Previously on FNL: Lyla got into Vanderbilt, which she’s been dreaming about forever, but snarks that she won’t be able to go since Buddy lost her college fund in a bad investment. Buddy told Tim that he wants his daughter back, and Tim said he thinks Lyla needs more time. Riggins then caught a touchdown in the final moments of the semi-finals, so the Panthers are going to state, as if there was ever any doubt. Tami and half of Dillon saw Monty smacking the hell out of his child, the Panthers QB1, who managed to score a huge win despite following Coach’s play instructions and not Monty’s; Katie sobbed to Tami about watching Monty beat up their child.
Panthers pep rally! Someone’s gone all out for this event – there’s streamers and spotlights and strobe lights and everyone is just going bonkers. Tyra, who you’ll recall is class president, introduces “the next state champions,” and the Panthers walk out with Riggins and Saracen in the lead; JD and Landry are right behind them. The whole town’s come out to support them, of course, and we get quick shots of our favorites in the crowd – Julie, Lyla and Billy, Shelby and Lorraine – not to mention Katie and Monty, who are clapping blissfully like nothing ever happened. Child abuse is so last week! Oh, Katie. Everyone’s chanting “STATE” over and over, except for Riggins and Saracen, who just watch the crowd like the pros that they are: they’ve been here before. Once they came home with a W, and once they didn’t. Inside the auditorium, Coach glances at the doors leading hallway, and through the window panes we see Tami talking animatedly with the Vice-Principal, Clint.
In the hallway, Tami tells him that she’s just spent the whole weekend “giving support to JD and to Katie – now I’m supposed to just turn around and call Child Protection Services?…” Clint reminds her that as principal she has a mandate, and Eric does too, by the way. She tells Clint she doesn’t know if she can do it, and Clint says that’s the point – she doesn’t know anything. Maybe it’s the first time Monty’s smacked JD around, but maybe not. “All you know is that you and a lot of other people witnessed this guy beating up his kid. That’s child abuse!” Tami runs her hands over her face and says she knows; she looks through the window at JD. She opens the door and walks into the pep rally, and Eric immediately turns around to look at his wife. She gestures to him and he walks away from the crowd; they meet in the shadows. Cut to Tami’s office. She sits at her desk, worrying her hands; he stands with his back to the window, his arms folded over his chest. He tells her that they don’t have a choice, and Tami says she knows – that doesn’t make it easier. In three seasons dealing with parental neglect and abandonment, they’ve never had to deal with this. The camera zooms in on Coach, keeping Tami in the foreground, but the angle’s just slightly off-kilter, giving the shot a vertigo effect. He quietly asks if she wants him to do it; she says yes and then immediately amends it to no, saying that she should be the one. “I’ll do it,” she says, reaching for the phone, her voice breaking a little, and we go right into the credits.
Slammin’ Sammy Mead does his VO magic as we get establishing shots from Dillon businesses supporting the Panthers. They’re playing the south Texas Titans, and Sammy opines that they’re the best football team he’s EVER seen. Ever ever ever? A caller asks if he thinks the ’81 Panthers couldn’t take the current Titans, which makes my head hurt a little bit – it’s like Dungeons and Dragons, but in Texas. Cut to Tim and Lyla, snuggling in bed. Tim blinks awake while Lyla is out cold, and I just don’t understand this girl’s priorities. Tim glares at the clock radio, which has a copy of the latest X-Men comic propped up next to it, and all the fangirls are all “SQUEE TAYLOR KITSCH IS GAMBIT IN WOLVERINE: ORIGINS IT’S SO META SQUEE!!!eleventy!!”, and I’m shrieking it along with all y’all, too. He finally swats the clock over and Sammy’s VO is no more. Cut to Lyla, wearing a plaid shirt, doing the universally recognized OoooooIgottapee side-step across the ranch’s living room. She tiptoes into the bathroom – not to be quiet, but to avoid the inevitable hepatitis, I’m guessing – and blanches at its disgusting state. First of all, there’s no way that seat would be down, Lyla, so count your blessings. She puts, and I love this, COFFEE FILTERS down on the toilet seat, closes the door and sits down; as she does, some small plastic shelving nearly falls on her. Hee! Cut to Billy, once again modeling nothing but his colored briefs, who emerges from the bedroom and runs to the bathroom, opening the door on Lyla Garrity. HA! She shrieks, and he twists away but keeps the door open, demanding when she’s going to be done. She finally half-screams for him to SHUT THE DAMN DOOR, and he does, but only because he’s going to go take a leak in the sink. I just threw up in my mouth a little and I adore Billy anyway (well played, Derek Phillips!) – what does that say about me? As he takes dishes out of the one of the sinks and just moves them to another sink (HEE), he bellows for Tim to get up, because he’s got to show him something. From the bathroom, Lyla yells that they have to go to school. “Well you’re gonna have to MISS SCHOOL, Lyla. TIM! GET UP! This is your future,” he bellows, whipping it out and, yes, peeing into the sink. Billy Riggins, ladies and gentlemen. Remember to bring paper plates for all Riggins Ranch events.
