Football, as a multitude of thick-necked, cliché-spoting television commentators love to opine, is a game of inches. Translated into more practical, yet still football-cliché-riddled verbiage for the die-hard Friday Night Lights viewer, this means: It can’t always be a game-winning Hail Mary TD pass, Lions fans. Sometimes it’s about putting your head down and pushing the plot forward. Thus week two of this young season was a low-scoring, low-key contest. (Almost done!) The offense spread the ball around to a lot of different characters without too much forward progress. (Not quite there!) But there’s plenty of time left on the clock.
Aaaaand scene. Thanks, guys. We’re totally going to ace the Football Metaphor final on Thursday! Where were we? Right: “On the Outside Looking In.” The businessy bits of the episode were about the (still!) disrespected Lions. After upsetting the No. 8 ranked school in the State last week, you could forgive the East Dillonites for expecting a little shine from the Powers That Be. After all, they’re basically a real program now — what with letters from NCAA powerhouses addressed to their star quarterback (leading to the episode’s most heartwarming scene as Vince dances his beleaguered mother around the living room joyfully shouting, “They want me!”), pliant Rally Girls leaving cookies, Rice Krispie treats, and, uh, “lots of porn” in the lockers, and even jolly local businessmen looking to cozy up to them for as yet unexplained reasons (leading to the episode’s most weirdly worrisome scene where Vince leverages his newfound clout into a job for his mom at Bob Short’s Garden Supply shop). But when the rankings are released, the Lions are nowhere to be found. This leaves the team listless and “depressed” or, in the case of Certified Bad Boy™ Hastings Ruckle, helmetless and bemused at Coach Billy Riggins. (Which, to be fair, bemused is exactly how one should feel when confronted with Billy Riggins.) Coach, unimpressed, makes everyone run suicides. But after a stonefaced meeting with the athletic board — who suspend Luke for his perfectly legal, perfectly brutal hit last week — and a clandestine meeting with our old pal Mac (who bets “$20 and shots” that his Panthers skin the Lions this season), Coach realizes that there really is a “they” and “they” are definitely out to get him. Also, Black Helicopters. As if the bar wasn’t raised enough, Coach fires up his team before their next game by making like this guy and writing one word on the whiteboard: STATE. Let’s light this candle!
Quick cut to: Julie Taylor, the College Years. But all is not going so well for the former future Mrs. Saracen. First, her roommate bones a lot and doesn’t even have the courtesy to hang a sock on the door or scribble a note about “Uncle Wiggly” coming to visit or any of the other Pro Tips available in Van Wilder’s Guide for Gross Dorm Living (available today at MadeUpAmazon.com). And then she only seems to be taking one class, History of Davy Crockett’s Coonskin Cap 101, and it’s taught by Mark Twain. Snore! But luckily there is a cute TA who loves football (but doesn’t know it as well as Julie) and seems totally game for another round of Julie Taylor’s patented inappropriate relationships with a nominal authority figure. First there was the Habitat for Humanity emo dork and now this? Julie, aim lower!
Back in Dillon we are still digging the seamless integration these last two seasons of the new cast members. Luke is especially intriguing this year as he has Hulk-ed out and seems to be mad at the world (Vince: “Do you need a hug?”) — and by “world” we mean “Hastings Ruckle.” This generally means calling Hastings “fruitcake” and getting wasted at a keg party and trying to start a fight with him. Luckily Hastings has a few chapters left of The Dharma Bums and also just learned how to finger-pick “Cat’s in the Cradle” so he’s super not into fisticuffs just now, bro. Actually, all that may be true, but mainly it’s that Becky rescues Hastings by pulling Luke away and getting him a ride home. This is sweet but also intense what with the whole “Luke getting her pregnant” last year thing. Luckily, OG Mama Grizzly Mrs. Cafferty doesn’t see her. And, honestly, Luke and Becky are, and always have been, incredibly young. They’ve been through so many intense things already that it’s only natural they would keep being drawn back together. The question remains if this can turn into something sweet — heck, Luke traded a prize pig to Tinker in order to have Becky as his Rally Girl! — or something sour.
The rest of the episode tracked the travails of two of our favorite women, Tami and Jess — who also actually got to share a scene this week. Tami is frustrated, struggling with the cold shoulder she’s getting from the East Dillon faculty owing to her constant
self-important hectoring attempts to get them to volunteer extra time to help the most troubled students. Her main nemesis, a snooty teacher named Laurel, grudgingly invites Tami to their weekly happy hour at Rivera’s and, after a pep talk from Stern Principal Levi and some encouragement — plus an ill-advised seduction attempt underneath Julie’s Liars poster from Eric (“Rivera’s is a happy place!”) — Tami attends. Now, you’ll have to forgive us for being nervous about this sort of thing. Last time Tami went out for a relaxing night with colleagues, she was brutally mouth-raped by Glenn in the parking lot. This time all she got was a margarita in her lap — an improvement? — and, strangely, a promise from Laurel to help out with her after-school “Homework Club.” We found Laurel’s sudden conversion about as believable as that of “Epic,” the sullen, chain-smoking Bad Girl who will be playing the part of Tyra Tami’s Project this season. But, hey, we’ll go with it.
As for Jess, her quiet dignity doesn’t really fly as a Rally Girl — she’s more into diagramming plays with her boyfriend than baking for him — so she, like Mindy Riggins with Becky, lets a “fox in her henhouse.” This particular fox is a spectacularly bitchy redhead named Maura who absent-mindedly leaves her unmentionables in Vince’s locker and promises to “have” him within two weeks. Jess, quite reasonably, responds by trying to yank Maura’s hair out by the fistful in bathroom — and gets detention (and face time with Tami) for her trouble. She even tries to compete on her rival’s slutty turf by accepting a beer-bong challenge. But while it may taste good while it hits your lips, it’s decidedly nasty on the reverse trip: Jess gets sick and Vince, honorably, holds her hair. Even in her drunken state Jess remains noble enough to notice Maura — now totally trashed — being passed around by some goony jocks like an STD in the Jersey Shore hot tub. It’s not pleasant to watch, but we like Maura’s addition to the show — not because of her attitude or flair with the fellows, but because if we’re going to have any good drama this season that’s not the garden variety “the world is against us” stuff then there has to be at least one or two non-saintly types residing in East Dillon. At least until Eric and Tami get their canonizing hands on them.
What did everyone else think?