Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Friday Night Lights, "Laboring": Toothpicking against the spread

A review of the penultimate "Friday Night Lights" of season four (finale airing next Wednesday at 9 on DirecTV's 101 Network) coming up just as soon as I drive 50 miles to deliver this blog post...
"I am not playing on a fair field here." -Coach
"That makes two of us, hon." -Mrs. Coach
On one level, "Laboring" is a table-setting episode, preparing us for the season-climaxing showdown between East and West Dillon, for a reckoning between Tami and the school board, for whatever's to come between Vince and Kennard, and between the Riggins boys and the cops.

But, like season one's penultimate hour, "Best Laid Plans" (with trouble swirling around the Panthers on the eve of the state championship), "Laboring" was a table-setter that brought a lot to the table on its own: great moments for half the cast and some huge developments in their own right, regardless of how things play out in the finale.

There's a real sense of despair to a lot of what happens, particularly with the Taylors. Eric knows he doesn't have much of a prayer of beating the Panthers(*) under optimal conditions, and those conditions are now far, far from optimal. Luke is out of the game, which limits his offensive weapons to, basically Vince, and takes away most of the gadget plays that were working so well earlier in the season. And because the Panthers had to use a bazooka as a fly-swatter to respond to Landry's toothpick prank, the Panthers get to play the game on their cushy home field, with the Lions and their fledgling fan base forced to feel like pathetic outsiders in a game that should have been theirs.

(*) And, it occurs to me, if he were to win that game, the people in town would only grow to hate him more. Panther pride runs a little too deep for people to applaud the plucky underdog school across town for an unlikely victory, if that victory also keeps the beloved Panthers out of the playoffs.

And Eric has to deal with this - and the idiot radio calls(**) and defacing of his car and the rest - at the same time Tami has developed her own hate squad thanks to the abortion controversy. "FNL" in general, and Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton in particular, often offer up a ray of hope and idealism in the middle of potentially grim circumstances, but here our most hopeful characters were at their most hopeless. Tami doesn't want to write that letter of apology(***), but can she put her ideals ahead of her family's livelihood?

(**) I thought it was a nice touch that Slammin' Sammy, usually just as much a pig-headed yahoo as his listeners, tried to shut down that one caller's attempt to paint East Dillon as a ghetto hellhole she wouldn't take her family to. Sammy may be an ignoramus and an agitator in many ways, but that doesn't automatically make him a bigot.

(***) And would the apology letter even work? Given how dug-in the opposition seems to be, wouldn't Tami apologizing (for something she didn't do) only make matters worse? I don't know small town politics very well, but isn't the wiser course for Tami to argue that at no point did she tell Becky to get an abortion? Which has the benefit of being true?


While the Taylors are trapped in bleak circumstance, it's up to the Riggins boys to provide some hope and happiness - for a little while. After some comic relief from Billy failing to be calm about the birth, we get this perfect moment with the two brothers at home, staring down at the baby, and Tim (wonderfully played by Taylor Kitsch) getting to appreciate the site of a Riggins man being a good daddy for once.

Of course, a Riggins man's happiness can never last very long. So after Tim got to enjoy being an uncle, and showing his new ranch property to Becky, he winds up going to jail, along with Billy, for the chop shop operation. (The large wad of cash Tim gave the realtor surely didn't help.) And will little baby Stephen Hannibal suddenly have to go years without seeing his daddy? With Taylor Kitsch not being a regular after this season, I could see a circumstance in which Tim and Billy do go away for a while, and if we see Tim at all in season five, it'll be with Coach talking to him through prison glass.

Meanwhile, Vince was busy burying the man (boy, really) responsible for drawing the Riggins boys (back) into a life of crime, and then being sucked into Kennard's plan for revenge at any cost. And Jess, realizing what her ex is about to risk, fights to stop him from doing just that, even if she has to ditch Landry in the process.

