Vulture

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Lyla, obviously thinking about a bad boy.

‘Friday Night Lights’: Pigskin Versus Volleyball-Player Skin

What does a teenage Christian couple do on a first date? They play miniature golf, naturally, and then they confess their sins to each other, which in Lyla's case, are pretty damn serious. This is how it went down between her and Chris, the amiable, big-hearted host of a religious call-in show.

Lyla: I slept with my paralyzed boyfriend's best friend.
Prolonged awkward silence.
Lyla: It would be great if you would say something.

It turns out that Chris is a genuine Christian, because he did not respond like the near unanimity of humankind would, which is with disgust, horror, anger, outrage, mind-blowing incredulity. Instead, he said, like maybe only Christ himself would have, “I was just thinking how hard it was for you to tell me.”

And with that, Lyla has a new beau, which will obviously cause major pain in other quarters, like the Riggins household.

Oh, poor Riggins. Was it only an episode ago that he was behaving like Saint Tim, looking out for sweet Julie and buddying up with Coach? Now he's acting like a major dumb-ass again. First, he stole that money from his old meth-dealing roomie, which got him bopped on the head with a beer bottle and threatened with getting his knees shot off if he didn't return the dough. Also, he decided it was really funny to prank-call into Lyla and Chris's radio show, which Lyla totally busted him for. Then at his lowest moment, he decided he really loves Lyla and arranges for a candlelit dinner and buys her flowers, all of which leads to a dramatic confrontation in which he demands that she tell him to his face that she doesn't feel the same way about him as he does about her. When she does that, Riggins's heart is in tatters. But this couple is destined to be together again somehow. This other dude, Chris, is going to turn out to be too goody-goody. As their relationship solidified, he seemed less like a cool guy and more of a weenie. Lyla will want a bad boy back in her life, if only because if she doesn't, she ceases to be an interesting television character.

Smash was the other major victim this week. In last week's episode (which we did not cover because of Martin Luther King Day), he and his white girlfriend, Noelle, were told by both her parents and his mom that they could no longer see each other because of what people would think, etc., the old racist logic. That, of course, only deepened their ardor for each other, and they arranged for a clandestine movie date, with Smash's sister coming along as the cover. All hell broke loose in the theater when some white a-holes started menacing Smash's sister and he righteously smacked one of them down. That led to his arrest, and in a brokered deal, he offered a blanket apology. When the white kid went on TV and claimed that he had been attacked without reason, Smash went nuts and made an intemperate comment himself on the air, abrogating the deal and causing a suspension from the Panthers for the rest of the regular season.

So now the Panthers really have something to play for — if they don't make the playoffs, Smash's high-school career is over. Somebody will have to step up and play the hero — will it be Matt, now brokenhearted because Carlotta, his Latina nurse lover, had to return to Guatemala? Not likely. The preview for next week's episode reveals that he'll start hitting the bottle and fucking up like Riggins. So that means the new star will be either Santiago, who is now in deep shit because his old pals from the juvie school have resurfaced and want him to party along with them, or Riggins himself, who is always in need of redemption. More likely, we suppose, is that the hero role will be apportioned out week to week to different characters. Maybe even Landry will get another moment of glory on the football field.

As it is, Landry has a new love interest, a little dreadlocked outsider girl who is everything that Tyra is not. Tyra, for her part, is chafing a bit at the idea of Landry finding someone else, and continuing to act like the incredible bitch we've seen her to be this season. The girl's got no heart. She'll be crying for Landry pretty soon, and it's possible that he won't care. Although that amazing body will be hard to resist, especially now that she's joined the girl's volleyball team and will likely be seen frequently in tank tops and tight little shorts.

Speaking of sports, we have now gone two straight weeks with almost no football at all. As we have discussed before, this is the show's survival strategy — connect with female viewers by dialing down the football. Which is actually working out okay. We find ourselves thirsting ever more for the major healing power that football brings to all the characters. This week, though, got totally out of hand because instead of concluding with a nice punctuating game of pigskin, we got, yes, a climactic game of girl's volleyball. The hapless team, now coached by Tami, even though she couldn't possibly have the time for it what with her baby-care woes, has been galvanized by Tami's recruitment of Tyra. Where once we had big muscular boys barreling their way into the end zone, this week we had tall, lean, hot Tyra fiercely smashing the ball over the net and leading a spirited comeback victory. For one week, we can tolerate this, but please, back to football next week. —Hugo Lindgren

Photo: Courtesy of NBC