Mark Watches ‘Friday Night Lights’: S04E10 – I Can’t

In the tenth episode of the fourth season of Friday Night Lights, Tim brings Becky to Tami to help with her problem while butting heads with Billy about their illegal activity. Eric struggles to find a way to coach Vince while Vince worries about his mother’s health. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.

Oh my god, this season is SO FUCKING GOOD. I don’t know very many shows that can tackle things like racism, drug addiction, poverty, abortion, and so on without coming across as terribly preachy or formulaic. There’s a raw brutality to the way that Friday Night Lights is written, filmed, and acted, and there are quite a few moments in “I Can’t” that feel like a documentary. My god, I love this show so much.


Julie gets the least gut-wrenching story in this episode, and it reminded me of what we’d once seen from Tyra back in season one. (I miss Tyra, y’all.) However, the context is different, and so is Julie’s outlook. Ryan may represent a specific desire in Julie, but we’re not given a stereotypical story through this. Ryan is nice, and his job is fascinating. Julie loves the idea of being able to travel the world in order to help people, but I also never got the sense that she was hitching a future on Ryan. After her break-up with Matt, I feel like that’s the last thing that she’d do with another guy. Instead, she enjoys the moment. She invites to Ryan to dinner. (WHICH IS SUCH A PAINFULLY HILARIOUS SCENE, Y’ALL.) And she climbs up on a water tower with him just for the experience. Like I said, she’s not attached to this guy. She doesn’t know what her future holds for her, but she’s trying to enjoy the journey nonetheless.


Well, it seems like there is some hope at the end of this for the Riggins brothers. More than ever before, this episode made it feel like there was no escape for the disaster they’d gotten into. It wasn’t lost on me that they resorted to literally digging holes to get out of the hole they’d dug themselves into. IT’S REALLY CLEVER, I SWEAR. But how much longer was this chop shop going to last? Without the ability to crush the skeletons of cars left behind, how was it supposed to survive? Plus, the more Billy gets others involved, the bigger risk he’s putting himself and Tim in.

So, it looks like Billy’s ready to bail, and I’m hoping it’s sincere, because this cannot continue. IT JUST MAKES ME NERVOUS.

Eric/Big M

Okay, I’ll repeat what I said in the video commission for this: I love that Big Mary has such a big role in these episodes. I AM TOTALLY INTO THE MERRIWEATHERS. And like many of the other characters on this show, they all get these nuanced, layered stories, and it’s such a pleasure to watch. In this case, I couldn’t help but recall all the times Tami told Eric that he was wrong about something, and then he had to begrudgingly admit that she was right. That is essentially what happens here, I swear! Big M insists that Eric doesn’t know how to coach Vince, and he’s right. I’m glad that the writers make the distinction that this is not an explicit case pertaining to race either. It’s about Big M recognizing himself in Vince and getting Coach to adjust his teaching style to acknowledge that. And lo and behold, it works. Bless. BLESS. Oh god, how great is it that the East Dillon Lions have a booster team? WHO COME TO THE PRACTICES? I love this so much.


But Vince’s story is wrapped in Big M’s as well, and it’s impossible to ignore that. After Vince discovers his mother after an overdose (in a scene that unintentionally reminded me of “The Body” in season five of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), he goes to Big M for help, knowing that his mother needs to be in rehab now.

However, before that happens, we get one of those scenes that proves why Michael B. Jordan is one of the best actors ever. I swear, he has one in everything he does. (The Wire fans, y’all already know which scene I’m talking about.) In “I Can’t,” we get one of the first appearances of the titular theme: Vince, heartbroken and afraid, begs his mother to tell him why she’d want to leave him. Is he really that bad? Because he can’t do this by himself. It is one of the most painfully raw scenes in the whole show, and if Madison Burge wasn’t also in this episode being spectacular, I’d say that Michael B. Jordan stole the show. There’s a tenderness to Vince, one that I’m happy the writers are bringing out, and it’s a deliberate attempt to make his character more complicated than most shows might. He cares so much about his mother, and we’ve seen how determined he is to show that. And yet we don’t ever realize how much he depends on her, either.

Initially, he goes to Big M for help, and sadly, it’s simply logistically impossible for Big M to advance him the amount of money Vince needs. (And it should be pointed out that this episode gives us an example of how resources are in dire need. It’s not about desire; it’s about finances, and that’s one of the reasons many folks don’t seek help for their addictions.) But the unexpected part of this conversation isn’t Big M’s affections, which have been growing over the past few episodes. No, it’s what Jess says after overhearing it. Initially, I thought she was going to express her frustration with how her father had treated Vince in the past. From what little I know about Vince and Jess’s past, I got the sense that Big M had refused to let her daughter date Vince, even though there might have been interest. However, she’s upset with her father for an entirely different reason: He is never that affectionate with her or her brothers. Again, that raw brutality comes out, and the acting is so believable it hurts, and my heart.

In the end, Vince gets his mother into rehab, bidding her an emotional goodbye. When he went to pay for the treatment, I thought his hesitation was because he didn’t have the money. Instead, he slides an envelope full of $4,000 over the counter. Which is great! Oh my god, he did it. But how?

NO. OH GOD NO. Please don’t let this backfire, PLEASE DON’T LET THIS BACKFIRE. No, I care about Vince so much! But where else was he supposed to go? He couldn’t have waited until January to help his mother, so he turned to the one source of money that he’s relied on before.



Madison Burge, where did you come from? I’ve always liked Becky as a character, but “I Can’t” really proved to me that I hadn’t been paying attention to the young woman who portrayed her. This is a difficult story for anyone to play, but Madison gives us a vulnerable and impassioned performance. And she gets to act with Connie Britton, and these two are just so incredible.

Becky’s struggle in this episode is given most of the screen time (as it should), and she seeks help from Tami about what she’s supposed to do. Actually, scratch that – this isn’t as much about what she should do, but how to cope with the myriad of emotions that she’s experiencing. She’s confused by Luke’s attempts to stay involved, even if it’s just to support her. (Remember that Becky hasn’t had a steady father figure in her life, so I imagine that she is, in part, confused by another man wanting to stick around.) She’s terrified to tell her mother, which is later put into context once we find out that Becky was her mother’s “mistake.” And seriously, look at her mother’s reaction. Why wouldn’t you be scared of telling your mother you’re pregnant? Ultimately, though, Becky’s mom does support her in her decision to have an abortion, but initially, we get the sense that the decision is more the mom’s than Becky’s.

That’s why Becky pays that late night visit to Tami again. Logically, she knows what she needs to do, what will help her live the life she wants to live, and yet she still feels like a mess of emotions. This gives way to one of my FAVORITE scenes in the whole show. Becky turns the question around on Tami: What would you say to your own daughter? And we saw that Tami was haunted by the idea, not only because she thought of Julie once Becky came into her life, but because Tami so desperately wants to be the best parent to Julie as humanly possible. So what would she say?

At the end of “I Can’t,” we see numerous characters find a way to say, “I can.” And that goes for Becky, who hears what Tami has to say, and realizes that the choice she makes, while difficult, is still her own. She can continue to live her life. That doesn’t mean that having an abortion is an easy thing to cope with emotionally. She has another small breakdown after talking with Luke, who seemed so ready to be a father. But I respect that the writers didn’t make this an easy decision. It never really is. Instead, Becky does find a support system, and she isn’t demonized for making her choice. It comes down to choice, and Becky is able to have one.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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