Mark Watches ‘Friday Night Lights’: S05E06 – Swerve

In the sixth episode of the fifth season of Friday Night Lights, Luke’s college plans are complicated, Vince copes with a disturbing figure from the past, and Eric and Tami are distracted by Julie’s disconcerting revelation. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.



I’ll repeat what I said in the video: I don’t necessarily like how we got here, but now I understand a bit more about the writer’s choices to give Julie the story she’s gotten here. My complaint, as I said in past reviews, was that the writing for Julie didn’t feel like it belonged with her. There was nothing personal or emotive about what I was experience. And you could even say that the writers admit that what Julie has done is out of character by having Tami and Eric voice the opinion that they don’t know why their daughter would act as she did. (Though that is, to be honest, purely speculative on my part. I have no idea if this is the case, but it’s a neat way to interpret the script, if nothing more.)

Regardless, this is an uncomfortable thing to watch for all parties involved. I was surprised that Julie had gone home without telling her mother what was going on in her life because… well, I thought that was the whole reason she went there. She knows she can trust her mother, but I misjudged her emotional state. She does trust her mother, evidenced by her eventually admitting to her mother what had happened while at school. But this is a story of shame, of guilt, of fearing that you’ve made a decision so bad that it’s ruined your entire life. Julie’s rash behavior is all rooted in this. It’s why she impulsively chooses to crash her car, in some misguided attempt to stay in Dillon and never deal with what she did. And that’s an important part of this, too. I deeply sympathize with Julie, and then I also recognize that she cannot run away from her responsibilities, either.

We also get to see how this affects Tami and Eric in different ways. I was really satisfied that Tami insisted that Eric do his best to support Julie instead of taking his anger out on her. But how do they do this when they’re simultaneously so disappointed in her? Of the two of them, Eric is far more devastated than Tami is. And this turmoil carries over to his game. (Though I would also say that his behavior is also due to what happened to Luke.) He left a practice. COACH TAYLOR LEFT A PRACTICE SOUND THE FUCKING ALARM. Y’all, it was so upsetting to see because it never fucking happens. And then he almost misses a game? Everything is crooked and wrong with the world. And everything feels wrong at home. It’s so awful to watch him yell at Julie and grab her, and even Tami’s disturbed by how her husband is acting. But can we talk about that silent moment after she tells her father that she’s sorry that she disappointed him? Or Eric saying, “I don’t know that girl in there”? Because holy fuck, that is so grim and terrifying and upsetting.

There’s no easy solution provided by this episode. (Actually, that’s common for a lot of these episodes. I love that about this show.) Julie is devastated by what she’s done and by disappointing her parents. And yet, she’s still at home. She hasn’t returned to school. What is she going to do? How is she going to deal with things? Can Eric forgive his daughter?

Everything hurts, y’all. The truth is, Julie has changed in some way, and her parents have definitely


And everything hurts with Luke, too. Y’all, TMU SUCKS. THEY SUCK. THAT IS SO AWFUL. I can’t believe I didn’t see it coming. I should have known that they wouldn’t have planned a surprise meeting with Vince like they did. It was calculated. That’s the brutality of it all. So I understand Luke’s fury here. He was used and shown a version of hope that was then snatched away from him. My god, that’s so gutting, you know? How can you fuck with a kid’s future like that?

So, naturally, Luke lashes out. First, at himself. He becomes incredibly apathetic about football. Again, I totally get this! How can you care about a game that has so ruthlessly spit you out back onto the field like it just did? (But that’s part of the problem, which I’ll address once I get to Billy. Billy Riggins oh my god.) But then he starts taking it out on his other teammates, especially Vince. It’s not Vince’s fault, Luke! But who else does he have to blame? Vince is an easy target, even if he’s the wrong one.

