In the fifth episode of the first season of Friday Night Lights, Coach Taylor finally makes a decision about who to start versus Arnett, while Tyra, Jason, and Lyla all move in unexpected directions. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
Nope. Nope. Fuck you, Buddy Garrity. Let’s start there, and I’ll get back to it at the end.
I wouldn’t say that the city I mostly grew up in (Riverside, CA) was small, at least in comparison to Dillon. I get the feeling that Dillon is at least half the side of Riverside’s population. I think we were close to 200,000 in terms of our population in the mid 90s, but the city is so sprawling and wide that it never once felt like a big city. We had lots of shopping centers and malls, and the downtown area of Riverside was over 15 miles away from my house. Since I never drove while I lived there, I just never went there. Bus service was shit, and to this day I have not once taken a bus in Riverside. My perception of how cool my city was – it was generally quite awful – was more based on the social mentality of the people who lived around me. It was a deeply religious populace; all but one member of the school board was Mormon, and they made that clear with their consistently draconian policies which included forcing all the pages of our health books that referenced safe sex to be torn out. I can’t even begin to share the terrifying stories about how homophobic that place was without the risk of triggering y’all. And we were so far from everything. I remember that if it wasn’t for the Showcase Theater out in Corona and the Barn in downtown by UCR, I wouldn’t have seen a single band before I moved away. I was not made of Riverside material. That’s essentially what it came down to. I was a bookworm who loved hardcore and metal and dudes, who wanted to go on to do great things and write a bunch of really edgy horror novels, and I did not fit in there. As I got closer to my senior year, I knew that pretty much all my classmates didn’t want to leave. They didn’t want to leave. They wanted to spend their entire lives in this city. There was nothing wrong with that! The problem was that I did not belong there.
It’s all I can see in Tyra’s development in “Git ‘Er Done.” She is the girl who doesn’t fit in with the Dillon mentality, who finds the town’s rituals to be absurd and pointless, and she so desperately wants out. She wants to leave, and she doesn’t have the means to do so. So she sleeps with Connor because she’s entertaining the thought of Los Angeles. She craves the validation from someone who isn’t from Dillon, Texas, who looks upon her city with detachment and disdain.
And it’s why it’s so heartbreaking that Connor lied to her by failing to reveal that he wasn’t single. Even if she knew that Connor was leaving, it was the nail in her coffin. She wasn’t leaving anytime soon. She was stuck in Dillon with a town full of people who only care about football.
My god, Tyra, my heart goes out to you. I know what that’s like.
Oh shit, Jason has a goal. He has a goal. When Herc gets Jason to attend quad rugby game, he realizes his life is not over. God, there’s that brilliant moment where the roar of the crowd in that gym becomes the roar of the crowd on the field at Dillon High School. He knows that his desire to compete, to shine, to be the center attention, it can still be satiated.
He has a reason to keep going. This is such an amazing development for his character, and I admit that I teared up when I saw him doing curls all on his own. There’s nothing that kid wants more than to be doing something, and now he has that “something” in his sights. Actually, wait, I also teared up when his team visited him, but you didn’t hear that from me.
Lyla and Tim
ARE BOTH MAKING HORRIBLE DECISIONS AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIVES? Stop it! Stop it!!! I feel no sympathy for either one of them anymore because they continue to sleep with each other, both of them trying to act oblivious to what they’re doing in different ways. Neither of them really has a moral leg to stand on at this moment, so all I’m concerned about is how this is going to affect Jason when he finds out. Oh, he’ll find out. This is a small town we’re talking about. Someone is going to see something, and it’ll spread like wildfire.
I’m not looking forward to that day.
So, let me start off with this: I don’t dislike Tatum. I understand that he’s positioned as a major antagonistic force to Coach Taylor, and I was certainly frustrated with his performance during the Arnett game. His arrogance and need to center himself was going to lose the game. But at the same time, his scene with Taylor at the opening of the episode really drilled home that kid’s reality. He is hundreds upon hundreds of miles away from his home amidst a culture that is nothing like his own. Have y’all ever been to New Orleans? It’s unreal there, and nearly every other city in the world pales in comparison once you’ve spent time there. This kid and his family were uprooted by a natural disaster and a whole lot of systemic racism, and then they’re dropped into a city full of people who don’t care about them, who look upon their son as if all he’s worth is an easy victory, and then Tatum is expected to be gracious and drop at Coach Taylor’s feet? No, it doesn’t work that way. I don’t blame him for doing what’s best for him at all. I blame him for playing a bad game and making horrific decisions for the sake of his career, and I think that’s fair and well for anyone else to criticize.
This essentially puts Coach Taylor in a pretty fucking awful situation. I enjoyed that he spelled this out to his wife the way he did because I think he needed to say it out loud. He could play the kid the team trusted, who he trusted, who he knew would go out onto that field with clear eyes and a full heart. Or he could play the kid who had the sheer ability to win.
It did sound like he’d made his decision.
Like, okay. There were a lot of heart-wrenching moments in this episode. (Oh, we’ll get to that one in a second.) But nothing devastated me on an intimate, soul-crushing level quite like the very second that Coach Taylor told Matt that he was starting Voodoo. I was done. DONE. Matt’s face drooped, and I was so done I could not be undone. Okay, I’m being ridiculous, but fuck, y’all. It hurt. It hurt to see Matt’s pride, all that work Coach Taylor had done to give Matt support, unraveled over the course of a sentence.
It’s fantastic, then, that Matt really does prove that he can play a great game, that given the freedom and space, he’s a brilliantly creative quarterback. I’m enamored with his growth both as a person and a player, and I was ecstatic that the Panthers’ victory was because of what he and Taylor did. God, did you see how quickly the town changed their tune after the Panthers won? People are suddenly quite willing to shake Coach Taylor’s hand, to speak of what a great coach he is, just days after insisting he wasn’t worth the job. I see y’all. I see you.
This is precisely why the twist at the end of “Git ‘Er Done” is so infuriating. As Buddy Garrity stands next to the District officials, giving that innocent “Who, me?” act, I just wanted Coach Taylor to turn to him and punch him in the face. Garrity, THIS WHOLE THING IS YOUR FAULT. COACH TAYLOR TOLD YOU IT WAS A BAD IDEA.
Fuck you, Garrity. You just took the team’s victory away from them because you wouldn’t trust the coach or Matt Saracen. UGH, I HATE HIM SO MUCH.
Lord, I am still not okay with the immense wave of emotions this show has given me. Congratulations, Friday Night Lights: No show has done this to me so quickly.
Mark Links Stuff
– Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is now published and available for purchase! It’s available in ebook AND physical book format, and you can also get a discount for buying the ENTIRE SET of digital books: $25 for 7 BOOKS!!!
– Commissions are still open while I am on tour! There may be a day or two delay to get them done, but I am accepting them graciously to help fund my tour!