In the eleventh episode of the fourth season of Friday Night Lights, I just stared off into the middle distance for at least ninety seconds because I can’t find the words to summarize this episode. I’ve lost the ability to word. It’s gone. If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
I swear, I will forever love this show. Forever.
There isn’t a single story here that isn’t stressful, gut-wrenching, or masterfully acted/written. This is one of the most consistently fantastic episode of Friday Night Lights, and choosing which character to focus on first is just impossible.
So let’s start with the surprise appearance of MATT SARACEN. No, y’all, I know that I am anti-spoilers, but all I kept thinking was that no one warned me for this. Which is the point! That way, each of you can see my delicious suffering. But when he was on my screen, I balked. Matt. In Chicago. He’s there, and he’s on the show again, and what the hell. My excitement at seeing him again, however, was quickly curbed and for a good reason. Since “Stay,” Julie’s entire character arc has been one of attempting to find closure and hope in her life. She has had to deal with Matt leaving without so much as a goodbye, and she’s done quite well. I mean, this episode starts off with her possibly pursuing a career with Habitat For Humanity! That in itself could have been an entire story arc. Instead, Matt’s phone call to Julie upsets that.
That’s an important thing to point out here: Matt upsets everything by calling Julie. He upsets her healing process. He upsets any plans she was making without her. And look, I don’t hate Matt at all. He’s one of my favorite characters ever on this show, and yet, I still need to recognize what a horribly selfish thing he’s done here. He tries to have a conversation with Julie as if he didn’t just dump her and disappear to another city, and that’s simply not fair to her. Of course Julie is harsh to him, and why shouldn’t she be? I get that Matt’s life was a nightmare after his father died, but it doesn’t excuse his treatment of Julie.
I have literally no clue where this is going, though. Matt clearly misses Julie, but that doesn’t mean much since Julie had already moved on from him. And how is this going to affect Julie in the near future? I have no idea, y’all.
Oh, could you stop crushing my heart? COULD YOU? This show has done a great job of showing us the desperation of poverty and linking that with race as well. There’s a reason the violence we see in East Dillon happens, and it’s not because people of color are more predisposed towards being violent. No, this is about resources. Or, I should say, it’s about the lack of them. Vince has nowhere and no one to turn to in order to help his mother into rehab, so he goes back to crime as a way to raise money. (Well, technically, he’s paying back the money he was loaned.) I admit that this is a simplistic way of portraying this, and I would hope that folks watching this would take away something more nuanced or at least begin to understand why crime like this happens. The writers do go out of their way to demonstrate that Vince is not an awful person. He’s grown so much since “East of Dillon,” and Michael B. Jordan doesn’t avoid an emotional portrayal of Vince. We see Vince’s fear when Royce asks him to work after the game, which he of course buries immediately once Jess sees him. His behavior in “Injury List” is reluctant at best, even if he’s trying to seem like he’s on board with what Calvin and Royce want him to do.
I admit that I’m still shocked that Calvin is dead. If anything, I expected that Royce wouldn’t outlast the season. But Calvin’s gone, and Vince feels partially responsible. How much is this going to catch up with him? His breakdown in front of Jess’s house was bad enough, but it just got me thinking about the ramifications of Calvin’s death. Will the police come to Vince? Calvin was Billy’s contact for the chop shop. Has Billy actually stopped his operation, or is this going to be part of the fallout? Why is it so hard to watch Michael B. Jordan cry?
I did want to briefly touch on the relationship between Landry and Jess, not just because it is so damn cute, but because the writers gave us an example of something that’s difficult to portray: benevolent racism. Landry’s family means well, and they are lovely, pleasant people. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be the source of the kind of microaggressions that people of color face daily! Mr. Clarke’s comment about Jess’s mother being “busy” isn’t just unfortunate because she’s gone, but that comment could have been easily interpreted as a reference to the stereotype that women of color have more children than they should.* Then, Landry’s mother asks Jess what she thinks of Obama. I can’t even make this up. It’s so clumsy and awkward. And Jess knows Landry’s parents aren’t being mean! But that’s why she initially asked if they even knew that she was black. Sometimes, people of color want to know what they’re getting into, you know? And this was a damn perfect example of why we care about this sort of stuff.
I think there’s an interesting subtext to Luke’s secretive behavior regarding his hip injury. In his eyes, what he’s doing is a noble thing. He’s hiding his pain in order to do right by the time. But I think there’s something to be said for how much pressure high school sports (and sports culture in general, too) can put onto a person to perform despite their physical or emotional reservations. That’s probably applicable to our patriarchal society as well, since American culture values a masochistic approach to masculinity. What Luke is doing is courageous and brave. In reality, though, it’s extremely foolish. His injury could have already healed by now, and then he wouldn’t be putting his entire team at risk.
