When I first got the offer to recap Friday Night Lights, about five scenes from this season instantly ran through my mind – scenes which were so well-done that I was over the moon to be able to recap them. This episode, I’m happy to say, has more than a few of them, not the least of which is an outstanding final performance by Gaius Charles, AKA Brian “Smash” Williams. Let’s go!
Previously on FNL: Matt found his mom; Coach assured Matt that JD is not QB1, Matt is; Buddy told Tami the funds for the jumbotron, which she wanted to re-route to academics, had been frozen and that a public meeting would be held; Lyla told Tim that she has to keep telling everyone how Tim’s more than what everyone else sees; Coach told Smash that he had arranged a walk-on for Smash with Texas A&M, and Smash said he would make Coach proud.
Rodeo! Well, that was unexpected. Beauty queens wave as bulls buck their riders, cattle dodge lassos, and young riders race around giant barrels. The Wedding Party posse – that is, Billy & Mindy, Tyra & Landry, and Tim & Lyla – cheer and laugh as they watch various riders get thrown off their broncos. Landry fetches some cotton candy for Tyra and Lyla, and when Lyla asks him why he won’t have any, he says he’s going to have his wisdom teeth out and doesn’t want any “gunk” messing things up. Tyra giggles, and Landry is hurt: “You’re laughin’? I’m gonna have major surgery, and you’re just gonna sit there and laugh?…” Tyra offers to come over and nurse him back to health, and Billy interrupts that “Cash” is up next. Billy stands up to cheer his friend on. They let the bronco out of the gate, and I have to say, Cash can ride. The announcer narrates that the “Dillon, Texas man” is holding on for the full :08… and Cash is unceremoniously thrown to the ground. He shakes himself off, though, revealing broad shoulders and a big ‘ol smile. Tyra makes a little moue of appreciation as Mindy leers over the cowboy. He waves his hat to the crowd, and Tyra and Mindy stand and cheer; he catches sight of Tyra and tips his hat at her. Tyra, she is pleased.
Panthers Field, where Coach and Smash are running drills. Coach tells Smash to drive his legs, and Smash says he is. I’m gonna go with Coach on this one, Smash. Smash exposits that the walk-on date has changed, and Coach confirms that Smash has an extra 24 hours. Smash starts asking questions about Mitch, the guy who set this all up; Coach tells him to worry about performing, and to let Coach worry about everything else.
Post-rodeo honkytonk. Billy spins Mindy around impressively; Tim and Lyla two-step around with the crowd. Tyra sits at a table with Cash. She says $10,000 for riding a horse isn’t bad work, and he counters that Billy neglected to tell him that Mindy’s sister had become a goddess. Well, Cash doesn’t waste any time, does he? I suppose these rodeo boys are gonna be in another city next week, so there’s no point in going slow. Tyra doesn’t have a ready response for this, other than to ask Cash if he’s going to be in town for a while – Cash says that he will, actually, and Tyra beams. Cash asks about Landry, and whether he and Tyra are together, because if so, Cash can totally respect that! “Landry? No, no. God, no,” Tyra says, and my heart falls a little. It’s the “God, no” that makes it hurt, you know? Like it’s the most implausable thing ever. Cash and Tyra stare into each other’s eyes, beaming, and then ask each other to dance at the same moment. She still dwarfs him, of course, but as he two-steps her around the dance floor, she looks genuinely happy. This must be the “Hello” part of the episode title. Well, it’s FNL, of course (not to mention this is Tyra, of course), so it can’t end well, but enjoy it while it lasts, sugar. I hope he’s worth it.
The magnificent, dreamy, inspiring credits. Woot!
Saracen kitchen. Matt is wearing a 2006 Panthers State Championship T-shirt (and seriously, where can I get one of those?) and making oatmeal for Lorraine, who’s in her easy chair watching the news. Unfortunately, Lorraine doesn’t want oatmeal, and she’s not entirely convinced that it’s Tuesday, either. Matt mixes her medication in with her oatmeal and begs Lorraine to eat it, as he’s going to catch a ride with Landry. Lorraine suddenly asks about JD McCoy, who’s on TV – it looks like the field practice we saw in the last episode. Man, Monty even called in a news crew? He doesn’t miss a beat, does he? Matt stares in disbelief at the TV, tells Lorraine it’s nothing, and turns it off before leaving the house. Lorraine waits until he’s gone to dump out her porridge.
