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Friday Night Lights Fodder

Friday Night Lights: Walkout Ends as Team Brawls to Victory

Watch the episode here.

Previously, the craziest high school football season ever got--wait for it--even crazier! The Dillon Panthers advance to the second round of the Texas state playoffs, but assistant coach Mac's racist comments prompt a walkout of the team's black players. On the homefront, Coach Eric Taylor's daughter Julie befriends troublemaker Tyra, who teaches her how to steal and ditch school, and later breaks up with starting quarterback Matt Saracen after he dallies with the team's cheerleaders in a hot tub. And paraplegic ex-quarterback Jason Street weighs leaving town for U.S. Quad Rugby team tryouts, which would jeopardize his high school graduation and relationship with girlfriend Lyla.

Recap, "Black Eyes, Broken Hearts":
The replacements
The playoff game's Friday night but 16 black players--most of whom are Panthers starters--aren't coming back, at least until assistant coach Mac gets the boot. Even as Coach weighs firing Mac, he dips into the under-sized and -skilled JV (junior varsity) for warm bodies. Cue the scenes of new players running the wrong way, getting chewed out by Coach, and being told to learn at the elbow of team captain and starting running back Tim Riggins all week.

Later that day, Tim plays stern father figure to a bunch of pimply JV kids, quizzing them on which plays to run and taking away their lunch when they fail. One lesson that Tim loudly imparts? The black players sitting near them are "quitters." Ironically, the black players are at that moment considering a return, concerned that they may be losing their starting spots and potential college scholarships. Star running back Brian "Smash" Williams, the walkout's leader, talks them into waiting out the firestorm.

Cut to Coach's office. Car salesman/head booster/sleazy dude Buddy Garrity trots in to inform Coach that the Dillon boosters have taken a vote: The Panthers need their black players, so Mac must be fired. Coach points out that Mac and Buddy have been friends for matter, says Buddy. We get the team back now, worry about that later.

Coach beats a hasty path to Mrs. Coach, who's the school guidance counselor. "Everything hangs in the balance," he tells her. Mac's comments were wrong, but the man's not a racist. Coach needs the black players to advance in the playoffs, but he needs Mac's wisdom for future playoff games. What does she recommend he do? Well, as a guidance counselor, she says Mac's comments are a fireable offense. As his wife, she tells him that doing right by the 50 guys on the team is more important to Coach than doing right by just Mac. And as a friend, she tells Coach that he's got to stand up for what's right, and Mac's comments are wrong. Coach isn't too thrilled by the recommendation to axe his assistant coach, not to mention a bit shaken by his cold-blooded wife.

Meanwhile, although Smash is now doubting the walkout too, he's got girlfriend Waverly going all Lady Macbeth in his ear. Smash needs to stand up for issues greater than football, she says. Plus, Mac's got to get fired--even football-hating Waverly knows the team needs Smash and the other black players! Well, you're wrong, Waverly. Mac might not get fired; he could resign, just like he tries to do at Coach's house that evening. Surely a noble act: Mac was the man who integrated the Dillon Panthers decades ago and resigning would forfeit half of his pension. But Coach won't accept it. Mac's staying, he tells the press corps on Thursday. Looks like an undermanned Panthers squad is going to roll the dice with their JV talent.

Tim might have called Smash a quitter, but when the two meet in the hallway later that day, he tells Smash the team needs him and can't believe the other won't play. Smash's mom is equally incredulous. At home, she impresses on her son the self-destructive futility of trying to stamp out racism in one small Texas town. The best revenge for Mac's comments, for anyone's bigoted thoughts: Go out and play, mom tells him. Get a scholarship to an A-list school. Make something of yourself. Does her last-minute speech do the trick?

We find out after a commercial break. It's Friday and an all-white Panthers squad, pimply JVers and all, is boarding the team bus to Dunston Valley. Coach looks a bit nervous, but he shouldn't: The black players come striding up, and Smash asks if there's room for them too. Coach nods yes (but how can there be space? All of the missing players were replaced by the JVers, who stay on the school bus too, so that's four extra rows of an already-crowded ride. But whatever).

Welcome to playoff game #2, at Dunston Valley. The Panthers bring some element of surprise, as their opponents weren't expecting Smash and the other black players to show up, but any strategic advantage is negated by some serious blunt. force. trauma. This is the most physical game we've seen yet on "Friday Night Lights," almost brutally so--I kept writing "personal foul?" in my notebook, as Dillon players kept getting tackled or hit after the play was over.

We see Smash juke his way into the end zone for an early Dillon touchdown, then Dunston Valley answer back with their own score soon after. The bad guys are clearly trying to rattle Smash with illegal late hits and face mask penalties, but Dillon's still winning in the fourth quarter. High-scoring game, too, with both teams in the 30s.

