If you want to learn how to make incredible television, if you want to understand what art is, if you want to see unparalleled acting and writing and music, and if you want to create something that will leave viewers so riveted they’ll be crying at the episode’s end without even realizing they’re crying, then watch this episode of Friday Night Lights.
Because this is truly television at its finest. An episode that soared, an episode that capped what has already been a fantastic season. Yup, hands-down, this was my favorite so far.
The reason it was so spectacular? Because it brought together all of the elements that make Friday Night Lights, well, Friday Night Lights. Of course there was football — the big “revenge” game against the South King, to whom the Lions forfeited all year. So of course there were the glorious shots of game footage, the awesome music montages, the ups and downs of the four quarters, the halftime speeches in which Coach Taylor urged the players to dig deeper, and the moment in which he told them to play dirty — something so against his grain but something altogether necessary to pull off the win. And win they did.
And while the game itself was enough to make any FNL fan sit up and cheer, it was the other elements of the episode that were so outstanding. What I always loved about the earlier seasons of the show was the camaraderie of the players, those in-between scenes when Riggins and Street and Smash and Saracen whooped it up in Rigg’s pick-up truck or broke into the stadium and played a game of touch football with a six-pack alongside. And so it’s no surprise that my favorite scene of this episode was when the new stars of the show — Luke and Vince and Hastings and Tinker — took to their hotel patios and shot the breeze about porn and fried food and being mama’s boys, showing their obvious affection for each other, the words of their conversation betraying something much deeper, from Hastings’ resentment towards his nomadic childhood to Vince’s supportive defense of Coach Taylor. It was a perfect, magical scene, encapsulating everything that there is to love about FNL.
And it only got better from there. Post-game, the boys took to celebrating, thanks to Hastings’ old hook-ups (there’s nothing quite like a Texas bonfire) and armed with a lot of alcohol and a little bravado, marked themselves as East Dillon Lions forever. Yes, indeed, they branded themselves. Oh my, that scene and its ensuing aftermath of Jess bandaging them up, was simply flat-out hilarious. Equally as fabulous was the coaches’ poker game that was going down at the same time. It seems that everyone in this episode overindulged in the adult beverages, and the loose and semi-lucid smack talk between the grown-ups was as snappy and smart and laugh-out-loud funny as it was with the players.
Other things happened in this episode too: Julie’s affair with her TA blew up when his wife stormed her study area, slapped her and called her a slut, and Tami got drunk with her new teacher friend.
But for me, this episode was all about the Lions and the magic that camaraderie can bring, and how lucky we are to get to see that magic made.
-“Success is not a goal, it’s a by-product.” – Coach Taylor
-“Look, Coach, we don’t call AAA. AAA is for women. We’re men. We don’t call AAA, and we fix our own cars.” – Billy Riggins
-“Hey, the sign outside says ‘Loins.’ You want to take a look at that?” – Coach Taylor at the hotel, in response to the sign reading Welcome East Dillon Loins.
-Has there ever been a better vision on TV than Tinker in goggles and board shorts?
-“Stay away from dumb, gentlemen.” -Coach Taylor
-“I really like the way you’re putting that lipstick on. It’s like a commercial.” -Buddy Jr., who obviously gets his (un)smoothness with the ladies from his dad
-“Coach, this is my team. I ride with my team.” – Vince