Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Friday Night Lights 4.09: "The Lights in Carroll Park"

“It’s always about the money, isn’t it?”

So, as promised, I’m trying to finish up my write-ups for season 4 of “Friday Night Lights” before season 5 has its NBC premiere on April 15. It’s about time I catch up on watching and writing about this beautiful show! “The Lights in Carroll Park” did indeed have beautiful character moments, like I expect of an episode of “Friday Night Lights,” but I wouldn’t rank it among my favorites. I think it needed more focus. The centerpiece of the episode could have been the football game between the Lions and the teens who hang out at Carroll Park. I enjoyed what we did see of the game, especially Coach hopping the fence to finally turn on the lights, and it was a great opportunity to see the Lions really gel as a team, but I think seeing more of the game and the outcome of the game could have provided more cohesion to the episode. As it was, I really couldn’t see a theme tying the stories together in this one. It was more “here’s what’s happening next in all the storylines we’ve started in the past few weeks.”

The episode opens with Coach making one of his patented visits to a troubled player’s home. This time, he’s looking for a student named Dallas who hasn’t shown up to practice for a few days. The door is answered by Dallas’ sister, who suggests Coach try looking for Dallas at a place called Carroll Park. Coach goes to Carroll Park and gets a whole lot more than he bargained for. The scene looks like something more out of the Baltimore neighborhood where I used to live than anything we’ve seen in Dillon before, with rap music blaring, a large number of people just hanging out, and shady business probably going down. I think it is an interesting choice for the writers to depict a part of Dillon in this way. If there are really areas of small Southern towns like this, I think it’s important that it be shown to a national TV audience so we can understand the full scope of poverty in this country. Coach is asking around for Dallas and only getting sass back when shots ring out. The Sherriff’s Department arrives almost immediately, and they start doing all they can to try to save the life of a twelve-year-old boy.

While not as dramatic as a shooting, several other Dillon kids are dealing with tough issues this week. Vince desperately wants to get a job to help put food on the table, but the owner of the restaurant he hoped to interview with does an abrupt turn once she’s informed of his criminal record. Meanwhile, Becky is in the bathroom surrounded by positive pregnancy tests, on the phone with the company that made the test asking if the test is ever inaccurate. The father is Luke, and I think that even though it has the potential to jump into melodrama, this arc could be extremely interesting for Becky, given that Becky herself was born when her mom was a teenager. Jumping down a level on the continuum of seriousness, Tami is making Julie work on a Habitat for Humanity build. She thinks it will be good for Julie’s resumé. Julie is not particularly enthused. She’s more interested in continuing to mope over Matt leaving.

Coach gets called into the police station as a witness to the shooting, and the officer he speaks to is surprised and a little suspicious that Coach was even in Carroll Park in the first place. Coach explains he was looking for one of his players, and he expresses concern that so many of his players don’t have a safe place to go in the evening. He wants to know if the city could spare an extra officer for the park, or even just turn the lights on again. The officer explains that there just isn’t any money for that. Coach later vents his frustration to Buddy, who offers to talk to the Mayor. Since Buddy is Buddy, he has to smarmily allude to the fact that he and the Mayor were an item long ago. Coach also talks to Virgil, Jess’ dad, about the problem. Virgil warns Coach that the Carroll Park kids are going to be really skeptical about his wanting to help, but he offers to hook Coach up with an ex-gang member who now does community outreach.

In other Taylor-related news, Glenn pays Coach a visit at school. He wants to thank Coach for being so classy about what happened with Tami. Coach has no clue what Glenn is talking about, and Glenn gets roped in to telling the whole story about how he tried to kiss Tami at the karaoke bar. Coach’s reaction is seriously priceless. He vigorously scratches his head for a few seconds, then says “okay.” He’s slightly perturbed about the whole thing, but he’s not going to make a big scene about it. He brings it up with Tami, and he’s more upset that she didn’t tell him than about what actually happened. They both know that neither of them would ever cheat, though, so the whole conversation quickly devolves into jokes about how Coach has now kissed Glenn by proxy. Between this incident and the news that J.D. McCoy’s parents are splitting up, Tami thinks it’s time they work on their marriage a bit, so Coach and Tami plan on having a date night. After several false starts, Tami ends up taking Coach to the lakeside site of their first “date” (emphasis theirs), and Coach says, “Damn, I love you.” And this is why Coach and Tami are the greatest married couple on TV.