Panthers Field. Tami cutely stomps over to Buddy in what looks like two-and-a-half-inch heels to ask him why surveyors are taking stock of her scoreboard. Buddy tells her they’re making a preliminary survey, and Tami asks whose authority they have to do that. Buddy: “Um. Mine, I guess?” Tami: “That’s funny, Buddy.” She tells the surveyors to pack it in and exposits that there’s going to be a meeting this week to discuss the jumbotron; Buddy says he has an obligation to the Boosters to be prepared regardless of the outcome. Tami says “no” about a zillion times, and tells Buddy that she knows he’s trying to bully this thing through, but she’s on a mission! She’s gonna make sure that Superintendent Dunley hears what she’s sayin’! Buddy says that “Paul” told him this weekend – at the country club, hee – that he’s very interested in what Tami has to say. “You played golf with Paul Dunley this weekend?” Tami asks in disbelief, and Buddy stares at her blankly: “I play golf with him all the time! I’ve known him forever. He buys all his cars from me.” HEE. Oh, Tami, don’t blame yourself; Buddy was networking before the term was even invented.
Dentist’s office. Landry’s mom has picked him up from his major surgery, and wooo did he get the good drugs! His mom tucks him into the passenger seat (aw). Landry calls Tyra at the high school, and in between telling her that the dentist’s office played Lionel Richie’s “Lady”, which Landry loves, and says that he wants her to come over. He then tells her that she’s the best “girlfriend that a guy could want.” Tyra’s face falls as Landry quickly says he knows Tyra’s not his girlfriend, but he still loves her; Landry’s mom grabs the phone out of Landry’s hands and says a polite but quick goodbye to Tyra. Landry asks his mom why she did that. “You’ll thank me later,” his mom says firmly. Aw, she’s a good Mom!
Coach’s office. Coach says they’re going to start working on a spread offense, and that they need to give Saracen some protection. “I can guaran-damn-tee you that we’re not going to repeat the loss we had last week,” Coach says. Remember, two losses and the whole coaching staff could be gone. The other coaches squirm and roll their eyes. One of the coaches asks if they’re going to work with McCoy, and Mac absolutely jumps down the guy’s throat: “(Coach T) asks us to do a spread offense, how ’bout we do that?” The subcoach clarifies that he was just asking, but Mac tells him to Shut It. Mac asks Coach if they’re done and shoos the other coaches out when Coach says they are. Mac: “So are we going with McCoy here, Coach?” he asks. “Is that what we’re doin’?” Ha! Never a moment’s rest. Coach says again that he doesn’t know yet; Mac nods, a mite disapprovingly, and walks out.
Post-Panthers Practice. Matt and a gaggle of players walk out to the parking lot, where Matt’s Mom is waiting for him in a white Volvo station wagon. The other players wonder who the hot lady is who’s waving at them, and Matt quickly says she’s there for him. Awkward! Matt asks why she’s there, and she essentially says she was in the neighborhood and asks if he’d like a lift home. Matt glances at his friends before saying yes, and then he gets in.
Volvo of Abandonment Issues! Matt points out which house is his; his mom says she remembers. She praises his Panthers sign out front, but Matt handwaves that everyone gets one, so it’s not a big deal. He thanks her for the ride, and she says she’ll see him around. Awkward! Matt’s almost to the door when she gets out of her car and rushes over, telling him that he seems overwhelmed with everything that’s going on and asking if she can help. Matt says they’re fine, and his mom says that she thought as long as she was gonna be in town… “How long are you gonna be in town?” Matt asks, because when your parent abandons you, you just can’t not ask the question, even if you are Taking Care of Everything and The Man of The House. “Oh, not long,” she says. “But I’d just… love to help out, that’s all.” Matt finally offers that he’s supposed to take Lorraine to an orthodontist appointment tomorrow, but he’s got a really big test, too. His mom falters a little at the mention of Lorraine, but she rallies and says that would be great. She confirms the time (4PM) and goes back to the car, smiling. Matt stands on the steps of his house, frowning slightly. He walks to the screen door and sees Lorraine, who is staring daggers at his mom’s car. Ohhhhh dear.
