwiches (what, no tapioca?), Shelby pats her hand and says that Matt will call. Julie looks like she’s about to scream.
Landing Strip. Tim and Billy are commiserating about their brokeness and resolving not to sell Kit Kat (!), their prize longhorn. One of the strippers brings them a couple of beers and says that she wants to throw Mindy a coed, benefit baby shower, at which the other Landing Strip girls will dance and the gentleman attendees will pay a cover charge. Well, it can’t be any tackier than the bridal shower poor Tyra threw last year. Judging from stripper pal Hannah’s acting, she must be Method.
Tami is going over a reading list with a fellow who appears to be a Dillon English teacher. I’m pretty sure he’s not Glen from Season 2, but he sure is acting like him, inviting Tami to a celebratory teachers’ evening in honor of their new blue-ribbon academic honors whatever it is, which I’m sure will turn into the English teacher being all, “I guess no one wanted to come! Oh well, Tami, just you and I…would you like some wine? And to go to Omaha with me?” You know those English teachers. Untrustworthy. Oh wait, he just suggested karaoke. So maybe he’ll end up crying in his beer and coming out to her.
Luke is napping on his lunch table, as you do, when Tinker comes over and asks if he’s drunk. Luke confesses that he’s been up all night and won’t be getting much sleep any time soon, since someone is still stealing the Cafferty cows. Yes, he alliterated it just like that. And I am suddenly convinced that the cow thief is J.D. McCoy. He’s just enough of a mean little shit, and he certainly doesn’t know the value of hard work or what the Cafferty family is going through, struggling to make a living. Tinker suggests that he can get some of the guys together to help Luke repair the fence, and I have a flashback to one of the final episodes of Season 1, when the Panthers built a field in a cow pasture and it was awesome. Luke goes back to sleep and Tinker eats his lunch and Luke’s.
Vince’s mom, looking cleaned up and much healthier than last time we saw her, shows up in the locker room to see Coach and thank him for making Vince quarterback. You can see Coach’s regret at asking Vince about the gun spread across his face as Regina tells him how happy Vince was to get the news. “You should have seen the look on his face when he told me…it was like he was a kid again,” she says, and it breaks my heart, because Vince should still be a kid, and for that matter so should Luke, and Landry, and Matt. Sob.
High school teacher karaoke, generously lubricated with Texas-size margaritas and shots provided by Glen—it is Glen! Oh, man. That weasel. Coach is going to punch him. Glen makes a maudlin toast that all but says “Tami, I love you and will never talk about football, let’s run away to Tucson” and then gets up to sing that song from The Breakfast Club. Glen really thinks he’s Bender, doesn’t he, and Tami is Claire. Oh, this is going to end in tragedy. Hilarious, awesome tragedy. All I can say is that Coach totally is not Emilio Estevez. Waiting for the cab later, Glen hugs Tami goodbye and it goes on just a little too long, so she gets the uncertain eyes over his shoulder, and then he tries to kiss her and somewhere, Coach’s hair goes on high alert. And she’s all, just because this one time two years ago I leaked breastmilk all over you?! And then Glen commits ritual suicide outside the karaoke hut.
Coach shows up at Vince’s apartment, which immediately puts Vince’s back up. Coach begins a little speech about how the quarterback has to be a leader, has to be clear about his and the team’s goals, and Vince interrupts to detail just how difficult his life has been—he’s lived in this crappy apartment for 10 years, has seen three of his friends killed on their way to school, doesn’t know if this day will be the one he’s robbed, beaten, attacked. Basically, he’s defending his decision to have a gun without actually showing it. Coach says that if Vince gets in trouble with the law again he’s going straight to juvie, and then who will put food on the table, pay the bills, and take care of Regina? The line between man and child that Vince is walking here, and the way Coach has to treat him, halfway between man and child, is truly an amazing piece of writing and acting. Coach says that everything he has is supporting Vince, but that this is about more than football. Vince gives another one of those long, considering looks, picks up his bag, and walks away.
Glen is testing the microphone at Academic Smackdown when Tami walks in and asks how he’s doing. Seriously, they did all that on a school night? I mean, I get drunk like that on school nights, but I don’t mold young minds for a living. Tami asks how he’s feeling, and he blurts out this insane paragraph of verbal diarrhea about how he practically mouth-raped Tami and what kind of liberal does that and on top of it she’s married and oh God, Tami, just knee him in the balls if that’s what it takes to make him stop talking.
