Written by Duana

Season 5, Episode 3

There are people who deal with teenage girls every single day, I’ve been realizing. Maybe some of them are you. And you have jobs like this, where you work hard and then ungrateful wretches just sort of smirk out at you from under their hair. I like teenage girls, I’m fascinated by them. But having to deal with this on sort of a consistent basis with their worst elements would try my patience so much…and I’m not casting stones at Tami Taylor, but I wonder if the realm of the teenage girl is going to be more insidious than she expects.

Okay, so RagDoll is up on YouTube and guess who’s not outraged about it? Ragdoll herself. She thinks it’s totally fine that she’s the butt of all the jokes in the school, because she’s the most popular girl in the school. And this is where I so appreciate Tami and Eric being all ‘standing-up-for-the-rights-of-girls’ and “I will not tolerate any of this from my football players whatsoever” – but I kind of don’t buy it. They were both popular kids in high school. As we well know, Tami in particular was a bit of a wild card. And so I completely buy – and have always bought – the impetus for them to want to help kids. But not the outrage that goes along with it. Wasn’t it just last week that Jess got hauled in for fighting, and when she decried the Rally Girl concept, Tami sort of blithely told her ‘that’s football’? I really wish there was more consistency here. In the early years, Eric told Tami ‘that’s football’ and she told him “that’s not good enough”. Which I buy. She had a bigger plan for girls like Tyra back then.

But things change. The same lady who is trying so hard to get through to RagDoll (I’m sure she has a name, but I’m not sure they want us to know it) is sort of blasé, pooh-poohing the concept of Rally Girls, who are effectively sanctioned whores who do the bidding of our football boys? I’m sorry, I just don’t see it. Unless, to my extreme delight, they’re going to start banning the concept like Coach banned jerseys on game day. But I wouldn’t hold my breath just yet.

Likewise, the storyline with Jess’ new position as the equipment manager didn’t sell a whole lot. There’s Jurnee Smollett acting the hell out of getting to hang with the big boys and being starry-eyed about it – I’m just not sure it’s perfectly true. She’s always seemed a little sassy and level-headed to suddenly be thrilled about doing the dudes’ laundry. Also, while I empirically warm to the concept that this season is partly about the lost girls football leaves behind – Jess, Epic, Ragdoll, sort of Becky (and Julie…oh, we’ll get to Julie in a minute) – they’re all starting to blend together for me. If you’re not a football player, with Daddy issues and a will to be better, then you’re a forlorn teenage girl, cursed with growing up in Texas and dealing with being a second-class citizen. We rarely see a boy deal with not being top-dog…even Landry landed in a posh position pretty quickly, or was unfazed when he wasn’t there.

And this is why the move to bring back Buddy Jr. is warming my little heart. Even though I think they could have done it with slightly fewer phone conversations (though not as few as In Treatment, who pulled the same move recently and I would have appreciated knowing THERE WAS A NEW MAX), this has all the elements of a win. Nobody’s shown me Buddy Jr, but I bet he’s all emo, and not interested in football, and Buddy Garrity has just never, ever been able to keep his dreams in check where a teenage boy is concerned. He even built himself a bar so he could keep them around him ever more… which seems kind of like a better plan than a car dealership anyway. Once you’ve sold everyone in town one car, wouldn’t your business kind of dry up? And he’s just so sweet, because he never lets it go. Even though you know he is staring down the barrel of some serious heartbreak. Go easy on your daddy, Buddy Jr. – and see you next week! Also, as I was thinking back on the seasons and ruminating – we are, of course, overdue for a gay character, and while there are definitely those who believe that Hastings Ruckle will be that guy, I wonder whether that’s the particular speedbump that Buddy and his son are staring down the barrel of. Just a little speculation…

Speaking of boys and their dads, this week Vince deals with the fact that D’Shawn Hardell (90210 reference – anyone? No? For the uninitiated, Cress Williams, playing Vince’s dad, had a showy role on the original 90210 in the fourth season) is back to be his father again. Now, I think the actual ideas in this story were believable. Mom is willing to welcome dad back home, son doesn’t feel so welcoming. And I feel like everyone acted the hell out of what they had. But come on now. In my experience, part of being a teenager is that you want these moments to happen, and they don’t. You hope like hell that someone will say “You were right, I’m going to defer to you because you are indeed a Man” but really, you wind up just sitting in your room stewing because that. Never. Happens. A kid like Vince who is so focused on what he has to do for his mother, on keeping her feeling good and OK, would in fact maybe face off with this guy, maybe say what he said about his dad not being welcome. But a kid like Vince would read between the lines. See how relieved and happy his mother was not to be alone anymore? How she sagged in relief at not having to shoulder everything by herself, because even if she stumbled, as they had each stumbled, they’d be together? So Vince would have swallowed his own feelings, like a good kid who’s been parentalized always does – and let her have Dad. It’s a selfish move, even if it’s the right move – and it feels rather false.

I do however buy his breakdown with Eric. I buy completely and totally that he would feel frustrated and cheated that he didn’t have someone to guide him, that he was feeling adrift. And I buy that Eric’s lovely words “You don’t have to be better, you just have to try. To keep trying” would resonate in Vince’s mind.

But I just can’t focus on it. Because you know why?

Because here’s Vince, being parented by as many people as can get access to him, and here’s Buddy Jr, not even onscreen but being fussed over, and here’s Ragdoll (apparently her name is Maura) and even Becky…

But who is taking care of Julie?

Okay, I know. I know that going to university means your parents aren’t watching and you make some mistakes and I’m not implying I didn’t, or that I didn’t see a lot of people who did, or that any of the mistakes Julie’s making are unusual or, indeed, going to scar her forever. She did the rather dumb thing, went to bed with someone she barely knew, and now feels stupid about it. From what I understand, almost everyone in the world is reading this and going “Yeah, and? Lather and repeat.”

But I hate hate hate that she’s doing them in a bubble.

It’s 2010. Parents are hovercrafts, and can check in on their teenagers at any time. And I know Julie is trying to cut the cord, but Tami is emotional enough – and is seeing what’s going on with teenage girls all the time – that she would be calling her girl every day. Would be wanting names of friends and TAs and would be able to tell, in that psychic way that she has always had, that something was going on with her little girl.

I will take bets from anyone who doesn’t think that Julie will be back in Dillon, nursing some shame, in a matter of weeks (I’m betting two), but I really, really don’t want this to be on the Taylors – and yet, I do. Didn’t they teach her better? Even if they didn’t and all girls make mistakes (again I say, we’ve all been there) why aren’t they talking to her more? Calling her, ‘bothering’ her? I just see it as such a gaping hole in what has been, up to now, pretty flawless parenting – and I don’t want them to knock Eric and Tami down this way. And even more than that – if, between now and episode 13, that marital discord I’ve heard about is on it’s way, please, please let it not be because of the mistakes of their teenage daughter.

These people used to have ideas about what was right, an unshakeable belief in what they were going through together. But I haven’t seen Eric and Tami lying in bed together all season. And it hurts, because if we don’t have them – what do we have? Where did it go? Where will it go?

File photo from Wenn.com