The Lions went on a road trip this week on Friday Night Lights, amped on their own team spirit and the blunt advice from Coach Taylor on how to avoid trouble on the field with their away-game opponents, the racist Rangers: Stop “playing with vengeance”; stop making “mental mistakes”; and “stay away from dumb, gentlemen.” As always, Coach offers words we all might live by. That, plus some classic Kyle Chandler moments, when you think he’s going to be sincere and then, poker-faced, he lets Coach go over-the-top with the same even yet vehement tone: “My way is the right way, the good way… The way to salvation!”
Not headed for salvation? Daughter Julie and her creep-o teaching-assistant. Why is this girl involved with a guy who says of his wife, “We like each other but we don’t love each other. Or maybe it’s the other way around.” This is attractive to Julie? It’s no wonder the T.A.’s wife showed up on campus later, slapped Julie and repeatedly screamed, “Julie Taylor is a slut!” Because, well, Julie sorta is. She scampered home after that, all smiles and hugs (Tami should have been suspicious right there), needing to “do laundry.” That’s the new code for “hiding from the new life I’ve created.”
All of the hour’s on-the-road material was rich and loamy with details about the lives of these young men, their hopes, their dreams, their temptations. I like the way the producers aren’t afraid to show us a side of the Panthers that we might not like, were we staying in the same motel with them — all that yelling and horsing around, boys-will-be-boys letting off steam. Insufferable if you have a business meeting the next day, but, if you’re not booked in a room next to them, fun to watch. Even Buddy, Jr., hapless on the field, got to score a bit with the ladies and was made to feel part of his new team by getting himself branded like a husky calf.
Vince’s dad, Ornette, is going to be a problem, what with his increasing view of Vince as a meal ticket to wealth. He paid lip service to Eric’s instructions that his son not talk to recruiters, but it didn’t stop him from being tempted by the guy from TMU.
You could say that this was a stand-alone episode in which not much happened in terms of furthering key plots. But I prefer to say that this was an hour what added a lot of carefully crafted texture to Friday Night Lights, allowing the show to take a well-considered pause, to fill in some of the color and details in the portrait the final season is painting of every core character’s journey to the future. “We’re getting there,” said Coach on the bus. Indeed we are.