Written by Duana

Season 5, Episode 4

I am writing this from a southern cottage of sorts. It’s a new thing for my family to go to so we can spend time together. It’s fun – and sunny– but because my dad is basically a crazy person it also means that I answer questions like “where are you going” constantly, often when the answer is ‘to the cupboard’ or ‘to the bathroom’. He believes in togetherness to the point of tethering. He will remind you six times about the directions to where you’re going, even when they involve “Continue driving straight, then park”.

In short, I’m going insane. Most of the time I manage the nod and the amused chuckle but sometimes I snap. Then I feel bad because I tipped the boat, I was the one who pointed out the problem, I couldn’t just sit back and bite my tongue and let it all go down.

I feel a lot like Vince.

I wanted not to feel for Vince, with all the crap he’s pulled this week alone. Let’s speak to the Jess stuff first – Vince and his adoration of her and his willingness to treat her like a very good looking object, like a piece of training gear or a tool, when she goes and irritates him by having her own opinions and a life and interests. When she stands up to him, he can’t handle her being right or having a point, so he has to take off, because he’s just got too much to deal with right now.

And in another situation, another boy, even another iteration of Vince ( I still can’t shake the image of him with that gun last season, of him running away under that underpass – are we ever going to require that level of acting from him again?) and we’d be dealing with an abuse storyline. I’m glad they’re not going that way. I’m glad Jess stands up for herself. However…

OK look. I love Jess, and I’ve always had a soft spot for Jurnee Smollett. But I feel like we’re getting beyond “strong young girl” characterization and into a place where she’s close to being saintly. She never wavers, she always knows the right thing to say to stand up to him, and we’ve seen she’s not intimidated by girls, so... does Jess have a weakness? At all? I’m not suggesting we have to yank down girls who are good and do well, but if she continues this streak of earnest amazingness (and if I hear One. More. Time. how she helped Vince this summer) then I think she’s going to become less relevant to watch, which is too bad. Because there’s something really interesting in the ‘girl who has to be around boys’ character but who doesn’t do it through sexuality – I am one of those who believes “I just get along better with boys” speaks to deeper, less easily accepted platitudes, but I guess we’ll have to see what they figure out.

But back to Vince. I feel him so much, even though I wanted to smack him for a good amount of this episode. Because I know what it is to be that kid, who sees what could be good and has to mess it up – has to screw with it to make sure that he’s not seeing things. He sees how happy his mom is to be back with D’Shawn Hardell(!) but he is so mad at having been the caretaker, at having shouldered everything all alone. And when push comes to shove he’s not mad that his dad wasn’t there for his junior high school graduation. It’s that he was alone picking his mother up off the couch when the electricity was turned off. That his dad was spared being there to see that scariness. That kind of anger at someone who is supposed to take care of you doesn’t dissipate easily, especially as a teenager when the world is black and white.

So he intimidates and shouts and mom can’t even look at him and part of him wants to take it back, because he has the power to make his dad go away but at what cost? Will it ruin him and his mother forever? Instead he gets a second chance from his dad, takes it at face value so he can once again look at his mother in the eye, and takes everything out on Jess, a relationship he knows he can mess up with impunity.

It’s not that I want them to stay together because they’re the golden couple. I like underdogs, and I like their stories. Becky and Mindy was pretty predictable but I still really enjoy seeing Mindy ascend to the level of her mother and sister – not for nothing was that girl born a Collette. And I really appreciate that when push comes to shove, a woman like Mindy can see that a girl like Becky needs a place to grow up where she’s not afraid all the time (kind of makes you wonder whether Mindy was as opposed to that boyfriend of Angela’s who hit Tyra, doesn’t it? Remember that, you guys?) and I’m far, far more interested in the relationship between those two –we could stand to hear a Tyra reference if Mindy talks about her ‘little sister’ – than I am between Billy and Becky and dare I say it, between Riggins and Becky. That story’s been told.

I am, of course, now and forever, interested in the redemptive powers of football for young men, and so it was a relief to see that Coach’s not-all-that-tough talk was all it took to get Buddy Jr. on the field (what are we going to call him to not get confused?) I could go into all the reasons why it’s amazing to see Buddy Garrity Sr come into his own as a parent, but you don’t need me to. You’ve seen him become that guy over the past few years – sticking close to Eric so Eric rubs off on him – and I think it’s sweet and charming and adorable that Buddy treats Eric like his older brother…

But I have had just about enough of the Taylors acting like they don’t know any better.

Here is that line that you loved, recapped to the best of my aural ability -

“I know. I know. I know we did. I know we were supposed to have our own little party and now you’re going to have to have a party by yourself.”

Gee, does that sound to you like the Taylors not taking care of their relationship? I know it’s preposterous to even talk like this. This is Eric and Tami we’re talking about. But she is bound-and-determined to take care of the new kids at East Dillon, and he’s busy, and I guess they’ve both forgotten they have a daughter (there was a nice try with the ‘call your math-genius kid’ stuff) away at college and come ON. Are we trying to say that without Julie, they have no reason to connect? Or that parenting Gracie Belle is easier? Let me put it this way. We’re not being denied scenes of that amazing parental cohesion that we loved because the bigwigs think we don’t like it. We’re being denied so that we’ll feel the rift, when and if it comes. I’m bracing for it but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to see more interaction between the parents at say, public events, like we used to have. I’ll take Tami and Eric fighting over no Tami and Eric at all.

As for Julie, I grow frustrated though I suspect a lot of her story was cut for time this week. To wit, methinks there was a dork who asked her out, she said no, then backtracked in order to have something to say to TA, date was medium to not-great, (or she started babbling all about the TA), she made an excuse to get away, and that’s how she wound up at his house in the middle of the night, sway-y and drunk-y. But again I have to beg – can we please see what else is going on in Julie’s life and mind? Can I understand why, of all the people in the university, this is the only one she can connect with?

University stories are notoriously difficult to tell on TV. But I’m getting frustrated because as the weeks go on, the reasons for Julie to come home to Dillon seem like they’re going to get more and more dire or upsetting. I don’t want to see Eric punch out a TA. I don’t want this to be what he and Tami fight about. I want Julie to retain herself as a person.

He could, if he wanted, give a strong talking-to to Luke Cafferty. I am proud of that boy for having gotten the attention of TMU and all (and they might want Vince too!) but someone needs to inform him that the phrase ‘I’m coming for you” doesn’t ignite any excitement in a teenage girl. And if it does, it shouldn’t. Dear teenage boys of the world – please do not imitate stalkers when you are trying to make a girl smile.

Attached: Connie Britton at the Michael J. Fox Foundation's 2010 Benefit A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cure Parkinson's in New York last week.

Photos from Andrew H. Walker/Gettyimages.com