In the second episode of the third season of Friday Night Lights, Tami and Eric face increasing pressure from people around Dillon for different reasons, while the other characters deal with the challenges facing their own identity. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
Good lord, this episode was intense.
I’m interested to see what y’all think. Is the title of this episode – “Tami Knows Best” – a factual statement or a criticism of what she does in season three? Or both? I suppose that’s possible, too. The truth is that Tami’s decision to re-allocate funds to the general school fund has caused a vicious bout of drama at Dillion High School, but with far-reaching ramifications she never expected. I don’t think Tami is naïve at all, and she knew that her decision not to purchase a Jumbotron would be “risky” and controversial. But the backlash she suffers is so much more brutal than I expected! My gods, in just a couple episodes, Buddy Garrity is back to being this slimy, “Who, me?” asshole who does anything he can to get his way. For real, he looks just like a grade school tattle tale who hides behind the teacher after he tells on you. HE TOTALLY DOES! And it’s that inability of his to be honest to Tami’s face that angers me so much. You totally called the Mayor in to Tami’s office. Stop acting like it just happened out of the blue! Don’t go to Tami’s house and inform her of the horrible thing you orchestrated with the boosters, and then act like you’re sorry it happened! You purposely backstabbed Tami Taylor, after the Taylors have helped you out for years. I DON’T LIKE WHO YOU CHOOSE TO BE.
It’s frustrating on another level, too. Tami is right. It is infuriating that money is not going to students who need it because they’re not on the football team. It stands to reason that the whole school would benefit (including the football team) if money was allocated more evenly. Plus, every single time I think about the very existence of a Jumbotron in that stadium, I get mad? A Jumbotron. In a high school stadium. Plus, you know that the booster club won’t ever raise money for the school population. Once they get a Jumbotron, they’ll ask for something else. All this being said, I’m not naïve, either. I know that football controls this town, and I am not looking forward to Tami’s hearing. It’s going to be unbearable, y’all.
STOP. STOP BREAKING MY HEART. What I find fascinating – and personally empowering – about Matt’s storyline in this show is how the writers continually acknowledge how his family situation makes his life inherently more difficult. When I ran away from home just before my 17th birthday, I also considered becoming an emancipated minor, but my parents weren’t interested in signing any papers to give me the legal designation. (Which is more related to issues of control than anything else, but that’s for another day.) In Matt’s situation, he has to struggle with his grandmother’s increasingly declining health and what that means for him as a minor. Being stuck in that sort of bizarre predicament isn’t easy for Matt because, once again, he’s left with choices none of his peers have to make. That’s such a jarring thing to experience! While everyone else is dealing with shit that, to him, seems normal, he’s got to decide whether or not to put his grandmother in a state-run home. That’s not an easy choice to make. And then there’s that whole scene where Grandma Saracen tells Matt that she loves him and what he’s done for her, and I am done forever until forever.
It’s because of his own desperation that he makes the trip to his mother’s house. WHAT A SHOCKING REVEAL, Y’ALL. We’d never once heard anything about Matt’s mother, and then he’s at her house, and it’s clear it’s been a long, long time since she saw him, and what the fuck happened? Why is his mom estranged from the family? I NEED TO KNOW THINGS!!!
I will point out that there is a moment of hope for Matt amidst a fairly depressing and upsetting storyline for him. Things seem better between him and Julie, and I kind of want the two of them to reconcile and try a relationship again. They’re just so cute together!
Surprise, another episode of this show made me cry! Surprise, it involved Smash. More so than ever before, the writers address the destruction of Smash’s identity. Sure, the man has his doubts of his own ability at times, but what he fears here is his lack of invincibility. His injury in the playoffs the year before made him realize that injury was possible. A great deal of Smash’s persona/ego was built on his perception of his own invincibility. So what happens when that’s taken away from him? We watch Smash practice every morning with Coach Taylor; we see him gain his strength and speed back; we know it’s possible for him to be a fantastic running back at the college level. However, he doesn’t know who to be anymore because doubt has creeped so far within him. On top of that, it takes the isolation that comes from his injury for him to realize that he was nothing without the rest of the Dillon Panthers. There’s an irony there that’s hard to ignore, especially since that’s something Smash had a hard time admitting in the first two seasons.
SO COACH TAYLOR IS THE BEST PERSON, AND HE GETS THE PANTHERS TO HELP SMASH PRACTICE, AND THIS IS ONLY THE FIRST TIME TEARS ARE IN MY EYES IN THIS EPISODE BECAUSE OF SMASH. BECAUSE THEN SMASH KNOWS HE CAN DO THIS ON HIS OWN, AND THEN COACH TAYLOR GETS THAT PHONE CALL, AND I SWEAR TO Y’ALL, THAT MOMENT WHEN THE WILLIAMS FAMILY CELEBRATES AS COACH TAYLOR WALKS AWAY, THAT IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS IN THE WHOLE SHOW FOREVER.
Stop it, Friday Night Lights. STOP IT.
The reason I’m sticking their storylines together, despite that the experience different things, is because at the end of “Tami Knows Best,” the writers suddenly show us how similar they are. Both Tim and Tyra deal with respectability politics and how they clash with people who aren’t as poor as they are. (Or, rather, come from that background.) That’s not to suggest it was appropriate for Tyra to bring strippers to school, or for Tim to resort to passive aggression when he felt uncomfortable. But I found how everyone else reacted to be more interesting to me. We’ve got Buddy Garrity’s schoolyard threats towards Tim, as well as Vice Principal Truck’s clear grudge against any attempt Tyra makes to prove him wrong. This is about Tim and Tyra refusing to act like people expect them to.
In Tim’s case, he’s massively uncomfortable being around people like the McCoys. This is something that I deeply understand. One of the easiest ways for me to feel awkward and out of place is to stick me in a setting with a ton of rich people who aren’t afraid to flaunt how much money and influence they have. Yeah, I shut up real quick in those instances. I don’t know what it’s like not to be poor for more than a few months, or to have savings, or investments, or mortgages, or own property, or have an inheritance promised to me, or any of these things. There’s a very familiar moment in this episode where Tim gapes at the menu he has before him, and it’s like he’s reading a foreign language. My god, I have been in that same situation so many times. And this isn’t even an issue of being vegetarian or vegan; I’ve just not eaten so much food because it was never available to me.
You can see a similar journey for Tyra, who goes with what she knows as she tries to win her upcoming election. Again, I’m not saying that Tyra should have been allowed to bring strippers to school. I try to sympathize with her in this episode, though, because she’s constantly butting heads with the likes of someone like VP Trucks, who refuses to believe in her. So she plays to her strengths to prove him wrong, and this just makes things worse. Even Tami yells at her, which just made me uncomfortable because… I don’t know, it didn’t feel right. I understood Tami’s reasoning for what she said, but the whole thing about gaining “self-respect” had a bit too much vitriol.
God, I hope this doesn’t get worse. What am I saying? Of course it will.
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