Previously on FNL: Tim tried to blow off the jailbait girlfriend-wannabe; Vince had issues with former Panther Luke joining the Lions; Matt’s artistic mentor told Julie she was holding Matt back, but Matt told Julie that she was the most important thing in his life (awww); and the East Dillon Principal told Coach that the school was so strapped for cash that, should the football team not produce results, they’d shut it down.
Tami drives to work, listening to Slammin’ Sammy Mead talk about the Panthers, who are still smarting from their forfeit last week (because Luke was playing for them illegally, don’tcha know). All the callers want to talk about is how Tami “hand-delivered” Luke to her husband’s team. Tami looks as frustrated as Eric has for the last few years every time he listened to that show. Over at East Dillon, Coach greets the principal, calling him “Levi”. Levi passive-aggressively congratulates Coach on finishing a game; Coach ignores this and suggests that a pep rally would help the team’s morale. Only when he tells Levi it won’t cost the school a dime does Levi give his okay; he’s out the door before he even says it. Tough crowd. Across town, Julie and Matt sit together as Jules finishes her final applications. She’s applying to Brown, NYU, and a lot of other schools not located in Texas, with the exception of UT Austin. Matt, shocked at just how far and how fast Julie might be gone, says nothing.
Lions practice. Vince (#5) and Luke (#44) get in each other’s faces over a play, with Vince yelling at Luke to “get out of his way.” Coach calls them over for some old-fashioned tough love, telling them that everyone’s getting tired of them letting the team down. Coach, when has that ever worked for you on this show? On the next play, Vince gets slammed by a tackle; when he asks Luke where his coverage was, Luke shrugs that he just got out of Vince’s way. “Why aren’t you in the end zone?” Hee! It’s like a prequel of the Riggins/Smash relationship, in a way. There’s much charging at each other, and coaches stepping in to separate the two alpha-male wannabes. On the sidelines, Coach stares at the heavens for guidance, and then happens to glance over at the chicken-wire fence. A faded old sign, partially obscured by heavy vines, reads: “Dillon Lions Football: 1983 STATE CHAMPIONS.” That’s what I’m talking about. Coach glances from the sign to his team, and we go into the credits.
Riggins Ranch. Mindy and Billy sit at the dining room table as Tim walks in holding two huge hunting rifles. He’s there to talk about the upcoming weekend, which will involve “deers and beer,” because it’s hunting season and the Riggins boys are supposed to go shoot things this weekend. Mindy is not feeling this, as you might imagine, asking if Billy – who’s wearing a “Landing Strip” T-shirt, which is a nice touch – is planning on leaving her all alone. Tim is wearing a sleeveless tee in this scene, and I’d just like to thank the producers for being such giving people. Thanks, show! Billy tries to talk Mindy down, telling her that he and Timmy can go hunting anytime. “No we cain’t! That’s why it’s called hunting SEASON, Billy,” Tim argues, claiming the best line of the episode less than one minute after the credits. Billy: “Seriously, I’m gonna put your head through a wall.” Oh, Riggins boys. Never, ever change.
Lions practice. The team’s in better shape, running drills quickly and effectively, and I need a nap. Inside the locker room, Luke suddenly realizes that his wallet’s missing. He checks his locker thoroughly and then asks the guys in the room, while staring pointedly at Vince, where it is. Vince glibly says that Luke should retrace his steps, and Luke crosses the room, telling him that he knows where he left it, and someone took it. Vince pushes his locker door shut and notes that if Luke thinks he took it, he should come and get it. The two of them stare at each other for a moment and then Luke lunges for the locker. All the guys rush in; Landry pulls Luke back, and Vince’s guys hold him back. Cut to Vince and Luke standing in Coach’s office, where Coach is telling them how much time he does *not* have to spend on “you two bozos”. Luke accuses Vince, Vince denies the theft, and Coach has finally had enough: he asks Coach Crowley (who formerly worked for Coach at Dillon) to have the boys run stairs for thirty minutes. That’s what my Mee-Maw would’ve called a good start.