Crawfish, a big ol’ cooked pot full of them, are poured out onto the picnic table on Tyra’s deck. Mindy and Billy watch Cash show Tyra how to eat a crawfish, which is the following: twist it (remove the tail), suck it (take off the head and suck the juice out), and eat it (split the back and eat the tender inside morsels. I was taught this by a delightfully naughty louisiana man several years back. Good times). Tyra is grossed out, but not too much so, especially not when Billy mentions that Cash is fluent in French. Cash clarifies that he used to live in Louisiana and moved to Dillon in high school, which is where he met Billy. Billy also mentions that Cash was a great ball player, saying he had a cannon for an arm and could have gotten a scholarship to any school. You can practically see Tyra think, “A cowboy and an educated man? Oh my.” Cash, with light from the sunset bouncing off his gorgeous blond locks, says that it was too boring. He’s all about “ridin’ broncs in the rodeo. Yee haw,” he says, smiling playfully at Tyra, who is all. Over. This. Well, the girl can pick the sexy ones, that’s for sure.
Landry’s house. Saracen and Smash, against Coach’s express direction, are googling Coach’s contact with Texas A&M… who, of course, is the Director of Sales. Smash is not reassured. “I’m gonna work at Alamo Freeze ’til I die,” he worries, adorably so. Matt sticks up for Coach, saying he knows what he’s doing. I think it’s worth noting that for all Saracen’s insecurities, for all of Coach’s abandonment of him and the Panthers at the end of S1, he still believes in Coach so absolutely that it makes my heart hurt a little. From the couch, Landry says that he’s happy that he could provide Smash and Saracen with “beverages and wi-fi and all that you could possibly want” – and here the camera pulls back to reveal a completely coddled Landry, swathed in blankets and pillows and ice packs on both cheeks, and it’s so over the top that it makes me giggle – “but Tyra’s gonna be over pretty soon, so…” Smash blinks and says he thought Tyra broke up with him a long time ago. Heee! Matt confirms it, but Landry blusters that their facts are not correct, and that Tyra’s a very complicated woman. “Let’s get outta here, Matty,” Smash says, and aw! I really like it when he calls Saracen ‘Matty’. “It’s gettin’ sad and weird in here, and I need to keep my mood up.” Heh. As they leave, Saracen tells Landry to call him if Tyra doesn’t show up; Landry assures Matt that won’t be necessary, and pulls out his cell phone to call…
Tyra, who’s on the couch with Cash, watching Mindy and Billy dance in the Colette’s living room. Cash can’t believe Billy’s getting married. Tyra, more specifically, can’t believe her sister is marrying Billy. Heh. Mindy tells Billy that he’s taking her to Hawaii for their honeymoon, and as Billy wonders aloud how in God’s green earth he’s gonna pay for that, Cash shakes out a few pills and pops them back. When Tyra asks what he’s taking, he says it’s “cowboy candy” for all the bumps and bruises he gets on the field. Mindy tries to score some for herself, but Tyra candy-blocks her; Mindy comforts herself by making out with Billy, right next to Tyra. Cash politely asks if Tyra’d like to give these guys some space, and Tyra is down with that. Mindy and Billy collapse down where Cash and Tyra were sitting as soon as they move. Hee! Tyra checks her cell phone, which has four texts from Landry to “Nurse Colette”; Cash, sensing her hesitation, asks what’s wrong. Tyra says she’s going to have to take a rain check because her friend Landry had his wisdom teeth out, and she thinks she should go help… Cash draws her in for a kiss, and it is impressive – slow and soft and deliberate. I may have rewound it two or five times. Tyra: “Okay! Let’s go.” Look, I feel for Landry, but I’d have done the same thing. Have fun, girl.
Tami and her BFF Katie McCoy are powerwalking through what I assume is Tami’s ‘hood, since there’s not gates and palatial estates, and I must point out that even Katie McCoy’s sportswear promotes her decolletage. Classy! Tami has gone the more traditional route of a V-neck and short shorts. Tami is going on and on about Buddy and his relationship with Paul and how is she supposed to compete with that, anyway? Katie says golf is fun if you bring beer, and she just went up several points in my estimation. Katie gently points out that “no one likes an angry woman”, and clearly she has not met my roommates from Smith. Tami protests that she’s not! She’s not angry at ALL. Katie suggests that Tami find out where Dunley has his coffee and approach him there. Tami asks if that isn’t stalking, and Katie shrugs: “No, not at all! And honey? Wear your hair down.” BWA!
