Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday Night Lights 4.07: "In the Bag"

“Who’s going to take care of that if you’re locked up? I’m offering you everything I got. This is not just about football. Think about that.”

Things just seem to be going from bad to worse in good old Dillon, Texas. The spiral of despair that is Friday Night Lights Season 4 kept on turning in “In the Bag.” Julie is absolutely devastated over Matt, Luke is working himself to exhaustion, the Rigginses face financial ruin, Becky learns some unpleasantness about her family, Landry has to make a decision about Tyra, and Vince has to make a decision about football. It’s heavy stuff all around. FNL has always been a fairly emotionally heavy show, but I’m trying to figure out why that isn’t working for me as much anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still liking each episode overall, I’m just not getting the same feeling from the show that I used to. It’s still better than Season 2, though. It wouldn’t take much to elevate FNL over the seriously ill conceived Season 2 murder plot. Seriously.

The episode opens on Julie crying in bed because she hasn’t heard from Matt in days. It seems to be first thing in the morning, because the rest of the Taylor family looks like they’re just starting their day. Tami hovers next to Julie’s bedroom door, trying to hear if she’s still crying. Poor girl must be really broken up. I’ve had plenty of late night cry fests at particularly low moments in my life, but the morning usually makes things seem a bit brighter. Anyway, Julie decides to deal with her pain by distraction. She starts signing up for every club in the school. When Landry sees her and reminds her that Matt is his best friend, so he’s upset too, Julie says she knows that. That’s why she has signed the both of them up for “Academic Smackdown.” Landry thinks “Academic Smackdown” sounds incredibly lame, but for some reason he chooses to join Julie anyway. He is in luck. Jess is on the team, too, so this gives him a chance to try and make things right with her in his incredibly awkward way.

Landry’s feelings for Jess make him question why he’s still hung up on Tyra, who hasn’t exactly been knocking down his door since she left for college. At the big Academic Smackdown meet against West Dillon, Julie completely breaks down when asked a question that reminds her about Matt. She answers the question correctly through her tears, but then she quickly runs backstage. Luckily, Tami was there and saw the whole thing, and she’s able to comfort her daughter. Julie was especially upset because she paid a visit to the Saracens, and she found out that Matt had called them but not her. Anyway, I guess seeing Julie’s pain pushes Landry to try and make a decision about his own personal life. We see him at a rest stop, talking on his cell phone. He’s leaving a voice mail for Tyra about how he’s at the rest stop they agreed upon, but she’s not there. At first, I was annoyed at how Landry seemed to still be pathetically attached to Tyra, but he ends the voicemail by saying that he guesses he got his answer, and now it’s truly over between them. He announces his epiphany to Jess near the end of the episode, and she seems less than thrilled.

There are a few other plots going on in this episode, because, like many television shows lately, FNL can’t seem to keep its focus. I wonder if shows have really become more unfocused recently, maybe because we’re constantly barraged with all sorts of media, and television writers feel like they have to keep up the pace, or if this is just something that’s been going on for a while, but I’m just starting to notice it since I’m writing about individual episodes of television a whole lot. Anyway, I’d say out of the plots still left, the biggest involves Becky and Tim, which is really more annoying then endearing. As much as I love the pretty that is Taylor Kitsch, I think they’re running out of good material for Tim. Becky’s dad is in town, and he’s staying at Becky’s house in the guest room. Becky is totally a daddy’s girl, and her dad is showering her with attention. He takes her to an animal shelter and buys her a puppy, even though he knows darn well that Becky’s mom won’t approve. She doesn’t approve, alright, and makes Becky give the dog away. Tim overhears Becky’s dad talking on the phone, and it raises some questions. It turns out Becky’s dad has a whole other family in Seattle- a girlfriend and a baby. He warns Tim not to tell Becky about it. Tim, of course, tells Becky about it anyway, and she’s devastated. The whole thing leads to a huge knock-down-drag-out fight between Tim and Becky’s dad.

Elswhere in Riggins news, Mindy and the guys are in a fast food drive thru line scraping together change to pay for their meal when Mindy feels a serious contraction. My first thought was how appropriate that the Riggins baby could potentially be born in a fast food drive through. Mindy does get to the hospital in time, though, and the doctors manage to stop the contractions. Mindy is now on bed rest, and the situation is further complicated by all the medical bills piling up. One of Mindy’s…coworkers…from the Landing Strip brings an idea to Billy. She wants to have a co-ed baby shower for Mindy. The idea is that the Landing Strip girls will perform, and it will be a sort of fundraiser to help pay the medical bills. Billy loves the idea, and he offers Riggins Rigs as the location. One of the car stealing guys Vince rolls with attends the party, and he tells Billy he has a business offer. Clearly this won’t end well. Tim’s got big dreams of his own. He buys Beck’s dog back, and on his way home, he comes across a large tract of land for sale.

We also get some more drama with Luke and Vince, of course. Luke’s dad wants him to stay home from school to fix a fence on their ranch. Apparently cattle rustling is still alive and well in Texas, and fixing the fence is the only way to stop the rustler. Unfortunately, no school means no football. After one day of this, Coach gives Luke a talking to. Taking Coach’s advice, Luke starts working on the fence at night. He’s exhausted, and one of his friends takes pity on him and helps him finish the fence. The triumph is short-lived, though. The next day, Luke is helping his father herd the cattle into a pasture when he has a bit of an accident. A gate starts swinging with Luke on it, and it looks like he has seriously injured his ankle or leg or something of that nature.

Coach names Vince QB1, but that triumph is short lived, too. Police bust into the weight room at East Dillon demanding to search Vince’s locker. They say they’ve gotten reports that Vince has a gun. They don’t find anything, but the incident creates an awkward vibe on the team. Vince’s mom, in a rare sober moment, also stops by the school and thanks Coach for making Vince QB1 and showing such faith in him. Coach pays Vince one of his trademark visits and basically tells Vince to step up his game and be a leader. Vince repays the gesture by dropping by the Taylors'. He has a bag for Coach. It contains a gun. Coach and Tami sit at the kitchen table with the bag between them, bewildered about what to do next. Coach is determined to keep the situation under wraps. Yet another plot that can’t possibly end well. There’s also another side-plot with West Dillon being named a Blue Ribbon school and Glenn getting a little too close to Tami while he’s really drunk at a celebration (Tami puts a stop to it right away), but that plot was too stupid to devote any additional space to here.

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