Friday Night Lights now feels comfortable enough with its new characters to start giving a few of them the primary storylines. This week we were immediately transported to a Dillon family farm, where Luke Cafferty (Matt Lauria) was busy herding cattle with his never-before-seen father. Dad is tough in an understandable way: Economic times are difficult, he needs Luke (rather than a farm-hand he can’t afford) to help him… even if it means Luke has to miss football practice. Uh-oh…
Hey, something good finally happened to Tami over at her new school! She was given a “blue ribbon for academic excellence”: apparently, she’s helped the school raise its previous standards in between being pilloried by school families yelling at her at PTA meetings, and suddenly everyone on the staff thinks she’s the bee’s-knees. We, of course, knew this already: I mean, look at her — it’s Connie Britton, for pete’s sake! But as in the Luke plot, there’s a bit of foreshadowing here: The teaching staff wants to throw her a party. At a karaoke bar. Uh-oh…
More new-cast business: Becky’s trucker dad comes to visit. He and her mom have split up, but Madison Burge’s Becky, as a child of divorce, yearns for her father’s love, and he tries to milk it by getting her a puppy. A bit later, Tim Riggins overhears him talking on the phone to a woman about their child: Dad has a second family he’s never told Becky about, and when he discovers that Tim heard him yakking, he asks Tim not to tell Becky. Uh-oh…
Now this is good: Vince (Michael B. Jordan) is made quarterback. Like Tami, Vince certainly deserved a break. Except that pretty soon, the cops show up in the Lions locker room saying there’s a report that Vince has a gun on school property. Coach Eric lets the police search the locker — Coach has no choice, but this is certainly humiliating for Vince and not a little racial-profile-y to me. But then again, the hour isn’t over yet… because later, Eric tells Vince one-on-one that if he does own a gun, he’d better admit that fact. I feel as though Eric sometimes puts Vince in a tough position: Eric knows from visiting Vince’s home that the kid is living a nightmare — druggie mom, and some of his friends are thugs. So, yes, it turns out Vince does possess a gun, for self-protection, it’s strongly implied. By the end of the night’s he’ll have gone to Eric’s house and handed it over to Coach in a brown paper bag. Vince thus earns Eric’s trust, but must make a probably nerve-jangling journey home only to be defense-less (gun-less) in his dangerous neighborhood.
There are some nice moments this week of Julie being emotionally fragile after Matt’s born-to-be-moderately-wild car ride into the sunset, and of Landry continuing to pursue that nice girl Jess (Jurnee Smollett).
And although you can argue that the greatest drama this week occurred when, at the end of the episode, Luke hurt one or both of his legs while herding cattle, the most satisfying scenes all revolved around our old favorites.
First, Tami at the party in her honor. Goofy but well-meaning-teacher Glen + alcohol + karaoke + Tami = a drunken Glen trying to smooch Tami. She fends off the sad little puppy with firm Tami ease, and some terrific understatement on the part of both actors.
Second, there’s a great Tim Riggins moment. (And these days, is there ever not a great Tim Riggins moment?) Tim decided to tell Becky about Dad’s second family — his unstated reasoning was that it’s better for her to know truth. Becky’s mom, also mad at her ex and never in favor of that dog, returns the animal to the place the trucker-dad bought it.
Now comes the great Tim moment. He goes back to the shelter and drawls to the person in charge, “I’m lookin’ for a dog, about yea high [approximates height of puppy with his hand]. Disgruntled redhead brought him back yesterday.” Disgruntled redhead — hearing that phrase come out of Tim Riggins’ mouth made me grin from ear-to-ear. Taylor Kitsch, you deserve a Golden Globe and an Emmy.
And so we leave Dillon this week, Tim in his truck with the dog, whom he has named “Skeeter.” One gets the feeling he’s going to keep the dog and let Becky play with it, so her mom can’t take it away again.
All in all, another plot-crammed episode. Maybe too crammed? Maybe not enough forward-narrative momentum?
I’ll let you tell me, in the comments below; thanks.