Written by Duana

Season 5, Episode 6

I found myself savoring the tiniest moments this week. Replaying Gracie Belle in her alien voice all “Mama, I need more juice” outside church was my private joke to myself all week. Sometimes when Buddy Garrity is trying to fix you up with his two-years-younger son, all you can do is rely on your toddler sister to bail you out.

Also, apparently, Vince has never heard of a debit card. “Sometimes banks aren’t open when you need them”. Amazing.

But this week has me confused. A little bit upended. Part of it, I can claim ignorance on. The Vince-and-Luke thing - I don’t understand it. I know that there’s been recruitment of kids as young as 13. But if TMU does all these elaborate schemes to get a verbal commitment (which as far as I can see, they don’t have) from Vince, would it hold up anyway? What’s the penalty for a kid breaking his commitment to a school? We’ve seen the schools bail on people who no longer meet their expectations, but what about when the kids change their minds? Is there any protection there?

Luke and Vince are at odds, but I can’t in good faith say that I really worry for the state of their friendship. All Luke needs is Becky to fix him, and she seems to believe they can be together (that is – if he can handle it when she starts stripping…her eyes were huge at Mindy’s pile of ones). I’ve enjoyed the Riggins’ adoption of Becky in their wayward way, but something about Luke has never rung authentic. Even though Billy Riggins is a delightfully bad influence, I was left cold by Luke’s journey, because I don’t believe we ever thought he was really transfixed by the power of the game or the life, even when we wanted to.

I like Luke, and I think he’s a good kid but not everyone can be imbued with the passion. (Right, Hastings Ruckle?) And maybe it’s because, unlike some of the others, he doesn’t need it in the same way. Like Landry before him, Luke has a daddy, and on this show, that seems to mean you don’t need Coach in the same way. Which calls to mind Vince, turning away from Coach Taylor’s front door…

Needless to say, I don’t think that we should be hopeful that Vince’s dad is going to be with us for the long haul. They warn us early in the episode that he can’t get back into anything shady, and then we see him getting his hands dirty – first metaphorically, with the cigarette and then actually.

I’ll take it, because I like our Vince out of the line of fire. He’s always struck me as someone who doesn’t crave that fringe, criminal life, who took up Eric Taylor’s not-that-great offer to play for the Lions as an excuse to avoid juvie and all that came after. He’s not cut out for it. Dare I say, watching him with Jess – he’s too soft for it.

I applaud the show for showing us a kid who really would rather not be in a life of crime. I think it’s super-realistic that he’s like “I actually can’t handle this” and I love that his father is doing it for him. But I wish I’d been more worried for a moment. Just when it gets scary with Jess, just when Vince says he might have to be the one to handle it, Dad does it instead. And he just can’t escape that unscathed, and as Eric says “Who you are tonight is who you’ll be for the rest of your life”. When Vince’s dad crosses that line – makes the treat, wields the gun – we know that despite everything we want, he’s not a long-term dad for our boy. The edge is too close, the step down to the most absolute of base behaviors too easy to take.

And I could be a jerk but I would be lying if I didn’t think that all Vince’s work was going to be for naught. Not just trusting dad. Watching his mom, staring at her husband so trustfully, I wonder if her edge is close too. Nobody means to slip back into drug use but then again, nobody would start if it seemed nasty and dirty and awful in the beginning. In the beginning, substances – like charming men – seem awfully irresistible. My question, if that should happen, is whether Vince will be able to retain his heart if he has to walk away from both parents a second time.

There’s no segue that’s apt here, except to say that the pool of despair Julie Taylor lies in now is a particularly deep place for her and I hope Vince never gets there.

Unlike him, Julie knows she’ll be taken care of by her parents. They’ll fix her car. But she never expected that they would try to hurl her – physically – out the door. She never expected that their disappointment would run so deep that they couldn’t stand the sight of her. Because yes, that’s what’s going on here.

I believe everything Tami has been saying. That Julie has to look at her choices. That she has to face up to what she’s done, and that she can’t feasibly push away her entire college experience (no matter how dubious I am about Burleson University for our supposedly-straight-A Julie Taylor).

But forcing her to go back isn’t about making amends. Tami and Eric know there’s nothing she can do to fix things, and if they were being smart, they’d help their daughter’s academic career by telling her to lay low and transfer next year to somewhere she could start fresh. But that’s not where their heads are. Forcing her out of the house only means they don’t have to look at the mistakes they’ve made.

Yeah, I said it. When your child is gone for a month, tops, and decides that the man to get involved with is one with a wife –you know the truth. You know that’s on you. She headed out the door and literally into the arms of the first person she saw? You failed to give her something essential – some sort of inner fortitude – to withstand that first wave of loneliness. And whether or not it’s right, I believe everyone’s going to blame Tami.

I wanted not to believe it, but we have to be honest. Tami is not truly a girls’ girl. She likes them – she bolsters them up and gets them ready for college – but Tami has never put a real premium on female friendships. Not for herself, and not for her daughter. More than once since Julie’s been at university, we’ve heard Tami ask about boys. I’m not saying she shouldn’t. But the very first time Julie shirked answering her mother about classes, that should have been the clue. That there was nothing else going on in her life. That she didn’t have girlfriends. That classes weren’t making her excited.

A quick PSA – despite my carping about Julie not going to the east coast, I’m well aware there are incredible schools all across the US and Canada. A great education can be got almost anywhere. But if you ‘settle’ for a school, this apathy toward your education CANNOT be tolerated. If you’re reading this and you’re young, and you don’t love being at school, move. Transfer to something else. If your readings are piling up and you just can’t care about any of them – not just that one class that’s a bitch – you’re in the wrong place. If your son or daughter can’t muster any enthusiasm about what they’re doing at school, they are wasting your money and their time.

Would it have fixed Julie’s situation if she was in a poetry seminar she truly adored? Maybe not. But it would have given her some reason to consider going back. To be torn. As it is, Julie acquiesced to what appears to be (heretofore unexpressed) financial issues in her household, chose a school at home, and her lack of passion resulted in a predictably haunting affair.

I keep turning it over and over in my head. What Julie lacks is passion. She says she couldn’t hack it at Habitat. But she’s failed to find another love. She’s been flailing since Matt. And I know I can’t blame Tami for that, not totally. You can’t force your kid to find something. You can’t make her love school if she’s decided not to.

But somewhere along the line, it became OK for Julie to head off to the next phase of her life even though, from what we’ve seen, she was lukewarm about the idea at best (remember that in the first episode, before any of this, she didn’t want to talk to Tami about her roommate…?) Now, she’s back. Eric literally can’t look at her. She’s become the girl who will have sex (because you know that’s what he’s thinking about) with anyone, even a married man. But since he can’t talk to his daughter – since in his own words, he can’t even recognize her – he’ll be looking at her mother. Isn’t this her responsibility?

Rumor has it that after four seasons of rock-solid Taylors, this is the season where the marriage will be tested. And I know you’re reading this going “Duana, he would never. He would never blame his wife for something like that, like their daughter’s mistake”. But come on. We’ve seen their marriage endure all kinds of things. Really stressful life-changing moments, both their careers threatened. If in fact they’re going to have a problem, it’s got to be something deep and insidious that they could never see coming. Someone saying something so ugly, so hurtful, that it actually threatens their foundation.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s not possible. See you next episode.

Attached – TV Guide has an exclusive photo from an upcoming episode and information about how the series will wrap up. Look who’s sitting with Riggins!!! Click here for more from TV Guide.