Spoilers for "Friday Night Lights" coming up just as soon I speculate on how long the producers had to argue with NBC to show that one JV kid's acne...
A very strong episode, with one caveat that I'll get to in a bit. Let's take the silly before the serious.
Landry Clarke at a strip club? Absolute comic genius. The writers and Jesse Plemons have done such a wonderful job of establishing the ABC's of Landry that I started laughing at the very idea of him going there, well before he actually wound up in the dressing room. (Nice garnish: that one stripper nodding enthusiastically at Landry's speech about how they work hard for their money, so you better tip them right.)
The preview for this episode tipped off most of Coach and Mrs. Coach's scene, especially the "Is there anybody else I can talk to?" punchline, but it was still funny in context, plus there was a new capper with his reference to all three of them being scary. The Taylors have one of the most realistic, honest and entertaining marriages on TV. And am I the only one who keeps flashing back to Tami telling Tyra "I used to be like you" (or words to that effect) in an early episode? While Tyra's absolutely a bad influence on Julie, I also think Tami is protesting so vehemently because she identifies too much with Tyra.
Now, for the serious. I was so pleased by the nuanced way the show dealt last week with the Mac plot until now, how Mac's comments were unpleasant but not Tim Hardaway-level automatic proof of violent biogtry, how people like Coach and Riggins let their focus on the playoffs blind them to what needed to be said and done to defuse the situation, Smash's gradual awakening, etc. And I liked a lot of the material here: Mac's confession that he picked up some attitudes from his old man that he wishes he hadn't, Mama Smash's speech, Riggins finally standing up for Smash (and why didn't he tell Coach about the "tarbaby" comment after the fact?), the team being pelted with garbage while walking to the bus in full uniform, and that scary-ass traffic stop.
But I also feel like the show took the easy way out on Mac, both with Coach's line about him being the one who integrated the team and him saving the day with the redneck cops. First of all, if Mac was really the man responsible for integrating the Panthers, shouldn't that have come up really early in the whole media firestorm? Second, both bits -- and the nasty depiction of the rival team and its fans -- seemed to be a case of the writers trying to say, as Rich Heldenfels put it to me, "our racist is better than your racists." It was like the show went to a place that was really complicated and scary, and someone -- either the writers or NBC -- decided it was a little too scary to stay very long, so they wrapped things up neat and tidy. Rich wants to give the show the benefit of the doubt and assume that Smash and Mac's relationship will be an ongoing subject, but it looked from this seat like they put a bow on the whole thing.
Still, if there's any network show right now that deserves some benefit of the doubt, it's "Friday Night Lights." What did everybody else think?