By Ken Tucker
Updated May 27, 2011 at 12:00 PM EDT

If you thought Friday Night Lights was going to let Julie off the hook for her little life-disaster (smooching with married T.A.; running into the Taylors’ mailbox), you must have joined me in the pleasure I took in seeing Julie placed front and center and wallowing in gloriously unjustified self-pity this week.

Told by Tami that she wasn’t going to be allowed to just return home, sleep late, and eat cereal at three in the afternoon — that, indeed, she’d have to drive Gracie Bell to day-care (heck, why didn’t Julie take care of her baby sister herself) — Julie was the picture of perfect sullenness.

Equally sullen in an entirely different way was Vince’s dad, Ornette, chafing at the notion of having to curb his college-recruitment efforts and defer to Coach. The man was so happy to be doling out all the TMU swag, I almost sided with him. The most intriguing aspect of this plot was the note of tension it struck between Vince and Jess. While Vince is touchingly ready to give Ornette a chance, given the happiness the man is providing Vince’s mother and his seemingly sincere efforts to bond with his son, Jess is more dubious, and Vince doesn’t want to hear it.

The “rivalry week” competition turned nasty early on, with the release of some of the players’ criminal records to the media. This occasioned a fine scene of Coach storming into his old Panther lair to call out those he assumed tried to embarrass his team. (By the way, didn’t you assume the McCoys would have been behind this? Father and son have virtually disappeared from FNL.) Most jovial scene of the night: Buddy sitting amidst all his booster buddies, guarding the field.

The most awkward scene of the night was an artfully intentional one: Luke telling Becky how purty she looks, and then Billy Riggins giving him grief about the lameness of his “game.”

If Tami’s trip to college to retrieve Julie’s books didn’t result in the showdown between her and Weasel T.A. that we might have hoped, it rang true to the show’s realism.

And I’ve saved the best for last: The return of Jason Street. It was terrific to see Scott Porter put in a final-season appearance, and that his character’s life-story seems to have turned out well. The dialogue between Jason and Coach Eric was marvelous; no other TV actor can play that sort of joshing, paternal, poker-faced affection the way Kyle Chandler can.

Twitter: @kentucker