Friday Night Lights Review: "On the Outside Looking In" (Episode 5.02)

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<em>Friday Night Lights</em> Review: "On the Outside Looking In" (Episode 5.02)

There are many incredible things about Friday Night Lights. You’ll no doubt read all about them throughout my recaps this season. But what struck me while watching this episode is that the writers have pulled off the unthinkable: unlike nearly any other TV series set during high school, the show has seamlessly transitioned the cast (no sixth-year seniors in sight) while making me care just as much about this second string as I did the first. In fact, with my tear count ratcheting up even higher than last episode, I’d say that I’m almost as invested in the lives of Vince and Luke as I was in the lives of Riggins and Saracen. And that’s saying a lot. A lot.

What worked so well this episode — and pulled at the heartstrings — was the effective implementation of this week’s underlying thread: that of being an outsider. Everywhere you looked in Dillon, the characters with whom we’ve fallen in love weren’t getting their due.

Let’s start with Tami, who so effortlessly ruled the school at Dillon High, and is now finding herself as the outcast in the mean girls’ clique at East. Tami has picked her pet project of the year, a failing slacker student named Epyck (really, it’s spelled that way) but no one — not Epyck, not Epyck’s mom, and not the administration — seems to care. Tami tries to rally the teachers to form a tutoring club, and she’s met with eye rolls and sneers. She sucks it up and joins her fellow teachers for happy hour, gritting her teeth at their cynicism and snark, and in doing so may have slowly started to win over a mean girl or two: by the end of the episode, Queen Bee Mean Girl has agreed to help her with said tutoring club.

Also over at East Dillon, the Lions continue to get zero respect outside the immediate halls of the school. True, inside the halls, the players enjoy their newfound hero status, but outside? Different story. The state-wide rankings are out this week, and despite having upset the eighth-ranked team the previous week, the Lions don’t even make the top 20. The players are pissed. The assistant coaches are pissed. Hell, even Coach is pissed, though he tells everyone he’s not pissed and that they just need to focus on winning. And then, in the locker room before the game, he simply writes “State,” on the blackboard and everyone starts cheering (and I start crying). They’re thinking, “Screw the insiders! We’re the outsiders, and we’re going to prove them all wrong!” (Me from my couch: YOU BET YOU ARE!)

More outsider stuff: Luke has been made the scapegoat by the men on the high school football standards board, who are irritated that the little spark-plug Lions beat the eighth seed last week. Luke injured their star player, and the standards board can’t stand for it, so they create a fake safety violation and suspend him for a game. Which is not a good thing for that boy’s mental health. He’s already brooding and devastated over Becky’s abortion, and he’s seething with jealousy over the attention being showered on Vince, and he thus proceeds to go to the pre-party rager and gets sloshed and attempts to pick a fight with Hastings. The only good things to come out of this are that a) I could watch Matt Lauria emote all day and then some, and b) Becky drives him home and we see that there might be a spark of romance for these two just yet.

Speaking Vince, here’s a kid who has long been ignored and who is finally getting his due. Vince slayed me this episode — not only is he getting interest from college recruiters (scene in coach’s office = tear count number 1), not only is he sharing his joy with his mother (scene showing her his recruiting letters = tear count number 2), but is finally taking the opportunities handed to him and trying to make the most of them (scene when he gets his mom a job = tear count number three). It seems that all he needed was someone (hello, Coach Taylor) to give him a shot.

Other outsider-y plots that weren’t quite as poignant: Julie doesn’t have any friends at college, and Mindy does not like Becky up in her business.

So that was the second episode — everyone was looking for someone else to have his or her back. A few of our characters got the helping hand they needed. As for the others? If I know the Taylors (and I like to think I do), no matter how much our residents in Dillon falter, someone will be there to pull them back up.

Stray Observations:
-Coach Crowley: “Oh, oh, I got a quote. ‘East Dillon Lions are hungry to feed on you. You can run but you can’t hide.”
Coach Taylor, unimpressed: “Have you chalked the field yet?”
-The rally girls are back and if they were pushing inappropriate at Dillon High, they’re way past age-appropriate over at East Dillon
-“I think we’re saying the same thing.” -Tami Taylor, to a teacher who is saying exactly the opposite thing.
-I’m distracted by how much Julie’s TA at college looks exactly like Chad Lowe.
-I do love that she awkwardly walked in on her roommate fooling around with a guy though. Exactly like the first week of college.
Coach Taylor: “What do you want for breakfast?”
Gracie Belle: “Mac and cheese.”
Coach Taylor to Tami: “Mac and cheese, please.”
Me: Can I please move in with you guys and have you raise me?
-Vince to Luke: “You’ve been very angry lately. Do you need a hug?”
-Jess: “I have a question. Isn’t it a little demeaning when a girl puts her panties in the locker of a boy she barely knows?”
Me: Oh snap!