In the second episode of the fifth season of Friday Night Lights, I cried again, no one is surprised, and I LOVE THIS SHOW SO MUCH. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
Oh my god, the title of this episode addresses EVERY SINGLE PLOT. I love it. I LOVE IT.
I AM SO THANKFUL THAT “EXPECTATIONS” WAS NOT THE LAST EPISODE WITH JULIE TAYLOR IN IT. Oh, yes, we get to see her at college! “On the Outside Looking In” picks up where her story naturally left off, and Julie, now in a new place and surrounded by strangers, is struggling to find a place to fit in. As someone who went to university largely friendless, I CAN RELATE TO THIS FOREVER. (Let’s all appreciate the tragic irony that literally the first person I spoke to on the first day of class ended up stalking me to the point that I got them kicked out of school. I am laughing to keep from crying, y’all.) I had no idea how to make friends. I had no idea where I was supposed to go. Seriously, I’m generally quite good with directions, but Cal State Long Beach is BIGGER THAN DISNEYLAND. I AM NOT EXAGGERATING.
Julie is alone at university, and it bewilders her because it’s all so new. So it’s why she gravitates towards Derek, at least initially. She can at least talk with him about football! Of course, he does that thing where he doesn’t believe a girl can like football. Once it’s clear that she does know a thing or two, he still challenges her knowledge of a game that she grew up watching. At the very least, it provides an interesting way for these two to get to know one another. That is exciting to me, and knowing how hard it is to go to college without any friends from high school, I’m glad that Julie has met someone on her own terms. I wouldn’t say that she’s ready for a relationship, but it’ll be nice to make a friend, you know?
Much like the stories we saw over the course of season four, Tami’s plot in this episode addresses the frustrating reality of East Dillon while also acknowledging Tami’s problematic way of pursuing change. Tami’s heart is obviously in the right place. She wants to help Epyck while acknowledging that her circumstances aren’t fair. She wants to provide an outlet and a resource for the students so that they can have a way to do better in school. But simply wanting these things (and having good intentions) doesn’t solve the problem. Tami is the outside here, both with her students and her staff. For good reason, Epyck has no need to trust Tami. Given her experience with counselors in the past, she doesn’t expect Tami to care about her either. She lives with foster parents who apparently don’t care about her. (And it’s an unfortunately reality, but there are kids who are forgotten by the very families who foster them.) Her apathy is not simply because she’s lazy or anything like that. What little we learn about her has shown us that she gave up on the world after it gave up on her.
And that’s the challenge that Tami faces. She gets a small victory when Epyck shows up to her counseling meeting, and I can only speculate why that is. Maybe she quietly enjoys that someone is paying attention to her. (Note: I just realized there is a direct parallel between Epyck being noticed and Becky being noticed. Holy crap.) I’m interested to see if Tami can get through to Epyck, and I also want to know more about her character.
On top of this, Tami doesn’t get much of a positive response from the staff at East Dillon High when she wants to start an after school tutoring/mentoring program. Principal Burnwell has to point out that Tami seems to be lecturing the other teachers while trying to get their support. I think the writers have done a decent job of humanizing the teachers while also exposing their flaws as educators. So much of what Tami goes up against is apathy. Epyck doesn’t care because no one cares for her. The teachers are tired, poorly paid, and ignored by their superiors, and while many of them do try their best, they’re left discouraged and alone. Then, Tami shows up, telling them what they need to do and how they need to do it, and I think most of us in that situation would probably find Tami’s behavior to be invasive. I felt a little sad when she showed up to the happy hour, only to discover that no one was going to make an effort to include her. She really is an outsider, and that scene made it apparent just how far out of the circle she was. For a moment, I was actually concerned that the teacher to Tami’s right had purposely spilled the drink on her just to get her to leave.
Thankfully, Laurel appreciates that Tami’s making an effort, and it’s a step in the right direction. Tami has to make allies with these people if she’s going to get something done, and I thought it was sweet that Laurel was the first to help out.