Cut to an empty warehouse… shack… thing, covered in graffiti, somewhere on the edge of town, I suppose. As Billy gets out of the truck he explains it’s going to be his garage: “I couldn’t pass it up.” Tim, of course, loves it immediately, because he’s got the big-dreams Riggins genes; he can see it already. Lyla does not possess this sometimes myopic ability and squints skeptically, probably still pissed (see what I did there? Heh) from this morning, but she has the good grace not to say anything. On the inside it’s a mess as well, of course, with an abandoned shell of a car and junk and months’ worth of dust everywhere, but that’s nothing to the big dreams of the Riggins boys. Billy announces it will be called Riggins’ Rigs, and they’ll put in a hydraulic lift there, and the obligatory fridge for the beer will go there: “24/7, fixin’ cars, drinkin’ beer… I mean, what else d’ya need?” he asks, shrugging. Yes, you’ll be living the dream, Billy. Tim is practically glowing at his older brother, and supportively tells him it’s awesome; Billy says a quiet “yeah,” and brushes his hand across his temple, no doubt swatting away all those pesky emotions. Aw, boys!
Dillon locker room. The Panthers watch game film of the Titans, who are apparently quite mighty: the players wince and groan at every play they see. Coach tells them that the spread offense won’t work against them – the Titans faced it four times this season and never let the other team score more than 10 points. They watch the blitz bring one QB down again and again and again; in the front row, JD blowing his cheeks out as he realizes what he’s up against. Wade tells Ron that he’s got to give their QB time to throw; across the room, another coach asks Mac if he’s not worried about the secondary. Mac! MAC IS BACK! MAC IS BACK! Okay, even I can’t do that anymore. Mac says he cannot, in fact, afford to be worried, because it’s “bad for the ticker” – he points to his heart and says, “doctor’s orders.” Wait, wasn’t Wade brought in while Mac was gone? So why is he still in the room, then? Anyone? Bueller?… Coach admits that they haven’t seen anything like this team all year, but they’ve never faced the Panthers, either: “It’s gonna be a damn good fight.” Saracen and Riggins, who know what it feels like to win State and to lose it, watch the game film worriedly.
Chez Taylor. Tami fawns over Matt’s art portfolio, which seems to consist mainly of buxom brunettes drinking wine on one page and little monsters the next. Ah, teenage boys. The old guy with the Fu Manchu mustache is a little surprising, but let’s not dig too deep, shall we? Matt excitedly tells Tami that he can’t believe that he might to go Chicago for school. Tami tells Matt that he has great grades, his portfolio is wonderful, she’s sure his teachers will write great recommendations; meanwhile, Julie sits next to Matt, quietly flipping through brochures and not saying a word. Matt looks anxiously at Julie and says he still has to get in, so nothing’s set in stone yet. Tami asks Jules what she thinks, and Julie supportively says that it seems like a great school in a wonderful city with coffeehouses and museums and… “culture,” she shrugs, smiling to cover up her sadness. “More than here,” Matt agrees. Aw, poor Jules.
Chez Colette. Tyra gets something from the fridge as Landry sits on the couch, marking up some pages. She asks if he’s done, and he circles something else before saying he’s finished. She comes over and asks what he thinks, and he asks what she thinks, which is universally understood as “it sucks.” Tyra, who is wise in the ways of the universe, immediately says that Landry hates it. “No, no, I didn’t say that I hated this paper at all, I did not say that I hated… alright, Tyra, I really do hate this paper.” Hee! He asks why every paragraph has to tie back into Applebee’s, and Tyra says that she used it as a metaphor. Landry quotes: “Sometimes it gets busy, and you just have to roll with the punches, just like in life…” He goggles at the awfulness of it and turns to her, speechless. Tyra still isn’t getting it, so Landry goes for the throat: “It reads like a five-page needle-point pillow.” Landry! I mean, he’s absolutely right, but still. He says that it’s painful to read, and Tyra freaks out that it’s due this weekend. He suggests that she dig deeper “and fastly.” WTF? ‘Fastly‘? You just lost your editing cred, GPA-boy. He gets up to leave, and Tyra quietly says that she hates him. “Alright,” he calls as he goes, like she just told him to have a nice day. Hee.
McCoy Estates. A doorbell rings, and Monty goes to answer it. It’s Poetic Justice. Finally! A sheriff and two Child Protective Services agents stand at the door and ask to speak to his family. Cut to the kitchen, where Monty stands with Katie and says that he wants a lawyer present for this questioning. “You can’t divide us up and play good cop/bad cop,” he says, raising his voice and pointing at the living room; Katie desperately tries to shush her husband and calm him down, because that’s worked SO WELL up to now. The camera pans back to the living room, sweeping over framed pictures of JD, as the female agent sitting with JD asks him if his father had ever hit him before; he says no. She asks if he’s afraid of his father now, and he says he’s not, he just wants “all of this to be over.” The agent sighs and asks if Monty’s ever hit JD’s mother. “No!” JD says, shocked. He rocks back in his chair, terrified: “Are you guys gonna take him away from me or something?” he asks. Oh, this is really bad if JD never wants to see Monty again on Friday and is terrified to lose him on Monday. On cue, Monty starts yelling in the kitchen, shouting “this is outrageous” and “what kind of country do you think we’re living in?” Um, one in which people are held accountable for their horrific decisions? Monty’s agent loudly tells him that if he doesn’t calm down, they can take JD out of their custody for the duration of their investigation. Well, thanks for your professionalism, bub; now you’ve scared the hell out of the poor kid, and I feel like a tool for backing you up. JD chews on his lower lip as he hears Katie beg her husband to shut up; he turns and stares at the agent sitting with him, terrified. Democracy at work! Good job, everybody!
