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4/05/2007 10:43:00 AM

Friday Night Lights: Episode 21

Connie Britton aka Tami Taylor
Tami Taylor threw a major curveball at her husband in the latest episode of Friday Night Lights.
Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC
This week's episode was all about Coach Taylor, making it appropriate that my girlfriend would be around to drop a little Kyle Chandler knowledge on me before the episode even began. Some background: She's not into the show. She's not buying the whole football element. Yet. But she caught last night's opening credits before I chased her out of the room and, like every other girl I know, she recognized Chandler from A.) the bomb episode of Grey's Anatomy and B.) from Early Edition. I knew about the bomb episode. If I ever want to get on board the Grey's train, an episode about a man who has a bomb inside of him seems an appropriate place to start. But I was clueless about Early Edition. "You know," she explained, "that show about the guy where a cat comes by his house every morning with a newspaper from the future and then he has to prevent all of the bad things in the newspaper from happening." Excuse me? I wasn't exactly a TV junky for the early half of the '00s, but I don't know how this show doesn't even ring a bell. Am I the only one? Is this a glaring pop culture gap? Or was I right to overlook it? (I catch a lot of crap every time I admit to a cultural gap, so take it easy on me here. It's not like we're talking about Quantum Leap or anything.) Anyway, why didn't this guy just get up early and find out where this fortune-telling cat came from? I'll have to explore some day.

On to the episode, which showcased my favorite two Lights characters: Coach Taylor and Matt Saracen's nerd-pal, Landry. Taylor accepts the TMU job -- after some heavy pressure -- in the first five minutes. What does that mean? I guessed that meant he would pull a 180 and turn down the TMU gig by episode's end and I was wrong... Sort of. But it did stir up some serious trouble at Casa de Taylor, and that's really one of the strong points of the show. I'll admit I'm a little fed up with the way Julie Taylor is handling this all. How many temper tantrums can we watch? But the Tami-Eric Taylor dialogue -- from her nighttime epiphany to her long distance relationship solution and his stern rejection of it -- is getting better by the minute, capped off by Tami's passive-aggressive roasting of her husband in front of the whole team. You could cut that tension in that room with -- well, with something not so sharp, like a spork.

As the show ends, Tami puts her foot down and we finally see a side of Eric Taylor we've never seen before. She's not budging about the move to Austin and he's going to have to deal with it. We've seen Coach frustrated, quietly pissed off, overwhelmed and ferociously angry, but have we ever seen him this neutered? He didn't even utter a word, just stone-faced silence. And he wasn't using that gritted-teeth look, the one that suggests, "Say what you want, but I'll get my way in the end; I'm the head of this household." He was a completely blank slate. Brilliant.

Funny, isn't it, that this particular episode played out on the same day that Creighton basketball coach Dana Altman accepted and then turned down the Arkansas job? And while Florida's Billy Donovan allegedly mulled over an offer from Kentucky? Being at the Final Four this weekend, I had an infinite number of discussions about why Donovan would leave UF (where he's a God) and head to Kentucky (which offers a basketball tradition that UF lacks), and I think it boils down to this: If Donovan goes, it's an ego thing. Kentucky is a bigger mountain to conquer. I don't think Donovan will go. And I think we all know Coach Taylor won't go to TMU in the end. But what a great parallel. You don't get this stuff in an AP story about Donovan's flirtation with Kentucky, but moments like this are what make Lights so great.

Landry gets the majority of the attention for the rest of the show, and it's rather well deserved. He knows about Tyra's near-rape, and he struggles to keep her secret under wraps, which makes him a flawed character (he tells Matt and his counselor about it immediately). But Jesse Plemons (who plays Landry) handles the internal struggle pretty well, especially in his one scene with an adult actress (Connie Britton). He can also carry a scene with someone who's not quite up to his level as an actor, like when Tyra whines that he's a "pathetic smelly geek." Nothing says, "I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't be doing this," quite like Plemons' sad-faced, lower-lip-biting, squinty-eyed look. And I love that NBC is letting him work the slow play on Tyra; let's just hope they stick to this plotline for a while. I'd hate to see this flirtation just go away.

All of that said, here's what I didn't like this week: Street as a coach (his snappy speech to Saracen in Coach Taylor's office was just that -- too snappy and Gilmore Girls-like); the Garrity family drama (Budddy's getting way more attention than he deserves or can handle); Waverly and Smash (I really don't think the writers know where this is going); and the misuse of Riggins (Tyra's spoken for and his neighbor gave him the boot, but this guy doesn't know how to do anything but play football and have sex).

Hold on, though. Those are a few minor nitpickings, and the final 10 minutes put a lot of the minor stuff aside as we roll into next week's state championship. Everyone with any kind of conflict -- Saracen and the Taylor clan; Riggins and Tyra and Landry; Lyla and Buddy Garrity -- was at that roast and I felt a little bit like I was a part of this team/family as we all silently agreed to put our differences aside until after the game. You never want to see everything wrapped up too neatly and unrealistically, but I could appreciate the emotional timeout.

... And then there was that spoiler of a preview for next week, which marks the second episode in a row where a major upcoming plot point has been revealed in a teaser. I understand the concept that a network would like to give the people something to look forward to. I'm even tolerant of the idea of movie trailers that give away entire plots, as these are generally of the type I won't end up seeing anyway. I've only seen the trailer for Premonition and I feel like that's enough -- I'm $10 richer. But did Lights really need to tease Tami's pregnancy? Is there really even one viewer out there for whom the championship game wasn't enough to come back for? And if so, did the notion that Tami is going to be pregnant convince that viewer to come back? Doubt it. I understand that move on a show like Lost, where nothing ever seems to happen anymore. I often find the episode-end teaser the best part: "Nothing happened this week, but oh boy, wait until next week!" I just happen to think Lights is above that.

posted by SI.com | View comments |  

Comments:

Posted: 11:34 AM, April 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Great show. I am glad after reading last week's recap that I was not the only one who noticed the Lyla demolition derby angle was dropped (and continues to be).