Ugh, my heart can’t cope with Becky at all. I think I’m not entirely okay with Mindy’s characterization here becauseâ€¦ I dunno, I don’t think she’s ever been that mean of a character? She has virtually no sympathy for Becky’s situation. I’d understand her being stressed about having someone in the house or even if this was about Billy’s behavior. Instead, it just feels like Becky is the one who loses, no one else. Regardless, she’s also the outside here. She has no place at home, and she has no place in the Riggins household. Yeah, so I’m going to latch onto this character with all my might because I’m a teenage runaway who wasn’t welcome into his family and who could never fit in with the families who took me in or let me stay with them. I will cling to Becky and die defending her. UGH, how many characters on this show have I become emotionally invested in? About a trillion, I think.
One of the things I find endlessly compelling about Friday Night Lights is the fact that it’s both a celebration of football and a condemnation of the culture that surrounds it. I’d like to put forth the idea that in this episode (and in a few moments in season four), Jess represents the combination of these ideas. Here’s a young woman who has grown up in football, who adores the sport, and who is often horrified by the cult of masculinity that often comes with it. In “On the Outside Looking In,” she’s presented with the peer pressure, guilt, and fear that comes with the rally girl culture that’s always been a part of Texas football. On the one hand, she does feel it’s demeaning to act as Maura does. And yet, she finds herself competing for Vince’s attention regardless, acting out so that she can prove herself to him. Her fight with Maura is rooted in the fear that she can’t ever be as close to Vince as she was during the summer, and she vocalizes her sadness to Tami. (There need to be more scenes with Tami and Jess. There’s a dynamic this show hasn’t explored enough.)
It’s heartbreaking. I do wish that Vince’s complicity in this was addressed more. I didn’t feel like Maura was ever going to break him away from Jess, but he could haveâ€¦ well, not asked for a rally girl? Or accepted that Jess didn’t want to act like a rally girl and instead wanted to be his girlfriend? Again, I’m emotionally invested in these people, and I really want them to be okay. I JUST WANT SOME JOY. Which means I won’t get it. GREAT.
Also, because it needs to be said, but what the fuck happened to Maura??? I am horrifically uncomfortable with how she was being treated, but then the writers just abandoned the plot? Oh god, please let her be okay. UGH.
It’s not lost on me that a team largely comprised of people of color and people who are poor in a “poor” part of town are subject to the treatment that the Lions are here. It’s not! I don’t think it’s an accident, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. No, this town resents the fact that these underdogs found victory amidst hardship, so they’re going to take them down with distractions and “safety issues.” No rankings, and Luke is suspended from a game. UGH, IT JUST MAKES ME SO MAD. It infuriates me because it’s yet another example of how football culture can be toxic, you know? I fully admit that Friday Night Lights has changed how I think about football, and I’m seriously considering watching the upcoming season because I WILL ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT’S GOING ON. Not only that, but this show has made me appreciate why football is so popular and endeared. So watching this team full of hopeful players be struck down again and again is just disheartening. Unlike Coach Taylor, they figure out that this “conspiracy” is real becauseâ€¦ shit, this is so cynical, but it’s true: They are used to being on the outside looking in. That’s a constant theme we’ve seen since the East Dillon characters were introduced in season four. It’s part of their lives.
What I love about this is how Coach Taylor uses this to inspire an inspirational form of anger. Initially, though, he fights his own team, telling them to stop thinking about rankings or suspensions. But then he realizes they can use this as a weapon. He writes a single word up on the whiteboard before the next game: “STATE.” In this moment, he redirects the focus of the Lions towards a goal that a year ago seemed impossible. But why couldn’t they go all the way to state? Why can’t they show their detractors that they’re better than everyone else in Texas? Why let the people on the inside tell them what they’re worth?
Coach Taylor is so great at his job, y’all. SO DID THEY WIN THE GAME??? Please? I WOULD LOVE THIS.
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