Speaking of being terrified, it’s time for another installment of Matt’s Dreams Get Crushed. He cooks eggs in the kitchen while Shelby sets the table, talking excitedly about the Art Institute in Chicago (awesome), and how they just have Picasso sculptures in the streets in that city (SO awesome), and how Tami actually thinks that maybe he could get in (Tami = awesome). Shelby says of course Matt can get in, and he worries that he’ll never be able to pay for it. She sits down and says she has some money saved, and that she’d send him some every month – “people always need haircuts.” Lorraine, whose bedroom door has been open all this time, moves into the doorway and frowningly asks where Shelby’s sending money. Shelby and Matt both stare at her, not knowing what to say. She comes into the kitchen, her bangs pinned up in bobby pins, wearing her blue house coat. It might as well be a royal mantle, because she’s still the reigning monarch here, and she’s subtle as a knife: watch how she does it. She asks Matt where he’s “thinking” about going, and Matt points to the brochures as he tells her about the Art Institute. He tells her that “Miss Taylor – Coach’s wife,” knowing how much weight that still carries, thinks he has a really good chance of accepted. “Chicago,” Lorraine says, stunned. “Chicago! That’s… that’s way up there in Illinois!” She huffs a laugh and tells Matt it’s much too far. “What would I do here without you?” she asks, sitting down at the table. Matt allows that he doesn’t know. Shelby, watching her child’s dreams deflate before her eyes, reminds Lorraine that she’d be happy to stay on and help – “I think I made it perfectly clear I’m not livin’ with you,” Lorraine sniffs, cutting into her toast. Careful, Lorraine: this is how revolutions start. Matt mumbles that it was just an idea, and Lorraine grabs at the opportunity, telling him that art school is really just a waste of money, so it’s just as well that he not go. I hate that argument so supremely: there’s lots of things you can do with a degree in art, from being a working artist in traditional mediums to designing fabrics for upholstery lines, apprenticing at a working glass shop, designing web sites for Fortune 500 companies, so stuff it, Lorraine. Matt, now utterly crushed, spoons some scrambled eggs onto Lorraine’s plate and says, “It was just a just an idea… just for a minute.” That’s all it took for her to kill this dream of his. She goes for the kill: “It wasn’t a very good idea, was it?” He can’t bring himself to answer; she has to prompt him with a “Hmm?” to get him to tightly say what he doesn’t mean: “Yeah. You’re probably right.” So, let’s review: first the problem was the distance, and then it was the cost, and then it was art itself, because only fools go to art school. Lorraine, you know I love you, but you are way, way off the reservation on this one, and you’re on your own.
Panthers Practice. JD hits every one of his receivers, and when Coach calls them all together in a huddle, he tells the players that if they play this way on Saturday, they’ll definitely win State. He then announces that he wants to recognize a player who’s been doing hard work off and on the field. “Where’s Lance?” he asks. HEE, I love that he STILL gets Landry’s name wrong, especially because it’s such a famous name where Texans are concerned. Also, when he mentions Landry’s good work off-field, is he talking about Landry helping Tyra? Because if so, that is really sweet. Landry looks up, shocked, and the whole team cheers for him as Coach calls him over. He puts his hand on Landry’s helmet and says Lance has earned a place on special teams. Landry asks Coach if he’s really going to be playing at State as everyone claps for him; Coach tells him to “make me proud”, and Landry goes back into the huddle. Aw, Landry gets to play! Cut to JD in the huddle, who’s watching all this pensively. After changing, he walks to Coach’s office, where all the coaches have their feet up, chilling out after practice. JD glances around and then blurts out his question: did Eric call CPS on his dad? Everyone freezes; Wade glances at Eric, who stares at JD without blinking. He asks the coaches to give them the room. As they file out, he doesn’t look away from JD for a second. He comes over to his QB, sizing him up quietly, and he takes the hit for Tami: “Yes, it was.” Aw, Coach! You are a good husband, you know that? It nearly kills JD, though, who just asks “Why?” in this warbling, heartbreaking voice. He asks if Coach hates his dad: “You don’t think I know that? You wanted to!” Eric says he’s sorry, but that’s not the case; he had to. When JD asks why again – I don’t think this kid has ever asked why before in his life, to tell you the truth, but he’s asked it a lot in the last two episodes – and Eric quietly says that it’s the law. “Sorry?” JD repeats. “That doesn’t help me!” He blinks back tears; Eric stands his ground, not knowing what else to say, trying not to make it any worse than it already is. JD lays down the new ground rules, and then he walks out: “I play football for you, Coach, and that’s it.”
