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.
"Your punishment is you're going to have to have a conversation with me about it." -Tami"The Giving Tree" is one of the stronger episodes of season three, but it's also an odd one, in that most of the plots played out like "Friday Night Lights" Greatest Hits. Tami and Julie have another tearful heart-to-heart about sex, ala season one's brilliant "I Think We Should Have Sex." Landry realizes that Tyra takes him for granted, ala various parts of late season one and late season two, and Tyra starts to come around to the idea of Landry as her ultimate man, ala the end of season two. And Buddy again gets shut out of his family's life after a public humiliation, ala what happened after Tyra's mom ratted him out in season one.
Now, there were parts of the episode without real precedent (JD McCoy's minor rebellion against his dad, Eric getting tossed by the refs and leaving Wade to get all the credit for the victory). And conflicts within families or non-blood relationships aren't one and done, but ongoing. Just because Julie didn't sleep with Matt after she and Tami had their first talk didn't mean that it would never happen, or that she and Tami wouldn't have to discuss the deed.
But I think I would have liked only one familiar story at a time, preferably the Tami/Julie stuff, which contained the usual heart-tugging brilliance from Connie Britton and from Aimee Teegarden, as well as some wonderfully quiet work from Kyle Chandler and Zach Gilford. (The decision to have Coach stew silently made his anger feel a lot more powerful than if he'd been ranting and raving at Julie and Matt like they were the referees from the playoff game.) Leave the rest of the deja vu for another hour, okay? I know we only have three episodes left after this one -- probably ever (more on that in the bullet points) -- but much as I like both Tyra and Landry, I think I could have done without them having the same epiphanies for the 18th time, and in the same episode as the sex story.
Some other thoughts:
* Some people have asked what NBC's desperate move to put Jay Leno in primetime five nights a week means for marginal shows like "Friday Night Lights." Well, it sure doesn't improve the odds of a fourth season, unless DirecTV winds up ponying up so much of the production cost that NBC decides to air the episodes on Saturday nights or something, not worrying about the ratings so long as they get some DVD sales out of it. I'm not optimistic.
(NOTE: I'm not making too many changes to these posts from the DirecTV version, but at least one recent news report suggests I may have been too pessimistic on this front.)
* Julie needs to teach her dad about text-messaging, which would have spared him the "Can you hear me now?" ad at the bar and allowed him to send Wade the play he wanted. Things did work out in the end, but I suspect there's going to be a lot of pressure from the boosters to keep Wade in the job even after Mac finishes his recovery. And, depending on how the playoffs go, I could see a storyline (likely for the hypothetical and unlikely fourth season) where the boosters start pushing Wade to take over the team, in the same way that Eric got the main job when his own quarterback protege was coming into his prime.
* I'm starting to really like Katie McCoy, who clearly doesn't share her husband's insane fixation on turning their son into the new Robo-QB. Here's what I wonder, though: she tells Joe she's not comfortable with his football obsession, but why does she think they moved from the glamour Dallas to the middle-of-nowhere that is Dillon, if it wasn't to put their kid with the best offensive coach in the state? Did Joe tell her some lie, or has she just brushed it off until she saw how it was all starting to hurt JD?
* Putting the Buddy/Lyla story in this episode did create an opportunity for Julie and Lyla (two characters I don't remember having a conversation before) to bond a little, and for Julie to have someone to talk to about her great humiliation. And in this circumstance, Lyla was probably a better sounding board than Tyra, who probably would have told Julie to push back against her parents. And I like that, when Julie was actually with Tyra, it was an opportunity for her to point out how self-involved Tyra can get.
* Also, it seems appropriate that Tyra would take a shine to Landry again after watching him rock on stage. Girls still dig guys in bands, right?
* Really, the acting was strong all-around this week. Buddy and Tim's confrontation at the door to the Riggins house, with all that was left unsaid about what would happen if the old man tried to get by the young fullback, and about who was really the stable man in Lyla's life, was very well-played by Brad Leland and Taylor Kitsch.
Being briefer than I'd like because I'm running late and want to get the review up, so I'll ask, what did everybody else think?