It’s Billy Riggins who swoops in to save the day. He is incredible here, taking Luke’s apathy and smashing it with MANRAGE. It is kind of adorable to watch Billy take Luke under his wing because, despite Billy’s more ridiculous tendencies, he’s actually quite good at inspiring the other players. Truthfully, Billy adores football, and he loves what the sport has done for his life. He passes that along to Luke by encouraging him not to let TMU ruin the game he loves. Haven’t a lot of us been through a similar situation, where awful people tainted something we love? (Oh god, I just spent time on my Tumblr recently detailing how fandoms can be really awful about things we love, so this is a particularly relevant conversation.) And because of this (and his fantastic speech in the locker room), Luke and the rest of the Lions are inspired to do their best in that week’s game. And they win. OH MY GOD, they’re undefeated!!! I never expected this, I swear. It’s so exciting! But Billy swearing to Luke that he’ll do everything he can to get Luke a scholarship… my heart.


Oh, Becky. I love you so fiercely. It’s nice to see her hanging out with Mindy more, especially since she is purposely directing Becky away from Tim. Because right? Oh god, Becky needed Mindy so long ago to tell her that Tim should not be her goal. Ironically, though, Mindy tries to pair Becky with Luke. Every single unfortunate statement about Becky having sex with Luke made me cringe because oh my god. It also made me realize that Mindy doesn’t know what happened with Becky. How could she? Wasn’t she in labor right around when all that drama went down? Whoops.

I admit that I think the idea of Luke and Becky dating is a bit strange, but I’m not opposed to it. It’s a nice thought.


The Howard family inspires too many emotions in me.

I haven’t made a section of this review to talk specifically about Coach Taylor, but I think that a lot of his development and characterization in “Swerve” is a reaction to what other characters bring to him. In this case, the writers take a bold (and thrilling) move in making Vince one of the few characters in Friday Night Lights approach Eric to help with a crisis of theirs, only to walk away at the last minute. It’s a common thing on this show to see Panthers or Lions end up at his house, late at night, begging for some sort of assistance out of last-minute desperation. And I think we’ve seen how much Vince trusts Eric in the past, so I don’t think this is a trust issue. No, when Kennard comes calling for the money that Vince owes him for Regina’s rehab stint, Vince does not turn to Coach Taylor for help. Initially, he speaks with Jess, which made my heart swell because he trusts her, and I have way too much invested in this fictional relationship. OH WELL. I like that Jess is incredibly sensible about who they should talk to because she immediately goes to TELL AN AUTHORITY FIGURE SOMEWHERE. Yes, it’s not necessarily the most practical answer, since then Vince would have to admit to the police how he got in this mess in the first place. But I’d like to think that Jess was instrumental in getting Vince to realize he couldn’t fix this problem on his own.

The fear I had for Vince, though, was directly related to that. Vince is egotistical, so he wants to take care of things himself. Once Kennard threatened to burn down Ray’s BBQ and threatened Jess herself, I was terrified that this was the moment when Vince would risk his career and his freedom to protect the ones he loves. (Which is admirable in the context, I should admit, because this man fiercely cares about Jess and his family and his friends.) Instead, he heads to Coach Taylor’s house, only to turn away before knocking on his door.

The real surprise, though, is when the next scene shows him at his father’s apartment. For me, this is how the writer’s convey Ornette’s true intentions. The man genuinely wants to do right by his family, to protect them and show them that he loves them. Granted, he risks going back to prison in order to knock Kennard down a notch, but given Ornette’s past, I couldn’t help but feel this emotional connection to him. He really wants to be a better person! That doesn’t mean he’s shirked his violent past, as we definitely see that come out as he beats up Kennard. However, the writers avoid painting Ornette as a one-note character. Y’all, I fucking love that post-game scene where the Ornettes and the Merriweathers sit around the dinner table, enjoying one another, and Ornette is such a visible part of everything. When Caleb asks Ornette what prison was like, he doesn’t shy away from answering, and he doesn’t sugarcoat it to make it sound like a mere inconvenience. Hell, he even personalizes it for the Merriweather boys by comparing it to how their father, Virgil, is away. It’s when Ornette reaches for his wife and his son, to touch them, to demonstrate how much he really missed them and how thankful he was that he could be back in their lives, that I knew he was here to stay. At least, that’s his intention, and it made me so happy.

I can’t deal with the Howards, I swear.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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