And who the hell does Lyla think she is?!? She screws Riggins when Street gets paralyzed and suddenly she is all high and mighty and gets pissed off with him because he kisses the tattoo chick? She needs to get over herself.

I also agree that the whole pregnancy angle did not need to be shown in the trailer. Just a good surprise that is now lost.
Posted: 12:45 PM, April 05, 2007   by Anonymous
I hope Landry & Tyra hook up, he's
earning & working for it!!
What the heck does "Street as a coach (his snappy speech to Saracen in Coach Taylor's office was just that -- too snappy and Gilmore Girls-like)" mean? I actually liked that part.
btw, coach taylor's wife is a milf.
Posted: 5:36 PM, April 05, 2007   by Anonymous
i dont really like this show, it's too slow
Posted: 8:05 AM, April 06, 2007   by Anonymous
Love this show...but some annoyances.

All the drinking - don't get me wrong, I understand high school kids and athletes specifically drink. But I don't see kids drinking like this during the course of the season...late at night, and during the week of big games. If they did, they wouldn't be playing for the state title - that's for sure.

Street getting caught kissing someone else by Layla and going beserk. Sweetie - you slept with his best friend - multiple times. Get over it. Of course, her reaction stems more from her Dad's treatment of her mom.
Awesome show. I used to watch Early Edition and thought Kyle Chandler was really good in it. Can't wait for next weeks show.
Posted: 9:27 AM, April 06, 2007   by Anonymous
NBC blew a couple other potential storylines in the teaser for next week.

Shot of Matt and Smash wearing T-shirts with the words Champions (They win state?)

Shot of Riggins' brother playing with the kid next door. (Love triangle).
Posted: 1:54 PM, April 06, 2007   by Anonymous
I like this show and look forward to it weekly. Beats the heck out of whatever the latest "reality" show is for the week.

The roast scene was terrific. Lots of good diaglog in there but the wife had the best. Some of her "roast" had different meanings and I thought it great.

This is not a perfect show (few are) but a pretty good one.
You would have really loved KC on "Homefront" which was set in the days directly after WWII as soldiers were coming home. KC played a young man trying out and making a pro baseball team. He was then injured and trying to make it back.

It rocked!!!
Posted: 3:52 PM, April 06, 2007   by Anonymous
Great show. My favorite moment was Riggs at the roast. That was classic bad humor from a jock.
Posted: 5:31 PM, April 06, 2007   by txrangerfan
kyle chandler played buddy on "pure country", the best movie ever made.
Posted: 5:40 PM, April 06, 2007   by Anonymous
Can't believe nobody's mentioned the line of the show (and probably the line of all shows for the week): "Remember when Saracen slept with Coach's daughter?"
Posted: 6:21 PM, April 06, 2007   by SoonerFan
Early Edition was a good show. It was on CBS for several years. I can't believe the author doesn't remember it. I loved how the guy that played Kyle Chandler's best friend always tried to steal the sports section of the paper from the future so he could bet on the games.
Posted: 7:05 AM, April 07, 2007   by Anonymous
King Kong was on last night and Coach Taylor is in that too... I thought he was an unknown actor. Didn't recall him from Early Edition until you mentioned it, even though I had watched it several times.

great show though.
Posted: 12:06 PM, April 07, 2007   by Justin, Texas
Good point on the teaser elemenant for next week's shows. This is becoming a serious problems, not just in FNL, but Lost is getting pretty bad at it. (Man I am a geek). I don't understand why you show your cards before the show, it doesn't make sense. People who are caught up in the show are the "victims" here.

Case in point: Locke's revealing episode about how he broke his back, was promoted heavily just as that. How much more awesome would it have been to not expect it coming? How much? Mucho.

Oh, and Early Edition didn't get enough run. It was a quality program, but it had like a Friday or Saturday night slot, just never took off, but it created a loyal following. I didn't see it much, but it was good when I did.

Thanks for the article.
Lights is great... I hope it is still on the air next season, especially after it took me a month to get my wife hooked.
I like the Tyra/Landry angle but the hot High School chick ONLY hooks up with the dork in movies and on TV. Also, the neighbor breaks up with Riggins because she is worried about her son!?!?!!? and not because she is 35 and he is 17?!
Posted: 6:31 PM, April 08, 2007   by Anonymous
I HATE the storyline of meeting up with voodoo tatum at state. It's just too much. It does point out the lack of a defensive character.
In the book, Ivory Christian was a great character. They missed an opportunity with that.
Posted: 10:28 PM, April 15, 2007   by Anonymous
Wanna go back farther with coach Taylor? He was in a short-lived show called "Homefront."
Posted: 2:44 PM, April 16, 2007   by Maria
My friend absolutely loves this show - I haven't seen it yet (unfortunately) - but I love Kyle Chandler! I actually have never seen the Grey's episode he was in (I missed most of the season bc of class; same reason I haven't been able to watch FNL), but I remember him from Homefront & especially Early Edition (both great shows, both reasons I'm a KC fan).
Posted: 4:17 PM, April 16, 2007   by Anonymous
Kyle Chandler first became "known" through his excellent work as Jeff in the television series "Homefront", about America in the immediate post-World War II era. Chandler's character was an aspiring professional baseball player from Ohio. An excellent show that didn't shy away from portraying that era's unfair practices and attitudes toward women and blacks. Chandler has excelled in every show he's been in. "Early Edition" was on the air for several seasons, and I believe won an award or two for Chandler.
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