Dillon High. Landry walks up to Tyra at her locker, who instantly apologizes. Landry asks what happened and Tyra lies on the spot, saying that her mom got some bad news. Landry asks if Angela’s okay and Tyra lies even more that it’s her AUNT, who is SICK, and oh, Tyra. She asks how he’s feeling; he says that despite not being able to feel his face, he’s doing fine. Tyra’s conscience won’t let her stand there anymore, so she makes an excuse and bolts; she looks miserable as she leaves. Landry watches her go, and we cut to…
Panthers Practice! Coach informs the team that they’re going to rotate snaps between Saracen and JD. Both boys do well, throwing straight to their guys, and then JD lets another hail mary fly that has everyone leaning over to squint into the sun. His receiver catches it and the whole team explodes, and that’s when Matt starts screwing up, of course – he throws a beautiful spiral but it’s too short, and the pass is incomplete. The team’s cheers die out and we quick shots: Riggins looking away, Coach looking grim, Mac patting Saracen. Coach calls for them to run it again, but Matt’s already looking woebegone…
…even more so when he’s home after practice, and Lorraine is loudly refusing to go anywhere with Matt’s Mom. “You always take me to my doctor’s appointments,” she snaps at Matt. He explains that today’s a little different, and she shouts that she doesn’t like different, and she doesn’t like her, and she’s going back inside. Matt pleads with Lorraine to do it for him; Lorraine hesitates and then stomps to the car. Julie tells Matt that it’ll be fine, but when she gets in the car Lorraine has a newsflash for her: “Just because you married my son doesn’t make you family. I’m only doin’ this for Matthew,” she says. Julie takes the arguably well-deserved abuse, saying that Matt’s the only reason she’s doing this, too. The volvo of abandonment issues takes off as Lorraine demands to know whether “this clunker’s got some A/C.” Hee! I love how Lorraine always gets the last word in, for better or for worse.
Taylormobile. Tami is telling Eric at great length about Katie’s battle plan to stalk the superintendent, and in response Eric suddenly pulls off the side of the road and starts my favorite exchange of the episode. Ready?
Tami: What’re you doin’?
Eric: I need a drink.
Tami: Well we’ve got a bottle of wine in the fridge –
Eric: I need a scotch-flavored drink.
Tami: Let me call Julie.
Bar. Eric is telling Tami, now wearing her ‘Coach’s wife’ hat, that he understands JD has the better physical ability. He says JD has the best arm of any high school kid he’s ever seen, “and that includes Jason Street.” The mere mention of Jason Street makes me wibbly, y’all. Where is he? Tami says that that’s saying a lot, then. Coach counters to himself that Matt has the experience, the team knows and respects him, and “I know what I’ve got with Matt Saracen.” Tami is sympathetic, and Coach’s voice drops: “After everything that kid’s been through? If I bench him halfway through his senior year, it’ll kill him.” No disagreements here, Coach. Tami agrees, and says that Matt’s like family. Aw! Coach says that of course he can’t make a decision on that. Tami says he could take it one game at a time, and Coach goes off, talking about how JD’s just 15 years old and has a freak show for a father and who knows how he’ll actually react when he’s on the field for the first time, and it’s Coach’s job to make sure that he’s ready the first time he takes that field and that JD is fully prepared. Tami’s eyes widen a little as Coach gets more animated, and then she starts giggling. “What the hell’s so funny?” Coach demands, and Tami leans in and kisses him. She says that she loves that he’s making a decision “with so much conscience – I mean what other coach would ever do that?” Preach, sistah! She says that Coach is a teacher first, and a “molder of men”, and that she finds it admirable. Also, sexy. She kisses Coach again, and he says he’s going to have to “ruminate on that a little more, since you find it so damn sexy.” Tami is fine with that. Man, these two – they are such an absolute team, it just kills me. Great scene. Scotch-flavored smooches all around.
Panthers Field. Coach walks up on Wade and JD, who are running the practice where JD hits the dummies over and over from a zillion yards away. Maybe he’s a cylon! Coach squints at JD – you can feel the piercing, assessing glare even through the sunglasses – and quizzes JD on some plays. It’s a lot of lingo that I don’t understand, but you can tell JD knows all the right responses to every question. Coach tells JD to tell him something about himself, and JD blinks. “I set goals and I achieve them, sir,” he says. Coach says it’s not a job interview and demands to know something of substance about JD. JD throws everything that might stick: Xbox, swimming, working out… Coach tells him he needs to bulk up a bit and steps to the side, saying he’s going to watch for a bit. JD throws the ball over and over, hitting his mark every single time. Don’t do it, Coach! Saracen just needs someone to choose him! Sigh. Monty isn’t in this scene – he only shows up once in the entire episode – but you can still just feel him grinning. It gives me the creepy-crawlies. And speaking of discomfort, we cut to…
The Diner of desperation. Oh, it pains me to have to recap this, so I’m going to keep it short. Tami takes Katie’s awful, terrible advice to ambush the superintendent over breakfast. Her hair is down and her boobs are out, although not to Katie McCoy proportions. She sits at the table next to Paul and says hello, noting that they haven’t spoken since her job interview. Paul says he’s about to leave for a meeting, and Tami moves to his booth to make her pitch. Paul says that he’s late, but Tami charges ahead anyway. Paul calls her “Principal Taylor” and says it’s not really the time or place, and Tami goes WAY off script by saying that she knows Paul’s talked to Buddy and some of the other Boosters. Mayday, Tami! Mayday! Paul shifts from “polite” to “cornered” as Tami says she just wants it to be a fair conversation, and Paul says there’s no reason for her to get angry. “Oh, I’m not angry!” Tami repeats over and over, “…except for when I think about the school, then I get angry…” Oh, TAMI. I told y’all this was painful, right? Paul says he wants more teachers and supplies, too – “but those people gave their money for a jumbotron.” He walks away, telling her he’s looking forward to the meeting, and Tami just sits there, morose and dumbfounded.
