In the eighth episode of the first season of Friday Night Lights, the Taylors deal with their daughter’s possible first date while Smash, Tim, and Jason face new twists in their life. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
Oh god, it hurts, IT HURTS.
It’s ironic and fascinating to me that Coach Taylor was so quick to try and call out his wife’s insistence that there’s a football “culture” that compels young men to do things like pressure women into threesomes they don’t want to have in order to gain acceptance. That’s because for the bulk of “Crossing the Line,” we witness how the competitive and stifling nature of the culture surrounding high school football compels people to do incredibly awful things. But before I get to that, let’s start things off on a positive note:
I LOVE THE TAYLORS SO MUCH. Can we talk about all the incredible things we see in this episode?
- Tami giving Lyla incredibly necessary advice that’s honest and realistic while comforting her and not judging her. TAMI, YOU ARE AN EXCELLENT COUNSELOR. I WISH I HAD SOMEONE LIKE YOU IN JUNIOR HIGH.
- Both parents talking to their daughter about being responsible.
- Coach Taylor admitting to his daughter that straight men are, generally speaking, kind of dense and rude and awful towards women.
- Coach Taylor telling his daughter that he loves her in part because she is sensitive and I NEEDED SOMEONE TO TELL ME THAT WHEN I WAS EIGHT and I could not fucking deal with that scene.
- Coach Taylor gives Jason confidence and freedom WHILE HELPING HIM PRACTICE FOR RUGBY. oh my god OH MY GOD
- The Taylors invite the Riggins boys over for dinner so that Coach can talk about Tim’s possible future.
- The Taylors being everything that I want to be.
This is not to suggest that these people are perfect or that they can’t ever make mistakes. But what we see in “Crossing the Line” is a portrait of a family who care and love each other so deeply. And it’s beautiful. My god, they are SO WONDERFUL!
And that’s about the only real positive thing in this episode aside from the final scene. Once again, this show becomes horrifically tense as it explores the secrets that multiple characters are coping with. In particular, Tim and Billy are not doing well in the wake of their parents splitting up and abandoning them in Dillon. Which… my god, I know that this was common knowledge in the show’s mythology at this point, but it wasn’t until “Crossing the Line” brought it up so explicitly that I came to realize just how fucked up this is. Billy is left to run an entire house by himself, and it doesn’t help that Tim is so willfully apathetic. The truth is, Tim’s gotten away with avoiding the reality of his parents leaving. He isn’t paying the bills. He’s not supporting a household. So what unfolds is one hell of a fight. It’s two brothers who believe they’re opposed to one another, each purposely trying to infuriate the other, and until the end of this episode, they refuse to see eye-to-eye. They fight at the Taylors’. They fight in their own home. (Which is a brutal sequence, I might add.) And they nearly fight when Tim comes back from Jason’s scrimmage.
I like that at one point, Jason tells Coach Taylor that what happened to the Riggins brothers is sad, but it doesn’t excuse their actions. It’s such a powerful thing to hear because it’s so rare for a text to willingly engage with the problematic things that people do. It needed to be said. There’s nothing wrong with trying to understand and empathize with the terrible situation that these brothers are going through. Certainly, this episode does a great job of getting us to understand why these characters continue to butt heads, sometimes literally. At the same time, the script doesn’t let the brothers off the hook for what they’ve done to one another and other people. They are still held responsible, which is never more apparent than when Jason finally (and violently) confronts his best friend about sleeping with his girlfriend. “Crossing the Line” did not make excuses for these characters, and I really appreciate that as an audience member.
At the end, though, we’re given a glimpse of something else. I expected Tim and Billy to fight again, but was instead touched by the silent display of affection from Billy. It’s almost as if we witnessed some sort of private religious ceremony. Billy quietly gets the frozen peas that Tim complained about earlier, then offers up a metaphorical bread and wine to his brother. They are signs of peace, a gesture that demonstrates that even if everything is terribly fucked up, they have one another. That is something, and it’s something worth preserving.
This show could not have sustained the secret of Lyla’s infidelity for very much longer, but I still didn’t expect things to unfold and unravel as they did here. For the bulk of “Crossing the Line,” Jason is told by nearly everyone around him that he’s not ready for his first scrimmage. It takes a revealing and cathartic conversation with Coach Taylor for Jason to realize what it is that he wanted. He speaks openly to his coach about the vacancy that his accident has left within his heart. How do you go from what Jason had to what he is now? How do you let that competitive nature dissipate away? The thing is, the very idea of rugby appeals to Jason because it’s a chance for him to feel something. It’s a chance for him to compete again, to be physical, to relish in the feeling of live sports. I admit that all I did growing up was track and cross country, but I still get that itch to compete again every year or so. I wasn’t even that addicted to it, and I understand it!
I just adore what Coach Taylor tells Jason. Follow your heart. Ultimately, that’s the only thing that Jason needed. He already knows that his family, his doctors, and his fellow hospital mates think he should sit out. But what does his heart say? I think the answer to that is in Jason’s performance. He’s not immediately good, which felt beautifully realistic. He had to find a groove to settle into, and when he did… my gods, the emotions. I especially love the moment he turns to Herc and sees that big goofy smile on his friend’s face. Jason has found something. And that something just gave him a reason to press on.
So it’s not lost on me that it’s after a stupendous first game that Jason confronts Layla and Tim. Herc had said that he was still holding on to his girlfriend out of hope that he could one day live a “normal” life, one where he wasn’t paralyzed. Now that he’s had a glimpse of a life that he can live for himself, he immediately rejects the one he had. He sucker punches Tim, and orders Lyla to leave, collapsing in tears in his chair. Oh god, is he going to regret this? Is he going to continue on without looking back? Oh, my heart. I feel so bad for Jason Street.
Well, now that I’ve seen Buffy and Angel, I’ve got a lot of experience with watching characters I enjoy make bad decisions. And that’s how I want to describe Smash. I am completely enamored with his character, and yet I can’t deny that he’s supremely fucking up. Building off the events of “Homecoming,” Smash decides to get a job with Matt at the Alamo Freeze. Well, that’s loosely defined, as Smash barely does what he’s supposed to. He understands that he’s got to earn money himself if he’s going to be able to afford steroids, as his mother simply doesn’t have it to give him. But his awareness sort of ends there, as he doesn’t commit himself to the job or towards understanding that he isn’t going to be instantly swimming in money. He’s a bad employee who flirts too much, gives too many things away, and is easily frustrated by how a job even works. I essentially spent most of this episode begging Smash not to fuck things up.
And there was a moment where I thought he might actually pull through! He tells Matt most of the truth, he tells his teammate that he knows what he needs to do now, and I WAS ROOTING FOR YOU. WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU. And then his mom has to go and be the most tear-inducing best mom imaginable, and while I was simultaneously praising what a spectacular person she was, I was dreading where this was going. Please, Smash, don’t fuck this up. Don’t fuck this up. Oh god, are you in the –
Oh, you fucked it up. You fucked it up, dude. My heart hurts. I understand his desperation. I have lived his motivation. And it still tears me up to know that he used the money his church raised for him to buy steroids. Smash, there has to be a better way. I’m dreading the day this comes back to bite you in the ass. And you better believe that day will come.
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Mark Links Stuff
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