Panthers Pizza! Matt prepares a pizza to go when Riggins walks in. Aw, the old team, back together again. I love it. Riggs calls Matt “Seven”, which melts my heart, and ruefully notes that Matt’s slinging pizza “instead of 60-yard bombs.” He knows what that feels like. He asks Matt about Chicago, but Matt says he wanted to stay and take care of Grandma Saracen. Matt asks Riggins what college was like, and Riggins kind of shrugs. Saracen asks if Riggins is watching a ball game this weekend, and Riggins announces that he’s going hunting. “Maybe shoot some white-tail, wrestle down some boars,” and I want to see Tim Riggins wrestle down a boar RIGHT NOW. That’s comedy gold and hotness all rolled into one. Riggins walks out with a pizza, telling Matt they should go have a beer sometime, and Matt calls him back as he reaches the door: he wants to go hunting with Tim. Wait, what? Tim has pretty much the same reaction. Matt says that his father took him shooting once or twice. Tim says he’ll pick him up on Thursday.
East Dillon High. Landry walks through the halls with Devon, his Crucifictorius bass player, when he runs into Jess. In a moment of inspiration, she realizes that he has a car, and can drop her and her friends off at a party. Landry politely declines: “I’ve been down that road before, where a girl asks me to do something, and then all of a sudden everyone’s calling me a word I don’t like to use…” Heh. She clarifies that she’s inviting him and Devon to the party, which is a ‘nother kettle of fish, and Landry gladly accepts. They go off in different directions, giving Dev the opportunity to clarify that they’re going to a party in Kilroy, which is apparently the other-tracks side of town. Landry’s like, “Sure! What could go wrong?”
Next, Curly-Haired Jailbait Neighbor of Tim. I’m sure this actress is a very nice person, but this character just grates. On. My nerves. She’s is auditioning for the “Miss Young Texas” pageant panel. Afterwards, she tells her bar-matron mother – who picked up Tim at her bar and is renting him the trailer out back, as you’ll recall – that she made the cut; the mom squeals and shrieks and fangirls over her baby. As they leave, Mom’s all about the bonding, saying that they should go shopping and get her a new gown with a “portrait neckline.” Curly-haired girl is beaming under all this maternal affection and praise and attention. I’m sure she won’t be inevitably disappointed.
Alamo Freeze, I think. Devon and Julie are hanging out, and Devon tells her she needs to ask Julie something and for Julie to not be weird about it. Ooo, these are the fun conversations. She tells Jules that she wants Julie to go with her to this gay club outside of Dillon. Jules hesitates, and then asks Devon if she’s hitting on her. Heh. Devon tells Julie that she’s not Devon’s type, and that’s what Julie chooses, adorably, to fixate on for the rest of the scene. Dev tells her that this is all new for her, she’s never been there before, and she just wants some company. She’s so ridiculously well-adjusted, I love it.
Tami meets with a school board rep to discuss where all the new funds will go at Dillon – she wants to put it all toward the library – and the guy tells her that there are no funds. Tami protests that they talked about this last year, and he has to spell it out for her: they’ve lost donations since Luke left for East Dillon. “After what you did with Luke… you cost yourself, and the school, any chance we might have had to improve that library.” Tami’s stunned and dismayed as he shooes her out of his office, but her day’s just going to get worse. When she goes out to the parking lot, she finds that her car has, of course, been vandalized with the words “PANTHER HATER” spray-painted across her windshield. Devil town is alive and well, y’all.
Chez Taylor. Eric and his stalker assistant Coach sit at the kitchen table, cold-calling East Dillon Lions alumni in the hopes of drumming up some funds; Eric’s decided to make the next pep rally “sort of a Homecoming.” The first guy stalker coach calls hangs up as soon as he hears Eric’s name. Tami comes home and calls Coach into the kitchen, pointing out that if he’s inviting Lions alumni over, he needs to feed ’em. Eric asks his gorgeous, overworked wife if she’s volunteering to cook. “Oh lordy,” Tami says, staring weakly at the ceiling, before admitting that yes, she is in fact offering to cook and support her husband. Aw. Julie comes home and her dad introduces her to Stalker Coach (Stan Traub, I believe), which may be important later.
Curly-haired girl comes home, ready to shop for ballgowns, but alas! Her mother’s left a note telling her she’ll have to go on her own. CHG stomps over to Tim’s trailer, knocks and immediately jerks the door open, asking if she can use his truck. Boundaries, girl! Tim says no, twigs that something’s awry, and looks concerned when she admits that her mom “blew (her) off… again.” He takes her to the local bridal/gown shop, of course, where she doesn’t like anything and just wants to GO, can we please GO? Tim, bless him, looks like he’s going to vomit around all this taffeta, but he’s trying to be a supportive tenant or help a damsel in distress or something, so he gives her a pep talk. She feels better when he confides that HIS mother didn’t help him pick out a gown for Miss Young Texas, so he never placed, “and that’s why I play football.” HA! Oh, Timmy, I love you.
