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'Friday Night Lights' recap: Tying up loose ends before the new year

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Fnl_lBoy, they sure crammed a lotta stories into Friday Night Lights this week, didn’t they? It was as though, anticipating the writers’ strike, the producers mapped out an episode that tied up some plot-lines, made sure just about every major character got significant screen-time, and now hope to leave us happy and wanting more when the show comes back, as the NBC announcer said, “in the new year.”

And for the most part, I was indeed pretty happy with the results. The initially jarring let’s-get-baby-Gracie-baptized-this-weekend subplot resulted in a fine series of scenes in which Julie (Aimee Teegarden) tried to triangulate between her parents, first hoping to win some sympathy from her father (Kyle Chandler) by confiding her trumped-up woes to him—oh, those teenagers are wily narcissists, aren’t they?—and then getting into an expertly played, not-quite-quiet-voice shouting match with her mom (Connie Britton). Plus, in between, we got a truly excellent brief moment between Coach Eric and Tami, in which Tami pointed out with her usual slicing asperity the family-dynamic subtext that Eric was too dense—too male—to understand: i.e., that he was being manipulated by Daddy’s little girl. These are the kinds of moments, so deceptively simple yet emotionally subtle, that Friday Night Lights does with unique understatement.

addCredit(“FNL: Bill Records”)

Now: How ’bout that Jason Street subplot? Our boy wheels himself intoan internet-arranged blind date only to be freaked out that the girl iskinky? (She was into “pee”? This is territory into which I thought onlyscholarly documentary shows like Two and A Half Mendelved.) So Jason (Scott Porter) enlists the waitress to help him dumpthis—well, not crazy, just unusual-for-Dillon-Texas experimental—girl,and then Jason ends up making out with the waitress. Far-fetched? Yes.Enjoyable? I must say, I was grinning.
In the matter of theMatt-Santiago fantasy-mance–well, once again, I decline to get tooinvolved; no matter how playful and hot they seem to find each other,it’s just (to be brutal about it) a waste of Zach Gilford’s time untilthey give his Matt the inevitable break-up scenes and something moresubstantial to do in the series.

I’m also not feelin’ much for Santiago (Benny Ciaramello) andBuddy-playing-daddy-to-him. That subplot was, as our President recentlyput it, pure Psychology 101: Santiago is initially confused and lousyon the football field because his upbringing and his criminal recordhave taught him that violence gets him in trouble. Yet, of course, hehad to learn that organized violence gets him praise, from Buddy and the team. Aw, that kid’s just a powder-keg waiting to explode from the show.

As for Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch), who among us didn’t see that the “I’m livingwith a meth dealer” life-plan was not going to end well? The thing is,I liked the manner in which this was handled. It was nicely creepy tosee Mr. Meth in the gym, cheering and leering at the high school girlgymnasts, and a good way for Coach to see what Riggins was putting upwith. And what do you think Riggins’ final scene meant? Was he going tocatch up on his rest by napping in a sleeping-bag in Coach’s garage?(Might Julie not drive home from the baptism and accidentally crushhim?) Or is he just going to continue to be allowed to sleep, albeit abit more warmly, in his vehicle outside the Taylor house?

Well, I’ve been avoiding talking about the night’s biggestplot-line—Landry’s confession to the police—till the end here. (My,didn’t that baptism turn out nicely? Was anyone else just a tad worriedthat Julie was going to very accidentally drop sweet little moon-headedGracie into the baptismal font?) As American TV watchers, we knew acharacter as lovable and essential as Landry (Jesse Plemons, pictured, left) was nevergoing to go away to do hard time in jail on a series (and someone atthe same network should have told My Name Is Earl about that—boy, have thoseratings slipped). So it was with vast relief that, in the final momentswe learned that no charges would be pressed against Landry—instead, hegot Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) pressing against him, a much niceroutcome. And, more seriously, by having her tell him she really didfeel that her life was being threatened by the guy he killed, his moralguilt can now be assuaged and we can get back the winningly funny,fast-talking, quick-thinking Landry that we know and love. Right,producers? Right? Please?

In fact, in the new, hopefully strike-settled, year, I hope we get a lot more of the Friday Night Lightswe know and love. I think they’ve done a lot to shake off theirsophomore slump. The show is reportedly in better shape,production-wise, than most other drama series in that they managed toget more episodes filmed. But the ratings situation is still dire. Dowhat you can to get people you know to watch, and we’ll do our best tokeep the show on readers’ radar. In the meantime, what did you think ofthis episode, and is there anything about the show you think stillneeds fixing?