As with most "FNL" stories related to the criminal world, Vince's plot was the part of the episode that most bordered on cliche. But every time it threatened to get silly or caricatured, Michael B. Jordan and Jurnee Smollett dragged it back into something real and painful, as exemplified by the scene where Jess shows up at Vince's apartment to tell him, "I know that good guy that's inside of you!" To which Vince (desperate to keep Jess away from him as he goes on a mission that could land him in jail or the morgue) replies, "I am a monster! That's what I am! I am that guy!" That dialogue could be terribly corny, bu these two superb young actors made me ignore the words being spoken and focus on the pain, hurt and love behind them.

Thanks to Jess, Vince makes the right decision in the end, but he does it in a way that puts him in the sights of Kennard (who feels like Vince owes him this killing for the rehab loan). And it occurs to me that, because Kennard was the mastermind behind the whole car theft ring, we could see a finale in which Tim and Vince's problems cancel each other out, with Billy rolling on Kennard to secure his freedom (and unintentionally secure Vince's safety).

And if that's what winds up happening, I'm not sure how I'd feel about it. On the one hand, it would seem a little too neat for a show that likes to be sloppy even with its happy endings. On the other, after so much bleakness for our characters in recent weeks, I could use a little sunlight - whether that comes from an improbable, pride-restoring win for the Lions, or Tami getting to keep her job without compromising her beliefs, or Vince and/or Tim getting out from under their criminal burdens. I don't know that I want all of those problems to be solved, but I do love these characters - both old and new - enough to not want to see them suffer any more.

Some other thoughts:

• Am I the only one who was under the impression that Jess's mom was either dead or out of the picture, and that she and Virgil had been raising her brothers on their own? Instead, this week we meet her mother, Bird (played by Lorraine Toussaint), whose appearance played out as if Steve Harris wasn't available this week and so the writers scrambled to give Jess a different parent. Then again, Toussaint's IMDb entry says she was in "Stay" earlier this season, but either I didn't notice her, her scenes got cut, or (as is often the case with the IMDb and TV guest stars) the info is wrong. Whatever the explanation, I was distracted. UPDATE: Several commenters have pointed out that in the final air version, Jess introduces Bird as her aunt, not her mom, which means one of two things: 1)The line was changed in post-production after the screener I got (ala Principal Burnwell's reference to the game "last night"/"last Friday" earlier this season), or 2)My hearing's going. I am open to either possibility.

• Speaking of moms, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson makes her first appearance of the season as Mindy's mom (Tyra's, too) in the labor and delivery scenes.

• Though we know Coach to be a very good and wise man, he's also a stubborn one who (rightly) views himself as separate from the kids he coaches, so we very rarely see him admit a mistake to one of them. That's why it was a bit eye-opening, if appropriate, to see him apologize to Luke for giving him a hard time about the injury. Some of you last week objected to my attempt to categorize Luke's actions as selfless - that he was doing it in his quest for a scholarship that will get him the hell out of town. And while there was certainly something to that, keep in mind that he suffered the injury in the same episode where Coach gave him a giant guilt trip about missing practice because he had to help his dad with the fence - sending a very clear message that Luke should never let his personal problems get in the way of practicing and playing for the Lions. And I'm sure Eric, away from the heat of the moment when he discovered the hip flexor injury, realized the role he played in this mess.

• Presumably, this is Jesse Plemons' last year as a regular on the show as well, and I feel bad that Landry has been a bit lost in the shuffle as we head to the end of his time in Dillon. His relationship with Jess has turned out to be more about giving us a window into Jess's feelings for Vince, and this was the first episode in a while where he felt like an integral part of the football team (between his field goal kicking being the only thing standing between the team and more jingle-jangles, and then Landry coming up with the toothpick plan). And though his big moment (waiting outside the BBQ joint for Jess, only to be told by Bird that she wasn't coming) wasn't as flashy as Jess and Vince crying in each other's arms, Plemons did again make me feel sorry for young Lance.

• Kennard said their target was a couple of hours away, and it certainly seemed like Vince got out of the car close to the end of their drive. How exactly did he make it from the middle of nowhere back to Dillon on the same night?