Chez Taylor, where Julie and Matt are having a confrontational game of Scrabble. Matt insists that “ZA” is SO a word, and what’s Julie doing to do at a gay bar? Ah, I see Jules told him about Devon’s request. Julie shrugs: “Dance… make out with chicks…” Matt: “See, I *knew* you wanted to experiment.” HA! Matt counters that he doesn’t care because he’s going hunting with Riggins, and Julie wigs out because she’s a vegetarian. Matt argues that everyone in Dillon goes hunting; Jules argues that she lives in Dillon and doesn’t hunt, so there, and Matt mumbles: “You’re not gonna be livin’ in Dillon for long.” Awkward! Julie asks if this is about her college applications, and Matt’s all, no! No it’s not! Why would you think that? Subtle, Seven.
Landry picks up Jess and her entourage to head to the Kilroy party. He’s playing his Crucifictorius music, and they quickly ’86 that. At the party, there is some palpable UST between Jess and Vince. “I think I’m the only one who sees how disposable you treat girls,” is how she puts it; Vince counters that he only treats girls the way they let themselves be treated. Is that the “Stop hitting yourself” school of dating? Jess informs Vince that she has a boyfriend and crosses the dance floor directly to Landry, putting on quite a show for #5. At school the next day, Vince corners Landry by his car and asks him if he & Jess are an item. Landry seems shocked and honestly denies any such relationship. Vince seems moved by Landry’s openness and honesty; he doesn’t seem upset to hear that Jess is actually available, either.
In one of my favorite scenes of the night, Eric sits at a bar with Buddy Garrity, who is trying to drown the sorrow of his lost Panthers love. Remember the first season, when Buddy was the Alpha Male of the Panthers boosters? He’s come such a long, long way. He tells Eric that he feels sick to not be a Panther anymore. He apologizes to Eric for everything. Eric quietly tells Buddy that he’s having some East Dillon alumni over to the house, trying to help the two of them out of their respective funks; Buddy immediately knows what Eric’s really saying, and tells Eric flat-out that “you can’t fake boosterism. It comes from the heart. That’s the beauty of it.” Aw, Buddy. Come away from the dark side! Come to the light!
We interrupt this show for a brief physics lesson. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Eric stops by Ray’s BBQ and asks Jess’ dad if he is actually Bertram Merriweather, QB of the Championship ’83 East Dillon Lions. Bertram, for it must indeed be he, politely asks not once, but twice, for Eric’s order. Eric introduces himself; Bertram tells him the total for his order. Eric asks if he could rent the place for the Lions pep rally; Bertram declines. Eric invites Bertram to dinner with some other Lions alumni, and Bertram counters by reducing his answers to single syllables (in this case, “No”). Eric finally just asks Bertram for his help with the team, saying that his experience would mean a lot to the kids; Bertram firmly tells Eric that his order will be up shortly. I think Jess – who has watched all of this from the back of the kitchen – left the walk-in open, because it is COLD in here, y’all.
Swank SUV of God Complexes. JD (remember him? Panthers QB, offspring of Monty and general skeevy, Entitlement-Dude? Yep, that’s him) drives Luke and two Panthers through East Dillon. The two Panthers in the back seat taunt Luke about having his wallet stolen. JD grins and says he knows East Dillon’s a prison, but he didn’t expect Luke to become someone’s slave. Would someone please tackle this punk already? Luke, whose pride is pretty stung, tells JD to stop when he spots Vince walking on the side of the road. Vince takes the approach of four beefed-up, aggressive guys in stride: “I see you brought your boyfriends with you to help you look for your wallet.” Hee. Now is a good point to notice, btw, that Vince is wearing a blood-red hoodie; Luke is wearing a gold shirt with blue sleeves. It’s not official team paraphenalia, but the colors are totally clear. Luke demands his wallet; Vince, munching on some take-out, tells Luke he doesn’t know when to quit, which is when Luke SMACKS the plate out of Vince’s hands, and Vince totally sucker-punches him. They try to beat the hell out of each other while the Panthers hang back – of course – until a cop car drives by and turns on its lights, and then the Panthers? Are totally outta there, abandoning their so-called friend. Stay classy, JD. It takes two cops to break up the fight, and they’re still kicking and lunging at each other when they finally pry them apart.
