Spoilers for "Friday Night Lights" coming up just as soon as I bring over a box...
For an episode that was so much about the ugliness of stereotypes, "Who Do You Think You Are?" sure trafficked in a lot of them. We got the hood trying to drag down the buddy who just wants to get out, the racist bullies, the racially disapproving parents, the sexist good old boy giving his friend bad advice, even the ever-popular declaration of love that's so belated that the object of it is already kissing someone else.
The ideas behind all these scenarios were fine, but the execution of most was as subtle as an air horn.
I'm not saying that racism doesn't exist in small Texas towns, or even that it doesn't sometimes get as overt and ugly as it did in that movie theater, or even with Noelle's parents. But "Friday Night Lights" handles social issues best when it doesn't feel the need to present them in all-caps with yellow highlighter. The last time the show did a racism storyline, with Mac's comments to the TV reporter, the genius of it was the ambiguity of what Mac said and how he said it. You could see how what he said was offensive, just as you could see how Mac would never think that it was, you know? The premise of Noelle's parents and/or Mama Smash trying to break the two of them up over the interracial thing isn't a bad one, but I think it would have worked much better if her folks kept going on about how enlightened they are in the kind of patronizing fashion that makes it clear how much they aren't. There were a couple of lines where the scene almost seemed to go there, but most of the dialogue could have been straight out of the original "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?" from 40 years ago.
The Buddy/Santiago story, meanwhile, featured the usual stellar work from Brad Leland (particularly the moment where Buddy slaps the watch down on the floor because he no longer gives a damn about it compared to the welfare of his foster kid), and some really nice characterization for Buddy, who's trying really hard to be as open-minded as any car salesman from Dillon can. But did they really have to make Francis Capra (Weevil!) utter a line like "When did you forget where you came from?" That's like a cliche of a cliche, and shouldn't be allowed in any script produced from about 2003 on, if not 1993. I winced when I heard it.
Of our stories dealing with prejudice and preconception, the best by far, as usual, was the one with the Taylors, because it was always aware of the stereotypes it was addressing. (And because, as always, Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton rock.) Even the scene with Eric and Mac was fine, because Eric rejected Mac's caveman attitude out of hand. Even though he knows it would be easier for Tami to quit her job, that's not the kind of husband and father he wants to be -- and good on the writers for having him point out that one of the main reasons Tami didn't follow him to TMU (and, therefore, why Eric gave up on the college coaching career he'd always dreamed of) was so she wouldn't have to quit her job. The argument at the dinner table -- one of those overly-polite, seemingly-reasonable fights where even Julie had to ask if they were fighting -- was hilarious and dead-on. (And it was, of course, elevated to another comedy stratosphere when Buddy showed up with his Box Of Stuff, which none of the Taylors wanted anything to do with. Britton's delivery of "Buddy's here. He's got a box" may be the funniest line reading she's ever given.) Wherever else the show may stumble, it always gets the little details of marriage right.
The Lyla/Tim/Logan from "Gilmore Girls" love triangle? Meh. When the show bothers to remember that Lyla's still a regular and that she's supposed to be a good Christian and not just a poseur, she can be kind of interesting. And Tim prank-calling the radio show while Herc cackled in the background was damned amusing. (One question: if Tim's on such good terms with Herc and blink-and-you'll-miss-him Street, why couldn't he have crashed on their floor during his homeless odyssey?) But of all the various storylines the writers have tried out with Riggins this year, the only one I'm less interested in than his pursuit of Lyla is the money he and Billy stole from Ferret Guy, which blessedly wasn't mentioned.
Finally, did my eyes deceive me or did we get an honest to goodness scene of Landry and Matt hanging out together and acting like best friends? What's up with that? Is that still allowed?
And so Carlotta's gone, and I'm still not sure what the point of that story was, other than to fulfill the show's quota of age-inappropriate romances. As I noted a while back, it's been kind of unremarked upon that Grandma's mental state improved dramatically under her care, and the one way in which the story could have been justified was if the relationship went south, Carlotta left, and Grandma backslid as a result of Matt not thinking things through. She may still have a problem (though I suppose the insurance company should be sending a replacement), but Carlotta's exit had nothing whatsoever to do with Matt. I'm guessing he'll wind up back with Julie in a few episodes, which would make the point of Carlotta a stalling tactic while the writers got Julie through the end of her bratty phase.
What did everybody else think?