• Notable songs this week: "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked" by Ida Maria (Billy goes in to be there for Mindy during the delivery), "Rock Candy" by Montrose (Tim playing air guitar at Riggin's Rigs before the cops come), and "When the Night Comes" by Dan Auerbach (the final montage).

• Every time Principal Burnwell complains about all the problems Coach has brought to his school, I want to remind him that his school didn't exist before this year. But as with all things East Dillon, the show tends to wax and wane on what all these characters were doing before the redistricting happened.

• Because Madison Burge isn't technically a regular castmember, and because Becky seemed to say goodbye to Tim last week, I wondered if we had perhaps seen the last of the character - that perhaps that was the compromise the creative team had to make for this story, by letting a character get an abortion and then quickly writing her out. But she's still very much present, even if Tim won't respond to her crush on him, and even if, with Tim in jail and Luke having been pushed away, her connection to the rest of the "FNL" world is pretty tenuous.

Back next week for the finale - which will be the first one, I believe, where I'll watch it not worrying if it's the last episode of the show I'll ever get to see. Hooray for two-year renewals!

What did everybody else think?

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

Disappointed at the spoilery photo I couldn't avoid.

Anonymous said...

Alan... great review on a totally intense episode.

As to your bulletpoint about Jess's mother, I thought she introduced her to landry as her aunt if you go back and listen that's what she says... so perhaps Virgil's sister?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous... we knew Mindy was pregnant in the S3 finale... how is that picture a spoiler... does she hold it in for 2 years?

mj said...

Bird is Jess' aunt. When Bird introduces herself to Landry you can hear Jess in the background say, "my aunt." Might not have been on the screener? I loved how your review referred to Season 1. I was there tonight back in Season 1, watching this Season 4 episode. Breathtaking all around - I found myself having to catch my breath at the end. Couldn't help but choke up at the sight of Tim joining Billy to view the newest Riggins. Those moments catch me by surprise. Still no Landry from Coach - it's full-steam ahead Lance. I've seen every episode of this show and if Tami gives an apology then I will stop watching. That's not who Tami is. She did nothing wrong.

bratcat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bratcat said...

it is an odd feeling going into a season finale knowing there will defintely be a next season. That being said, season 5 hasn't even started filming yet so I'm going to have to patient, I feel FNL withdraw creeping in. I'll be curious to see how the seniors (Lance and Jules) are dealt with in season 5.

I enjoyed the Riggins boys' comedy relief during the delivery but I couldn't look past the fact that Tyra wasn't there. Austin is only a few hours away from Dillon, how does she not get in her car and fly back as soon as Mindy goes into labor? Also hoping to see one final scene with her and Landry, I feel cheated that we didn't get to see them say goodbye in person. Could Landry end up at UT with her next year? That would be a kinda cool.

My other point of contention this week is the obvious missing link in the Tami drama- Becky's mom. Her mom coming forward and saying that her and Becky made the decision, not Tami, would maybe help diffuse the situation. Just a guess. I really like Becky and I wish she would get integrated into Dillon more. Would liked to have seen her more interacting with the other kids, maybe some double dates with Luke and Landry/Jess. or hanging out at the Alamo freeze. With Julie's graduation we need another female character's point of view for the school related story points.

I have to admit, when Vince yelled "I'm a monster!" I immedidately thought of Buster Bluth, but he and Jurnee were so good together I kept focused.

Overall, another strong episode. I'm starting to get that bitter sweet feeling that this good thing has to end. Although I would watch this show forever, to stay true to its spirit I think 5 seasons is long enough to tell the story that this show tells so well.

Texas forever.

Anonymous said...

Never, never, never ever say you are finally happy in episodic television.

Turn around and the cops are cuffing you.

Because of the amount of TV piling up on my DVR and last Wednesday's State of the Union, I watched last weeks and this week's epi back to back tonight. And the sense of things spinning out of the characters' control was overwhelming.

