Mark Watches ‘Friday Night Lights’: S04E13 – Thanksgiving

In the thirteenth and final episode of the fourth season of Friday Night Lights, Tami prepares for her public apology, while Eric faces the Panthers/Lions game. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.

I really do think this is one of the finest shows I’ve ever seen. I didn’t even think any season of this show could be better than the first season, which is near flawless, but I am damn prepared to defend season four as some of the best writing, acting, and cinematography of the whole show. Goddamn, I love Friday Night Lights.


I will die on this hill: Julie Taylor is one of the most compelling characters on this show. Her arc in this season alone is fucking phenomenal, but I’ve loved that her characterization over the course of these four seasons has addressed more than just heartbreak. She’s been the daughter of a football coach; she’s dealt with becoming a sister; she’s struggled with her identity in a small town while aching to escape it. But here in “Thanksgiving,” her arc in season four comes to a rewarding close: Julie learns to value herself.

Despite that Matt showed up in “Injury List,” I was still shocked to see him standing behind his grandmother. His very presence upsets Julie because he’s not supposed to be here. Like what we saw in “Injury List,” the drama in this episode revolves around the fact that Matt has never truly taken responsibility for what he did to Julie. (This episode also reveals that he did the same thing to Landry. What the fuck, dude???) He treats her as if he didn’t up and leave without telling her or calling her for months. While I do understand Matt’s mental state and I empathize with his need to leave, I also think it’s grossly unfair of him to assume he can just slip back into Julie’s life without addressing his behavior. On top of that, he’s essentially reminding her that he has this entire life in Chicago that she’s not a part of. It doesn’t matter if he’s inviting her to come along! She knows that she can’t come along, and that’s the reason for she breaks up with him at the end. It’s comforting to have Matt around, and even Julie reasons that she can’t stay mad at Matt forever. I couldn’t help but think about Julie and Tami’s time in Boston, though. Tami wants her daughter to find her own path in life, and I believe that’s what she has chosen here. She needs to find her own Chicago, not one that is dependent on Matt.



I’m glad that the writers of this episode spelled it out: The people of West Dillon have put Tami through something horrible. She did her job as she was supposed to do, and now she’s left laying awake in bed, in tears because she has no idea if she’ll have a job the next day. Unsurprisingly, Connie Britton is perfect in her portrayal of the layered emotional state of Tami Taylor. There are so many tiny moments that I loved here: The look of fear that strikes her face when she realizes she has to give her apology immediately upon entering the board meeting. The resignation she conveys when she realizes that she cannot apologize for doing the right thing. The terror of the unknown, of not knowing whether or not Eric is okay with her refusal to read the prepared statement. THE JOY ON HER FACE WHEN SHE COMES HOME TO SEE HER FAMILY PUTTING UP THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS AND SHE KNOWS THAT SHE GETS TO WORK WITH HER HUSBAND NOW AND THIS IS SO WONDERFUL, I LOVE EVERYTHING FOREVER.

It’s a long, awful road up to that point. That board meeting is relentlessly uncomfortable, and it just made me so mad that Mrs. Cafferty felt so entitled to Tami’s job. Just shut up. Stop it. Stop it! You’re literally trying to ruin a person’s life for something that doesn’t affect you in any universe ever. Becky is not your daughter! WHAT ARE YOU DOING. Like… no, I was trying to empathize with Mrs. Cafferty, and it just made me even more mad. I might understand this if she included Becky in this at all, BUT SHE DOESN’T CARE ABOUT BECKY. She doesn’t bring her along, she doesn’t ask how she feels about this, and she doesn’t include her at all. No, she took this difficult and traumatizing experience that Becky went through, and she made it about herself. Stop it. Stop it.

I expected the worst, honestly. I expected Tami to get fired. I was initially surprised that she’d be placed on administrative leave, but I never expected that she would make the choice for the school district. And really, that is so much more powerful than anything else. SHE CHOOSES TO GO WHERE SHE IS NEEDED. West Dillon is going to lose a phenomenal principal over this, and Tami gets to go to a school where she’ll get to help students and have far more freedom from the absurd politics of West Dillon High.


West Dillon vs. East Dillon

A few things of note:

  • I have never been so scared of a football game.
  • I have never been so nervous about the outcome of a football game.

This is a tough one to watch. Coming off the devastating results of “Laboring,” you can tell that Eric is a bit rough around the edges. But he’s also at the top of his game, so to speak, and his motivational speech that opens “Thanksgiving” is just so good. He’s still harsh on his players, though, making them practice on Thanksgiving, or, in the case of Luke, denying him the chance to play in the big game. It was Vince who finally vocalized what everyone on the team (including the coaches) already knew: Eric wanted this win more than anyone.

So how do you balance that with your responsibilities as a coach? Eric has this beautiful way of cutting straight through the bullshit and telling a player exactly what they need to hear to get their thoughts straight. He instills confidence in Vince, and we’ve seen time and time again that Vince craves this kind of validation. That intimate scene we get in his mother’s rehab room is evidence of that. He doesn’t want to disappoint the town, his team, Coach Taylor, or his mother.

Of course, I can’t ignore the other big development in this episode: Jess admits to Landry that she has feelings for Vince, which were brought to the surface in the past couple episodes. And like… y’all, I feel bad that things are confusing for Jess, and there’s a huge part of me that ships Jess/Vince with the passion of a billion dying suns, but I most feel ENDLESSLY HEARTBROKEN FOR LANDRY. Dude, that sucks so much. The look on his face is one of familiarity, and that’s the worst part. This has already happened to him before. So I worried that this would spill over into the big game in an awful way, but aside from Landry’s first kick, it largely didn’t.

I just dreaded a Lions lost. I did. I wanted the Panthers to be crushed, and I can’t believe I rooted for the Panthers to lose while watching this show. I think that’s a big reason why I’ve loved season four. Never in a million years did I expect Coach Taylor to want his original team to lose. And as the Panthers kept scoring, I wanted the earth to split open and eat Joe McCoy. But then something beautiful happens: The Lions come together. They come together in a way that we’ve been leading up to all season. They cooperate. They play off their strengths. They exploit the Panthers’ weaknesses. And they get creative! Tinker’s touchdown and Luke’s runs are AMAZING.

But it all came down to Landry, who, like Vince, doubted that he was the one who the team needed. I have never seen such a vengeful victory in my life, and I love every second of it. I will treasure Joe McCoy’s disappointed face until I am six feet under. They won. THEY DID IT. IT’S SO WONDERFUL.

Tim Riggins

Of course, the joy found in this episode had to be countered with something else. I just… I just don’t know what to say. It hurts. There. That’s a good place to start. Tim Riggins, as misguided as he has been over the course of this show, has always had this noble core to him. He cares about his friends and his family, even if he messes up along the way. I have grown to love this character, and it destroys me to know that he’s going to take the fall for his brother. It’s so perfectly in-character for Tim, and it hurts even more because of it. Oh my god, who knew that I couldn’t handle Billy Riggins crying? WHO KNEW???

I’m just in shock, I guess, and it explains why I’m not being as verbose as I might otherwise be. I’m glad that Billy gets to raise his son and be with Mindy, but how is Tim ever going to escape this? Are we going to see him out of prison before the show ends? Oh god, THIS IS THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT I WANTED. Help me. 🙁

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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