Julie ends up liking her time with Habitat much more than she originally thought she would. Mostly because she meets a new boy there named Ryan. She meets him when he discovers that she’s accidentally tiling a closet floor instead of the bathroom floor. He’s on staff with Habitat, but he’s still pretty young. He asks Julie out to dinner, but she hesitates because it’s so soon after her break-up with Matt. She eventually decides that she’d be okay with kissing and “no strings attached” as opposed to lunch or dinner, and Ryan is okay with that too, kissing her almost immediately. Tami, being Supermom, stops by the build site to see how Julie is doing, and when she sees how close Julie and Ryan are, she has her suspicions about why Julie has suddenly had such a change of heart about volunteering for Habitat.

Vince decides to go to Coach about his job troubles, and Coach is pleasantly surprised when Vince awkwardly asks him to be a reference. Coach even offers to ask around about jobs for Vince. Coach indeed finds a job for Vince at Ray’s Bar-B-Q (Virgil’s restaurant), which Vince accepts, despite the fact that his history with Jess is going to make it all kinds of awkward. Virgil offers to hire Vince as long as he’s willing to work hard for minimum wage and stays away from Jess. This becomes increasingly difficult for Vince, especially as Jess and Landry’s relationship moves ahead. There’s a beautifully awkward scene where Vince is leaving the restaurant for the night just as Landry is arriving to hang out with Jess as she closes up. There’s also a scene where some of Vince’s buddies from Carroll Park stop by the restaurant to harass him, and Virgil has to break it up. Somehow, by the end of the episode, Vince is still employed.

One of my favorite moments of the episode was when Coach, Buddy, and Virgil pay a visit to Virgil’s ex-gang member friend, Elden, for help with Carroll Park. My reaction was “It’s D’Angelo!” Larry Gilliard, Jr., the actor who portrays Elden, was also the very tragic D’Angelo Barksdale in the early seasons of “The Wire.” Elden, like Virgil, is a little skeptical at first, but he warms to Coach and Buddy when Buddy comes up with a great idea to show the Lions’ commitment to making Carroll Park safe. Buddy wants to have a football game at Carroll Park between the Lions and the teens who usually hang out at the park. Another favorite scene of mine, which I’ve already sort-of mentioned, is also tied to the Carroll Park plot. The big football scrimmage is about to start, and the lights at the park still aren’t on. A switch needs to be turned on in a box that is behind a fence and padlocked. Elden grabs garden clippers, and he and Coach jump over the fence to do what needs to be done. Everyone from both teams cheers when the lights finally come on. We see Vince rally his Lions and finally start acting like a leader, which is a great thing to see.

Throughout the episode, Becky is trying to deal with her pregnancy. She desperately doesn’t want to become her mother, so she confronts Luke with the news and asks him for half the money needed for an abortion. Luke is shocked by the news, especially since Becky hasn’t even talked to him since their night together, but he tries to be supportive. After thinking it over for a while, though, Luke isn’t so sure about the idea of an abortion. He’s not sure if voluntarily giving up on fatherhood in that way is the right choice. Becky’s not happy about this, obviously, because her fear of this pregnancy comes from a very deep place. Becky has also been experiencing awkwardness with Tim following her attempt to kiss him in a recent episode. Tim thinks the reason for her being so upset is the kiss, and he very unsuccessfully tries to make her feel better by saying the kiss was a mistake. By the end of the episode, Becky finally confides in Tim what’s really going on, and he does his best to comfort her in a big brother-type way.

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