Mark Watches ‘Friday Night Lights’: S03E12 – Underdogs

In the twelfth episode of the third season of Friday Night Lights, complications surrounding the McCoy family set the Taylors at odds with their duty versus their own personal feelings as the Dillon Panthers head to state. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.

No. What have you done to me?

Trigger Warning: Child Abuse. We can’t discuss the McCoys’ plot without bringing this up. 

The McCoys

There are a number of deeply uncomfortable sequences in this episode, but nothing hits as hard and as real as what the Taylors are faced with after the events at the end of the last episode. After having witnessed Joe McCoy beating on his son, they’re left with no real choice about what to do. By law, they have to report the incident to Child Protective Services. The writers treat all of this with care, showing us how tormented Tami is over the chance that she may lose her friendship with Katie over this. Plus, it has truly awkward and painful ramifications. And look, I don’t think CPS has a perfect track record by a longshot. CPS will often remove children from the home in families of color at a disproportionate rate when compared to white families, and the indigenous population in the United States has been dealing with the systematic separation of children from their indigenous cultures through CPS. I do think that there needs to be an organization that can investigate possible cases of child abuse, but sometimes, I think the “take the child first, deal with the consequences later” sort of attitude that a lot of CPS offices have is problematic. Regardless, I don’t think that it’s possible to discuss this issue with any attention to detail in a space like this, at least in terms of my own review. I’d want to actually be respectful about it, but I figured that we could at least start somewhere. What we witness in this episode is how abuse manifests in other people, how CPS affects this family, and how the ramifications are more far-reaching than the Taylors expected.

I wasn’t surprised that J.D. and Katie were furious with the Taylors, and on one level, I certainly understand this. As far as we know, this truly was the first time Joe ever laid his hands on J.D., and I could tell that everyone wanted to deal with the issue privately. That doesn’t change my opinion of Joe, who I hate more than ever. Oh, so you’re going to blame Eric for this disaster? No, this is 100% your fault when you HIT YOUR OWN SON. You started this, and I will continue to rage at his gross and unapologetic behavior until the sun dies.

Unfortunately, J.D.’s rage over what has happened comes out in a different way than his mother’s. Katie calmly denies any further friendship with Tami, and that’s her right. It sucks, it really does, and my heart breaks for everyone in this situation. That includes J.D., who lets his anger manifest in a way that resembles the very same way that his father talks to him. All of his behavior during the first half of the game against the Titans is eerily reminiscent of the same sort of talk we’ve seen from Joe. And that’s symptomatic of the cyclical nature of abuse! That’s how J.D. learned this. He learned it from his father, and so he takes out his frustration on his team and their poor performance by berating them and insulting them.

Everything sucks.


Okay, I think it’s kind of funny that until this episode, I never knew that Matt could draw. (It’s possible that I forgot this detail.) Seriously, I am totally with Grandma Saracen when she asks Julie if she ever knew Matt was interested in drawing. Because I did not. Still, the writers continue to explore the possibility of a college future with Matt, so I’m not terribly bothered by this sudden inclusion of his interest. Matt wants to go to college, but he’s always discarded the idea once he was faced with the possibility of leaving his grandmother. However, in a surprising turn, Grandma Saracen opens up to Julie about her fear that she’s holding Matt back. Oh god, what is she going to do? Will she concede to Matt’s mother taking care of her? I don’t really see that happening, but they’ll have to figure out something. Of course, then the show punches me in the heart when, in one line, Julie reveals that she is afraid she’ll hold Matt back, too. Oh god, no. Too many emotions!


I am so proud of Tyra Collette. I just want to state that first. Her difficult journey in this episode is also a very fascinating reversal of gender roles. We’re often shown how quirky women inspire the men in their lives through the use of the manic pixie dream girl trope. Here, however, it’s Landry’s bizarre behavior that finally gets Tyra to think about why she wants to go to college. I teared up during her brilliant college letter monologue not only because of how it represented her character growth, but because it reflected that sense of hope and possibility for so many of the characters on this show. It’s fitting that it happens before the game, too, because there was so much possibility available for these people.


Which brings me to the utterly devastating final third of this episode. I was nervous coming into this game because HOW WAS THIS HAPPENING NOW? There’s another episode! Plus, I did expect that J.D.’s emotional state would affect his game, though not to the degree that it actually did. Then, the writers give us some of the best football we’ve ever seen on the show, and it was a goddamn treat to see Matt fall right back into his old role like this. It was a brilliant coaching decision on Eric’s part, too, a way to surprise the Titans and invigorate his own team.

It’s one of many reasons why the Panthers’ loss is so painful. They came so close. That world of possibility must feel so small to these players, and in particular, I’m so sad for Matt and Tim. Many of these players still have years ahead of them to play, but they both don’t. This is it, and it’s heartbreaking. Plus, whoever wrote that scene of Tim leaving his cleats on the field is evil, and I hate them on principle for ripping my heart out.

So what the hell is going to happen next??? I AM SCARED. Oh god, please don’t let other people treat J.D. too harshly. Is Joe going to flip out because Coach Taylor benched J.D.? I am frightened to find out.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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