Burger Joint. Landry is asking Matt how it felt to see his Mom again, so we can assume Matt’s confided in him off-screen; Matt says it was fine. When Landry inevitably presses on, asking Matt if he’s going to see his Mom again, Matt gets snarky, passive-aggressively turning all his attention to Julie as she walks up. I know they did this last week in the HS cafeteria, but it still cracks me up. Julie is, again, trying her best to manage the awkward that is the bantering Matty/Landry bromance, and asks if Matt’s ready for an upcoming mid-term. “No,” Matt snarks, glaring at Landry. “Somebody won’t let me study.” Cut to Landry, who looks hurt by Matt’s remark, until the camera changes to his POV, and we see Tyra walking hand-in-hand with Cash outside (for the record, Cash is wearing a black button-down and a black hat. Coincidence? I think not).
Landry gets up without a word to Matt or Julie and storms outside, stopping dead in front of Tyra, who’s beaming at Cash and flipping her hair. No, for real. Tyra passive-aggressively introduces him to Cash, who extends his hand. “Yeah, I know who you are,” Landry says, not taking his eyes off Tyra. DAMN. Say what you will about Landry, he has no compunctions about speaking his mind, and damn the consequences. It makes you appreciate how incredibly difficult it must have been for this kid to keep the murder/manslaughter a secret back in S2. It was a stinker of a plot twist, but I really appreciate how Landry’s evolved from it – he’s just not going to muzzle himself for anyone. Tyra asks for a minute with Landry, and Cash asks her if she’s alright before he leaves. “She’s fine,” Landry says evenly. Hoooo, Tyra, you are IN for it. “I’m thinkin’ that by ‘aunt’, you really meant ‘Cash, the rodeo guy’,” Landry says. Tyra says she’s sorry that she lied to Landry, although her eyes are doing that half-lidded thing when she doesn’t mean what she’s saying. “God, I have been really, really stupid for a really, really long time,” Landry says, AWESOMELY. Tyra babbles about how they’ve been broken up forever, but Landry says that’s nothing different – she still holds his hand at scary movies, they still do everything together – and the fight turns into a screaming match until Landry says he wants to hear that she’s choosing a guy who rides horses and wears a stupid hat – “Yes, I’m choosing HIM,” Tyra half-shouts. That shuts Landry up, who’s got nothing left in his bag of tricks. He turns and walks away, punching the aluminum awning as he goes. Tyra watches him go, feeling guilty and a little relieved.
Chez Saracen. Lorraine sits in her easy chair while Julie and Matt do their homework together, when Matt’s mom knocks on the door with full bags of groceries in her hands. Matt asks what she’s doing there, and she says she was in the grocery store and thought she’d pick up some things for them. She looks over at Lorraine: “Vanilla cremes, right?” Lorraine says she’ll be in her room and slams the door behind her. Matt introduces Shelby to Julie, and Julie practically gets whiplash when Matt says Shelby’s his mom. She covers quickly, though, as the Taylor women do, and says brightly that it’s very nice to meet her; Matt takes the groceries into the kitchen. Shelby suddenly says that she brought some baby pictures, and Julie’s game to see them, but that’s the Last Damn Straw for Matt. He tells Shelby she can’t “come in with groceries and baby pictures and pretend like everything’s normal.” Shelby’s stunned, although I don’t know why, and starts to apologize. I don’t know if the actress playing Matt’s mom (Kim Dickens) deliberately picked up on Matt’s stammering, but she’s sure doing a great job of channeling it, and it’s a very nice touch. Matt’s stammer is gone, however, because he is crystal clear: “I don’t need your help. I needed it ten years ago when you left, five years ago, but I don’t need it anymore. I figured it out.” Shelby looks like she’d like the earth to open up and swallow her whole. Matt thanks her for the groceries and for taking Lorraine to her appointment. “You wanted to help and you helped. Now please go home.” Shelby takes the pictures back from Julie and tries one more time:
Shelby: Sweetheart, I didn’t –
Matt: No, don’t call me that.