With all the diverse plotlines this season, by far the most outlandish line spoken this year was a HS conference commissioner saying "Its only a football game"
Please, don't patronize us the viewers. Its Texas and football. Please.

Puff

amarestoudemaxo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
amarestoudemaxo said...

this episode was absolutely crushing.

Since when did this show come to rival the darkest moments of The Wire? Since Matt Saracen looked into the casket, I guess. I had no idea that would be a window into the rest of the show.

CLEAR EYES, FULL HEARTS, CAN'T LOSE -- just doesn't seem to hold up anymore... and it is killing me. When was the last time they even said it? And if it's brought back as they walk out back onto West Dillon field, how will it not come off as hollow?

I don't think it will, because this show always seems to bring an unexpected moment, but...good lord, I dont' see how anything unexpected can be uplifting at this point. Landry not getting ditched? (he's definitely hitting a 40 yarder to nail the win in the final) Luke playing? (that's way too much of a stretch) The Riggins thing is especially hard--I REALLY hope they flip on Kennard.

Alan Sepinwall said...

how is that picture a spoiler... does she hold it in for 2 years?

Yeah, I have no regrets on that one. I avoided certain pictures earlier in the season because I didn't want to give things away for the non-DirecTV audience, but as you say, we knew before this season that Mindy was pregnant.

Anonymous said...

I still can't get over how seemless the transition was from loving the Panthers, to hating them with everything I've got. I can't remember a show ever pulling that off before this.

Bryan said...

put me down on the side that heard "Aunt" not mom.

If FNL really wanted to make an audience pleaser they would have something really, really bad - Biblically bad - happen to Joe McCoy.

I don't see how this doesn't end badly for the Riggins boys. However I can see a scenario where Tim takes the brunt of the fall. He was the only one there when the cops came and as far as we know he was the only contact with the junkyard.

Hey- does anybody know- is the bad guy that pistol whipped Vince last night (and Vince's loan shark) - is he Buuudddd from Cosby? My wife brought that up and is sure looks like it could be.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your blog, and this is the first time I have left a comment. I am suprised that a storyline about the sexual orientation of the assistant coach has never come up after Julie seeing him at the gay bar with Devin. Also disappointed that Devin has become another Waverly/Santiago, disappearing without trace, couldn't she and the other band kid at least turn up in the supporters during games? Can't believe we are at the end of the season already. And I know you said before that last episode was a great final conclusion to Saracen's story, but i'm still disappointed, and feeling like he will emerge again at some point...

Alan Sepinwall said...

No talking about the contents of the previews. It's one of the commenting rules.

Alan Sepinwall said...

(And I said that because I just deleted a comment where someone spoiled something from the previews.)

LoopyChew said...

@amarestoudemaxo

CLEAR EYES, FULL HEARTS, CAN'T LOSE -- just doesn't seem to hold up anymore... and it is killing me. When was the last time they even said it? And if it's brought back as they walk out back onto West Dillon field, how will it not come off as hollow?

That's because East Dillon's motto is--and while it's never actually been vocalized, I think it's relevant thematically to this season--"never out of the fight."

That's actually one of the things that stuck out at me in the season opener, is that immediately after chanting "Clear Eyes Full Hearts" and Coach sends them packing onto the field, the camera lingers on the writing on the wall, as if to say, "you aren't Panthers anymore."

No, it's no longer the naive optimism of "purity lends the upper hand." Instead, it's about the spark you need to survive and everything that drives it. And pretty much every character here has done everything they can to cling onto that, and although they don't know if they're going to come out on top, they'll be damned if they're gonna take it lying down.

Next week's game is going to be awesome, and I can't wait.

Stacy said...

So, the big showdown. The Lions obviously aren't good enough to beat the Panthers (especially when missing arguably their best player), and if you let the Lions win you lose credibility. But this season has been so bleak you have to give them a big win here, right? So how do you pull it off? My guess is the field prank comes back to haunt the Panthers. This has JD McCoy and his buddies written all over it, and I think they are about to get busted and miss the game. Knocking those guys out of the game you can legitimately put together a scenario where the Lions pull off the upset on a -- what else? -- last second play.

