Saturday, April 2, 2011

Friday Night Lights 4.10: "I Can't"

“I can’t take care of a baby. I can’t.”

Continuing my write-ups of “Friday Night Lights” season 4 in anticipation of the NBC premiere of season 5 as promised, today we look at probably the most controversial episode of the season, “I Can’t.” I’m still kind of reeling from watching this one, and really, my first reaction was “wow.” The episode was all about parents and children and how they sometimes disappoint each other, and it was powerful stuff. I was really impressed (although, really, given the show’s track record, I shouldn’t have been surprised) at how the main story line in this episode was handled. It went in a direction few shows dare to use, and it was done in a very thoughtful, non-preachy way. It was made clear that Becky’s choice wasn’t easy, and we saw her struggle. Even after her choice was made, she still wasn’t sure if it was right. And unfortunately, it looks like the fallout from that choice is only just beginning.

The episode opens with Luke in church. The pastor is announcing how proud the congregation is of his football exploits, and Luke is just sitting there looking uncomfortable and guilty. Clearly he hasn’t told his parents yet that Becky is pregnant. Luke isn’t the only one facing a moral dilemma in this episode. We also see Tim at a junk yard, standing by a car crusher. I have kind of a phobia of car crushers since watching a certain episode of “MathNet” as a little kid, but that’s really neither here nor there. Tim has been taking the frames of cars he and Billy have stripped to this junk yard for crushing, but the proprietor tells Tim not to bring anymore. If Tim brings too many, it will call police attention, and the proprietor doesn’t want that trouble. The chop shop overall is getting more and more risky with every day (Tim and Billy had a customer almost look under a tarp where they had a stripped car), and they scramble to figure out to do with the rest of the frames. They come up with the oh so brilliant idea to bury them, and near the end of the episode, as they’re digging in the desert, Tim makes Billy promise that they’re done with the chop shop part of the business. Something tells me Billy won’t be able to keep his side of the bargain.

A lot of the episode that isn’t focused on Becky is focused on Vince. We see Coach and Vince talking plays at Rick’s Bar-B-Q as Virgil looks on skeptically. I was pleased to discover in this episode that Virgil is quite funny. He and Coach have a bit of a rivalry throughout the rest of the episode about the right way to coach Vince. Virgil sees a lot of himself in Vince, which is why he’s being so critical of the job Coach is doing. Virgil felt very constrained and frustrated by the playbook when he played football. He just wanted to get out there and do his thing. They discuss this over drinks one night, and because he’s trying to outdo Virgil, Coach drinks enough that he has to take a cab home. Tami having to drive a very hung over Coach back to the bar to get his car the next morning is pretty priceless. There’s another really funny scene where Virgil joins the rest of the boosters at a Lions practice, and Coach decides to choose that moment to tell Vince to just use his instincts if he gets a better read than the play they had planned. He also signals what’s going on to the defensive coordinator, intending to set up a sacking of Vince to prove a point to Virgil. Unfortunately for Coach, Vince makes a great play anyway.

Football is the least of Vince’s problems in this episode, though. He arrives home from a shift at the Bar-B-Q to find his mother slumped on the couch, non-responsive. Thanks to some quick thinking and a call to 911 by Vince, his mom wakes up in the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery from the drug overdose that left her unconscious. There’s a heartbreaking scene where Vince confronts her mom in the hospital about her addiction. I think it is seriously Michael B. Jordan’s best performance since his days as Wallace on “The Wire.” He wants to know why his mother doesn’t want to be around him, and he begs her to change her ways, because he doesn’t think he can keep going by himself. Beyond the amazing acting in this scene, it is interesting because it shows Vince’s vulnerability. He has had to become the adult of the household way before he should have, taking the job at the Bar-B-Q to keep food on the table, but in the end, he really just wants his mom back.