Cut to a Panther-colors-decorated window in restaurant, through which we see Lyla Garrity, having a soda with her dad. Dude, she took that tough-love speech of Tim’s to heart! She asks Buddy how he’s been doing, and he says he’s fine, he’s bounced back from worse. He tells her that he owes her an apology. He says he knows what he did was stupid, and that he didn’t want to disappoint her; Lyla agrees that it was stupid, but she’s not harsh about it, just quiet. Girlfriend’s turned a corner. He tells her that he wants her to move back in; she barely waits a second before saying okay. Heh. Buddy’s all “that was fast,” and Lyla says the Riggins house is disgusting. Buddy leans back and gloats that the honeymoon’s over, but Lyla puts the kibosh on that: she and Tim are “doing great”, and in fact the reason she’s not mad at him anymore is because “the whole college thing worked out” – she’s going to San Antonio State with Tim, and they’re planning on moving in together. Buddy, as you can imagine, is NOT HAPPY about this, but he keeps his reaction at gobsmacked levels. “It’s kind of like the whole Vanderbilt thing not working out was fate, you know?” she asks. There is a part of Lyla Garrity who knows exactly how eviscerating this is to Buddy, and is totally enjoying it. “Well, okay,” Buddy says gamely, pushing the panic down. “San Antonio State.” Heh.
Chez Colette. Landry races into Tyra’s house, shouting her name, trying to get to her so he can tell her the good news. She’s in her bedroom, still writing her college essay. He tells her that she’s playing at State, and she nods that that’s nice. “Are you not understanding what I’m saying here?” he asks excitedly. He explains that he’ll be on the field, not on the bench; she sets her laptop aside and supportively says that it’s amazing; she’s happy for him. He tells her to throw away whatever crappy tickets she had, because he’s got slightly less crappy seats (aw), and he wants her to have them so she can “be there when the magic happens” – and Tyra interrupts that she can’t go. Landry is crushed, to no one’s surprise, but Tyra says it’s her essay: she has to finish it this weekend. Landry stares at the laptop and comes crashing back to earth. Poor Landry. “No, you’re right,” he says, being his usual stand-up self.
Riggins Ranch, which has been transformed into Party Central. Liquor, girls, shots, the whole nine yards. Billy and Mindy talk with some slouch on the sofa; Tim watches the action and looks like he wishes he were somewhere else; Matt sadly pushes his way through a crowd of people; JD stands in the corner, furious, not hearing a word Madison’s saying. Landry, bless him, is talking about his feelings at the beer keg. HA! There’s always one guy, right? Charles, the freshman from the Naked Mile, calls him pathetic; Not!Riggins from the Naked Mile ep says that Landry’s harshing his buzz. “No, wait, look: if a tree falls in a forest, and there’s no one there to hear it, does it actually make a sound?” They stare at him blankly. “Who cares? Would you smile already? Here, take a shot.” Landry muses that he doesn’t do well with alcohol, but the boys insist. They toast to State; Landry grimaces at the taste of it. We get an overview of raised cups at the party, and instantly cut to –
The buses outside Dillon High, where the cheerleaders are waving their pompoms and the whole town’s turned out to send the boys off. Matt and Riggins lead the way through the crowd of people, exchanging high-fives with everyone as they go; Matt clasps his Grandma’s hand and smiles at Julie as he walks past. Buddy and Lyla stand in front of the bus, and Tim comes over and totally makes out with Lyla not a foot away from her dad. Buddy stares down, like “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Eric sees Monty in the crowd: he’s stone-faced and is now wearing silver reflective sunglasses, which makes him look even more like a Terminator. Run, JD! Eric decides to make the first move and walks over to Monty. “Listen… I hope that you and I can find some time to get together and find a way to maybe help JD through this,” he says quietly. “Tryin’ to put out that fire you started, Coach?” Monty asks. Eric says that he’s not talking about blame, and he’s sure Monty isn’t either, although that’s precisely what Monty’s doing – if he can place breaking up the McCoy family at Eric’s doorstep, then JD will blame Eric and not him, and everything will go back to the way it was. Eric says he’s talking about helping JD. “Well I deeply appreciate your concern, but I tell you what: I can handle JD, he’s just fine,” Monty says evenly. Eric, finally accepting the futility of the conversation, just nods: “Okay, Joe,” he says in resignation, and he heads to the bus. Monty stands and watches him go, and I don’t think Joe McCoy moved once in that entire scene. He’s gone all the way through furious and come out the other side, and I hate to think what’s going to come as a result of it.
