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Friday Night Lights Recap: Off the Grid

It’s a bye week in East Dillon which means, mercifully, a week without miracles — unless you count the sudden transformation of Luke and Hastings from rivals to besties (free recruiting tickets to a college football game can change a guy, we guess.). Without the often-outrageous uplift provided by the gridiron scenes, our characters are forced to deal with the messier realities of their helmet-free lives. And nothing tends to be messier on Friday Night Lights than parent-child relations, many of which are brought to the fore on a week when the show’s reliably best parent, Coach Taylor, is marginalized.

(Sorry to digress, but if you think about it, ol’ Eric has been rather marginalized in a larger sense on his own show for awhile now. Ever since he retreated from his “dream job” at TMU in the season-that-shall-not-be-named he’s had no arc or stakes, merely serving as a Goodness Vending Machine for the various troubled souls that wander onto his field — an awesome, kick-ass Goodness Vending Machine, but still. Those patiently impatient loving snarls buy a lot of goodwill, but it would be nice to see Coach, y’know, do something again before the end of the run, wouldn’t it?)

Feeling the parental heat the most this week is, as usual, young Vince. A friend and astute FNL-fan recently pointed out to us that, were we to really think about it, a real-life kid like Vince — child of a junkie and incarcerated drug dealer — would most likely be a psychological wreck, and so his one-year ascension from the back of a cop car into star athlete, A+ boyfriend, and strong (jaw-boned) young man is incredibly far-fetched. To which we say: So was Landry’s Field Goal. But with her criticism in mind, we were happy to see “Keep Looking” tug at one of the more interesting psychological strings still lurking behind those bulging mandibles, namely that Vince’s abandonment by his father has created in him an innate need to fiercely protect the women in his life, whether they want that protection or not. And so we see him mixing it up with the stray Lion who foolishly flirts with Jess (foolishly not only because Vince is standing right there, but because she’s snappy as all hell with return-fire put-downs, telling off the dude like Don Rickles with a jockstrap in his hand) and, later, chasing his father out of the reverie of a nice memory (of his first date with Regina), and then out of her home-cooked dinner entirely. Vince’s dad’s remorse seems genuine, and yet we like how hard it is for Vince to accept it — especially in the face of how much it clearly means to a suddenly wearing-dresses Regina. Vince’s childish ultimatum to Jess about quitting her position with the team (which also includes Cyrano de Bergerac–ing coaching advice to an in-over-his-head Billy Riggins) felt real, as did Vince’s wild ransacking of his father’s motel room in search of drugs. At the end, his pop swears “on his life” that he’ll never let Regina touch heroin again, which is disturbing not only because we still don’t believe it but because of its potentially fatal foreshadowing.

(Another digression: What was up with the entire coaching staff of TMU bum-rushing Vince during Luke’s official recruiting visit? Could someone more NCAA-savvy than us confirm that this was illegal? Or merely shady? And why would a fictional Division 1 school like TMU be playing the National in the locker room? Relax, FNL. Everyone in Brooklyn already likes your show! It’s the rest of the country you’ve got to convince!)

Also in turmoil this week is Becky, which doesn’t surprise us because her actual address is merely a rickety mailbox in Turmoil, Texas (you can tell it’s hers because there’s a pageant tiara sitting on top of it). You see, Mindy is still hostile toward her underage houseguest. But not as hostile as she is toward the air — she is really tae-bo-ing her way back into pre-baby shape! Becky quickly learns, however, that the way into any Collette woman’s heart is via her butt. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. But Becky does compliment Mindy on her ass and gives her good advice about negotiating her job back at the Landing Strip. And thus, when Becky’s father conveniently returns from the road and demands that his daughter return to the hickish, awful care of his new wife, Mindy refuses to let Becky go. Contrived as this plot may be, it works for us: Our hanky moment this episode was when Becky, tears in her eyes, thanks her savior for letting her stay, offering to “do dishes and babysit.” “Forget it,” Mindy says, and the basic human kindness punched us right in our crusty heart. (Mindy might have her work cut out for her, though. Was anyone else sorta skeaved out by the way Luke Cafferty announced his amorous intentions at the Texas Luau? Slow your roll, dude! After what happened last season, the last place you two should be going is the car wash, if you know what we mean.)

Best of all was the arrival of pot-smoking, seitan-hating, car-jacking, whiskey-swilling, bazooka-barfing Buddy Jr. Talk about a grand entrance! Whether it was asking if there was anything his dad didn’t fail at or ogling Tami Taylor’s (admittedly impressive) rack, Buddy Jr. (played by total Buddy Sr. doppelgänger Jeff Rosick) made a wonderfully delinquent impression. His bad behavior even gave his dad and Coach a chance to pair up and any opportunity to get those two together tends to be worth it (even if poor Coach was only free because Tami agreed to chaperone the dance in exchange for more help with “Homework Club” — thus ruining their planned “party” and leaving Coach to “party” alone and allowing Tami to say, “I can’t even imagine what you’re going to do by yourself” in basically the best way ever). We were a little frustrated that Buddy’s emotional tackling of his son — literally and figuratively — didn’t end up any place deeper than the football field. Does it make sense? Sure. But for how long is this town going to subcontract all of its parenting out to the Taylors? Does anyone have any doubt that rough-and-tumble Epic will be helping Tami bake cobbler before the end of the season?

Of course, Coach and Mrs. Coach are parents themselves, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t provide a quick update on their actual offspring. After her nearly disastrous slip-up two weeks ago — when she accidentally requested the Earth food “macaroni and cheese” for breakfast, thus almost blowing her human cover — Alien Baby Grace held it together this episode. She seems to be impressing her host parents with her patience, pigtails, and ability to refrain from shooting lasers out of her eyes/telling her father what to do more than once a season. A situation we’ll be monitoring, but a cute one.


As for the other Taylor daughter: Her college plotline is stupid and horrible and, in truly childish fashion, that’s all we want to say about it and you can’t make us! So there.

Photo: Bill Records/NBC/DIRECTTV