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FNL Watch: Run and Gun Offense

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Spoilers for Friday Night Lights coming up:

Only one of the problems Coach Taylor signed on for when coming over to coach East Dillon was rebuilding a broken-down sports program from scratch. Another was dealing with a body of players, many of whom have much rougher home lives and more deep-seated problems than he encountered with the Dillon Panthers. The core problem is one he identified in this issue in one word: trust. Could he get these kids, many of whom are accustomed to disappointment and to being let down, to trust him? And could he—when he’s dealing with a player with a background and record like Vince has—trust them?

It would be nice if he could settle this issue, when the cops show up on suspicion that Vince has a gun at school, simply by sitting down with Vince, trusting him to be honest, and thereby earning the trust that gets him an honest answer. It is not that easy, of course. And in a scene played with nice ambiguity on both sides, we see that, underneath the surface, Taylor does not really (rightly, it turns out) trust that Vince is going to confide in him, nor does Vince trust that Taylor has sufficient interest in his well-being to earn his trust. (And he may have a point too. When Tami asks coach if he’d have let the cops search Landry’s locker, he honestly answers, “I don’t know.”)

As Coach shows up to confront Vince at home—having been moved by his mother’s visit to thank him for giving Vince the break of making him quarterback—he gives Vince the kind of speech we expect from Taylor: that being a quarterback is not just about running and throwing but leadership and character. But Vince has a ready comeback: why should he believe Coach wants anything more from him than running and throwing? “What do you get out of it?” he asks. “If I break my ankle and I can’t play for you no more, you still gonna come around here? You still gonna check up on me? I’ve been here for ten years and seen three of my best friends get killed walking to school. When I leave your practice, I’m the one looking over my shoulder hoping I don’t get jumped, robbed, killed.”

Taylor’s answer is two-pronged: that he’s committed to Vince beyond the football field—as we’ve seen, for example, with Smash and Street, but Vince has not—and that Vince can’t take care of his household if he’s in jail. The nice thing about the denouement, in which Vince, without many words, brings Coach the gun at his house in a paper bag, is that we don’t know which prong of the argument moved Vince. Yes, it’s good that Taylor is committed to his well-being, but also, there’s something in it for Vince—if he takes the risk of trusting Taylor. And Michael B. Jordan, who’s been strong in the new role all season, effectively shows Vince’s nervousness in placing that trust; this can’t be an easy decision for him, and Jordan makes it look hard.

Appropriately enough, here’s the hail of bullets (in a brown paper bag):

* “Funny thing is, you don’t give a damn about your daughter. You know what else is funny? I had sex with your wife.” Riggins’ sex magic is like a superpower! Glad to see him using it for good and not evil, in his showdown with Becky’s father.

* I, like Jess, am just as glad to see Landry move on from Tyra, but I did enjoy his cell-phone soliloquy as he got stood up at the rest stop: “If I am supposed to waiting on me, I will wait, I will wait like one of those British foot guards outside of Buckingham Palace”–leading to the dawning realization that, most likely, she is not waiting at all.

* I’m not sure I necessarily needed the subplot involving the inappropriate pass at the karaoke night, but I am glad that we’re getting some chance to see an example of Tami’s competence in her new job–a tough thing to keep on stage as so much of the action shifts to East Dillon.

* Finally, we saw two very different examples of neighbors pitching in to help neighbors, as the strippers came around for the strippers-raising-healthcare-money equivalent of an old-fashioned barnraising and Tinker stepped in to assist Luke and his father with their fence. The way the former was set up, I half-expected to see more of the team show up to pitch in on the fence, but it was more appropriate that it should not be so pat, or easy, for Luke to get embrace by the team. But maybe next time if he got some strippers to show up…

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