And what happens to the Riggins brothers? Given what Alan and others have said, I think you're right that things are probably headed in one of two directions. First is that Tim takes the fall for Billy and ends up in jail. Tim is not going to be a regular season next year, so having him end up in the slam while looking like a hero might be one option. The second is that Tim and Billy roll on Kennard to get themselves and Vince out of trouble. Though I agree that that seems just a bit too tidy.

Tim ending up in prison would set up my biggest conspiracy theory. The writers have said Tim will definitely be back at the end of next year, and when they can get him for other episodes. I've also read an interview with the actor who plays Street that said he would be back at the end of next year as well for the "wrap up season." So, Timmy spends the year in jail and we periodically see him through the glass, and then he gets out at the end of the season. And when Street comes back from NYC with a little money from being an agent, they add to Tim's land and start their ranch. Texas Forever.

amarestoudemaxo said...

@loopychew great point about the mottos. I guess I always equated Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose with Coach Taylor's personal motto, but you're right.

Anonymous said...

@Stacy,

I totally agree about JD and his moron crew. Wade said if he finds out any of his players were involved he would suspend them. If they miss the game, it gives the Lions a greatchance to pull off the win.

jimmo said...

I heard "Aunt" as well when Bird was introduced.

Anonymous said...

The conversation between Luke and Coach Taylor reminded me of the conversation between Luke and Tammy at the start of the season. When Luke says "I appreciate that" to Coach Taylor's apology it echoed Tammy appreciating Luke's apology to her, when Luke acknowledged that he had put Tammy in a tough spot by lying about his address.

PY said...

Great episode. Not much to say beyond that. But of course I have some thoughts ...

I like the JD McCoy-being-behind-the-East-Dillon-Monster-Truck-Rally scenario as the plot device for the Lions to win. Still, it's extremely hard for me to see that happening, since it just seems too convenient at this point (even with the elaborate set up with the toothpick gag and the non-proportional response). It's just too big a stretch for the audience to believe that the Lions can win (sans Luke, with Vince with a death threat on his head, with Landry still kicking like a girl, with not enough improvement shown with the team over the course of the year to get them even on something close to the same plane as the Panthers).

I'm very, very curious to see how the writers handle the game ... they haven't let me down yet this season with their handling of any situations, so I can't imagine they would be ham-handed with this one.

One thought ... with the writers (for the very first time) knowing they have another season coming up, is it possible that they took advantage of that fact to end the season not on a hopeful note, but a down one? Similar to the second installment of a traditional trilogy, would they end this season on a note of despair, with redemption to come in the final act? It's very hard to see them tying up all these situations with a nice bow, so could it be that they don't intend to at all?

With Tim Riggins leaving the show, one way or another, I will be EXTREMELY sad to see the Riggins Brothers Comedy Hour come to an end. The show could become unbearably earnest without them (though we'll still have Buddy). It's hard to see how any other character in the world of the show could match Billy Riggins in his too-tight briefs trying to "be there" for his about-to-pop wife, then ODing on energy drinks.

Finally, I am of the belief that Luke REALLY deserves some kind of break, preferably before this season ends.

Cole said...

If I remember correctly, Jess actually introduced Bird as her Aunt to Landry, not her mom.

Another notable song, when Coach Taylor shows Tammi the front page article about town calling her job, you can hear "How Will You Meet Your End" by A.A. Bondy, a truly underrated artist who seems to be popping up on all sorts of shows these days.

Rabble Rouser said...

The Vince/Buster Bluth comparison SLAYED me.

The Street/Riggins "Texas Forever" ending sounds perfect.

I agree Luke needs something good, maybe in the inevitable closing montage he can be opening a cfb recruiting letter.

I really do hope Riggins takes the fall for Billy, but rats on Kennard getting a reduced sentence and saving Vince.

