Things fall apart
Well, the happy road trip vibes can’t last forever, can they? Things came crashing down around the Taylors this week, fueled by Julie’s humiliation and inability to face the consequences of her actions. I haven’t been the biggest fan of the Derek the TA subplot, but this episode proved why it was all worth it. Julie’s indiscretions, which, let’s be honest do not seem to bother her in and of themselves as much as the embarrassment of being publicly caught in them do, have not just put a strain on her own confused sense of self-purpose, but have ripped the Taylor family wide open. We have watched Tami make a few rough decisions, requiring Eric’s patience and resolve. But this week we watched Eric’s own self-righteousness hit a wall with his daughter’s refusal to be tough-loved into the moral high ground. It was a perfect contrast to his “king maker” moment in the sun. A molder of men, perhaps. An understanding father, not as much as we all would like to believe.
Last week we watched Eric try to come to terms with the darker energy – the burgeoning male violence – of his team, unleashed when the told them to play dirty in Kingdom. He wanted to win as much as they did, but he was squeamish about the means. The rest of the team, coaches included, were exhilarated by the release. And if Billy Riggins’ impromptu warm up speech is any indication, they are ready to keep the fires of football violence stoked (get out there and hurt the first person you see, or something to that effect!). That wild, dark energy is hard to control, and Eric seems to sense it even as he can’t quite bottle it up with his own wife and daughter. This episode felt like a reckoning or at least the beginning of one. Is Eric’s stern love and unflinching moralism going to survive his daughter’s fall from grace? Is he right that you are already the person you are going to be for the rest of your life when you step on to a football field at the age of 17?
We had a lot of subtle gestures confirming and complicating Coach Taylor’s pep talk. Just as he riled them up, the camera cut to Ornette, smoking a cigarette and getting ready to take down Kenard. Is this a sign of how little he has changed or how much? Ornette was our double for Eric tonight, and he came off a shade better in my book. He takes responsibility for his son’s situation and then shields him from the consequences of his actions. Eric doesn’t know what else to say to Julie or even what to ask her besides if she knew Derek was married. Are there no mitigating circumstances; cannot neither Eric or Tammy try and understand what happened? Vince himself is a reminder that people do change. He is not the same young man now that he was on that field last year. If how you play defines the man you will be, what game counts most? Does the game last week against Kingdom count?
Perhaps the most fantastic example of a couple that is growing up right before our eyes are Billy and Mindy. Who knew they were such keepers? They are both starting to fashion themselves as molders of young men and women and while their methods and philosophy are a bit untoward (surely, surely that drunk dial to TMU is going to come back and bite Luke in the ass. And can you imagine Tammy suggesting that what Epick needs is some good sex?), but there is something beautiful about watching them take Luke and Becky under their wings. As the Taylors lose their moral center, there is something refreshing about the lack of moral superiority in Mindy and Billy’s semi-parental wisdom.
The crises of the season seem to be peaking and I am just waiting to see where the cards fall, especially if Eric keeps trying to cheat at cards.
Rhinestones make me look trashy,
I too loved this episode! This was the first time I’ve really realized how much Eric might need to shoulder some of the blame for the way Julie has turned out…he was in the dog house with me on Friday night not just because of his inability to respond to her struggles, but also because I finally realized how much her struggles grow out of her relationship with him. And really, how did this not occur to me before? That’s the first time we’ve ever seen him be late for a game because of a home crisis. He always puts football ahead of Julie – even though he also loves her so much. But it’s kind of classic pop psychology – a dad makes his daughter feel like she’s “second” (or third, or fourth…) to his work (or her high school male colleagues), chances are, she’s going to run around with older guys. Luckily, up to this point, the older guys have also still been nice guys (mini versions of the Eric we know and love). But even as we see more of Eric’s own insecurities this season (and, as you say, his willingness to cheat at cards – something that really surprised me, to be honest) I’m left wondering how much the skeezy TA is just some other version of an Eric we don’t know as well.
And I love what you say about seeing these alternative parental figures in some murkier moral ground. I found watching Vince’s dad beat the crap out of that guy so devastating in large part because there really was – as far as I could see – no other option. But you can already see the potential escalation of violence that will follow it. And we can only hope that Vince gets out in time…makes his way to TMU before the grime of his life drags him down here in Dillon. What we are not left with is any sense of hope for his parents. And the harshness of that reality just hurts to watch.
And then you have Billy and Mindy. Oof, I felt for Billy watching him watch that old tape of Tim…remember when he made that tape for Tim? It was when we first really came to love Billy and see the good in him. #33 has to be coming back soon, I hope! They are hinting their way towards it and I’m just dying for his return! And while the connection between Mindy and Becky is so sweet, I wish Becks would fill Mindy in on why she’s struggling to hang out with Luke…pushing the girl toward the guy whose parents hate her for aborting their accidental love-child might not be the best route to go. But the more the Riggins, Luke and Becks mix up with each other, the more I feel a terrible showdown coming…not least of all because that phone call to TMU happened while Luke was drinking alcohol at his coach’s house, and we know Luke’s parents are not ones to shy away from a legal battle with the school!
Looking for my war-cry, MoFo!