DAMN, Matt Saracen! How awesome are you? Shelby clutches the pictures tighter and turns to go without a word; Matt looks at Julie, who’s standing silently in the wreckage, waiting to see what he needs. He turns and goes into Lorraine’s room, and Julie can’t do anything but watch him go.
Taylor bedroom. A devastated Tami sits on the bed as Coach comes in and sits opposite her. She shakes her head and pronounces herself an idiot. Look, Tami, you can’t be awesome all the time! How would that be fair to the rest of us? Eric tells her that she’s not an idiot, and when Tami says she shouldn’t have picked this fight, he tells her that she absolutely should have. Tami buries her head in her hands and says she doesn’t even think he believes that; she says she thinks he thought it was a bad idea all along. “I never said that,” Eric said. Well, you did kinda imply it, Eric, but I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. “I think it’s obvious that you’re right and they’re wrong. Period,” he says. Tami asks if he means that. “You’re damn right. You think we need a jumbotron?” Hee! Tami rolls her eyes, magnificently, and tears up. Eric tells her that they do need more teachers, and says again that she’s right and they’re wrong. Tami, starting to cry, says that it doesn’t matter, because they’re going to win tomorrow. “Okay, yeah,” Eric says, stroking her shoulder. “They’re gonna get their jumbotron. In that sense, they win tomorrow. But you stood up for what you believe in. In that sense, you win tomorrow.” Tami really loses it, along with the viewing audience, and Eric suggests that she make everyone feel a little guilty over the jumbotron. I wondered, back when this whole storyline started, why Tami didn’t implement a 20% rule for future donations – like, whatever was donated to Panthers football, at least 20% would have to go directly to academics. It’s not as interesting a storyline, but I think it would have been a good compromise. However, I’m not writing this series, so moving on!
Saracen household of emancipated defiance. Lorraine eats some toast at the table as Matt tidies up. He apologizes for having Shelby take her to the doctor yesterday, and Lorraine literally handwaves that it was nothing. He promises that it won’t happen again, and Lorraine hesitates before taking off her glasses. “This doesn’t mean I forgive her for what she did, and I still don’t like her. But your daddy, they… he was very difficult. (You and I both) know that.” Yes, you do. Matt looks away. “And you know, maybe… shoot. Maybe I could’ve helped her out a little more than I did.” Matt asks what she means, but that’s as far as Lorraine’s willing to walk down memory lane. She says they should go watch some TV, and Matt smiles a little.
Taylormobile. Coach and Smash are on the interstate, and Coach keeps asking Smash if he’s brought all of his equipment. He reminds Smash that the cadence will be different, to pay attention, and Smash finally blurts that he’s GOT IT, already. Man, they’re both so nervous they’re about to twitch out of their own skins. Smash pauses, but he just can’t stop himself – “So Mitch Stahlman’s a front-office guy?” he asks. Coach turns an Outraged Glare at Smash. “Yes he is,” he says flatly, turning to look at the road. Awkward!
Restaurant. Matt walks in and sees Shelby sitting at a booth; he slides in across from her. Shelby thanks him for calling her. Matt looks down for a second and then picks up where Lorraine left off, saying that he knows his father could be a jerk and “throw things”… he asks if that’s why she left. Shelby says she’s not going to say anything bad about Henry; she was 17 when she got pregnant with Matt, and she’d only known Henry for a few months, “but I’ll never, ever forgive myself for leaving you.” This is hitting home for your friendly neighborhood recapper, so if you’ve never been on either side of this table, let me just say that even if it doesn’t change anything, those words carry a lot of weight. She adds that she doesn’t expect Matt to forgive her, either; Matt asks what she does want. Shelby says that when Matt came to see her and she found out Henry had gone to Iraq, “I realized that you’re all alone in this. That’s too much. I just felt a deep… I just felt bad.” Oh, my God, a PARENT! THANK YOU. I mean, better not to have abandoned your son to your hot-tempered, potentially abusive father, but in this show we’ll take what we can get. She says that she’s not looking to be forgiven or for Matt to call her “Mom” – she just wants to lend a hand. Kim Dickens is knocking this scene out of the park, y’all. Matt looks touched and nervous and gunshy and finally manages an “alright.” Shelby smiles. Great scene by both actors.
