Spoilers for "Friday Night Lights" season three, episode six coming up just as soon as I take down a load-bearing wall...
NOTE: This and all subsequent "FNL" season three reviews were written after viewing the DirecTV cut, which can be several minutes longer than the NBC version. So both my review and the early comments may refer to scenes that were not shown on NBC.
A few weeks back, I asked whether J.D. McCoy was bad or just drawn that way. I think we have our answer. And I officially feel really sorry for our new QB1.
After keeping J.D. in the background for the early part of the season as we watched our man Saracen slowly lose his grip on the starting job, episode six gives J.D. more screentime (and dialogue) than the previous five hours combined and shows us that while he may have the perfect arm, his life is far from perfect. He's a misfit on the team, socially awkward and such an obvious daddy's boy that he has trouble fitting in even with extensive (and hilarious) mentoring from Riggins. And his dad has done such a thorough job of sheltering him from any part of life that doesn't directly relate to playing quarterback that it's hard to see this kid coming out okay.
One of the most infamous pro football flops of all time was Todd Marinovich, the so-called "Robo QB" whose father tried, practically from birth, to prepare his son to be the perfect NFL quarterback. And when I say "practically from birth," I mean that his father put a football in his crib, started stretching out his hamstrings when he was one month old, etc. (Seriously, go back and read the original Sports Illustrated story on Marinovich; it's horrifying.) And what happened was, as Todd got older and got a little independence from his old man, he succumbed to every last temptation that was denied him growing up, and he imploded.
And unless Eric Taylor can step in and talk some sense to Joe McCoy, J.D. is going to implode, maybe even sooner than Marinovich did.
I'm glad the writers are going this route and not giving us Voodoo 2.0, and I liked how the episode gave us the flip side of J.D.'s story by showing us how Saracen's life has improved in some ways without the pressure of that starting job. Sure, it's going to make it much tougher for him to get a college scholarship (and I'm glad to hear Matt finally mention college), but he's more relaxed now, and he also has the time to finally rekindle things with Julie, finally taking their relationship to a place neither one was ready for two seasons ago.
People complained a lot about Julie last year, but I don't think the problem was ever with Aimee Teegarden, who, if anything, played Julie's bratty phase too well. Just watch how quietly she plays Julie's afterglow when she's in the Landrymobile and then when she's alone in her bedroom; so much said without a single line of dialogue being necessary. Ditto the expression on Tami's face when she sees Julie and Matt swapping goofy looks in church; if she hasn't quite completed the equation yet, she's clearly doing the math.
(Fienberg, by the way, is convinced that this is heading for a pregnancy scare storyline for Julie. I hope not; that's a very lame teen drama cliche.)
As for our third quarterback, how freakin' adorable was Jason Street singing both parts of "Hole in the Bucket" to his baby on the phone at the end of the episode? They have to give him a happy ending to match Smash's, don't they? Maybe the house flip works, and maybe it doesn't, but looking at Erin's face as she listened to her baby daddy sing to her baby made it clear that she has feelings for the guy that go way beyond shared parental responsibility, and that in turn means that they're going to find some way to be together, most likely far from Dillon.
I also quite liked the uncommented-upon parallel between Coach and Tim Riggins on the night of the dance, where both men wind up disappointing their special lady friends so they can do a favor for a past or present Dillon quarterback. I don't know if they had to cut a scene of Eric helping Street paint the house or if they thought Tami's line about Eric having paint in his hair would suffice; either way, it's good that our two departing characters have been getting some extra doses of Coach love on their way out the door.
Some other thoughts on "It Ain't Easy Being J.D. McCoy":
* Does anyone actually think that Cash is telling the truth about this baby? And if he's lying, how can the University of San Francisco let in a girl as gullible as Tyra? Or is it her fault coming from such a terrible nature/nurture situation with her mom and Mindy?
* For a kid in a middle-of-nowhere school where he's supposed to be a major outcast, Landry sure has had a lot of luck finding kindred female spirits, hasn't he? Even if you leave out Tyra, Devin the singing bass player looks to be an even better match for him than wee Jean (who has since acquired superspeed and is pretending to be in love with Matt Parkman). I also liked that Landry knows his band well enough to know that the drummer would come back, and that Matt acknowledges to Julie what the writing staff should have made clear a long time ago: Landry is strictly a Panther benchwarmer.
* How many episodes was Lyla absent before this one? And did anybody really miss her?
* I want Tim Riggins to play tour guide in my town, don't you? My favorite part of the travelogue was explaining to J.D. that if he ever goes into Smitty's Bar, "You know me as Toby, two-time Iraq war veteran."
* Was Billy always this stupid, or have they dumbed him down to make Tim look smarter this season? I vaguely recall him being somewhat level-headed and responsible (at least compared to Tim) in seasons past.
* I love how, by the time Matt and Julie are done cracking jokes about Grandma's argument with Coach, they come back to find Grandma admitting that she can't stay mad at Eric. The man is very, very charming.
What did everybody else think?