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'Friday Night Lights' recap: 'The Toilet Bowl' was a lot better than it sounds

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Friday Night Lights has now reached the point where its new characters have earned equal footing with fan favorites such as Tim Riggins and Landry. And it’s about time, since I think we’re about half-way through the season, aren’t we?

This week’s episode took us on a college road trip with Julie and Tami, and if their squabbling didn’t result in a murder (can anyone ever look at a college-tour TV episode and not think of the one in The Sopranos‘ first season?), it returned Julie to the screechy, self-absorbed brat we know and love. And I mean that as praise and as someone who knows first-hand how a child’s daily moods (in Julie’s case, still morose over her Matt break-up) can completely kill a day meant to introduce that child to the beauties of a college campus and four future years of higher education, partying free of parents, and hundreds of chances to forget the guy you’re stressing over now. I sort of figured Julie would pull it together at the last minute to ace her Boston College interview, even as I hoped FNL wouldn’t resort to such an easy plot twist, but I chalk that up to the season’s cramped plot quarters: so many stories to serve, too few subtle mood-transitions to make.

More drama crucial to future plots that may or may not pay off occurred at Riggins Rigs. While Tim now has the dreamy squint-eyes for those 25 acres of farm-land he wants to purchase (more space to throw empty beer cans around?), he discovered that bro Billy was using his spare time to use the Rigs space as a chop shop for That Furious Guy Who Quit The Lions Early On, who’ll pay him big illegal bucks to break down stolen cars for parts. This is a subplot that I just don’t find rewarding for the long-term. What’s the best that can happen? Billy makes a lotta dough to support his new wife and kid? No: more like, Billy ends up either in jail or in a fight he’s sure to loose with That Furious Guy.

Oh, well, at least we had “the Toilet Bowl,” the derisive name given to a match-up between the Lions and a supposedly lousy team, the Timberwolves. The game proved unexpectedly exciting (even That Furious Guy was in the stands cheering!), and all the slimy mud and Landry’s crucial field-goal kick made this one of the series’ better football scenes. Or maybe I felt that way because I don’t watch real football games. I welcome any illuminating disagreeing commentary from you, readers.

Speaking of Landry, that kid has got to move the ball a little closer to the goal line when it comes to romancing Jess. I like the way this relationship is being teased out (especially glad to see the return of Landry’s rock band and the cleverly deadpan Devin), but I want to see what’s going to happen between Landry and Jess’ dad (Steve Harris, you are being under-served) and between Landry and Vince, who Has A Past and maybe a future with the lovely Jess.

The fact that I’m so anxious for this plot to deepen is a good sign, though. It just confirms once again that Friday Night Lights continues to play to its strengths: simmering tensions and raucous competition.

Did you watch?