Vince talks to a hospital social worker about getting his mom into rehab. She informs him that the state rehab facility has a several month long waiting list. Vince insists that his mom needs to get into rehab right away, and the social worker mentions that there are private rehab facilities that usually always have a few openings. The only problem is that they’re very expensive. Vince goes to Virgil to ask for an advance on his paycheck to cover it, but Virgil can’t afford the $4000 Vince needs. Virgil, because he’s suddenly becomes awesome, makes it absolutely clear that he’s saying no to the money, not no to Vince. He’s proud of Vince, and he wants to try to help him in some other way. Jess listens in on this conversation and throws the most ridiculous tantrum (pretty much the only thing I didn’t like about this episode) about how it’s unfair that Virgil can be so supportive of Vince, but not of his own kids. By the end of the episode, Virgil attends his son Caleb’s peewee football game for the first time in a long while. Vince, however, doesn’t fare so well. We see him put his mom in rehab and fork over $4000 in cash. Then we see him leave the rehab and get in a car with his old crew. The leader of the crew gives him a gun. Clearly he’s going back to his old ways to pay for the rehab.

A lot of this episode, however, is rightfully focused on Becky. Not sure how to deal with Becky’s problem, especially because she won’t talk to her mom about it, Tim decides to take Becky to the most responsible female adult he knows- Tami Taylor. At first, Tami automatically assumes Tim is the dad (so does Coach- his “Tim Riggins is going to be a father?” is hilarious), but that impression is quickly corrected. She follows her high school principal protocol, first telling Becky she can put her in touch with an adoption agency. Becky stops her and asks what she can do if she doesn’t want to have the baby. Tami hesitates, but says she can provide Becky some literature on what to do in that case. She also encourages Becky to talk to her mom. Becky continues to be avoidant with Luke, but she does take Tami’s advice and finally tell her mom. That scene was especially painful, as her mom goes from thinking it’s a joke to horror and anger when she realizes it’s true. Becky’s mom, not wanting her daughter to go through what she went through, is really pushy about Becky getting an abortion. When they go to a doctor appointment, Becky’s mom tells the doctor that they don’t even need to hear all the state mandated information about the age of the fetus- the abortion is happening no matter what.

The incident rocks Tami to her core and makes her start wondering what would happen if Julie was pregnant. There’s a wonderful scene where Tami is determinately rocking in her chair with Gracie Belle at 3:00 am, and she wakes Coach up to ask him what he thinks Julie would do. Tami has good reason to worry, I think. Post- Saracen break-up, Julie is not making the best choices. She brings Ryan, the Habitat guy, home for dinner, and the result is hilariously awkward. All Ryan can think to say is how it must be weird to have to play football in the rain. He also mentions he’s leaving for another Habitat project in Arizona in a week, and the snarky way in which Coach voices his “disappointment” had me cracking up. Julie and Ryan climb to the top of the Dillon water tower and have a chat about how Ryan has seen the world and Julie once wanted to do that too, but now she’s conflicted. I’m wondering if they’re setting us up for a plot where Julie debates whether she should go to college or live a nomadic Habitat life with Ryan. I miss Matt Saracen (even though I just watched Zach Gilford on “Off the Map” last night…really can’t compare).

Luke’s dad finds Luke in the kitchen late at night, unable to sleep. When pressed about what’s wrong, Luke finally confesses that he got Becky pregnant. It’s obvious that this can’t possibly end well when Luke gets home from school the next day to find both of his parents seated at the kitchen table. They’re a very religious family, and Luke’s mom starts going on about how Mary and Joseph found themselves in a difficult situation, too. They are not going to be at all happy when they find out what Becky is planning. Becky herself is unsure about what to do, although the bottom line is that she doesn't want to resent her child the way her mom resented her. The night before her appointment, she again shows up at the Taylor’s doorstep. She and Tami have a lovely chat in the kitchen, and Becky asks Tami what Tami would do if it were Julie that was pregnant. Tami says she would remind Julie of the gravity of the situation and to think long and hard about it, and then she would support Julie in whatever she decided to do. She also reassures Becky that she doesn’t think Becky is going to Hell. At the end of the episode, Luke calls and makes an awkward speech about how he wants to let Becky know she’s not alone in this and that he’ll help out however he can. Becky gets a very pained look on her face as she tells him it’s too late- she’s already taken care of it.

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