Julie's not the only one struggling with Matt's departure, but life moves on in Dillon, where Riggins punches out some of his own lingering daddy issues, Landry finally accepts that Tyra's not interested in a long-term romance that involves some stolen moments at a highway rest stop, and the hottest high school principal in all the land has to fend off the awkward advances of a smitten guidance counselor after a night of celebratory shots and karaoke.
There's not a snap of football in Friday's episode, but with almost every supporting character going through some type of personal drama, there would have been little time for to focus on a game anyway. I can't decide if all the backstories of angst and heartbreak make the characters that much deeper, or if they have the show teetering to close toward "afterschool special of the week" melodrama. Friday Night Lights is all about the character development, though.
A whole episode of watching Julie break down every time she thinks about Matt - finding a collection of mopey songs that Matt burned on to a CD for her, answering a question about Thomas Wolfe's novels during an "Academic Smackdown" competition - would have been unbearable. For some reason, the brief scene of Landry leaving a painfully long voice mail for Tyra as he realizes she's not coming home was more poignant. In the span of that rambling conversation with Tyra's voice mail, you saw his frustration and heart ache morph into acceptance that she had moved on and that he needed to move on.
It's easier to do that, of course, when you have Jess and her dad's barbecue sandwiches waiting in the wings to be won over with a self-deprecating joke or two.
Things are not so easy, though, for East Dillon's two star players. Vince gets named the starting QB by Coach Taylor, only to have police officers wander into the locker room during the following practice because of a tipster's report that he had a gun on campus. No gun is found, and when Coach confronts Vince later about it, Vince denies that he has a gun.
Coach Taylor clearly doesn't buy it, though, because he shows up again at Vince's apartment to remind him what's at stake if he gets in trouble again and sent to juvenile detention. Vince gets all puffed up with outrage over how Coach Taylor only cares about him because he's good at football, and while the scene seems a bit forced and too reminiscent of past conversations between the two, Vince's bitter recollection of seeing three close friends get killed on the mean streets of East Dillon allow him to give as good as he gets from his well-meaning coach.
Coach Taylor's words about Vince's obligation to stay out of trouble to provide for his mother, who has been inspired by Vince's promotion to QB1 to quit taking drugs, sink in, however. When Vince shows up at the Taylors' doorstep late the next night, he gives coach a gun wrapped up in a brown paper bag. And like every other football coach presented with a gun from his star QB, Taylor decides he'll make sure the gun disappears.
(I think that's in the NCAA guidelines for college coaches somewhere.)
Meanwhile, Luke is struggling to juggle school, football, paintball feuds with his former West Dillon teammates and helping his parents keep their struggling cattle ranch afloat. We've already heard Luke talk about he sees football as his escape out of Dillon, yet his dad is leaning on him to skip school all week to repair a fence in the hopes of fending off cattle thieves.
Coach Taylor may hide a gun for you, but apparently he won't excuse you from practice to help your dad protect the family livelihood. Luke tries to please dad and coach, waking up early and staying up late to work on the fence so that he can still make it to school every day. When his teammate Tinker catches him falling asleep at lunch time, Tinker takes pity and offers to come over after practice to help him and his dad repair the fence.
The show hasn't done much to show how Luke has gradually won over his black teammates after a rocky start, but Tinker's explanation for Luke's dad - "Luke's a good guy. He's one of the guys holding this team together. He's pretty much the star but doesn't act like it." - cues the inevitable warm, fuzzy feelings.
What are the odds, you think, that we'll have a scene in a future episode where the camera pans to Luke's dad in the stands for the first time watching him play football?
That is, of course, if Luke is still healthy enough to play after getting his legs smashed between a pair of gates as he and his dad try to corral some cattle. They've already done the paralyzed football player scenario (Seasons 1-3), so hopefully FNL's writers gave Luke a break.
At least Luke has a dad. Meeting Becky's loser dad as he rolls through town in his 18-wheeler stirs up Riggins' own resentments about his own absentee father. So when Becky shows up at the lapdanceapoolaza serving as Riggins' brother Billy's wife's baby shower (I don't even know where to begin with that), Riggins can't help but smash her dreams of her dad moving back eventually to be close to her.
Her dad, his dad, they're cut from the same cloth, he tells her as she tries to finagle a slow dance out of him with strippers gyrating in the background. (Speaking of daddy issues ...) Riggins tells Becky that he overheard her dad talking to his girlfriend back home in Seattle about the baby they have, and she runs off in tears.
Becky's loser dad makes the mistake of confronting Riggins about spilling the beans about his other family. Riggins rubs some salt in the loser dad's wounds by mentioning that he had sex with his ex-wife then proceeds to pummel loser dad in the mud outside his trailer, sending loser dad skulking back home to Seattle the next day with a black eye.
Can't tell if this was a low point or a high point for Tim Riggins, but the next day, he goes back to the animal shelter to retrieve the scruffy little dog that loser dad had gotten for Becky and that Becky's mom had spitefully returned.
It's clear that when the woman in the animal shelter asks him if he's going to be responsible and Riggins says yes, we're supposed to take this as a turning point in Riggins' life. Although if that's the case, and judging from the way Riggins is eyeing a 25-acre piece of land for sale at the episode's end that's how it's going to be, I don't know if I want to live in a world where Tim Riggins isn't blowing off responsibility and living hangover to hangover charming the ladies.
All this, and Coach Taylor's wife has to give the stiff arm to her former guidance counselor buddy Glenn, who arranges a night out for Connie and the West Dillon staff to celebrate the school's new Blue Ribbon of Academic Excellence designation by the state. Poor Glenn thought he could seduce the hottest high school principal in all the land with some margaritas, a round of shots and a creepy karaoke rendition of Simple Minds' "Don't You Forget About Me."
The uncomfortably long hug outside the bar at night's end leads to a clumsy attempt to kiss Principal Taylor, who pushes him away before he can even graze her lips. I have to admit, though, his morning after guilt and his apology - "I practically raped you with my mouth." - was perfect in its awkwardness. Glenn's just lucky that Coach Taylor hasn't heard about his caveman advances on his wife, because I'm not sure he's made that gun disappear yet.