The Lions are getting it together and Luke and Vince starting to become a powerhouse combination. Vince gets named Co-Conference Player of the Week, along with J.D. McCoy, and is invited to go talk to little Pop Warner players. J.D. does and says everything right, probably because his father has bought him all the scripts he'll ever need for the rest of his life, while Vince doesn't know what to say to the kids, so opts to tell them what the guy who's teaching him to steal cars (yup, now we have to worry about that!) just told him: "Don't panic, stay cool, and you get paid."
J.D. may have a daddy-smoothed path in life, but his father hasn't resorted to buying him friends... yet. Luke tries to keep hanging out with J.D. like in the old days, but the kid with the golden arm, is becoming more and more of a privileged douche with every passing moment, and the two have a fantastic break-up scene following a paintball rampage. Quick thought experiment: imagine if it were Vince and his black friends hanging out of a truck pointing (paintball) guns at people and property. Possible outcomes?
Becky gets third at her shopping mall beauty pageant and her dad isn't even there to see it. Tim is, though, making it even easier for her to go down her little Freudian checklist. Lack? Check. Desire for the phallus? Check. Displacement? Check. She ultimately tries to kiss him but he rejects her-- just like daddies always do.
And I've been putting it off until here, but really, the story that all the other stories sort of emanate out of and orbit around is Matt's mourning for his father -- tracked through the reassuring but entrapping social forms of wake and funeral, with all their structure and ritual. Matt is hard to read, nobody is quite sure how he's doing only that he's, as Julie says, "trying." The guys take him out for a much-needed guys night during which they all get drunk and Matt makes the spectacularly bad decision to go to the funeral home and insist that the director open the casket to show him the body of his father -- who was killed by stepping on an IED. All possibilities of magical thinking end the moment he sees that terrible sight. The Taylors are there for him, though, in the most perfect way, as all the guilt he has internalized over having hated his now-dead father comes pouring out. The breakdown Matt finally allows himself to have in front of them is the greatest argument in favor of family (however you define it) I've ever seen. By the end of the funeral after everyone but Julie has left the graveside, Matt, stifled by all the ties and visiting hours and casseroles, picks up a shovel and starts burying his father himself: it's a very particular kind of male mourning, and I don't quite understand it, which is why I love this show so much, because it doesn't tell me things I already know.
The Lions are down 24-0 in the fourth quarter. On the sidelines, the assistants are just asking the kids to get some points on the board. Out on the field, Vince bitches that they keep running the same old plays, the other team knows what they're going to do before they do it. Luke sort of shrugs, and then Vince tells him they should run a Wildcat. Wait, is either of these guys quarterback? No. So why are they calling plays? Because they are the coolest, I guess. Luke hesitates in the face of Vince's idea, saying that Coach doesn't think they're ready. The Lions huddle up and the poor nameless and powerless quarterback starts to call a play, but Vince interrupts him and calls the Wildcat. They form up, and Coach, on the sidelines sees that they aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing and starts yelling, but to no purpose. The ball gets snapped, Luke and Vince do the little Wildcat sneak thing where Luke runs in front of the snap, catches it and then tosses it off to Vince who runs it into the endzone and TOUCHDOWN!!! Everyone freaks the hell out, Coach on the sidelines looks pissed. The offense returns to the sidelines and Coach gets in their face screaming "Who called the play?!?!" None of the boys will 'fess up, they all just shrug and say they don't know. The shrug: teenaged passive resistance. Coach kind of swallows his pride and asks Vince if he "wants to get some more of that" and then tells him to get the damn ball back. Vince asks him what they're running and heads out to play defense. On the snap, Vince comes around and sacks the quarterback, the ball goes bouncing, everyone on the Lions sidelines continues to freak the hell out-- including, most memorably, Jess, who has a serious case of Football Face -- and Tanker falls on the ball to recover it for the Lions. Back on the sidelines, Coach pissily yells at the boys that he calls the play, they run it-- GOT THAT? Vince yes sirs him and then Coach gives him the call: Wildcat Gun X Throwback. Vince is surprised and asks, "You want me to throw the ball?" and Coach is like "No, I want you to stand here and I want to talk about it all night." Coach sends the boys back out, and the poor quarterback gets unquarterbacked again with Vince getting the ball, rearing back and throwing loooong to....Luke Cafferty! Touchdown!!! Everyone continues happy-ing it down, Luke gets hoisted in the air, and this is the sweetest celebration of a loss I've ever seen. The announcer exposits that this is a great end to a game that couldn't be won, giving some light to a team that's been stuck in the dark.