Chez Taylor. Lions dinner. Three African-American men – one of them a deacon at Bethel Baptist – sit at the dinner table with Eric. The deacon asks why they’re all there, and Eric admits that he’s struggling with some challenges and problems at their old school. That last bit sets the deacon off, who says that “people from your part of town” always want to point out East Dillon’s problems, when it’s West Dillon that got developed, got the malls, and got all the money. “We appreciate your hospitality, but I think I’m gonna skip that lecture about ‘our problems’.” Not to say that you don’t have some valid points, but way to lay all your issues out over dinner, deacon! Tami scrambles to defuse the situation, calmly talking about how that certainly must be frustrating, and her husband’s here to help those boys in any way he can, etc. Even she is falling short, though, so it’s all looking pretty dire until the doorbell rings. Eric can’t stop from flinching when he hears Tami say hello to Buddy Garrity, but everyone else at the table has a different response: they almost call hello to him, beaming and shaking his hand in turn, and Buddy beams joyfully at the sight of them and calls each one by name. Eric finally realizes that the tide is turning, and smiles. God bless you, Buddy.
Gay bar! There are two words I never thought I’d type in an FNL recap. Devon’s not sure what she expected, but she likes the lighting, which cracks Julie up. Jules starts to talk about her troubles with Matt until she realizes that Devon’s not listening – she’s smiling at the brunette across the bar. “Is that your type?!?” Julie says. Devon goes to powder her nose, and after she leaves, Julie sees STALKER COACH playing pool at the bar. She waves at him with an awkward smile, and he drops his pool cue and heads out of the bar like it just caught fire. Now, I did not expect THAT. Well played, FNL. This will be a very interesting storyline.
Chez Taylor, post-dinner. Coach and Tami cuddle on the couch and talk about the dinner’s success. Coach thanks his lovely wife, who tells him that the real thanks go to Buddy. The phone rings; it’s the police. Down at the station, a cop tells Coach that Vince is going to juvie as a result of the fight – Luke has no record, so he’s fine. Coach pleads with the cop to let him speak to the boys, and once he’s in their cell, he lays down the law: Luke is going to take all the blame for the fight, Vince will cut the “tough-guy crap”, and they’ll do exactly as he says. It must work, because later that night Coach takes them both to the East Dillon stadium. He tells them that they can take this chance “or piss it away”, and if they do the latter, they’ll regret it forever – and then he throws them out of the SUV. Yay! It’s like “Wind Sprints” from S1, when he left Riggins on the side of the road. Vince seems shocked that Coach actually left them, and the two boys start walking home together. It takes a few moments for Vince to thank Luke… and then he hands Luke his wallet. Luke huffs, but takes it. Aw.
Next day, Merriweather house. Jess and her three younger brothers race from the house to Ray’s BBQ, where Bertram has prepared their lunches. She hesitates and then admits that she heard Coach talking to him about football; she says that she and the brothers love football, and she respects that it’s not his thing anymore, but she makes the case for the pep rally to be held there. Bertram doesn’t say yes, but she’s made a good case. Across town, Tami is driving and still listening to the Slammin’ Sammy Mead show, and the local callers are *crucifying* her on the Luke issue – they want her resignation, a public apology, they want her run outta town on a rail. Tami finally pulls her car over, rages to her steering wheel that she did the right thing, and then bursts into tears.
Dillon woods. Riggins and Saracen are hunting, which is just hilarious. I mean, everything I know about hunting you could put in a post-it note, but I’m pretty sure you should be in the woods, and not an open field, and that your chances are better at 5AM than what looks like 10AM. Anyway! Saracen sees something in the woods and drops to one knee, shooting at it three times; Riggins practically dives for cover, asking what the hell Seven’s doing. Saracen says he thinks he saw something, which is all Riggins needs to hear: he grabs Matt’s rifle, telling him “NO GUN FOR YOU.” Matt: “…really?” Later that night, ’round a campfire, Matt asks Riggins again what college was like. Riggins lists 7AM wake-up calls, a coach who was on his back all the time, “nothing like Coach Taylor.” Have you watched the opening of the FNL Pilot, Riggs? Matt huffs a laugh; Riggins tells him “we were spoiled.” Matt asks the real question, which is whether Riggs missed Lyla. Tim says they were on “different paths”; Matt takes that as a yes, and Tim confirms it. Tim asks what it’s been like living in Dillon, and Matt says it hasn’t been as bad as he thought it would. He’s happy to spend time with Lorraine, he makes more money through tips from Panthers Pizza… “So basically you stayed in town for Jules?” Tim asks. Matt concurs, and says he knew she’d be applying to colleges, he just didn’t expect all of them to be so far away. He mans up to being a jerk and says it was his decision to stay; it’s not her fault that she wants to go. “Well… Texas Forever, right?” he asks, and Tim breaks into a smile. “Yeah. Texas Forever,” he says, clinking his beer against Matt’s. Aw, boys.