On the bus, Eric gets the boys fired up. Matt, who’s sitting alone, glances around the bus and then reaches over to tap Charles on the shoulder to ask where Landry is. Charles says he hasn’t seen Landry all day. Ruh roh! Matt pulls out his cell to call Landry, who is…. on the Riggins’ living room floor. HA! He squints and blinks and tugs his cell phone out of his pocket. Matt asks where he is, and Landry throws the same question back. “I’m on the bus on my to Austin,” Matt snaps. Landry starts OMGing all over the place, stumbling up and mumbling that he’ll find a ride. Enter Mindy, wrapped in a blanket. Landry starts hollering her name as the honkytonk blues-music kicks in, and we cut to –
Chez Colette. Mindy, clearly hung over, walks in slowly while Landry bounces around like a ferret on crack, calling Tyra’s name. Mindy rushes to the bathroom, saying she’s going to puke; at the kitchen table, Tyra asks if she had a rough night. Landry comes up and starts packing Tyra’s books and papers up, saying that she has to take him to the game right now, because he thinks he’s still legally drunk, and Tyra kindly tells him that he has to calm down and take a breath. She points at her laptop. “Deal is: you help me with this? I’ll drive you.” Landry stammers that’s fine, whatever she wants; Mindy starts retching in the other room, and even Tyra is kind of appalled. We cut quickly to the Panthers bus, on which the African-American coach is leading the team in a call-response about Panthers colors and their general awesomeness. It’s catchy! In the back, Tim grins, totally blissing out as he heads to his final game. Matt stares out the window, worrying about Landry; close to the front, JD stares at the back of Eric’s head, still reeling from his perceived betrayal.
State championship stadium, which is being played in Longhorns stadium; the boys hold their interviews on the 50-yard line. Riggins says he feels like they’re going to get the W; he looks happier than I think I’ve ever seen him. I guess everything’s worked out well for him – Lyla’s going to move in with him, they’re going to college together, he got her talking to Buddy again, and he gets to play his last game at State. I can see why he’s happy. Matt tells a reporter about another football player in Seattle who plays wide receiver but doubles as QB if needed. In the stands, Lorraine and Julie sit together and watch their boy. Lorraine, who’s been replaying her breakfast conversation with Matt in her head over and over since it happened, asks Julie if Matt ever mentioned wanting to be an artist to her. Julie says that he’s good at drawing and it’s what he loves. Lorraine says she’s seen his artwork, but she never thought he was serious. “I mean, he loves football, honey!” Aw, Lorraine: that’s you, sweetie. Julie tells her that he does, but he doesn’t want it as a career – he’s really, really good at art. “Well I always encourage him! Everything he does, I encourage him,” Grandma says, feeling totally guilty about belittling Matt’s chosen career path at breakfast. She hesitates, and then says that she doesn’t want to be the one to hold him back from anything… she just hates to think about losing him. The camera goes wide just a little, so we can see Shelby sitting one row behind Lorraine and a few seats away. That’s a really nice touch. Julie looks at Matt and swallows hard: “Me neither,” she says. Grandma takes Julie’s hand and Lorraine rubs her hand gently. Aw.
On the field, JD tells a reporter that he’s ready to win the championship; he wraps up the interview and walks away. About ten yards away, Eric watches his QB and calls him over – he has to do it twice before JD responds. The kid comes over, again puffing his cheeks out; this time, it’s resentment. Eric asks how he’s feeling, and JD doesn’t answer. Eric says that he knows it’s a difficult situation, that’s not lost on him, but his whole team’s counting on him. “That’s a freedom. That’s not pressure,” he says, and I have no idea what that means. JD’s been looking everywhere but at Eric, and Eric finally asks JD to acknowledge what he’s saying. “Yessir,” JD responds, nodding once. Ohh, this kid is in a downward spiral. Coach makes a last attempt, asking JD to at least try to leave it off the field. JD squints at him, and Eric nods in dismissal; JD can’t storm away from him fast enough. Yeah, good luck with that.
Hotel lobby. A muted Katie, dressed all in black, comes through the glass doors of the lobby, where Tami is trying to get her sunglasses out of her purse. Tami stops Katie, who tries to leave, but Tami insists on apologizing: she says that she knows Katie must be furious with her, and that she’s been thinking about her and wants to know how Katie’s doing. Katie informs Tami that “two flunkies” from CPS barged into her home and “scared the hell out of me and my boy;” she and Monty have to take parenting classes from a 23-year-old “who doesn’t even have kids;” and worst of all, “for the next year, CPS can stop by whenever they feel like it, and if they don’t like what they see? They can just take JD away. So that’s how I’m doing, Tami. Thanks for askin’.” Yikes. Tami’s shaking her head the whole time in disbelief, and I get that it’s painful, but I still think Monty will at the very least benefit from anger management classes, and I have no problem with him having some parenting classes from a trained professional. But I get why Katie’s pissed: this wasn’t her choice, not at all. Tami apologizes and says that she had no choice – “I would never to that to you, because you are my friend, and I’m so sorry,” she says, her voice cracking at the end. “Well, you did what you had to do,” Katie says coldly. “Now you’ll forgive me if I want nothing to do with you. Right?” Tami’s jaw drops and she nods with a broken “yes”; Katie’s turned her heel and left before Tami can even get the word out. Tami looks down, absolutely gutted; she slips on her glasses and pushes baby Grace outside in her stroller. Oh, that was hard to watch.
