Written by Duana

Season 5, Episode 7

Welcome to the town of Dillon, Texas, where dreams and heartbreaks play out side by side on a football field, where sometimes, the only thing that saves you from yourself is someone else beside you, going through something just as scary or hard or exhilarating as you are.

Sorry, were you wondering why I’ve just recapped the show’s basic premise for you? It’s because this was, above all, a classic episode. It’s important for us to remember the timelessness of this town. People graduate, get older, but the dream for those who stay remains the same.

So perhaps as a Christmas gift, this week we get the very best and worst of Dillon football. I feel like there was a holiday checklist and we got ‘em, including:

  • Panthers
  • Buddy Garrity doing something dumb
  • Pushy Dads
  • BBQs
  • Coach and Mrs. Coach being awesome
  • Coach and Mrs. Coach not fooling around.
  • Jason Street
  • Julie huffing around like a teen (well, at least she’s back to type?)
  • Girls acknowledging that football boys are frequently idiots
  • Slammin’ Sammy Meade
  • The Tami Taylor 50-yard stare

…I could go on. I don’t think we’d like the show so much if every episode was like this – big hype up to a big game with a lot of stakes on the line – but this felt so old school, so completely authentic in terms of what this show is about that I remember why coach turned down that job call from Florida. This is what this town does. They rally together and support each other in the ways that seem best… for them. As Tami Taylor puts it, “Barbecues build morale, hon.”

I LOVED the scene between Coach and Street. More than any other, those two have always been equals, always seen each other as not just friends but as kindred spirits who love the game in the right way, for the right reasons. I loved their talk, and I loved Coach reproaching Street for not telling him he’d gotten married. They are authentic as ever, these two, including when Street ever-so-gently probes to see if Coach would be willing to look for a change somewhere. He’s respectful, he’s happy to hear the man is happy.

My tiny nitpick about this scene is that I suspect there was a line, here or elsewhere, that said Street was going to be guest-coaching the Panthers for the grudge match. It was a bit incongruous to see him so much, and if it had just been in the daytime, with Coach, then I’d have believed he was just in for a visit. On the field during the game though, I wondered where the information had been cut.

Speaking of on the field, I have to kind of shake my head at the ongoing non-relationship between Coach and Jess. I kind of can’t figure out who the Jess character is supposed to be. Like, she’s football obsessed and smart, but not so much that she doesn’t know she can write her own letter? We’ve not heard anything out of her where college is concerned, so maybe this program at Baylor is that – but honestly, she’s listening to Vince talk scholarships morning, noon, and night, and doesn’t have a lot of opinions about where she’s going herself? In a way, Jess is this generation’s Tyra – as evidenced by Vince’s mom telling her “All any girl could want” is there in front of her. It’s entirely possible that Jess will turn out to be the girl who doesn’t want any of that, but I haven’t seen it yet. She was so concerned that Vince’s dad was moving back in, yet we haven’t seen any sadness about where her own dad is. I can’t wait to find out who Jess is going to be…

I do think it’s hilarious how Coach is dealing with her, which is to say not at all. For a man with two daughters, he’s completely confounded by how to relate to most girls, and I kind of love that he has no intention of fixing that in any way. Of course, it does mean that he has completely ignored his daughter this week. Even though Julie got lots of screen time, she didn’t interact with her dad and, to be frank, this may be the new reality. That’s not to say he will freeze her out forever, but remember how it was when he walked in on Julie with Matt? And that was a boy who he could see loved his daughter deeply, was there for her every day. He is unquestionably worried about Julie’s choices, and about what kind of person she’s become. But if he’s a kingmaker, can’t he make a strong woman out of his daughter? Well, of course, there is Tami Taylor, there as his partner, there to suggest barbeques and laugh in a ponytail – and to serve as the subject of my favourite exchange of the episode…

“Thanks for setting up the BBQ.
Thanks for all you do.
Thanks for our two beautiful daughters..
Thanks for doing the laundry… … … Hey…you wanna fool around?”

These two seem to operate in the same orbit they always have – mutual respect, more than a little humour to get them through, and that thing that confounds unmarried people, that thing where you can be of completely opposing opinions, and keep going, because no matter who’s wrong in this particular scenario, someone has to take the lead and keep going, knowing the other will be there if it doesn’t work. So Tami Taylor goes ahead and does what she thinks is best, lets Julie “climb back inside the womb” and grabs all her studying materials for her, and Eric will be proud if it works and supportive if it doesn’t. That’s family.

Now, I have a controversial opinion coming up next. I’m not sure that what Vince’s dad is doing isn’t also family. Don’t misunderstand – I’m well aware that he’s pushy, that he’s overbearing, that he has dollar signs in his eyes and dreams of signing autographs alongside his son.

I’ll even go ahead and admit that he’s not the same kind of parent who has coached a kid up from a little tadpole, and so is beaming and bursting with pride that the kid is as wonderful as he always knew he would be. But I submit for your perusal the idea that he is, nonetheless, trying to be a dad.

Some dads are pushy. Some are insecure, and so they are adamant about showing that they know best, or can help. If Vince was juggling the possibility of academic scholarships, there’d be nothing for his father to say. It’s completely outside his understanding. But this – that if you are there for your kid, if you get the most for him, if you advocate for him the way nobody else will (and certainly, the way he presumes Coach wouldn’t), well, then nobody could call you a bad dad after all, could they? Even if you were in jail? This means, if you help your kid follow his dreams, that you were there for him after all. Doesn’t it?

I don’t want to sully our beautiful show with the mention of common gossip, but think about some stage parents you know of. Think about how the early lives of those stars are described. How often is there a lot of poverty? How often a huge, upsetting amount of marital discord? How often a split between the parents? Make no mistake. Being a stage parent (or in this place, a football dad) is an apology to your children for everything that came before.

And when it goes badly, as we know it will, because bad behavior can’t go rewarded, neither Vince nor dad will really be able to tell who the ‘bad’ one is. Whose behavior really took the dream off track.

As for the bad behavior, we saw enough of it - I’m talking both about Dad’s attitude to Eric, (especially when he does that extra-blinky thing people do when pretending innocence, to imply “I’m not sure why you’re upset…”) and also the hubris of Vince, who succumbs, at long last, to the ‘dirty playing’ that Slammin’ Sammy Meade suspected - but really, would these guys be so upset that their records are out there? Confidentiality or not, my impression is that small towns disseminate this kind of thing pretty quickly.

Luke Cafferty is comic relief, and I don’t mind him that way. Hastings Ruckle is invisible (though Buddy Jr.’s face was seen, at least). Vince is utterly vulnerable and yes, only Coach is looking out for him. Julie is standing on the precipice between child and adult. Jason Street never played college ball, and might be the happiest of all. Certainly he’s sorry for his old friend Tim Riggins.

Who will be made King this year? Who is worthy of the Kingmaker?