Ken Tucker
November 03, 2007 AT 05:40 PM EDT

Best episode of the season so far, am I right?

Friday Night Lights got back in the groove this week. Let me count the ways:

1. Kyle Chandler’s Coach Taylor (pictured, center) went through some satisfyingly difficult times settling back into his old job, which included having Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) articulate the betrayal that the rest of the team felt when he left for his college job.

2. Ol’ Coach also had a difficult time dealing with wife Tami (welcome back to the playful side of Connie Britton) and her interest (or lack of interest) in, as it was delicately put, “getting back in the saddle.” Post-partum sex drive is tricky stuff.

3. What a great episode for Landry (Jesse Plemons). Right off the bat, we had a welcome return to some Saracen-Landry byplay when the hound-dog-baleful Matt contemplated getting back together with Julie. Landry’s “No, no, no, no” — spoken with the shorthand old friends communicate with — was both perfect and funny.

addCredit(“Friday Night Lights: Bill Records”)

As for football-Landry, the way the show worked him onto the field, even allowing him a mini-triumph, was both sly and dramatic.

And romantic-Landry? Well, this time the series really stepped upand did that dead-body-in-the-water subplot some justice. It took us ona nice arc. We began the episode with Landry so understatedly joyousabout his evolving relationship with Tyra (Adrianne Palicki); then whenTyra became a “person of interest,” as one cop said regarding the deadbody case, Landry’s dad (Glenn Morshower, proving we only saw about atenth of his talent on 24) forbade her to see him, and Landry’sworld was crushed just at the moment he should have felt great. Yeah,it was a little lame that Tyra did the TV-cliché thing of not tellingLandry the real reason why she was breaking it off with him, but the whole rhythm of the subplot was solid: built-up and dashed hopes.

4. And the Jason-Riggins-Lyla Mexican adventure? At first I wasskeptical of the world’s smallest “booze cruise,” but pretty soon Ithoroughly appreciated all the carefully modulated emotional currentsthat ran between all three of them. (The only real storytelling potholein this episode: Why in the world would Coach Taylor not be lookingaround the Panthers locker-room and asking where Riggins and JasonStreet were?)

But I’m not lodging any big complaints. This was the Friday Night Lightswe love — they even played some football! Way to go, Matt, in at leasttemporarily dumping Julie! (We’re pretty sure she’ll mend her ways,both with Matt and her parents, and maybe even give baby Gracie a hugbefore too long, aren’t we?)

I’m totally immersed again, really wanting to see how Tyra is goingto withstand this latest setback in being turned into a bad girl in acompletely new way. Landry’s father saying with devastating finality,”You stay away from my boy” — not because she’s a tramp, but because hesuspects she’s done something so wrong she’s caused his son to lie tohim for the first time — that is powerful stuff.

To quote Lyla, I gotta go pray — that next week’s episode is just as good.

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