Texas landscape. Tyra drives her truck and directs Landry to read her essay back to her. Landry starts to read, but is overwhelmed by the detached, non-Tyra-esque text, and pretends to nod off halfway through the first sentence. Tyra thwaps him and asks when he became so mean; Landry argues that she doesn’t mean any of what she wrote, and it shows, and Tyra finally snaps. “Well, should I write about my trashy family? Should I write about how my sister’s a stripper or my Mom is a high school dropout who drinks boxes of wine like water? Or maybe that I lost my virginity when I was 13, or that my Papa was never around, how about that?” Landry, embarrassed, looks away. “Ooh! I know what I should write about: how about that up until two years ago, I had enough hate in my heart to start a freaking car.” Landry blinks and looks over at her, hesitating for a second before asking her what changed, why she went from having all this hate in her heart to feeling differently. Tyra glares out the windshield, and then she says my favorite line of the episode: “Jason Street got paralyzed.” I absolutely LOVE that that moment was the sea change for Tyra, and that they tied the Pilot back to one of the final episodes of the season. She explains that Jason was a great guy, a hero, and if it could happen to him… “life isn’t fair for anyone. Not just me,” she finishes. Landry watches her for a second and then opens a new document on the laptop, asking her what happened next. “I don’t know, I became friends with Julie? And Mrs. Taylor started to take an interest in me, I started doing my homework…” Landry types it all in, and Tyra looks over at him. “You,” she says quietly. “I met you.” He looks over at her and they both smile a little. “I started to feel like I was on the inside instead of on the outside,” Tyra says; Landry keeps typing. Scenes like this are what make this show brilliant, in my opinion. Great work by both actors and by the writers.
With the Austin skyline behind them, Riggins and Saracen walk through a quiet street. Matt asks what Riggins is doing next year, and Tim says he’s going to college. Matt asks if Tim’s excited about it, and Tim says he’s just thinking about tomorrow. Matt finds a frisbee on the ground and picks it up; Tim snarks that it’s probably covered in dog piss, but Matt rolls his eyes and throws it to Tim, who catches it anyway. Heh. Tim throws it back. “Last game, Seven,” he says, and Matt smiles and backs up a little: “No regrets,” he calls to Tim, using Tim’s own catchphrase on him. Tim smiles and looks down, touched, and shakes his head slightly. That was moment was so perfect that I hope to God that it was an ad-lib. I mean: PERFECT.
Taylor hotel room. Tami can’t sleep and turns over; Eric asks her if she’s “runnin’ in place.” Hee. Tami says she can’t get comfortable, and Eric says he can’t either. He scrubs his hand over his face in frustration; Tami sits up and tells him to get dressed and come outside with her. Cut to the rooftop, where the Taylors go out and look at the skyline – they can see the football stadium’s lights, of course, shining brighter than anything else. Do Texans just never turn those off? “I have no idea what’s gonna happen tomorrow,” Eric muses. “Well: you’re gonna win. Or you’re gonna lose,” Tami says quietly. “Either way, the sun’s gonna come up the next morning.” Eric takes a deep breath, smiling slightly, and pulls his wife close; she closes her eyes and snuggles close against his chest, and we go into a montage that’s one of my favorite moments on this show.
“Two years ago, I was afraid of wanting anything,” Tyra VOs. We cut to Julie, holding on to Baby Grace in the hotel room and swaying silently back and forth. “I figured wanting would lead to trying, and trying would lead to failure. But now I find I can’t stop wanting.” Cut to Lyla Garrity, driving at night, taking a giggling Angela and Mindy to the game. “I want to fly somewhere in first class. I want to take a trip to Europe. I want to learn about the world. I want to surprise myself,” Tyra says, quoting her mother. Cut to Tim and Matt, throwing the frisbee back and forth across the huge, expansive lawn. “I want to be important. I want to be the best person I can be. I want to define myself instead of having others define me.” Tim throws the frisbee so hard that Matt has to sprint to catch it; Zach Gilford’s so focused on catching it, he nearly knocks the cameraman over. Hee! He rolls over and raises the caught frisbee in triumph; Riggins hollers at him joyfully. “I want to win, and have people be happy for me,” Tyra VOs, and we cut to Eric, staring at the stadium lights. “I want to lose, and get over it,” she says, and we cut to Tami, still aching from the loss of her friend. “I want to not be afraid of the unknown,” she says, and we finally cut to Tyra, who’s sitting in a hotel room with Landry, reading from her laptop. The camera focuses on Landry, who’s sitting on the other bed just watching her speak; Tyra’s in the foreground, slightly out of focus. The way he sees her, it’s amazing. “I want to grow up to be generous and big-hearted, the way that people have been with me. I want an interesting and surprising life. It’s not that I think I’m gonna get all these things; I just want the possibility of getting them. College represents this possibility – the possibility that things are gonna change,” she says, tearing up, her voice cracking. She smiles hopefully. “I can’t wait.” She takes a breath and looks over at Landry; he just grins at her. She asks what he thinks, and he comes and sits on the bed next to her. He shakes his head and tells her that it was unbelievable – it was great. She nods. “I think it’s great, too,” she says quietly, finally having written what she really thinks: she’s proud of herself. His mouth quirks in a slight smile, and she takes a breath: they both lean forward, like it’s the most natural thing in the world, which of course it is, and they gently kiss. FINALLY. The camera lingers on them for a moment, and then slowly fades to black.