I agree that Tami CAN'T apologize. It's against her character and seems like it WOULD get her fired, and then she would have ruined her shot at a wrongful termination case. I kind of wish that she would admit no wrong doing, get fired, and then have Coach take a college gig with more money so she can raise Gracie Bell.

Agree that JD getting caught and suspended would be great, but thought that him getting caught red-handed enough would be unfeasible, until it hit me. Some pictures are going to hit Facebook, and everyone in town is going to know who dun it, so the Coach will have to suspend him.

My BIG question is why does Becky seem to be oblivious to the fact that she is the subject of a sh!tstorm that is about to get Tami fired? There has been absolutely NO MENTION of this by her or Luke and I have to say that bothers me quite a bit. Actually what really bothers me is the amount of screen time her character gets, can we please just get her out of fnl. All she does is whine, pine after Riggins, shun people who try to treat her with respect(luke), and turn a blind eye to someone in need of her help (tami). She is selfish and typical, please get her out of here.

The Riggins boys are only matched in comedy by the gay Asst. Coach, he is FABULOUS!

Didn't Coach Taylor create a makeshift field for a game in a past season? Why can't we do that again? All you need is 100 yards of flat land(in abundance in Dillon), and to get the bleacher capacity of East Dillon's field you would need one maybe two flatbeds. Done and Done.

Could it have been more obvious that Jess was going to get back with Vince? I am playing the worlds smallest violin for Landry, his nice guys finish last routine is getting old. He needs to get a clue, the past 3 girls he has taken shot's at have been: a completely broken Tyra, a Lesbian, and a girl from the other side of the tracks. Not sayin, I'm just sayin.

Sorry for rambling, thanks for everything you do with this blog Alan!

HMM2 said...

Lorraine Toussaint is playing the aunt, not the mother.

Merrylegs said...

@ Rabble Rouser

I agree. I was thinking why don't they just get the mud bowl field again! Obviously they're not going to go there in the show again, but it seems like someone would have suggested it at the meeting.

I also agree with Alan and many commentors that while the Lions winning and/or the Vince and Riggins and Tami situations resolving neatly are unrealistic, I feel so bad for these characters who have been really suffering for the past several episodes that I am willing to suspend disbelief just so something good can happen.

Anonymous said...

I agree they've set up a few suspensions of Panthers, and maybe Tami will get to hand Wade his own words on a platter.

Heroic scenario: Panthers lead by two in the final minutes, Lions have the ball on the Panther 25 yard line. Eric calls for "Landry" not "Lance" and tells him this his moment.

Landry trots out to the field while the fans and announcers get breathless over his ability to kick a 42-yard game winning field goal.

The play: Direct snap to Landry on a fake field goal, he throws a 20-yard pass to Vince, who jukes and leaps his way into the end zone. Lions win.


They showed Landry throw a bomb in the park game, and we saw Eric react. That's enough for me.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.

Stacy said...

@PY

I've had the same thought about the writers approach to seasons 4&5. For most of this season it has felt like they're going to treat them as almost one. We're getting a look at the first half now, and we get the second half next year. I've also read that they're shooting the seasons in sequence, so that makes sense.

This season has been full of despair, but you have to know the lows to appreciate the highs, right? I think that's where they're headed. And count me in as one who has enjoyed the despair. The show has moved to the other side of the tracks where life isn't so pretty (not that it was always that pretty in West Dillon), and it's allowed them to analyze a difficult aspect of sports culture. West Dillon is a place where kids play football to become local heroes and parents watch to escape the realities of life; East Dillon is where football can literally mean the difference between life and death. In recent years Sports Illustrated has been littered with stories paralleling what we just saw with Angry Necklace Guy and Vince. Inner-city sports culture is one where sports functions as a means to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble.

About the Lions victory, I really think that what's going to happen. You had a very deliberate shot of Wade saying that whoever did this will be suspended for the game, but I know, you can't always rely on the word of a coach who wants to win and get in state. However, the last scene of the show also showed the local sheriff promising to Eric that he was going to find the culprits.