East Dillon. There is no way for me to describe the deadpan hilarity that is Landry talking to Jess, so I’ll just transcribe it here. Ready?
Landry: Hi, Jess! Hey, am I your boyfriend?
Jess: *is gobsmacked*
HEE. Anyway, Landry, who’s wearing his football jersey for the pep rally, explains that Vince came and talked to him, so he just wanted to clarify things. Jess backtracks that she just said SOMEone was her boyfriend; she never mentioned Landry. Landry is not fooled by this for one second, but he plays it cool and says he’ll see her at the pep rally later. Jess looks like she swallowed a bug.
Pep rally! The Taylors, including baby Grace, arrive at Ray’s BBQ (told you!) for the big event. There’s big banners, Jess is leading a bunch of girls in a dance routine in front of the funk band, and Bertram is dishing out some tasty-looking BBQ. Landry watches Jess shake her groove thing; Buddy walks through the crowd of predominantly African-American people, smiling cautiously, unsure of himself. Speaking of unsure, Julie walks over to Stalker Coach and kindly tells him that she won’t tell anyone anything about the other night. She could have saved herself the trip, though, as Stalker Coach is in UTTER denial: “Tell anyone about what?” Jules is so thrown that she just stammers and walks away. Not the way I would have played it, Stalker Coach, but I’m betting that some folks in Dillon will have BIG issues with the coach of a local high school boys’ football team being gay, so I say you do whatever works.
Eric takes the stage to introduce the 1983 State Champions, who come out holding their gold trophy aloft – my goodness, it’s a tiny thing, just a football-shaped trophy, really – and wearing T-shirts with their old numbers. Bertram stands on the side, arms folded, looking slightly wistful. The new team members line up, making an aisle, and shake hands with the former champions as they take the stage. The deacon takes the microphone and leads everyone in prayer. He reminds the crowd that a group of lions is a pride. “We stand before you today, lord: Your pride,” and I start getting a little misty. “We need pride in this world. And what do we have here?” the deacon asks. “PRIDE,” the crowd shouts back. Even the East Dillon Principal, wearing a tie, shouts it back. Sniffle! The crowd bursts in applause and whoops; Tami and Eric’s eyes meet across the crowd, and he breaks into a small smile. Aw. Later that night, in the kitchen of Ray’s BBQ, Landry helps Jess clean up after the pep rally. She’s muttering about cleaning something when Landry just walks up to her and kisses her. Whoa! Jess is surprised, but doesn’t push him away. When the kiss ends, Landry blinks: “We’re not dating, right?” “Definitely not,” Jess says quietly. I guess that’s code for Keep This Quiet.
Next morning, Tim drives Matt back from their hunting trip. At Chez Saracen, Lorraine and Matt’s mom (yay!) put together a grocery list, and their relationship seems much more amicable. That’s going to be important, because there’s a knock at the door, and when Matt’s mom opens it, there are two officers at the door in full uniform. She swallows hard, the music kicks in and the dialogue drops out. We all know why they’re there, especially Lorraine, who just covers her mouth and begins to wail: it’s a mercy that we can’t hear her grief. Tim drops Matt off at Julie’s house and takes off. Julie answers the door. Matt’s doing his look-at-the-ground-’cause he’s-ashamed thing, so he tells her that he’s there to apologize before he looks up and sees tears pouring down Julie’s face. She asks if he’s talked to his mom, and bless him, he immediately thinks something happened to Lorraine. She says she’s sorry and then tells him that his father was killed; she grabs him in a hug, and the episode ends with Matt clutching her, looking stunned. The poor boy – he’s done so much with so little for so long, and I know his father wasn’t actively in his life, but that’s still got to hurt like hell.