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'Friday Night Lights' recap: 'On The Outside Looking In'

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For anyone who thinks there’s not enough football in Friday Night Lights, this week’s episode, titled “On The Outside Looking In,” had enough for a full season, as far as I was concerned. That’s because I’m one of those FNL fans who has no interest in football, so I usually just appreciate the quick cutting during the games and the helpful sportscaster-voiceovers telling me who’s winning and losing. (Does anyone else watch the show’s football scenes this way?)

This week, all the locker-room chatter about rankings was rankling to Coach Eric on two levels: first, because it was distracting his team from concentrating on their next game, and second, because he’s obsessed with the team’s rank, and wishes he could shake that. Such inside-football stuff was more than balanced by the “rally girls,” essentially volunteer slaves who align themselves with the players, to keep their “morale up” (wink, wink), and generally objectify themselves. One in particular, a saucy redhead, threw herself at Vince (and threw her underwear into his locker). At first, Jess was okay with this attention being paid to her boyfriend — being a rally-girl is beneath her, and she doesn’t want her man treated any differently than other members of the team. But of course foreign panties in Vince’s locker was, ultimately, highly irritating. And an irritated Jess is someone no one should mess with. I thoroughly liked the reaction FNL came up with for Tami when she learned of the underwear-in-locker stunt: Instead of getting all super-enlightened, politically-correct huffy about it, she responded as a woman in her place might: “It’s part of Texas football.”

It was a pretty good week all around for Vince. Not only were women fighting for him, he’s got colleges clamoring for his attention as well. After last season’s rocky start with Coach, it was sweet to see the scene in which Eric, deadpan firmly in place, began piling the college letters in front of Vince, to the young man’s escalating excitement, capped off a bit later by a scene in which Vince, in turn, was able to surprise his mother with the good news. (Glad to see Mom walking the straight-and-narrow, and that Vince used his newfound local-celebrity pull to get her a better job.)

It was not a good week for Luke, who was charged with an “illegal hit” from last week’s game, and this combined with the Lions’ failure to be ranked, sets up a new dynamic: Last season, it was Coach Vs. Lions (he had to build and win over a new team); this season, it’s the Lions Vs. Dillon (the town doesn’t like this uppity new little powerhouse).

The week also took care to give Eric and Tami parallel plots in which both were outsiders in their chosen fields. For Coach, see above. For Tami — well, that woman doesn’t have much luck when she socializes outside of school does she? Last season, it was the drunken pass made at her by handsy Glen. This week, she tried heeding the principal and building some bridges with the rest of the faculty, but like President Obama at happy-hour with some budget-minded Republicans, the frostiness extended well beyond the chill on the beer mugs. Tami also had a few scenes with the troubled student referenced last week, the excellently named Epic, even if Epic proved to be a rather ordinary (and therefore all too believable) sullen, smoking (as in cigarettes), damaged-by-foster-parent-neglect girl. Clearly, more about her TK.

We will now pause to acknowledge that Julie is having a typical freshman experience at college: Her roommate forgot to put the “Don’t Come A-Knockin'” sign on their door, and so Julie was abashed to barge in on some joyous promiscuousness, and she’s developing a crush on one of her T.A.s There has never been a teaching-assistant/callow-student relationship in the history of pop culture that worked out well, so, I say: Let’s just leave Julie alone for a few episodes until things settle down, okay?

Too bad Julie missed the wild party at which Luke picked a fight with Hastings (cool-dude Hastings is being positioned as the New Riggins, but we’ll reserve judgment on that for a few weeks), Becky pulled him away, Luke got suspended, Jess engaged in some competitive drinking and vomited, which charmed Vince (vomiting as endearing is a theme rarely bruited in pop-culture analysis). Oh yes, and Billy’s wife, Mindy, is really ticked that Becky is still living with them and wearing short-shorts around the house. The girl is a beauty-pageant contestant, for pete’s sake, Mondy — what did you think was going to happen?!

A few final hail-Mary football passes:

• What was up with the brief shot of the “Buddy’s” sign being erected? Has our man given up the car business and gone into the roadhouse or (given his fondness for ’em) strip club business? In short, FNL needs more Buddy.

• I’m already missing Landry and Crucifictorus badly.

• Sorry, but as a new team slogan, “One day at a time, one game at a time” is a modified AA mantra, not a replacement for “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”

Did you watch?

Follow: @kentucker

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