What was saddest is not that the Panthers didn't win State this year, but that you could see them knowing they weren't going to win, once the Titans got the ball into easy field goal range. The camera panned around to everyone's face -- Coach, Tami, Julie, Joe, Tyra, Tim, Landry, Matt, J.D. -- and each and every one of them just knew, knew that despite the four touchdowns they had reached deep down and drawn out of themselves, that they just were going to come up short tonight.
J.D. gets pulled off the field by Coach after losing control over his team and bratting around about it. He's confused and grieving because Coach and Tami (after realizing that, legally, they had to) called Child Protective Services on his father. The McCoys circle the familial wagon -- Joe staring Coach down in mirrored sunglasses, Katie telling Tami that she wants nothing to do with her, J.D. lost in the middle of it, betrayed not only by his own father's physical violence, but also by what he perceives as Coach's psychological violence.
If J.D. is off the field, who's on? Matt Saracen, given a last chance to prove himself on the field as quarterback, and he does it with typical GREEK MYTHOLOGICAL PERFECTION. He and Tim Riggins get to complete a number of plays that just read as "joy" even through all the pads and face masks. This is the end for him on the field, it seems; as Julie tells Grandma Saracen, football just isn't a career path Matt wants to take. He wants to try for the Art Institute of Chicago (MATT CALL ME WHEN YOU GET HERE!); Grandma at first stands in his way (it's too far, you can't leave me, and what're you doing trying to be an artist with the what now?), but seems to be coming around by the end of the episode.
Tyra also has college on her mind. She's trying to finish her application essay, and making Landry help her with it. Landry is brutally honest: the first version (about "rolling with the punches") reads like "a five-page needlepoint pillow"; the second version puts him to sleep. It's only as Tyra drives Landry to Austin for State (he conveniently missed the bus) that he gets her to talk through what has changed in her life and what that means. She puts her finger right on it: two years ago, when Jason Street got paralyzed, her life changed. God, Tyra, you and me BOTH. She realized that life isn't fair for anyone, stopped feeling sorry for herself, and a whole world of possibility opened up. Her college essay voice over is somehow beautifully done and moving. It's what this show does; open up a little space around the totally banal and usual; that space lets it breath and become lovely.
The Playgirl Ranch is a little crowded and Lyla can't take one more day of having to lay coffee filters down on the filthy toilet to protect her bum from Billy's banana sack contamination. She tells Buddy she's coming home, and then tells us all that she's going to San Antonio State with Tim, not to Vanderbilt. Wha? Buddy doesn't really bat an eyelash. And, speaking of Tim, we end on him, taking a moment alone on the University of Texas football field after the game, laying his cleats down on the turf.
Pep rally in the gym. Cheering, strobe lights, chaos, crowds, the boys again bearing the weight of all these expectations. Coach peers around a bit and notices Tami outside the gym in the hallway having a heated discussion with Assistant Principal Glenn. She's incredulous that, after spending all weekend comforting Katie and J.D., he's telling her that she legally has to call Child Protective Services on Joe McCoy. She tells him that she doesn't think she can do it, but Glenn tells her that she doesn't know the real situation. She thinks this is the first time, but it might not be. The only thing anyone knows is that a bunch of people witnessed this guy beating up his kid: "That's child abuse." Anxious guitars rise up in the background, overtaking the screaming of the pep rally as Tami slowly walks back into the gym and nods at Coach. Coach walks over and they confer -- silently to us -- as they leave the rally. Cut to Tami's office where Coach leans against the bright window telling her that it isn't like they DON'T have a choice. Tami tells him that she actually doesn't think they have a choice in the matter. Coach offers to "do it" but Tami, hands nervously clasped in front of her as she sits at her desk, says that she should do it. She picks up the phone.
Credits. Morning in Dillon. With Little Joy's wistful and chirpy "Next Time Around" (a current favorite song of mine) playing in the background, Slammin' Sammy Mead narrates a bit as the camera cuts around town to various windows and signs wishing the Panthers victory at State. Sammy talks about how the Panthers are maybe about to "get their stocking stuffed" by South Texas, the biggest team anyone has seen in a long time. Cut over to Tim and Lyla in bed, Slammin' Sammy's narration blasting out of the alarm clock next to them. Lyla gets up and scurries through the house to the bathroom. "Ugh" she exclaims in the bathroom, and takes a few coffee filters and lines the toilet. Cut outside where Billy opens the door to his room, wearing only his now patented banana sack, also doing the "pee pee" dance as he scurries to the bathroom. He opens the door, some yelling between him and Lyla ensues until he declares that he'll just piss in the sink. On his way over there he starts shouting at Tim to get up, and then clears some dishes out of the sink. He shouts that he has to show Tim something, Lyla shouts from the bathroom that they have school, Billy shouts back that they're just going to have to skip school: "THIS is your future." Just off frame, he apparently hoists his thing out of the sack and starts pissing in the sink. Billy Riggins. Bravo.