Written by Duana

Season 5, Episode 8

Friday Night Lights returns, and yes, I saw the last shot (If you didn’t, we’ll get there). Yet I can’t shake the feeling that there’s a threat coming – something awful bearing down on us that I can’t shake. But not something huge. Something insidious and small.

Never, in five years of this show, have there been so many shots of coaches angry, fighting among themselves or struggling to control the boys when they get out of check. Never have Coach Taylor’s words fallen so consistently unheeded on deaf ears. Never before in the history of this show have we seen the despair in Coach’s face as he looks at his task – making men out of boys – and wonders if he will fail an entire team, all in the service of winning.

It’s a really unsettling situation, because it draws up a lot of questions. Finally the Lions are winning consistently – they’re on their way to a showdown at State. That’s been made clear. But instead of being humbled and happy, of working together to get there, they are splintering apart. (What on earth was the point of Buddy Jr’s ankle issue? Not like he plays much anyway but I wondered if they had to cover over the actual actor having had an injury.) And what’s different about these guys than any others?

Coach must be looking at them wondering where he went wrong. What he did to have them not believe that winning must be treated with respect. That the team comes over all. That Coach’s word is law.

I’m not suggesting that Eric is so self-centred that he freaks out just because Vince and his dad aren’t listening to his advice about school. But then again, he’s got to be wondering where he went wrong. He tried his best to guide, to offer what he thought was sage advice that would benefit Vince, the whole person.

But Vince and his dad are on a train, and it’s moving. And everyone is along for the ride except for Coach. In fact, I keep feeling like this is the kind of story that, in the past, would have been such a great fit for Buddy Garrity, and I can’t help missing him these days. Where is he to tell Eric some home truths about the nature of recruiting and boys? That they will always follow their daddies and that if they make the wrong decision for college, there are ways that that evens itself out?

I know the point is to have Eric alone, with only Jess giving him sidelong looks as she wonders what kind of trouble her boyfriend is about to be in (and yes, that’s what I think those looks are about and no, I don’t think there’s a romance afoot). He’s the one who’s totally out of step here, with Vince and Ornette, with the rest of the players, and with at least half the coaches at any given time. Eric is the odd one out and I hate to say it, but he actually looks a little bit pouty about it. Soon he’s going to wrangle that into a true and more noble emotion, but for now, he has to stew in it, knowing that he’s been passed over for those with arguably more wisdom, with newer ideas about coaching, and wonder whether he shouldn’t step back a moment and think about whether he’s making any impact. Mark my words.

Whether we like him for doing it or not, Eric’s journey at school feels like it’s totally authentic for him. Less true is his attitude towards Julie and the revisiting of the TA, though I will probably make Eric striding towards Derek (was that an accident, writers?) with a part from a girls’ bike into a .gif that I will love forever. But his relentless pushing to get Julie back out of the house seems a little short-sighted. Shouldn’t you make sure that your daughter isn’t going out to make the same mistake, or worse, before you push her out the door? I’m not really feeling this.

You all are going to laugh at me but I actually wish that Julie had gone through a little bit more with regard to Derek. That she had cared about him, or something. Because I don’t get the impression that she did, which makes the drawing out of this story less satisfying than if we really did think she couldn’t go back and face anyone who was there.

But then of course there was something there, wasn’t there? Tami Taylor is the only one bright enough to notice that if Julie had been just another girl, this boy wouldn’t have come around urging her to come back to school (read: him and his stupid cabin in Tennessee) and can see that her daughter might get wrapped back in. But instead, Julie made the right decision. Right?

I have to say no. I know, Matt in Chicago provides her with all kind of avenues and maybe she just needed him to be able to find herself - and the selfish part of me is so happy to see Zach Gilford’s smile again – but I wish she could have found something on her own. Been successful first, landed on her feet first, before she went to Matt.

Maybe it will be amazing. Maybe she and he will become wee little moguls together and set the world on fire with their art-and-writing enterprise, but I wish that the cart hadn’t come before the horse in this case.

Still, they have time to win me over, unlike the unfortunate Epyck. I felt a little bit like this was CSI, the gentle edition. Tami goes looking for clues, and then there aren’t any, and then the girl tells her that she would be sad not to see Tami anymore? I mean, I love emotional manipulation as much as the next person but doesn’t that seem to you to be a little too simple for Tami? Doesn’t she know better than to think a girl like Epyck just needs a sandwich and a little bit of love?

You know what, maybe not. And I hope not. I’m actually exhausted of worrying that these characters are going to get their hearts broken. I want to believe that Coach feeling disenfranchised and Tami feeling like her hands are tied will bring them to a realization about the life they lead in Dillon. That maybe they’ll change, turn in on themselves, help Gracie Belle find a hair colour she can live with. But there are five episodes left, and I am going to be white-knuckled all the way. That I can count on.