In the car, Julie finds a mix CD Matt made her. She puts it in the stereo, and rips the scab off again. At the Academic Smackdown, the judge asks East Dillon the first and last novels Thomas Wolfe wrote, both of which deal with the theme of the American wanderer. Julie takes the question and starts to lose it at the mike, weeping the titles: Look Homeward, Angel and You Can’t Go Home Again. The correct answer puts East Dillon in the lead, and Julie goes backstage to hang herself. Tami walks in and the scene eerily mirrors that early Season 1 episode where Coach brings Matt to Julie’s dance recital and all four of them are backstage, only here we have melancholy and heartbreak rather than nervous euphoria. Julie stammers that Matt called his grandmother and Shelby, and that she thought he was the one, and God, it’s just wrenching, because who hasn’t felt like that?
Tinker shows up to help Luke and his dad repair the fence, because Tinker is wonderful. It’s late, and they’re working by portable lights. Luke’s dad asks Tinker where he learned to build, and he says his grandfather was in construction. Luke’s dad thanks Tinker for his help, and Tinker says that Luke is holding the team together, that he’s a star but doesn’t act like it, “but you probably know that.” Luke’s dad does not. Tink continues, saying that by helping Luke, he feels like he’s helping the team. You guys, I think I love Tinker.
Landry is by the side of the road, talking to Tyra’s voicemail about how they’d agreed to meet but obviously she isn’t here, and he’s going off onto one of his insane Landry tangents (which have a lot in common with Glen…poor Landry) about the guards at Buckingham Palace and how he’ll wait until he’s old and shriveled because the sex was just that good, but because this is Friday Night Lights and not One Tree Hill, Tyra doesn’t magically show up. Eventually Landry talks himself into the realization that it’s over, she’s moved on, and he needs to as well.
Stripper baby shower! Tim is pouring beers and the Landing Strip girls are gyrating with their clothes on, because this is still DirecTV, not HBO. Vince’s troublemaking bug-eyed friend is there, and he ominously tells Billy that he knows a good money-making opportunity. Oh, Billy. Did we learn nothing from the meth dealer? The copper wire? The house-flipping? I pity that kid in Mindy’s belly already, because unless it comes out looking like Tim, it’s behind the eight ball before its first breath.
And of course Becky shows up! Because what is a benefit baby shower thrown by strippers without a few needy high school kids with daddy issues? Insufficiently redundant, that’s what it is. Becky gloms onto Tim like a remora, and the weight of his knowledge gets the best of Tim. He tells Becky about her dad’s other family in Seattle, and quite eloquently compares her father to his, telling her that they buy their kids things just so the five minutes a year they have to interact with them are less awkward. But I bet Becky’s dad never abandoned her in the parking lot of a sleazy bar to get the living shit knocked out of her. Becky is dissolving into a puddle of self-pity, and she runs off. I don’t know that Tim has ever looked more burdened.
Back at the Daddy Issues Ranch, Becky’s dad bangs on the door of the Airstream, yelling at Tim about how he said he’d tell Becky about his other family. Tim cuts through the bullshit, and then twists the knife, telling him that he slept with Alicia Witt. And then they fight and roll around in the mud, ending with Tim on top, giving Becky’s dad the beating he hasn’t been able to give his own father.
Vince, in the grandest tradition of Coach’s lost boys, shows up at Casa Taylor and apologizes for the lateness of the hour. I’m surprised Coach can’t sense when this is happening. Vince hands over a bag and says he’s sorry, and extends his hand to Coach. They shake. In the morning, Coach and Tami are still staring at the bag with the gun in it. Tami asks what they’re going to do. Coach says that Vince trusts him, and that the gun is going to disappear. Tami observes dryly that it’s been a strange week.
Becky’s horrible dad leaves. Tim goes back to the pound to get the dog Alicia Witt returned, and the lady there asks if Tim is going to return it the next day. “People aren’t always very responsible about these dogs. Are you going to be a responsible person,” she asks. Tim replies, “Yes, ma’am.” Who would’ve thought three years ago that Tim Riggins would be the voice of adult responsibility and emotional maturity on this show? Damn.
Luke and his dad are branding the cows. Something happens as Luke is climbing between the pens and his leg gets pinned in a gate and pretty banged up. He says it’s nothing, but appears to be in a lot of pain. I’m sure that won’t come back to haunt us.
Landry, newly unburdened of his pining for Tyra, walks into the barbecue joint where Jess is behind the counter, and very prettily asks her out. She asks why she’d do that, and he wins her over by arguing that he plays the guitar, so he might write her a song one day. Tell me, Cristin, would that work?
Tim is talking to the dog in his truck, asking what his name is going to be, because Julian is a super boring name. Tim Riggins can talk to dogs, babies, inanimate objects, it doesn’t really matter, it’s all amazing. They agree on Skeeter, but even with an appropriate moniker, the dog is still whining. Tim pulls over so Skeeter can do his business, and as the dog piddles, he surveys the rolling countryside, murmuring, “This is pretty great.” The wide shot reveals a “For Sale” sign, 25 acres. Tim Riggins, cattleman?
I’ll be trying to catch up over the next week or so. Thanks for reading, y’all. Clear eyes, full hearts.