At the same time, Luke really wants to please others, and his sense of nobility does have positive results. He craves validation, but he’s also got a very admirable sense of respect for other people. I loved that he didn’t pester Becky at all because she chose to get an abortion. And once he discovers that his mother has not only visited Becky, but started this horrific crusade without anyone‘s consent, he’s quick to reject what his mother is doing and defend both Becky and Mrs. Taylor. When you’re raised to always respect your elders and your parents, as Luke was, it’s incredibly difficult to stand up to them when you believe they’ve done something wrong. I respect Luke for his actions in this episode, and I love that the writers have created such a complicated and rich character.
I LOVE THIS SHOW SO MUCH.
Oh, all those Tim Riggins feelings are back, y’all. “Injury List” starts out positively enough for Tim Riggins. Cheryl thanks Tim for being so supportive of Becky during all the times she couldn’t, and the three of them have a lovely dinner to celebrate the fact that TIM BOUGHT THE LAND THAT HE WANTED! OH MY GOD. HE DID IT. Okay, he did it by breaking the law to raise the money, but he still did it.
And then everything is super awkward. Well, this is Tim Riggins we’re talking about, so exactly zero people are surprised. The complicated emotional dynamic between the Sproleses and Tim come to a head when Cheryl wants to have sex with Tim again. Well, not just sex. She wants to get to know Tim more than she has, but Tim knows this is a very bad street to go down. He knows it’ll hurt Becky, and he knows it’ll ruin how much he enjoys living in his trailer. (At least for the time being! OH MY GOD HE’S GONNA BUILD A HOUSE.) But then, when Cheryl catches Tim watching a movie with Becky, she assumes the worst. And while what she says to Tim is brutal, mean, and callous, you have to understand that appearances were deceiving to her. She got rejected by Tim, and now he’s close to Becky in her bed. She’s going to assume the worst! Given her history with men treating her terribly, her past informs the present.
Yet Becky still finds it within herself to go to Tim and remind him of all the wonderful things he did for her. FEELINGS. There they are. SO MANY OF THEM. Because as complicated as Tim’s relationship has been with Becky, he has done so many nice things for her.
I really can’t picture Tim in his own house, but I am so ready for this. I AM SO READY FOR THIS.
Ultimately, I’ll echo Tami’s sentiment: I’m heartbroken that this even had to happen. It’s no secret that I am firmly pro-choice, so watching that scene where that board member misrepresents everything Tami did was infuriating. God, all I can think about is how Tami hesitated to even respond to Becky after she said she might not want the baby. She just said she could give Becky the literature! That’s it! And yet, Luke’s mother twists this to insist that Tami stole her grandchild. Ugh, it’s such a selfish and unfair way of manipulating the truth to shame someone, and I hate it. Note how Luke’s mother never ever talks about how this all might have affected Becky. She doesn’t make this about Becky once. No, it’s all about Tami doing this terrible thing to Mrs. Cafferty.
I so badly wanted this to be over once the board voted 5-1 in favor of keeping her, but I should have known better. This is small town America. It was going to get out. Mrs. Cafferty wasn’t going to give up. It is absolutely devastating to see Tami sitting on her front stoop, alone, terrified of the storm that’s brewing ahead. That story is going to break the next morning, and Tami won’t have to face her employers. No, she’ll have to face a community motivated by misinformation, faulty logic, and their own personal vendettas.
It’s going to be a goddamn nightmare.
*Story tangent time! My senior year of high school, I worked for a virulent racist Libertarian asshole who should have had zero power or money whatsoever, but lo and behold, he had both of those! But he paid me $10 an hour under the table to do manual labor, landscaping, and help him out with his traffic school that he ran. By the way, he despised immigrants and people who spoke Spanish, yet ran a traffic school that was only taught in Spanish. Apparently, unrepentant racism isn’t a good enough reason not to make a profit off of people! Anyway, one day, when he was dropping me off at my godfather’s house where I was living at the time, he noticed that there were a lot of children playing in the front yard. My godfather’s family often opened up their home to many of the neighborhood kids, but because this guy was a racist piece of shit, he literally could not tell the difference between the kids. Some were black! Some were Latino! And then he turned to me and said, “So, which of these kids are yours?” I balked at him because I’d never once suggested I had children, and when I told them that none of them were, he then immediately said, “Well, you people start early with that stuff, so I figured you had two or three of them by now.” Hahaha I am laughing to keep from crying ha ha ha ha ha ha.
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