Three trucks ran through that field, so you're talking at a minimum probably 6 or so kids that were involved. If that was JD McCoy (smart money says it was as he's been the season's biggest villain) and his friends (who are likely to be all the best players on the team), the Panthers are down their star QB (the most important position on the field) and all their best players, thus opening the door to a legitimate Lions victory.

I don't think a win would be too tidy. Most of all the big issues (Tami's troubles, Riggins issues with the law, Luke's painkiller addiction and injury, Vince's debt with Kennard) are not going to resolve themselves neatly one episode, but FNL is going to remind us again what this show is all about: that in moments of despair or tribulation, sports provides an escape. It's not going to change everything in the grand scheme of things, but for a small moment in time a big victory on the field can make things seem just a bit better.

The only question is what they could do for an encore next year. Clearly they're not going from worst to state champions, but you throw in healthy Luke and Vince as next year's stars and feature the future stud WR from Carroll Park (who I think they'll bring in as a freshmen next year) and maybe they claw their way into state.

Can't wait for the finale!

Stacy said...

One last prediction: Tami is out at Dillon and ends up at East Dillon.

Putting her in as principal at Dillon opened the show up to some commentary about the state of public high schools. The take away there was that too much money was going to the football program and not enough was going to academics - Tami rectified that and this season the school won a major academic award.

But now that you have Eric at East Dillon, it's too hard to follow storylines from both Dillon and East Dillon. To even get Tami a school-related storyline this season they had to pull her into an issue with an East Dillon character. So, in the vein of The Wire (the influence has been very clear this season), they open up a whole new world of commentary about under-funded public schools and the lack of resources that surround them by pulling Tami over to East Dillon.

Tami will stick to her guns and not apologize, that you can count on. That gets her removed at Dillon and opens the door...

Ben said...

Thanks as always for your thoughtful and articulate posts, Alan. I think it's safe to say I'll be far more invested in the "Dillon Bowl" next week than the Superbowl this weekend. As an aside, I do find it interesting that the big Thanksgiving day showdown in Dillon is coinciding with the big game this Sunday in Miami. Not sure if that was a concious choice on the part of the producers/DirecTV programmers but it's interesting nonetheless. Equally intriguing and timely is that the whole Tim Tebow abortion ad kerfuffle is coinciding with the Tammy/Becky/abortion fall-out story line on the show. Football and abortion intersecting in life and on FNL. Apparently in addition to being incredibly talented the FNL writing staff is also incredibly prescient. Can't wait for the finale.

HMM2 said...

Can't see Tim rolling over on Kendall, both because it's contrary to his character (he didn't give Julie up to Coach Taylor when he was staying there) and because it might put his family at risk from retaliation. Since he wouldn't want to deprive his nephew of a father, I can see Tim taking the rap alone to protect Billy, and that set of events would serve to write him out as a regular character.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Enough people have told me Jess calls Bird her aunt that I tweaked that part of the post. Out of curiosity, did she pronounce it so it sounded like "ant" or like "ont"? If the latter, I figure I just misheard.

Stacy said...

She said it like "ont." Not extremely audible, but it was definitely there.

Anonymous said...

This show is my only interest in football, so I hope someone can fill me on why it is a bad thing for the Lions to play on the Panthers' field. Normal logic might suggest that it is a good thing (no potholes etc), but it sounds like football logic has a different reasoning that I don't understand.

And IMO, I've been surprised that so many commentators think that Tami didn't recommend or help with the abortion option. She provided literature, and support once it was the kid's decision. That totally seems like enough, to me, to justify what the protesters are saying. And it kills me that her standing up and apologizing for it would make it less likely that other educators would be informative and compassionate in the same way.

Anonymous said...

In sports they call it a "homefield advantage," because it gives you an.... advantage. There are many factors in homefield advantage the most influential being:

-You are at your home: Everything is familiar and friendly, and most importantly YOURS, and no bus travel needed.

