So I've been ignoring it for as long as I can but, you guys, this show is almost over. Like forever. And you might think that an episode this good would soothe the pain, but really it just makes it all worse. I'm feeling very morose.
East Dillon steamrolls its way through the State quarterfinals into the semifinals and on to the State championship, all under the pressure of drinking and drugging parents (Ornette), Cain and Abel brotherly betrayal and angst (Billy and Tim), women stirring the pot of various patriarchies (Tami and Jess), and a budget cut that threatens the very existence of the East Dillon team.
Ornette goes back to dealing drugs and starts drinking hard, disregarding Regina's need to keep a sober house. He gets handsy with her, she changes the lock, and when he literally tries to break in, she calls the cops and it looks like Ornette is Mr. Recidivist. But when, at a surprise celebration Coach has arranged for the winning team, we see Vince hug his mother, there is no mistaking the make-up of that family, and that Ornette really never was a part of it.
Meanwhile, the Riggins makeshift family is having a damn hard time putting the pieces back together. Tim, as Mindy notes, "has changed" and he cannot forgive Billy, no matter how lovably macho-ish his older brother acts. Displacing his anger onto the fact that Billy allowed Mindy to waitress at a strip club, the two brothers get into an intense, physically and emotionally, fight outside The Landing Strip. Tim leaves The Playgirl Ranch and heads back to the Airstream trailer in the backyard of Becky's mom's house. Which is this like totally crazy overdetermined space for me, because it's where Tim had his last weekend of perfection with Lyla (TYLA EVA!!!!111!!!) but it also serves to remind us that he totally slept with Becky's mom! And that the narrative is driving Becky and Tim back together. Which I hate even WITHOUT the Game of Thrones/Gossip Girl incest connection.
And to top all of THAT off, we have an incredibly sophisticated narrative take on how gender works in the world, with Jess pestering Coach to help her learn how to become a high school football coach ("14,000 high school coaches in the country and one of them is female. You like those odds?" Coach asks his protégé) and Coach responding pitch perfectly: no dreamy gender-doesn't-matter storyline here, but ultimately a fine willingness to help a young person try to realize a goal. And Tami -- at first playing it down lady-style with a demure "oh, it'll be a hoot!" -- gets an interview at a good liberal arts college in Philadelphia for Assistant Dean of Admissions. Coach is prickly at the timing of this all (during the semi-finals) and we are left wondering how he'll react when he finds out she got an even better offer than she could have dreamed. In the end, we have these two scenes of both Tami and Eric doing what they are good at -- Eric coaching a rowdy crop of kids, Tami talking student potential -- and the knowledge that, as in life, it is going to be difficult for them to figure out a way to both keep doing work they love, while also keeping their family world intact. Life! It's really hard! This show helps us know about that!!
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Riding around town, big horizons, hay bales, rundown strip malls, the outside of the Playgirl Ranch festooned with "Welcome Home Tim" handmade posters. The labor going into all of the posters being made in Dillon over the past few episodes should surely be entered into our GDP figures. Inside the Playgirl Ranch, Luke eats a cookie kind of aggressively. Poor boy. What else do you expect him to do when faced with the reality that his romantic rival is Tim Riggins? Tim drinks beer over by the sliding glass door when Becky approaches him and tells him that he looks lonely. Tim asks her what her boyfriend thinks about her working at The Landing Strip. She says he's fine with it, and tells him that it's good money. He tells her that there's better money in stripping, but she quickly says "I don't do that." Tim mutters, "Gotta do what you gotta do," in that special, judgey way of men who enjoy strip clubs but cannot deal with the women in their life having anything to do with one. Billy calls Tim over to blow out the candles on his welcome home cake, one of those primary-color-frosting Costco disasters.
Head over to the football field where East Dillon has just won the area playoffs a sweet 38-6. Major locker room celebrations, including some seriously nonchalant hair on Coach Taylor's head. He tells the kids that, at this point, State is theirs to lose, they are that good. They've got some problems, but -- and here Kyle Chandler gets real folksy, just like I like it -- "That was one hell of a performance out there, fellas." Coach calls the hobbled Buddy, Jr up to the whiteboard to change the number of games left until State. They all shout out the count, only 3 more games.
Levi walks purposefully into a meeting with East Dillon faculty and basically informs them that some of them won't have a job next semester. He's been in education for 27 years and he's never seen it like this before, there's no money. Crazy educators, always complaining about their gleaming coffers of gold. He asks department heads to go through their budgets and find ways to trim. Then he tells them to pray. As if God cares what teachers need; he's too busy changing Wikipedia pages to reflect whatever weird, inaccurate thing Bachmann/Palin just said. Cut over to Tami's office, where Laurel is fretting while Tami tries to calm her down. Tami's phone rings and she gestures Laurel out of her office. We hear her say "Oh! The Assistant Dean? Oh, well, yeah, I'm pretty open." Looks like Tami's feisty performance at the conference she went to last episode is paying off in job interviews! Later that evening, she's at home with Gracie and Coach talking about the "small school, kind of like the Ivies but not one of the Ivies up in the Northeast there...well Philadelphia, really." Coach mutters a bit in response while Tami keeps chatting on. They'll fly her up, and it sounds kind of fun, and it's a good college, and it's very flattering, and "Well, it might just be a hoot!" Coach is like, "Did you just say 'a hoot'" like probably teasing her about the old-fashioned usage, but all I heard in that phrase of Tami's is a woman trying to downplay her own potential. A noise outside the door has gotten progressively louder, sounding like boys shouting. Tami sighs and asks Coach to tell them they're just about to eat. He tells her to come to the door with him and she complains that she's got tomatoes all over her hands and he asks if she needs to do her hair all up, too. "Come on, honey!" The three of them open the front door to find the football team on their front lawn, running in place chanting "State! State! State!" The boys are all grins and sweat and Coach is all put-on curmudgeon, "What are y'all doin' in my yard?!" Luke shouts that they're getting stronger for him and Coach tells them to get out of his yard. Vince calls out for them all to break it down for Miz Taylor and they get into formation, waiting for Coach to start the play, at which point they all take off running down the street. The Taylors smile. And you marvel at how many different forms family can take.