There is a new villain in town, and lest we, for one second, mistake him for a decent, God-fearing dude, the writers helpfully named him Donald Dickus. He’s the coach of the arch-rivals Larabee, who, after a tornado swept through the region, are sharing practice facilities with our Panthers. The man is a sine qua non prick, and in this episode, he gave Coach Taylor the chance to play the hero like we haven’t seen him do in some time.
But first, let us dispense with the unbearable sadness that is Landry. Every time he comes on the screen, the song “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” ought to be playing. From a purely superficial level, we always knew that Tyra was above his station — she’s crazy hot, he’s more on the “interesting” side of the ledger. Of course, his heart is ten times the size of hers, but in teen romance, that tends not to count for much. If he hadn’t managed to save her life, she’d never have fallen for him. Now that all the homicide business is cleared up, she’s intimidated by his passion for her, and you know, who wouldn’t be? Still, she’s been a major bitch to him, and this week was the lowest — she went to the big dance with the completely slimy QB1 from Larabee. No excuse for that shit, and you have to give Landry some credit for punching out the a-hole in the lunchroom. But he should have left it there. Why get loaded, drive out to the dance alone, and look for her? That’s just a recipe for ritualistic humiliation.
Fortunately, Landry found his pride, thank God, and the QB1 was off in the bathroom puking, leaving Tyra alone, wearing a low-cut black dress that showed more boob than we thought allowable on network television (not that the show doesn’t test that standard every week). Realizing that Tyra does not live up to his idea of her, Landry preserves what’s left of his dignity by rejecting her lame plea that he give her more time to think about it. Then he wanders off. This is his big Neil Straussian moment — he’s showing the hottie that she’s dirt, and if she behaves the way hotties are allegedly programmed to, she’ll come begging for him. But we’re guessing that Landry, unlike Strauss, won’t take her back then.
Now on to Riggins — most of the show was completely enjoyable for the excellent bonding between him and Coach Taylor. As you may remember, he’s living in the Taylors’ garage, which is exciting to everybody in the house — Coach who loves having a buddy to play Ping-Pong with, Julie who loves having a protective older brother, and Shelly who just loves Riggins’ sultry, bohemian-jock looks, not to mention his abs — except of course Tami, who memorably remarks that having him around Julie is “like putting a can of gasoline next to a lit match.”
Riggins, however, defies expectations. Shown trust, he earns it back doubly. He comes to Julie’s aid when the tornado hits, and later, when she’s drunk and on the verge of a stupid hookup, he chases off the opportunistic weenie. In between, when Riggins gets knocked to the ground by Coach Dickus as a brawl between the two teams is about to break out, Coach Taylor grabs Dickus by his shirt and tells him never to touch one of his players again. Right there in that scene are all the things we love about Taylor — Big Daddy making the world right.
But later, Big Daddy errs by leaping to conclusions when he finds Riggins in Julie’s room, after the aforementioned episode with the weenie. Riggins’s intentions were pure here — he was just putting Julie to bed — but Coach’s anger gives him no chance to explain, and he is sent packing from the Taylor household. Our stud is homeless again.
An actual football game was not played this week, nor was it missed. The Riggins-Taylor relationship, the great alliance of the alpha males, is emerging as the center of the season, and that is exactly as it should be. Goddamn we want Riggins, the wayward son, to find his way back into Big Daddy’s heart. Forget state championships, that’s what we’re rooting for now. —Hugo Lindgren