With the Panthers up by 4, Smash prances into the endzone for another touchdown--only to be leveled with an egregiously illegal late hit by a Dunston Valley player, who then gets up and starts jawing with Smash about how lazy black players are, or something equally offensive. Where are the referees!? Talk about lazy; worst fictional officiating I've ever seen.

Anyway, evil Dunston Valley player continues to taunt Smash, and it looks like our Panther hero is about to finally blow. Yet who should come to his rescue but...Tim Riggins! Tim may be Smash's sometime rival (the show can't decide if the two should hate each other), but he's his best friend here, pile-driving the gross Dunston Valley player into the ground. Cue a brawl on the scale of Miami-Florida International '06; I think I even saw Ned in there!

Fight's eventually broken up. With the teams sent to the locker rooms and coaches awaiting word on the sidelines, a state athletic association rep arrives: The game has been called, Dillon wins. The Dunston Valley coach can't believe it, and despite getting the victory, an only slightly less furious Coach tells the Panthers he's embarassed by their behavior. Still in uniform, the Panthers march out to their bus as several thousand Dunston Valley boo and pelt them with debris. (Pretty terrifying stuff for these players, not to mention this recapper; I vow to only watch Texas high school playoff games on TV and never in person.)

But wait: It gets scarier for the victorious Dillon team. On the bus ride home, two Dunston Valley-loving state troopers pull the football team over and insist that they're going to arrest the guy who started the riot: Smash, as "witnesses" claim he threw the first punch. Man, lesson of the epsiode: Everybody's racist in Texas. And who should rescue Smash here? I think the writers want you to think it's going to be Tim again, self-sacrificing for the team, but no need: Assistant coach Mac tells the troopers to get lost until they get a warrant. "We'll get you next year, Coach," one trooper says ominously. That's assuming the two teams play again next year, idiot.

Team finally arrives home in Dillon to applause and well-wishers. Smash makes his peace with an apologetic Mac.

She's a bad girl
Rewind to the start of the week, where there's a fissure showing in the Taylor household. Coach and Mrs. Coach are concerned about daughter Julie hanging out with Bad Girl Tyra, who's been repeatedly suspended from school and "wears too few clothes." Julie's no shrinking violet, but she's channeling Sarcastro in this scene. Mom and Dad are "prejudging" Tyra, she says--making the same kind of dangerous assumption that's costing Coach's team 16 players. Ooh, snap!

Meanwhile, ex-boyfriend Matt is thinking of ways to win Julie back, and buddy Landry has the perfect solution: A mix CD. I like the way Landry thinks. Unfortunately, Julie's new BFF Tyra doesn't and tells the pair that Matt needs to offer up a real gift to make up for his indiscretion (hint: spend money). A Tyra-besotted Landry thinks this is genius, although Matt notes his purchasing power is rather limited. About $50 limited.

With Landry egging him on, Matt heads to a jewelry store and manages to purchase a $100 pendant with Julie's birthstone at half-price. Lyla, in turn, needs to get money from her sister and drags Julie to sis's place of employment: The town strip club. Lots of gratuitous, strip cluby-shots coming up. Landry and Matt show up in an attempt to make amends, but all four underage kids get busted by the cops and taken to juvie lock-up. Tyra, Matt, and Landry are all released, but an irate Mrs. Coach makes Julie wait by herself to think over her actions. But so much for a lesson learned: When the family gets home, Julie's hardly apologetic, and Mrs. Coach just loses it with her stubborn daughter.

(This is an interesting yet natural development. Throughout the season, the Taylors have modeled Marriage 101: The parents clearly and realistically love each other, spats and all, and cultivate a healthy relationship with their daughter. Recent episodes are showing the first big chinks in that trust, though, as the teenage girl begins to rebel.)

After the Dunston Valley game, Matt presents Julie with the birthstone pendant and asks her to be his girlfriend. These end-of-episode boyfriend proposals have a pretty high hit rate; like Lyla a few weeks back, Julie says yes, and we see from the previews that next episode the couple is thinking about doing...well, you know. That thing that teenage couples do!

Over on the Lifetime channel
Meanwhile, on the Jason Street show, the ex-QB chooses a trip to Austin and tryouts for the national quad rugby team over a few crucial weeks of school. Jason's OK with the uncertainty of tryouts and possibly forfeiting his high school degree--more than OK, leaning toward his GED in a conversation with school counselor Mrs. Coach. Heading off with buddy and quad rugby team member Herc, Jason shares a less-than-passionate goodbye with girlfriend Lyla. Buddy Garrity shouldn't lose any more sleep over the pair's potential nuptials; I predict daughter Lyla will be free to date College Boy by season's end.

Posted by DD on February 14, 2007 11:00 PM
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