Friday Night Lights Review: "Swerve" (Episode 5.06)

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<em>Friday Night Lights</em> Review: "Swerve" (Episode 5.06)

Well, I’ll be honest. Up until the last 10 minutes of this episode (and still, even then), things were looking bleak in our favorite Texas town. Halfway through our final Friday Night Lights season, everyone — everyone — in Dillon is in trouble.

Let’s start with Julie because for the first time all season, I’ve understood the purpose of her affair-gone-wrong. And that’s to bring her back home to the Taylors and demonstrate that even Coach has a breaking point. (Actually, I can’t be certain that this was truly the point of the plotline, but it’s the only thing I’ve enjoyed about it, so I’m running with it.) Julie is devastated and ashamed of the debacle, though I got the sense that she’s mostly ashamed that she was so humiliated in front of her peers, not so much of her actions of sleeping with a married dude, but maybe I’m splitting hairs. She simply can’t bring herself to return to school, so naturally, after she’s out of excuses for staying at home and her parents pack her up and send her on her way, she intentionally crashes her car to buy herself more time in Dillon. And when that doesn’t work — when Tami insists on driving her back to school herself — she ‘fesses up.

Whooo boy.

Tami promptly tells Coach, and he does not take to the news well. To be honest, I was fairly impressed how easily he swallowed that his little girl was having sex (in seasons past, he hasn’t been as open-minded), but man, was he pissed off at the idea that his daughter knowingly slept with a married man. It distracts him from practice (he leaves a practice early for the first time ever), it distracts him from the game (he shows up in the locker room with only 10 minutes to kick-off). It distracts him from the grace with which we’ve come to expect from Coach Taylor, as he confronts his daughter and almost physically throws her out of the house. That said, maybe this is exactly what we expect from CT: here is a man whose high expectations define everything about how he views the world, and to have his daughter fail those expectations so completely must be truly gutting.

Elsewhere, Vince is in a heap of trouble too. Last season, he made a deal with the near-literal devil — a Dillon gang leader (and apparent drug addict if I was reading the actor’s cues right, and I’m pretty sure I am) to whom Vince now owes five thousand dollars. And when Vince can’t pay up, gang-guy first threatens him, and then — in one of the most uncomfortable FNL scenes in recent memory — physically threatens Jess. And then Vince does the one thing that we both hope he doesn’t do and know that he must do: he takes the issue to his father, the same father who has spent all of Vince’s childhood incarcerated for doing some very bad things of his own. And just like Coach, Vince has to wrestle with his own expectations — of himself and of the father he wants to live up to a certain standard — and yet, he asks his dad to do something that means he will inevitably fail this standard. Indeed, Vince’s dad takes gang-guy behind the bleachers and pummels him to a pulp. Whether or not this resolves this plotline remains to be seen (I doubt it…I very much expect to see Vince’s dad in a body bag by the end of the season, though I really hope that I’m wrong), but it was a nice set-up by the writers: asking both the viewers and the characters to wrestle with the concept of morality and whether or not a bad guy should ever keep committing bad deeds, especially when in defense of his family.

Moving on to Luke, he’s not doing so well either. As I suspected, TMU wasn’t so interested in his football skills, rather much more interested in Vince’s. Coach shares this news with Luke and sends him into a spiral. (Not a football spiral, just a spiral.) Disenchanted, pissed and drunk, he shows up at the Riggins house looking for Becky. And when she’s not there, he makes do with Billy.

Now, hats off to Derek Phillips, the actor who plays Billy. Who ever thought that Billy Riggins would be so likeable, not as the goofy screw-up, but as the honest-to-god model of what this show is about? Billy was the heart of this episode, and he proved it when he took Luke out back, hitting burnt charcoal like golf balls and letting out his war cry. (While standing on a toilet. Seriously. Is there anything more fitting than that the Riggins have a toilet in the middle of their backyard?) He forced Luke to remember a time when football wasn’t about scholarships or winning, it was about love of the game — and Billy reiterated this message when later in the hour, he was granted the honor of giving the team the pre-game speech. Damn, Billy Riggins wants this, y’all. He wants to make Luke a better man, and he wants to become one himself. In fact, surprisingly, of all the people of Dillon right now, Billy might be the only one who isn’t in trouble. Now who’d have thought that last season?

Given how much I love these characters, I’ll take what I can get. Keep bringing it, Billy! Maybe you can turn this whole damn town around by the series end.

Stray observations:
-“Coach, Vince told me what happened down at TMU, that they’re interested in him. And then he told me that you told him not to say anything about it….is that true?” -Luke, putting Coach Taylor in the hot seat
-“I took a dump in a mailbox once.” – Billy (he really did say that)
-“It’s every coach’s dream to experience the highest level of idiocy that his team can muster, and gentlemen, collectively, us coaches, we’re living the dream.” -Coach Taylor to the squad
-“If I tell you something, can you promise not to freak out?” – Julie to Tami, stating exactly the words designed to make a mother freak out
-“Rhinestones make me look trashy.” – Mindy (as if that’s the only problem)
-“It’s a war cry, mofo. Alright? That’s what you gotta have.” – Billy