In the tenth episode of the third season of Friday Night Lights, multiple characters face their own selfishness or deal with their children making their own decisions. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
Sweet baby turtles, this episode was so good.
It’s really easy to pair up any number of plot lines in “The Giving Tree” with one another, and the amount of parallel storytelling in this single episode is mind-boggling. Just in terms of execution and logistics, this is one of my favorite episodes of this show so far. I thought about covering this by theme, but I worried about my thoughts becoming a bit too messy as I jumped from character to character. Alas, I’m sticking to what I’ve done for the past FNL reviews.
In this case, Landry and Tyra’s story is referenced in the title of the episode, which is itself a reference to The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. (Sidenote: 75% of my childhood was in Shel Silverstein’s fictional creations. I bawled the day he died.) After a demoralizing experience in Dallas at the hands of Cash, Tyra returns to Dillon and to one of the people in her life that she unknowingly depended on. I thought it was important that Tyra called Landry once she felt strange with Cash, and this episodes presents her real feelings for Landry coming to fruition. Of course, this is not an easy process, and thankfully, the writers respect how Landry would feel about Tyra’s pursuit of Landry, both for her own needs and because she now knows she really wants Landry. While I do think the script has sympathy for what Tyra feels, the point of the story leans more towards the fact that Landry finally stands up for himself. In this instance, I related a bit more to Landry than Tyra, especially since I did not stand up for myself in my first relationship. Or most of the times I have dated. Or all of junior high and high school. I was once not the sassy man I am today. That confidence I have (which isn’t consistent, and I still have self-esteem issues to this day) was something that grew over time. While Landry’s bandmates played a part in his epiphany, I think he also realized how willing he was to do anything for Tyra and how that wasn’t benefitting him at all.
It’s just as important that Julie opens up to Tyra, admitting that Landry kind of has a huge point about the dynamic of their friendship. It has largely been a one way street, especially when you consider that Tyra barely allowed Landry to be seen in public with her. While it’s nice that she got Landry’s band a gig in town, I’m interested to see how far she takes her interest in him. She’s clearly looking upon him dreamily at the end of “The Giving Tree,” but I got the sense that Landry was ready to move on. The only way I could see this working is if Tyra finally opens herself up to Landry and returns the affection he gives her.
The main three stories in this episode all revolve around how different parents deal with their own children. They also touch on issues of selfishness, like Tyra’s plot, and Joe McCoy certainly represents the lengths a father will go to control their kid for their own benefit. My gods, even Mrs. McCoy calls out her own husband for his utterly terrifying behavior! Look, I’m always going to sympathize with J.D. here because I lived with overprotective parents who were even worse than Joe. True story: The first time I was allowed to spend the night at a friend’s house was the day I ran away from home. I was not allowed to use a steak knife at the dinner table. I could not have a life outside of cross country/track and school. In a way, it felt like my parents refused to trust me. Granted, they wanted to protect me, and from their point of view, this was the best way to do so. But I was teased just like J.D. was in this episode whenever I was forced to make a decision because of my mother or father. It’s awful. It’s embarrassing. And look, I do get that the context here is that J.D. wants to go out with a girl and break the rules a bit. Still, I couldn’t help but smile at Tim Riggins’s advice. I am fascinated by stories of rebellion! THEY SPEAK TO ME.
For real, though, I genuinely thought Joe was going to chase after his son. He scares me so much, y’all.
I’ll touch on the Taylors in the last section, but it was interesting to me that we saw Tami and Eric react to Julie’s decision in a way that inherently supported and respected her. Buddy? Yeah, he did the exact opposite, and that’s why it’s so hard to watch him make a mess of everything in “The Giving Tree.” The writers are continuing the descent we’ve seen for his character this season, and we learn just how far he’s fallen. Low on money, he makes a horrible decision: He invests Lyla’s college fun in a local development project that flops, leaving him with nothing for Lyla. This, of course, explains why he reacted so poorly to the news that the strip mall investment went belly up.
I feel like “reacted poorly” is a euphemism because the dude FUCKED UP. Badly. Horribly. And to make matters worse, he is so flippant and selfish with Lyla, which is one of the reasons she decides to leave his house. I mean, she’s also incredibly upset that he gambled with her future, but his reaction is SO TERRIBLE. I don’t know how else to describe this! Like, you invested her college fund without asking her. She’s not being a brat! She’s not being spoiled! Holy shit, Buddy Garrity, why can’t you just be responsible for your own actions? Why are you trying to hinge blame on other people? YOU ARE AN ADULT.
I don’t know how this is going to be resolved, y’all. I really don’t.
So, I was really shocked by Eric walking in on his daughter post-sex, but not because it wasn’t a long time coming. It totally was! Of course, I expected everything to be awkward forever, which it was as well. But the way that the Taylors handle the reality of their daughter having sex speaks volumes about them as parents, especially when you contrast that with how Buddy and Joe act towards their own children. I loved that both parents didn’t know what to say to Julie. You can plan as much as you want for such a thing, but the actual event is way more complicated than that. There’s a lot of silence in the Taylor household that first night (which I think is in part due to the fact that Lyla stays over), and when Tami tries to breach the subject with Julie, it’s tense and uncomfortable. And I get why Julie’s defensive here. Who wants to discuss their sex life with their parents?
But once Tami’s able to break down Julie’s barriers, we get one of the most intimate and emotional scenes in the whole series. MY HEART. OH MY GOD, TAMI JUST WANTS HER DAUGHTER TO BE SAFE, AND JULIE DOESN’T WANT TO DISAPPOINT HER MOM, AND THERE ARE TEARS, AND EVERYTHING IS SO CUTE AND LOVELY AND THIS SHOW IS THE BEST.
While Eric’s talk with Matt is nowhere near as dense or emotional, I think his reaction is evidence of how much he respects and adores his daughter. His goal isn’t to stop Julie from having sex or embarrassing her. He just wants to protect her. I don’t think he mistrusts Matt at all, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to make it absolutely clear that if Matt messes with Julie, he’s messing with her father, too.
The only part of this story that doesn’t quite fit into the larger narrative is the subtle shift in Coach’s perception. I think that after he’s ejected from the Bisons’ game, he witnesses something disturbing happen: the slow acceptance of Wade as a coach. Wade is supposed to be a temporary fix for Mac, but after a single call of Wade’s helps the Panthers win the state quarter-finals, Coach Taylor can already see this shift happen. Which TERRIFIES ME, y’all. It’s bad enough that his career hinges on a win at state, but is he now going to have to worry about Wade, too?
THIS GODDAMN SHOW.
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