Texas A&M. Smash, in full gear, stands on the sidelines with Coach, watching the Aggies scramble. Smash starts to take a knee and Coach does not even look at him when he tells him to stand up. Smash complains that they’ve been there for an hour and asks how much longer they’re going to have to wait; Coach is implacable. A suit walks up, and Coach shakes hands with the infamous Mitch. He says it’s all good – yay! – but they’re going to have to reschedule. Wait, what? Smash looks absolutely devastated, as Coach says Mitch has got to be kidding him. Mitch blames the Thursday night game schedule, but says they can do something next weekend if Smash and Coach are available. Coach is repeating the ends of Mitch’s sentences, so you know the can of righteous whup-ass is about to come busting out.
Smash looks at Coach in dismay; he hasn’t done everything Coach has asked him to do, but Smash has really put himself on the line, and his heart is breaking. Coach takes one look at Smash and says, “You follow me.” And then he walks onto the field. He calls out to Vince, one of the coaches, who rightly demands what the hell Coach is doing. Coach says he knows Vince has practice, and he respects that, “but I gotta tell you somethin’. This kid right here can flat-out play. He’s fast, he’s tough as hell, and he can read the field better than any player you got out here, and I tell you somethin’ else: he’s got more heart and more guts than any kid I’ve ever coached, and you know what I’m talkin’ about.” Smash tears his eyes away from Vince to look at Coach, because I don’t know if he knew Coach believed any of that. Vince looks away, shaking his head, and Coach goes on the offensive: “You ask yourself whether you want to be the one who passed up on the chance to get Brian Williams, because we drove a hell of a long way to get down here and I don’t know when we’re comin’ back.” HA! That’s right, baby, make ’em come to you!
Vince asks what Coach thinks TMU would’ve done if Coach would’ve pulled a stunt like this with them; Coach says they would have said he was a man with balls and the courage of his convictions. Hell yeah! “…and then he would’ve told me to get the hell off of his field,” Coach admits. Heee! Coach promises that Vince won’t be disappointed. Vince hesitates and then turns to his team, telling the first unit to take a knee, and Coach turns and grabs Smash so fast he nearly jumps, telling him to listen to him more closely than he ever has before. He reminds Smash of the “Rutledge game, 4th quarter, you came into that game, you took over that game. Play by play, you owned that game. I watched you that day and I said to myself, ‘That boy is gonna go all the way’.” Smash’s chin goes up a little at this; it’s the last piece he needs to really, truly get completely back in the game. Coach tells him that right here, right now, God has placed him to do what he does best. He pauses, sizing Smash up: “Go all the way.”
And he DOES, awesomely, beautifully, catching every pass and tossing tackles to the side like paper tigers. They take him down once or twice, but he bounces back up; his feet don’t touch the ground. Coach and Vince watch from the sidelines, arms folded. Vince asks which knee Smash busted up, because he can’t tell. Coach: “Exactly.” DAMN SKIPPY. Vince looks over at him and nods once. Coach asks Vince what he thinks. Vince says he’ll be in touch, but not to start celebrating yet. On the field, Smash is getting helmet-smacks from the other players. That’s got to be a good sign, right?
Panthers locker room, outside Coach’s office. JD and Matt stand next to each other and look in opposite directions. Mac calls them in, and Coach says he’s going to shake things up: Matt’s going to start, but JD’s also going to play – they’re going to rotate series. He asks Matt if he understands; Matt rolls his eyes and says yes. They’re running different offenses for Matt and JD, respectively. “It’s unorthodox, the way we like things around here,” Coach says, and there’s a beautiful shot of Mac in the back of the room, a smile quirking at the corners of his mouth. Coach continues that it won’t work if the other team knows about it, so the QBs have to keep their mouths shut – even with their own teammates. He tells both of them to bring their A games at practice. JD nods; Matt glowers. I think he’s going to try, but emotionally, his bags are already packed. As they always are when another adult disappoints, abandons or lets him down.
Landry’s garage, wherein Landry is playing guitar. Tyra walks in, unheard; she has to call out to him to get his attention. Landry just stares at her for a second and then looks away. She tells him that she’s never been as close to a guy as she has to him, and that they did have something special, but she stopped feeling that way about him. She tells him that she won’t give up their friendship without a fight, and it’s starting to feel a little soapy when Landry turns to her, obviously on the verge of real tears, and quietly asks her to leave. Man, Jesse Plemmons is good. Tyra hesitates and he says it again; she leaves, shutting the door behind her.
