I'm a professional critic and therefore allegedly someone skilled at using words to describe why something was or wasn't good, and I feel like they're failing me in an attempt to capture the pure genius of the scene where Tami has The Talk with Julie. Long before Tami gave Eric her speech about not wanting to lose Julie's trust, you could see her struggling mightily between going all hellfire and brimstone or trying to be the cool mom who's her daughter's best friend, and it was funny and moving and scary and just amazing. Not that I expect this show to get much, if any, love from the Emmys, but that was Edie Falco in the coma episodes brilliant from Connie Britton. Peter Berg did not lie to her when he told her she wouldn't regret doing this role twice.
The entire sex story was masterfully handled from beginning to end. Even though I suspected NBC wasn't going to let a 15-year-old girl be deflowered on an 8 o'clock family drama -- especially since they've already cut the producers slack on letting the slightly older kids drink and have sex -- the scenes always felt honest, whether it was Saracen getting awful advice from Riggins, Smash and the guys (the camera phone thing immediately made me think of poor Antonella Barba, who appears to be Vote For the Worst's new favorite), another hilarious Landry shopping trip, Julie revealing her inner nerd to Tyra, or Saracen's discomfort at losing it in such a terrible environment. And the Coach/Mrs. Coach argument was almost as moving as The Talk. Kyle Chandler has really learned to be economical with his acting; he can make Coach seem on the verge of absolute fury with a slight twist of his mouth, and he had me laughing hysterically as he studied Saracen from the other side of the church service.
Speaking of church, damn! Buddy deserved every second of the public humiliation Tyra's mom gave him, but it was interesting to see Tyra and Lyla share that split-second look of understanding, if not actual sympathy.
There's a deleted scene from the Powderpuff episode that establishes Walt Riggins as having moved back in with Tim and Billy. When I talked to Jason Katims for the story I'm doing on deleted scenes (it's running Sunday), he said he felt okay losing it because they would re-establish the new living situation later. I think it worked fine. We knew Walt came to the playoff game, and there hadn't been anything to suggest he had skipped town yet.
Taylor Kitsch has gotten better as the season's gone along, but he's still better in silence (inviting the beating at the bar) than when he talks (defending his father to Coach). He's a fine tragic character, worse off in many ways than his sometime best buddy Street.
And speaking of which, a few other thoughts:
- I always like the Street storylines, but he's really disappearing into his own show, aided by the fact that Scott Porter, like Adrianne Palicki, looks five years older than everyone else. So what's his motivation here with Tattoo Girl? Desire to be with someone who's not in any way connected to his former life as The Next Peyton Manning? Belated payback for Lyla screwing Riggins? Either way, this was by far the better drama episode last night to feature a character flirting with a tattoo artist.
- I just want to say a few words in praise of Brett Cullen as Walt. Here's a guy who started out in soaps with the looks and seeming talent of several hundred other soap actors, someone whose resume is dotted with supporting roles on best-forgotten series like "Orleans" and "Legacy," but who's turned out to be quite the chameleon character actor in middle age. He was Vinick's born-again running mate on "West Wing," the treacherous Goodwin on the Tailies episode of "Lost" (and a crucial part of the best scene Michelle Rodriguez was ever involved in on that show), and he completely disappeared into playing this good-for-nothing golf hustler. Can someone please cast him in a good pilot next year instead of another "Pepper Dennis"? Pretty please?
- Isaac over at Throwing Things points out that Tyra has gone from glorified extra to someone who's integral to three current storylines: her mom and Buddy, Julie's budding delinquency, and Riggins' battle to avoid becoming his father. When I talked to Katims, I made my pitch for Tyra as strong safety as a means for giving her something to do; he laughed and said that he'd do it so long as I was willing to answer all the complaining phone calls from NBC. At this rate, he may not need to put her in pads.