Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Friday Night Lights 4.04: "A Sort of Homecoming"

“I got a pep rally to organize this week, I’ve got papers to grade, I’ve got a family to raise, I’ve got a wife to love. And then I’ve got you two bozos.”

“A Sort of Homecoming” was a kind-of messy episode of “Friday Night Lights,” but there were some really beautiful moments that made the episode still work for me. For the most part, those moments that I especially enjoyed all involved characters who have been a part of the show since the beginning. There were some lovely Coach and Tami moments, as always, and Matt and Tim were especially stellar, too. I’m not sure what this means for Season 5 when we’ll have fewer original characters than ever. I guess it’s too early to judge, since I’ve still got plenty more season 4 episodes to recap, and these new characters might still win me over yet. I suppose this transition was inevitable, given this is a show that takes place in high school, and students do graduate (I’ve done so myself a few times at this point!). The first season of “Friday Night Lights” was just about as close to perfection as television can get, though, and I’m kind of in mourning for the cast that made me love the show in the first place.

Principal Burnwell is giving Coach a hard time again, and one of his taunts, where he fake cheers for the Lions, gives Coach an idea. The Lions need to have a pep rally. Later at practice, another piece of the puzzles comes to Coach. He sees a faded sign on the fence at the Lions’ field commemorating the 1983 State Championship team. This particular scene was a great example on how “Friday Night Lights” will use an image to convey so much. Coach is dealing with an especially difficult practice, mostly because Vince and Luke are still sniping at each other, when he looks up and notices the sign all of a sudden. It’s such a contrast to the haphazard action on the field and has such a sense of forgotten history that it’s a really powerful moment.

Coach has some distractions to deal with before he can really work on starting to put his big plan together. The arguments between Luke and Vince get more and more heated, especially when Luke’s wallet goes missing and he blames Vince. They start fighting in the locker room, and Coach warns them to knock it off. Clearly, though, that’s not going to happen quite yet, because we’re still pretty early in the episode. It looks like Vince won’t really be getting along well with Landry, either. Jess invites Landry to a party, and at the party, Landry and Vince both hit on Jess. Well, Vince tries to hit on Jess more than Landry does. Landry doesn’t really think she could possibly be interested in him until Vince mentions that Jess told him she was dating Landry. Turns out Jess only said that to Vince because she wanted Vince to leave her alone.

The plot that turned out to be the most satisfying in this episode, in the sense that it was very emotional and involved many good character moments, involved Matt and Julie. Julie and Matt have a talk about Julie’s college applications, and Matt is a bit taken aback when Julie starts mentioning a list of schools that, with the exception of UT Austin, are all extremely far away. Matt isn’t especially happy about this development, and when Tim stops by Panther Pizza and tells Matt he’s going on a hunting trip, Matt wants in. Tim was actually originally planning on going hunting with Billy, but Mindy put a stop to that by telling Billy he had to take her to an ultrasound instead. Julie is not at all happy to find out that Matt is going hunting, which I predicted as soon as Matt asked Tim if he could join him. They have a huge argument and aren’t really speaking for a little while.

There’s an interesting contrast between Julie’s home life and the home life of Becky, the teenager who has taken to following Tim Riggins around. A morning in the Taylor house is all smiles and domestic happiness as Coach and Tami get breakfast together and talk to the Lions Assistant Coach, and Julie happily bounces into the kitchen carrying Gracie Belle (how Texas is that name, by the way). Becky, meanwhile, wakes up to a note from her mom on the kitchen table. Becky got a spot in an important beauty pageant, and her mom had promised she would take Becky dress shopping. Becky is devastated that her mom has bailed on her yet again, and she somehow manages to convince Tim to take her shopping. This situation should be hilarious because Tim can be so bumbling, but it’s actually sad because of Becky’s frustration with her mom.

While Matt’s away on his hunting trip, Julie accompanies Devin to a gay bar called “Steers.” Devin is just starting to explore her sexual identity, and she wanted Julie along with her for moral support. Julie is a good sport about it, and she teases Devin about wanting to know what “her type” is. The most important plot point here was that the Assistant Coach Julie met earlier in the episode appears to be the proprietor, or at least an employee, at Steers. Since this is middle-of-nowhere Texas, it could prove to be a big deal if more people in Dillon knew the truth. I imagine he’s only been able to keep it under wraps because Steers is on the outskirts of Dillon.

Tami is still dealing with the fallout of telling Luke, ex-Panthers star, that he needed to attend his zoned school, East Dillon. She has a meeting with someone higher up in the school district about funding issues. Tami is especially interested in updating the library at West Dillon. In fact, the administrator she’s talking to had promised her library upgrades last year. Now he’s going back on his word, claiming that Tami has hurt the football team via the Luke incident, and with decreased football revenues, they can’t afford to upgrade the library anymore. To add insult to injury, when Tami leaves the meeting, she finds that her car has been vandalized. It now has “Panther Hater” spray painted on it.

That incident is the final straw for Tami, and she offers to cook dinner for a meeting of Lions alums Coach has coming up. Coach is hoping that this meeting will result in the beginnings of a booster club for his team, and he asks Buddy for help. Buddy is still wallowing in his “I’m not a Panther anymore” depression and says he wants nothing to do with it. He does end up showing up to the dinner, though, and he manages to sway Coach’s guests into thinking that holding a pep rally and starting a boosters club would be a great idea. Someone harder to convince is Jess’ dad. Coach was hoping to use his restaurant to host the pep rally, but he’s not having it. For some reason, he has completely separated himself from his football past. Jess finally is able to convince her dad to host the pep rally. She says that even though he’s not making football a part of his life anymore, his kids were raised to be “football people.”

Luke and Vince’s fight escalates one final time. This time it’s not on school property, and the police get involved. Coach is called down to the jail, and he convinces Luke to take the bulk of the blame for what happened so Vince doesn’t go back to jail for violating probation. On the way home, Coach pulls a classic Coach move, even if it is a TV trope that can be seen from a mile away. He leaves Luke and Vince by the side of the road to find their own way home. It seems like this will be a bonding experience that improves their relationship. Only time will tell if it sticks.

The big pep rally was fun, just because it was cool to see such a joyful display of the best Southern culture has to offer. There was a real sense of community. The constitutional law nerd in me cringed a little at one of the new boosters offering a prayer, considering it’s a school function, but the event itself had a lovely vibe, so I’m willing to let that violation go. I’m still finding it difficult to root for a team other than the Panthers. We went through all their ups and downs for three years, and it just feels wrong that we’re supposed to have similar, maybe even stronger (since they’re such underdogs) feelings about the Lions now.

Mat and Tim’s hunting trip started off like typical TV faire, with Matt firing off his gun when he shouldn’t and basically being bumbling. Later, though, they have a really great conversation by the fire. They mostly talk about why college didn’t work out for them, and they talk about Lyla and Julie. Matt’s now claiming that he gave up art school in Chicago because of Julie, and that doesn’t really seem to jive with what we saw at the end of last season. It seemed like Matt was staying behind for his grandmother, which I find to be a lot more noble. Then Matt said “Texas forever,” and I forgot whatever plot qualms I had in my fit of extreme nostalgia for season! Peacefulness for Matt isn’t going to last long, though. While Matt is away, the Saracens get “the visit” from the Army informing them that Matt’s father has been killed in the line of duty. Tim drops Matt off at the Taylor house after the hunting trip, and it’s up to Julie to tearfully give Matt the bad news.

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