Game Day! Cheerleaders and marching bands are at the ready; an almost fully-packed stadium waits for the game to start. Inside the locker room, the Panthers wear their white uniforms; they’ve all taken a knee to listen to Coach. “I just want to ask you one question,” he says quietly. “Can you play like champions?” “YES SIR,” they holler, and he sends them out. They tear through the Dillon Panthers banner out onto the field as Slammin’ Sammy VOs that it’s “a real David and Goliath match-up.” Wait, is there gonna be a tank? I love that scene. On the other side of the field, the Titans – wearing black and silver uniforms, which will be helpful for recapping purposes – saunter out in a haze of mist, utterly chillaxed. Slammin’ Sammy announces that the Titans score early and often, and they’re as big and fast as the Panthers have ever seen. He’s not kidding, either, because the Titans win the coin toss and score a touchdown first time out of the gate. Yikes! Sammy VOs that all the hopes are riding on the freshman shoulders of JD McCoy; on the first play, he’s taken down hard, and Monty’s the only one clapping. His next throw’s an interception. Augh! Monty claps a hand over his mouth in shock; the Titans player runs to the end zone, waving the ball at JD as he goes. Ouch. JD shouts in disbelief and kicks at the air, shouting at Saracen to “run your routes.” Whoa, whoa, whoa – you really want to be snarking at QB2 right now, honey? Coach catches up with him and tells JD to “look ’em up before you throw the ball,” but JD shouts that he doesn’t have any time; he’s getting no coverage. Eric’s eyebrows go up, and we get a shot of Monty, still wearing the metallic reflective sunglasses, watching his prodigy pitch a hissyfit in front of thousands. On the field, we go to a hand-cam perspective, and it is brutal. These guys are big as houses and kicking the Panthers’ asses – one even knocks Riggins down like he’s made of cardboard, so you can imagine they’re slamming the hell out of the little freshman QB1. He’s sacked over and over and over, and can’t take the pressure: he slams his hands down on the turf and screams at his teammates in frustration. Eric calls him over and sets him straight, or at least tries to: “First of all, you don’t talk to me like that. Second of all, you settle down. We’ve got a lot of game left, do you understand me? Look at me!” JD finally gets out a “yessir,” and Eric sends him back out to the field. In the stands, Katie and Monty look on in frustration – there’s nothing they can do to help. Slammin’ Sammy VOs that the Panthers need a touchdown to end the second half on a positive note; JD throws it to Riggins in the end zone, but it’s intercepted again, and the player scores on it. Damn, JD. On the sidelines, JD starts literally shoving members of the O-line, shouting that they’re not giving him any protection; he jerks his helmet off in frustration and sits on a bench, alone. Eric looks at JD and then at the scoreboard, finally realizing that his golden boy is having a total freaking meltdown. The score is 0-27, Titans. OUCH.
Half-time. Eric walks down a hallway alone before walking into the Panthers’ crowded locker room; it’s as silent as a tomb. “We need more,” he says simply, and then he starts shouting instructions at them. Cut to a shot of Riggins, who looks like he’s been through a meat-grinder – his face is bruised up and they’ve wrapped almost the whole left side of his body in an ice pack. Coach tells the coaching staff that they’re going to change things up, and that they’re not going to allow any more big plays tonight. He screams at the boys to show him something, and then he finally says it: “JD? You’re out.” JD sits up, stunned, and in all fairness, the kid is beat to hell – his face is bloody, scratched and bruised – but you lost it when you started turning on your team, honey. Eric tells Matt to change his gear, because he’s in. YES! FINALLY! JD shouts “no” a few times, but shuts himself down. Eric declares that there’s a fight out there, so why don’t they get in it already. “Clear eyes, full hearts,” Eric says, and the boys scream back “CAN’T LOSE.” They tear out of the locker room, bloody but invigorated: the only one who stays behind is JD. He throws his helmet across the room, knocking over a stool. Well, you won me right over there, sweetie.
On the field, Landry takes his position as the Titans kick off. Another player catches it, and Landry gets knocked on his ass by a Titan, like he never learned a damn thing at practice. C’mon, Landry! He gets up and races to protect 16, who’s carrying the ball and is picking up some serious yardage; Landry slams a Titan to to the ground with a hit so good that even Slammin’ Sammy squees about it. In the stands, Tyra jumps up and down in shocked elation, hugging Angela; 16 runs into the end zone. There you go! The Panthers sidelines erupt in cheers, and Landry runs back, saying, “We started right, gentlemen.” Hee! Slammin’ Sammy VOs that Eric’s put “veteran QB Matt Saracen” in, and it feels so good to see Matt throwing the pigskin again. He throws a short pass to Riggins, who plows through the Titans defense. He plays well when JD’s throwing, but I think he gives Saracen a lot of credit for bringing the Panthers to state after Street’s accident, and that little bit puts him into the end zone. WOO! Lyla screams her lungs out in the stands, and Riggins just grins at her. Sammy VOs that that’s “14 unanswered points on the board,” so they’re behind by 13.