Panthers Field, which we see from a tell-tale shot that comes over and down the scoreboard. HA! They’re having the meeting in front of the old scoreboard?… Jesus, Boosters, is there a card you won’t play? Paul calls up Tami, who says “two words: Jumbo Tron.” She says she knows it’s one word, but she wanted to quote Buddy Garrity, “who’s responsible for all this excitement today.” Snerk. In the crowd, Katie and Monty give Buddy the thumbs-up, and I shudder. She goes on to thank Buddy for volunteering to host the PTA Winter Silent Auction at Garrity Motors, to a big round of applause; Buddy stares at her open-mouthed, and in the audience, Coach’s smirk speaks volumes. HEE. If you’re gonna lose, Tami, you might as well have fun with it!
Chez Smash. Smash and Nonnie watch TV when the phone rings. SmashMama helps her daughter with her homework in the kitchen, but stands up slowly when she hears Smash say “Yessir, this is Brian. Tomorrow morning? Yeah, I’ll be there.” He hangs up and shrugs that it was about his new shoulderpads, and SmashMama rolls her eyes. “Lord, you know what I thought that was. Me holdin’ my breath…” Smash says he was kidding. That was the call. “I got in,” he says to his mother. She stares at him and asks him to repeat that. “I’m goin’ to college, Mama,” he says, starting to smile. “I got in!” SmashMama grabs him in a giant bear hug and laughs, the sisters hug each other and shriek, everyone pulls together for a massive SmashFamily hug, and it is wonderful. Cut to –
Chez Taylor. Coach answers the door to find Smash on his doorstep. Smash says that they want him at practice in the morning, and Coach smiles. “Is that right,” he says. Smash says the guys are driving him, but he had to stop by – “You got your playbook?” Coach demands. “You remember what I told you about those dorm rooms, you better not be skipping any classes, you keep your grades up ’cause I’m gonna be keepin’ an eye on you -” HEE. Aw, Coach! Smash and I and the whole damn world get wibbly over how much Coach is invested in his Lost Boys, and Smash finally gets through to Coach: “I wanted to stop by and say thank you. For everything.” I don’t know if this is the final scene that Gaius Charles filmed on this series, but I would not be surprised, because he is IN this moment one hundred percent, saying goodbye to a man who changed his life. Coach blinks. “I couldn’t have done any of this without you,” Brian says. I think that’s about the most selfless we have ever seen Brian “Smash” Williams be, ladies and gentlemen. Coach looks at his player and sees it too, I think – he doesn’t have the gruff coach look on: it’s just two men who have a very strong respect for each other.
Coach smiles a goodbye; in the hallway behind him, Tami smiles and lets her head drop. Coach shakes hands with Brian and pulls him into a tight hug. They mutter something as they break apart, and I can’t make it out, but I don’t think it matters – it’s the usual “thisistoointenseandIdon’thavethewordssoI’mjustgonnago” kind of thing guys do sometimes. Brian runs to the car as Coach yells that he wants 50-yard line seats and parking passes; Brian calls back that Coach will get them as he gets into the car with Landry, Saracen and Riggins. Riggins says they have one more stop to make, and Brian says he’s not interested in a beer run. Oh, I think we all know where this car of awesomeness is going to next, and it’s not a liquor store. Riggins says he’s one step ahead of Williams; Tami hugs Coach in the doorway and they go inside. Cut to…
YES! Panthers Field. Under the full lights, Riggins, Smash, Landry and Saracen are throwing the ball. I will admit, I felt more than a little nostalgic for Jason Street at this moment, but it is still beautiful. The boys call plays back and forth: Riggins and Smash face off, and Riggins can’t stop from smacking his hands at Smash just to distract him. It’s such a friendly, little-brother moment, and I love it. These two characters have come a long way. Matt throws the ball and Riggins tries to cover Smash, but it’s a lost cause: he’s flying now, his feet don’t touch the ground. Smash runs into the end zone, his smile bigger than life, as Matt and Landry whoop and holler. “Where you at, baby?” Smash yells joyfully, speaking to no one in particular, speaking to himself, now that he’s finally arrived where he worked so hard to be, all these long years. “Where you at?” Brilliant, wonderful work by Gaius Charles in this episode – this season has completed a phenomenal character arc. Goodbye and Godspeed, 20: we will miss you.