Few dramas can make an absorbing hour out of its characters trying to avoid drama, but Friday Night Lights pulled it off this week.
Those of us clamoring for a Buddy Garrity story line got it this week, although it may not have been the Buddy story we wanted. Picking up on last week’s news from the divorced home-front that Buddy, Jr., had become too much for his mom to handle, the sullen youth was shipped back to Dillon for a paternal tune-up.
Now, I like my Buddy blustering and ebullient; seeing the poor devil drag his bratty son to school, watching Buddy find the kid drunk on the floor of the man’s new bar, witnessing him pour out his frustrations to Eric — well, this was all fine acting on the part of Brad Leland, but it was also a bit of a drag. There were nice moments of coarse realism (Buddy, Jr., referring to East Dillon as “the ghetto school”; Buddy, Jr., conversing with his new guidance counselor Tami by staring at her “rack”; Tami saying Tami things such as “You have grown miles since I last saw you!” while shifting her stack of papers to cover her chest; Buddy, Jr., stealing dad’s credit card), but does anyone think this kid is going to pull it together sufficiently to make the football team? This would be one hail-Mary play too much even for FNL.
Speaking of making the team, Jess gave as good as she got from the lewdly joshing players in her new job as equipment manager. This played out pretty much as we thought it would: Jess’ interplay with the guys irked boyfriend Vince, and more importantly distracted his attention from the game. As if he wasn’t distracted enough by the presence of his dad in the stands, shouting encouragements that this intelligent man must have known would only upset his son. It fell to Eric to call Vince and Jess into his office to try and straighten things out.
Oddest alliance of night? Hands down it was the rapprochement between Becky and Billy Riggins’ wife Mindy. In the space of an hour, Mindy went from disliking the girl for continuing to take up space in their cramped home to defending her from Becky’s lousy father and step-mother. Granted, I could see why Mindy would soften. After all, when Mindy first came home from her former place of employment, the Landing Strip bar, complaining about the lousy shifts she’d been assigned, I thought, this woman should be grateful someone is hiring in Dillon these days. But Becky’s strenuous defense (“He insulted your ass?”) went a long way to melting Mindy’s heart toward the once-and-future beauty-pageant contestant.
At school, Tami tried to cope with the continuing bad behavior of Epyck (yes, this week I learned the spelling of her epic moniker, and as Eric said, “What kind of name is Epyck? Sounds like a name someone comes up with when they’re drunk”). This struggle between student and teacher is as frustrating as the one that’s taking place, in yonder college, between Julie and her Teaching Assistant Creep: These relationships are bound to end badly.
All in all, an uneven edition of FNL. Ultimately, Buddy and his son is an interesting avenue to explore (my own desire to see an upbeat Buddy should be tempered by an understanding that the writers have potentially rich material to delve into here). And the scenes between Vince, his mother, and his father were first-rate, really nuanced portrayals of how a broken home can try to repair itself.