I absolutely loved this episode. It seemed perfect in almost every single way. I felt all the emotional satisfaction of getting into the gritty details with the characters and the sweet exploration of the highs of high school and the bitter sweet transitions to adulthood that make this show so amazing. It was a simple plot. The Dillon Lions travel to Kingdom, Texas for their season match-up with the team they forfeited to last year. We all remember that fateful forfeit and all that it meant for Coach Taylor and for the struggling, pathetic Lions. Coach Taylor sticks to his high ground – the moral ferocity that makes him such a molder of men – insisting that this is not about revenge. Of course, like all good road trips, our best principles get a bit out of hand and we know this is a sure thing when the bus loaded up with Lions drives through a banner painted with the word “REVENGE.” What is a road trip without a little loss of control?
And honestly, that is what we’ve been missing since the move to East Dillon – the loss of control that makes new bonds as permanent as the hot iron branding the team decided to inflict on themselves in post-game victory bliss. Think back to those early episodes with Street and Riggins – the camaraderie of beers outside and Texas is forever. We haven’t had that in a while since most of this team is just learning to trust each other on the field, much less like each other off it. When Luke and Vince shared that stolen moment in the hippie van (and um, what was that party?!) clinking glasses and talking about how great it would be to rock the field together at TMU I was taken back to the bromances that have held this show together – Riggins and Street, Matt and Landry. I loved that the Vince/Luke pair was also extended to the motely crew of Tinker, Hastings, and of all unlikely people, Buddy, Jr. (sidebar: one of my favorite throw away lines was Buddy, Jr.’s quiet “but I just joined the team” when Luke insisted that everyone get branded). Even their porch scene pre-game, which I knew was a bit sticky sweet, felt pitch perfect in the moment. So many young dreams and diverse lives joined together in that random, profound, intensely bonding way that high school sports (or other associations) can create.
But the episode also balanced the intensity of high school hopes and camaraderie against the struggles and disappointments of adulthood (emerging and well-formed). Coach Taylor listens into the porch banter at the hotel, but it is not about him or for him. This is the one part of the experience he cannot control or participate in any longer. His work makes it possible, but it is for younger men. Meanwhile, Tami is back at home getting drunk on white wine talking about how much she misses her daughter. Did it seem a little sad that Tami and her teacher pal (whose name escapes me) didn’t talk about anything related to their own lives? Tami talked about Julie and teacher pal just listened, kind of wistfully it seemed not to have a daughter’s absence to mourn. Of course, that daughter is also up to her own kind of road trips and in contrast to the harmlessness of the boys hijinks in Kingdom, Julie is getting ready for her first big fall from grace. She has lost her moral compass and like all good girls who’ve slipped into the gutter, she is coming home. But just how much understanding will she find from Tami and Eric? How hard is it to come home again?
If the Julie scandal is waiting to break wide open, I feel another scandal with Vince, his dad, and that slimy recruiting coach from TMU. Vince’s dad was so palpably excited to be taken into the world and life of his son, to try so hard to play the responsible dad, it was hard not to imagine things would fall apart. We’ve had a lot of speeches about how people can change in relation to Vince’s dad, but I think we are going to see that that adage isn’t true in any easy sense.
If anything, this episode felt too easy. I don’t mind it because I think a storm or two is brewing and I love the ways this show just lets you sink into a moment of human experience and rest there for a while. It was a tad sentimental, but these are the sentiments that make us most human and most humane, and I’ll take them any day.
One final hope: can we please get some Tim Riggins?!
how bout that second coming?