Spoilers for the latest "Friday Night Lights" coming up just as soon as I give a verbal commitment to Montclair State...
Somebody want to explain to me why a show that just spent a really long time extricating itself from a murder storyline that almost everybody hated -- and that the show immediately tried to ignore in the next episode -- would then have one of its main characters steal money from a gun-toting meth dealer?
I'm not saying that the Riggins boys ripping off Ferret Guy is on a level of wrong-headedness with Landry the vigilante killer. Nor do I think that this story will automatically go in a bad direction. But it seems to me that steering clear of the world of criminals and violence for a while might be the prudent thing for this series at this moment. I liked Ferret Guy as a darkly comic symbol of how low Tim had fallen; I'm not going to like it if he's chasing after Tim and Billy with a rifle and demanding his cash back. And for those of you who want me to trust the writers, one of the casualties of the rapist storyline -- other than the rapist himself -- was the blind faith I invest in Katims and company. They still do beautiful work much of the time, but they've proven themselves to be very fallible this year.
As for the non-larcenous portion of "Jumping the Gun," it was the usual mixed bag we've gotten from "FNL" season two: some good ideas, some erratic execution and the usual stellar performances.
Forgive me, for instance, if I wasn't paying close enough attention in the past, but had we ever before heard that Smash's undying dream was to go to TMU? In the pilot, he wants to go play for Mack Brown at Texas, I don't recall TMU coming up as one of the football factories he discussed with his mom back in "Pantherama" and the "Cabo in my pants" recruiting trip in "Seeing Other People" was to another school. It just seemed odd for the show to spend several episodes on the Smash V. Mama Smash debate over academics and football, then at the last minute introduce another school, about which we only know that Coach worked there for a few episodes. Gaius Charles and Liz Mikel were their usual lovable selves in that final scene, but the storyline was missing some pieces in the middle.
I know there were some complaints about the Unfortunate Misunderstanding at the end of last week, but I bought it at the time, knowing what kind of man Coach is and what kind of man Coach knows Riggins is. This week established that it wouldn't have mattered if Eric had let Tim get a few words in edgewise, since Tim -- in his usual self-loathing, noble style -- made it clear he wasn't going to rat out Julie just to improve his own situation. I may not like the development involving Ferret Guy's cash, but the rest of the Tim story in this episode -- the reunions with both Billy and Coach, and the farewell to Jackie the MILF -- was great. Bill Simmons argued this week that Riggins has been this season's MVP; I don't know if I'd go that far, simply because the show still features Coach and Mrs. Coach, but the guy's certainly come a long way from early in season one, where I would have been grateful to never see him or Lyla ever again.
Riggins was also involved in one of the strangest bits of on-field action to date, when the Laribee coach lost his damn mind and tackled him on the potentially game-winning play. (I seem to recall HBO's "1st and Ten" doing a similar story once with an assistant coach chasing a player down the field, but I think even there the coach got his senses back at the last minute and didn't tackle the guy.) I was glad to have football be central to the drama in the last two episodes, but as with the Smash plot, this one felt rushed. The ominous phone call followed by the Laribee coach's apology to Eric about his wife having three months to live just seemed slapped in there, as if there had to be some explanation for the guy's behavior in both episodes beyond the pressures of coaching high-stakes Texas football. We've seen the hell Eric's been put through, and I could see a weaker man than he suffering a meltdown from it all.
Some other thoughts on "Jumping the Gun":
-I'm glad that the episode eventually dealt with the problems that are going to be created by Shelly's absence -- free nanny service is a luxury for a family like the Taylors -- and I liked the usual ebb and flow of the sisters' relationship. Tami likes the idea of being closer to her sister, while Shelly knows that they'll never be that close because of their past history and their different lifestyles.
-A very nice small detail: when Tami gets the Mama's Choice for movie night, she picks "Foul Play," which is exactly the kind of movie I could imagine a young Tami (or Connie Britton) loving to watch whenever it came on TV.
-Did you catch Landry's dad high-fiving Buddy at the game? He seems to have adjusted just fine to having covered up his son's killing.
-Loved Riggins offering to give Jackie his dad's address in Corpus Christi so she could hit "the Riggins trifecta."
-When Mama Smash complained to Tami that Noelle was making Smash get caught up in all the recruiting hype, my first thought was that Mama doesn't know her son nearly as well as we do.
-"Let's all go to dinner at Applebee's!" That sounds like a fine idea, Tami. Who's with me?
What did everybody else think?