On the next play, Matt looks like he’s going to throw, but changes it at the last second – he bobs and weaves through the defense like they’re standing still, drawing on all his experience playing wide receiver this season, and even breaks two tackles before running into the end zone. I am so happy to see Matt score one TD, I can’t even tell you. The Titans have the ball next, but the QB throws an interception – it’s 4 who makes the catch, and the Panthers have the ball on the Titans’ 30-yard line. We get a quick shot of JD coming out of the locker room, apparently realizing that even if he’s going to be on the sidelines, he still wants to support his team; I can’t not give him credit for that. In my favorite play of the game, Seven takes the snap and pitches it to Riggins. Instead of running the ball, Tim runs a few steps and then throws it, just like he did with the frisbee the night before. It goes down the field like one of JD’s hail mary passes… and Matt Saracen catches it, and runs into the end zone. Oh, my! That was BEAUTIFUL. Lyla’s eyes are as big as saucers; she screams and jumps up and down, excited about football like we haven’t seen in two years. Tami and Julie are hugging each other, and Grandma Saracen claps her gloved hands over her mouth in teary-eyed disbelief. Oh, SHOW. JD blinks, taking in the level of leadership and teamwork. He’s learning a lot right now.
It’s 28-27, Panthers leading, but the Titans have the ball. Sammy VOs that with :37 left in the game, the Titans are pushing their way down the field, and they get to the Panthers’ 19-yard line with six seconds remaining. The Titans go for the field goal, and Sammy informs us that their kicker hasn’t missed from this range all year. Everyone goes into slo-mo as Sammy says it has been a valiant effort by the Panthers; on the sidelines, the offensive players clasp hands in a line. It took a second viewing for me to realize that JD is one of them – him, Landry, Matt and Riggins. JD’s been a baby for the first half of this game, but I have to give him credit again for stepping up at the end. The dialogue drops out, and all we can hear is the soundtrack – just some soft guitar chords. The Titans run out; the Panthers coaches call last-minute instructions to their boys on the field; the giant Panthers flag waves in slow motion in front of the crowd. Tami claps her hands, her face anxious; Shelby holds her hand over her heart like she can’t breathe. The camera pans across the O-line on the side, who are now all holding hands in a prayer. It’s just like the night Jason was paralyzed, you remember that? The fingerprints of that moment, of the Pilot, are all over this episode. His life was out of their hands that night, just like this game is now; there’s nothing more that they can do. The kicker does his job and the ball takes flight, spiraling over and over. Everyone in the stands turns to follow it. In the crowd, Julie grimaces; the ball flies in slo-mo through the goalposts, and the referees raise their arms. It’s good. The Titans and their fans scream in triumph; the Panthers fans stand silent. We get quick shots of Matt, then Tim, and finally of Eric, who just stares at the field, not saying a word. That was just brutal.
Silent Panthers locker room. A battered Riggins, who’s going to have a scar on his right temple if that blood is any indication, stares bleakly at nothing; a few feet away Matt sits with his head hung down, staring at the floor. Eric stands in the middle of the room, and we can see Julie and Tami standing in the background, which is new. Tyra’s there, too, leaning against the locker room wall, staring at Eric for all the world like he’s just saved her life. Methinks real life, and the almost eternal threat of this wonderful show being cancelled, are bleeding through into art here. By the way, did you hear the series was renewed for not one, but two seasons? It’ll be okay, Tyra! On the other side of the room, Lyla stands with Billy, Shelby and Lorraine. Eric says that he wanted all the team players’ friends and families to be here to hear what he had to say, and we can see that even Monty’s there, in the back. “I have never been more proud of a team as I am right now,” Eric says. Aww, COACH! “I am in awe of each and every one of you gentlemen. You played great football tonight. This is the game that people are gonna talk about for years to come,” he says. Cut to Matt, looking up from the floor to stare at Coach hopefully; Tim smiles wryly, listening to Coach, his eyes shining at the accomplishment of making Coach proud. “This is the game that you are gonna talk about. There’s not a single person in this room who’s ever gonna be the same. You be proud of yourselves,” he says – and we get a quick shot of JD looking at his dad, who has the good grace to look ashamed of himself, just a little – “because gentlemen: you are champions.” There’s a long, five-second shot of Riggins letting Coach’s words sink in and take the sting out of the loss, just a little; he closes his eyes and turns away, letting the moment go.
Outside the Panthers bus, Tami waits for Eric. Several of the coaches walk past her, and she reaches for them comfortingly or nods supportively. Eric walks out last and smiles when he sees her: he rests his hands on her shoulders and kisses her on both cheeks, tousling her hair a little as he gets on the bus. She smiles after him, eyes shining, so much in love with him that it hurts. She turns and walks away to find Julie and Baby Grace, and follow him home. On the bus, one of the coaches tells Eric that Riggins hasn’t gotten on yet. “Well, let’s give him a minute,” Eric says quietly. “He’ll be here.” Cut to Tim walking up the ramp to the Longhorns field, his arm in a sling and his cleats in his hands; his sheepskin jacket hangs over his shoulders. He walks onto the field and turns around once, looking up at the empty stadium. He kneels down in the end zone – we can see the game’s final score, still displayed on the background behind him – and rests his cleats on the grass. It’s a prayer; it’s goodbye. The music cuts out suddenly, and reality floods in with the sound of traffic and the Texas wind. Tim stands up and walks away, leaving his cleats on the field, and we fade to black.