-They are YOUR fans: This is the biggest factor in this instance because a rowdy fan base can influence the game by getting loud at the right times to disrupt the visiting team and being silent at the right times so the home team can concentrate.

-Officiating: Refferees are much more likely to give an edge in calling the game to the home team. Sometimes it's just a flat out biased officiating crew, sometimes it's an unconscious result of having 5 thousand fans cheering you when you make a call against their opponent and booing you when you make a call for them.

Homefield advantage is prevalent in every sport but none more-so than college basketball.

Constantine said...

I've been surprised that so many commentators think that Tami didn't recommend or help with the abortion option. She provided literature, and support once it was the kid's decision. That totally seems like enough, to me, to justify what the protesters are saying.

I don't know what the bylaws or school regulations are but if that's the position then that means Tami could not give any information other than adoption or some form of counseling (psych or med). She'd have to give advice as if there was no such thing as abortion even though Becky, by her asking, already indicated that she was thinking about abortion (which exists in reality). Tami: "I can direct you to literature. But you have to talk to your mother." If that's a breach of standards then they seem draconian: "I don't know what this abortion thing you're talking about is. Sorry I can't help you." Awesome advice there.

They can add this Alison Brie tweet as a blurb for promos or the dvd box set
"Friday Night Lights is a really good show. The episode I just watched made me cry, then I cried again watching the preview for the next one!"

Susan said...

At the center of this show, as it's always been, is Eric and Tami. They are solid, playful, and supportive. But this season, the last few episodes especially, we've seen what happens when they are both so stressed that they can barely function alone, let alone be there for each other. That distance caused by tension is palpable and very sad, and very real. It adds greatly to the intensity and the mood of the show. We don't know if it's going to be OK because neither Tami or Eric can be the strong one for each other, and in a way, for us.

With Julie leaving (for college, Chicago or Habitat training), what would keep the Taylors' in Dillon? The producers have given us strains in the town before, but at this point my feeling for the Taylors is to just leave and play football/lead a high school in a place more fitting their personal politics.

Of course that won't happen, so I hope in the season finale they give us a good reason for the Taylors' to stay.

Andy said...

I could kind of see Becky offering to lie and give Tim an alibi.

Also, even if Becky wanted to offer the truth about Tammy, I don't think there's any way Tammy would allow her to get involved in a local media spectacle.

Thanks for another insightful write up, Alan.

Anonymous said...

This is the best show on TV and I wish it would never end haha.

Susan said...

Andy,
I'm wondering myself if there is some kind of involvement of Becky in the finale. There was really no purpose to her appearance in this episode. Riggins could have gotten his stuff back (e.g., left on his doorstep) and expressed his satisfaction with life other than with Becky's help. And her pronouncement of her love for Riggins, only to have him say - 'this can't work out' - YET AGAIN seemed silly.

To keep Becky around in this way I hope they have a good reason.

Vi said...

I was under the impression that Coach came down to hard on Luke because he viewed him as a catalyst for the problems Tammy was having. Then having realized what he had done, he quickly apologizes.

I don't know if Coach knew Luke's mom was the one stirring up all the trouble, but his next scene (after the harassing phone call to Tammy), is out on the field w/ Luke.

Just the way I interpreted it I suppose.

erin said...

Considering the setup last episode of Becky's mom saying how happy she was that Tim was in her life, and then kicking him out after that misunderstanding, i thought it was slightly lazy writing to do basically the same thing this episode by having Tim say he got everything he wanted, which you KNEW would be followed by something really terrible happening to him. Tim being the put-upon hero is getting slightly old, and I would rather not see him in jail.

Having said that, I was still torn up by seeing him trying not to cry in jail. Tiiiiiiiiim!

This was definitely one of the bleakest episodes in recent memory, and since it is NOT the wire, i would really appreciate some good things happening to at least a few of the characters. Mmmkaythanksbye. I don't think that's too much to ask!

If this season ends like a bleak "Empire Strikes Back" before Season 5's "Return of the Jedi", i'm going to go into serious FNL withdrawal. Bring someone happiness and closure, please!