Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Friday Night Lights 4.02: "After the Fall"

“Okay, well I can explain to you that everyone gave absolutely everything that they had out there and you just quit on us.”

Although “After the Fall” didn’t have me completely along for the emotional ride like “East of Dillon” did, it was certainly a quality hour of television with some impressive performances to make watching worth your time and mine. It continued the “fish out of water in familiar territory” theme of the last episode, which has me thinking this is a theme that will tie the season together as a whole. That seems rather appropriate to me, considering this is a season where the writers appear to be really trying to transition us from the original set of characters the show started with to a new set of students at East Dillon. The attempt at transition is certainly admirable, although I’m not entirely sure how successful it will be, given that the episode’s best performances were all from veteran FNL actors, not the new additions.

The episode opens with many of our characters having a bad day, to say the least. Tim, who has been sleeping in his truck, is awoken by a cop who tells him to get a move on (we later learn that business at Riggins Rigs hasn’t been good, to say the least). Disparaging signs have once again cropped up on the Taylor front law, this time saying things like “Quitter” in reference to Coach’s forfeit of the first East Dillon game. What I love about that particular scene is that coach goes outside to see Tami already cleaning up the mess, and she tells him that she’s going to finish the job. The Taylor marriage is absolutely the best thing about FNL, and there are several more moments in this episode alone to prove that statement. Vince gets his locker vandalized thanks to the football debacle as well. If that wasn’t enough, Landry accidentally hits the bicycle of a girl named Jess (Jurnee Smolett) while trying to back out of a parking space that some other kids wouldn’t let him pull into fully. Jess gives Landry a rather preachy lecture about how not everyone at East Dillon has money for a car or parents who can buy them one.

Matt’s having a rough time of it too, although at first it looked like things were looking up for him. He’s taking art classes at Dillon Tech now, and his professor has set him up with an internship because he has “pluck.” The internship is with a sculptor who is apparently a very respected artist. Who chooses to work in his underwear. Matt’s a little upset that his duties pretty much consist of hauling materials around for the artist, but with Julie’s encouragement, he wants to stick with it. At Julie’s suggestion, Matt asks the artist to look over his drawings. The artist isn’t the most talkative fellow, though, and he pretty much ignores matt except for telling him what stuff he needs. Eventually, Matt has had it. In his own anger, that’s when the artist starts giving his opinion on Matt’s work. He takes one of Matt’s drawings, rips a corner off, and tells him that corner doesn’t make him nauseated, so Matt should work from there. My favorite creative writing professor, when in a conference with a student, was known to point out one sentence of a short story and say, “That’s where the story is!” I never really thought about how that would translate to the visual arts, but I guess we have that here. And it seems like it stung Matt a lot more than it stung me.

The Lions football team hasn’t been showing up for practice, mostly because they’re pissed that Eric forfeit the game when they still wanted to play. There’s a break in the bad fortune when Eric is paid a visit by none other than Buddy Garrity. Buddy’s got some interesting information about what the Panthers Boosters have been up to under the leadership of Mr. McCoy. The Panthers quarterback, Luke, has been using a fake address to stay at West Dillon, and the address was most likely provided by the Boosters. It’s just a mailbox and an open field. Eric passes this information on to Tami, who has the unfortunate duty to inform Luke that he’s being sent to East Dillon. Poor Luke is despondent and tries pleading with Tami to stay at West Dillon, but it doesn’t work. It’s not just Luke who is displeased with the decision, Tami has to deal with Mr. McCoy and his Booster thugs, too. They roll up to Tami on their golf cart (which is kind of a pathetic funny image) and try to threaten her into letting Luke stay at West Dillon. Mr. McCoy mentions that the mailbox was around while Eric was still Coach of the Panthers, and an investigation could result in their 2007 State rings being taken away.

Coach is kind of distracted from what Tami’s going through because he’s busy trying to get his team back together. Landry basically told Coach to go to Hell when Coach asked him to try to talk to the guys and get them to come back to practice, so Coach’s next potential target is Vince. He first stops by Vince’s apartment, where he has the misfortune of meeting Vince’s mother, who asks Coach for $20 before she’ll tell him where he can find her son. Coach heads to the place Vince’s mom told him about, which turns out to be a basketball court. Coach is taunted by the teenagers there, and Vince won’t acknowledge his presence. He refuses to take the chance Coach is desperately trying to give him to straighten out his life. Things only get worse for Coach at home when he and Tami fight over the whole mailbox issue. Coach didn’t realize his possible actions (it’s never said exactly how much he knew or didn’t know about the mailbox, although we’re left believing he knew something) dragged Tami into a deeper mess, and she didn’t know just how bad the situation with his team had gotten. Since it’s Coach and Tami, though, we know they’ll make it through this rough patch. Like I said, best portrayal of a married couple on TV.

The most bizarre scene of the episode was also a scene I found very funny, even if it didn’t really flow with the episode. Coach is sitting in his SUV at the gas station when a random guy comes up to him, recognizes him, acknowledges Coach’s forfeit from last week, and tells coach to “find your inner pirate.” I went through a bit of a pirate phase in college (still do enjoy pirate stories, actually), so I appreciated the sentiment. Following that rather random encounter, things start looking up for Coach. He’s looking out at his football field a bit teary eyed when Tim Riggins shows up to offer his help. I’m guessing Tim figures it’s a good way to make a little money, since working for his brother isn’t paying at the moment. Coach is extremely glad for the offer of help. The second thing is that Vince stopped by Coach’s office to return the $20 his mom took, and Coach begged him to try to get the guys to come to a special Saturday night practice to start rebuilding. Vince doesn’t say anything as he leaves the office, but on Saturday night, the team shows up. Luke shows up too, ready to start the transition from Panther to Lion. Coach has one of his trademark inspirational speeches ready for the occasion, of course, and he has the guys burn their jerseys in recognition of the new beginning. That didn’t seem very smart to me considering the Lions’ financial woes, and Coach makes a very funny mention of that at the end of the episode when he tells Tami, “Now I’ve just got to find out a way to get us some new uniforms.”

Despite all her grumbling to and yelling at Coach earlier in the episode, Tami comes through on the Luke issue (which is obvious, considering I already told you he showed up to the special Lions practice). In fact, she kicks ass, as Tami Taylor is wont to do. Mr. McCoy and the Boosters are sitting around a table at a restaurant making their plans when Tami waltzes in and confronts Mr. McCoy in front of the other Boosters. The Boosters aren’t thrilled by the fact that Mr. McCoy threatened to get Panther State Championship rings taken away. Tami has won this battle, but it remains to be seen whether or not she’ll win the war. At a Panthers pep rally, she gets booed for causing Luke to be transferred to East Dillon. It’s strange hating the Panthers now after three years of rooting for them through their ups and downs, but such is life, I suppose. Tami goes home to enjoy a glass of wine and forget her troubles for a while, and when Coach gets home, they both apologize for their earlier argument.

The final problem to be resolved in this episode is where Tim will live, since Billy and Mindy kicked him out in the last episode, and he can’t live in his truck forever. I don’t think he showed up for the special Saturday night practice (at least I didn’t see him, he might have been there), which I thought was kind of odd considering how genuine he seemed to be about wanting to work for the Lions. He was however, back at the bar where his one night stand (Becky’s mother) from the last episode works. She’s not letting him come home with her again, but she does have a solution to Tim’s problem. She’s going to let him live in the trailer in her backyard for $100 a month. I can only imagine Becky is as pleased about this arrangement as Tim is, considering she’s been kind of fixated on Tim since she met him in the last episode.

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