Texas whatever?! Oh, this penultimate episode finds everyone out of sorts. It's just about Christmas time, and lots of dear friends who left Dillon find their way back "home." Julie and Matt are back, Matt delivering a Christmas tree to Grandma Saracen, who still sits in her chair, tapping her foot and turning me into a puddle. She doesn't seem to realize it's Christmas, or even that her son, Matt's father, has died, but she knows her Matt and she clutches at him like she doesn't want him to ever go. (Not that that feeling is familiar to me or anything).
Who else is back in town, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. IT IS TYRA FREAKING COLLETTE. And she's here to help Tim out of his post-jail hate spiral. Tim, still filled with bitterness over going to jail in place of his brother, has declared that he's moving to Alaska. But when Tyra sashays into Buddy's bar, all long dark hair (intellectual!!!) and long, long legs, the two head straight for bed, and then out to his land for some morning-after gazing. "Alaska, Tim?" Tyra asks incredulously, and we know that Tim is going to stay, our anchor in this town we love but are going to be forced to leave behind.
Meanwhile, the big decision re: the fate of the Lions football program hangs in the balance. Though this is a State Championship-bound football team, the fact remains that the Panthers have that freaking Jumbotron and those sleek blue uniforms (those colors we used to rally behind now so seamlessly symbolic of money, privilege, and bullying). The School Board votes to eliminate the Lions program, and it makes sense because it is totally unfair. Money begets more money is what the Book of Genesis says, right? The town has gathered together to hear the news and the minute it is announced Coach beelines it for Vince, telling him that next year he will be the star quarterback of the Dillon Panthers, and he will shine. Whatever happened to J.D. McCoy? Oh, well. But there are winners and losers in situations like this, and though Vince will keep on keeping on as star quarterback, Jess (who gets smoochy again with Vince) is being moved to Dallas now that her father's incredibly time-consuming barbecue franchise is up and running, and so presumably her dreams of learning how to coach high school football at the feet of the greats are crushed. And Luke, after being recruited by a real Division 3 school in Arkansas, realizes that this is the end. He has the heartbreaking realization that his small town successes will only wither and die if he tries to transplant them, and so the State Championship game will be his last game of football.
But the true and literally heart breaking center of this episode are the cracks traveling across Tami and Eric's relationship like a frozen pond in spring. Tami wants to take the job in Philadelphia, and she reminds her husband that she has moved many, many times over their 18 year marriage for his job. Now it's her turn. Coach just refuses to talk about it with her, so distracted is he with preparing for State and managing the knowledge that Buddy has told him that he will have the position of Super Coach for the Super Team they develop in Dillon next year. Coach wants to stay in Dillon, he wants that job, but you can also see behind his eyes, and a little bit in his hair, that he realizes he is in the wrong. But the thing is, even I feel like, YES PLEASE STAY IN DILLON, because how can I go on with my life if Coach and Tami Taylor are not there? And I know Tami is right, but this is the way place and home works -- it draws you back and sucks you in and even though we all pride ourselves for getting away from our home towns, wouldn't it be kind of wonderful if we all could have stayed and nothing ever changed?
Tami comes home in a cab (from Philadelphia, where she had a job interview) late at night. Eric is snoozing on the couch when she gets in. They hug very sweetly and she whispers into his neck that she can't wait to tell him about her trip. What, there was no telephone in her room in Philadelphia? But Julie appears in the hallway just beyond them and Coach interrupts Tami to tell her that he has a surprise for her. Tami turns around and sees her daughter and nearly shrieks with joy but remembers to shush to not wake up Gracie. Tami is surprised because Julie isn't supposed to be back for another week. But never fear, Julie goes to Burleson College, an apparently low-residency program. She "finished up finals early," which, well, to be honest, if she is going to be an English major (like her interest in Moby Dick in the very first episode indicated), she'll pretty much never have to take an actual final exam.
Cut over to the Airstream of SHIRTLESS AND AGITATED TIM RIGGINS. He bust open the door of the trailer from the inside, chucks his mattress outside and comes flinging out with no shirt on, panting hot. Nightmare? Night sweats? What is it? Tim Riggins, I will help you if you will only just let me.
Over at East Dillon, masses of news trucks are gathering and driving all over the fields. Levi shouts at them to quit it, but Coach Taylor just chuckles as he rolls up in his SUV, "It's State, Levi, get used to it!"
The Lions hang out in front of "City Market" trying to rally folks to come to the School Board meeting and voice their support for the Lions football program. Luke tries to chat up a woman with a child, she rattles off some Spanish at him, and he responds with a sweet gringo-style "Amiga! Amiga!" She walks away and Luke, inspired like only a teenaged boy can be, tells Vince in a tone of wonder that what they need is a babysitter! All these women are moms, and they need someone to watch their kids....while they head over to the School Board meeting to support the team. Awww. Luke. As if that is the first or last place a tired mother would go given a free night of babysitting. Vince thinks this idea is aces, though, and asks Jess if she knows someone who can babysit. She looks them up and down, calls them "two pretty ladies" and then in a fantastically no-nonsense voice says "Learn how to nurse a baby. Get some milk. It ain't hard." Vince changes the subject, asking if Luke will come with him to hand out flyers across town but Luke can't. Coach has set up a recruiting meeting for him, with "Warrenfield State." Luke is already full of stuttering rationales for this "D3 school, trying to put together a good team." Oh dear, downward mobility.