“It’s gonna blow, don’t ya know.” It’s a phrase that a Dallas sports radio host was fond of saying back when the polarizing Terrell Owens joined the Cowboys. Since very early on in Season 3 of Friday Night Lights, the phrase has been looping in my head. For nearly the duration of the season, Joe McCoy’s fuse has been burning, and it was only a matter of time until the man did something drastic. “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” was written by Bridget Carpenter, Patrick Massett, and John Zinman; the only other Friday Night Lights episode crediting three writers was the Season 1 finale, “State.” It seems fitting that these specific three would write this episode, as they’re responsible for scripting some of the more McCoy-centric stories this season such as “How the Other Half Live” and “It Ain’t Easy Being J.D. McCoy.” With the Texas High School Football State Championship just a game away, the show’s writers, along with the episode’s director, Michael Waxman, and the actors playing the McCoys (D.W. Moffett, Janine Turner, and Jeremy Sumpter) are tasked with bringing this festering problem to a climax at the most inopportune moment.
After deliberately disobeying his father last week, J.D. (or, “that little bastard” as Joe called him) is still spending most of his free time with a redhead named Madison. He’s also spending some of his non-free time with her as well; Madison shows up at practices and a distracted J.D. trots over to chat with her any chance he gets. When Joe gets wind of this, he calls the girl’s parents to inform them that their daughter is a bad influence on his son. J.D., though, is smitten with the “amazing” Madison, as he constantly emphasizes; I personally notice little that’s “amazing” about her, so I get the feeling that, since they’ve literally been seeing each other for a week or two, they must be doing more than kissing for the boy to be so amazed.
But smelling State, Joe needs J.D. to focus with intensity, with the next Panther game taking place in some heavy rain. Focus, ball control—those are the keys. But instead of taking care of the football and running when he gets the opportunity, J.D. keeps slinging the ball around, forcing passes, creating turnovers, and diminishing the team’s championship hopes. Not only is J.D. hearing about it from his father in the stands, but now random fans are yelling at him. Through some luck, big plays, and gutsy coaching by Eric, the Panthers sneak away with a win, but Joe is still livid at his son’s reckless play and lack of focus. To make things worse, on the ride to Applebee’s from the game, J.D. sits in the back seat, flirting on the phone with Madison. It’s gonna blow, don’t ya know.
Joe can no longer hold his frustration in and wants to talk to J.D. in the rainy parking lot about his pathetic performance. J.D. is sick of the criticism. He talks back to his dad, telling him, “Screw you” and “I don’t give a crap.” The two shove each other. Joe snaps. He slams the boy against the car, shaking, smacking, and hitting him. “You don’t talk to me like that! You will respect me!” Katie can only scream for her husband to stop. From inside the restaurant, Eric and Tami see this and run out, pulling Joe off of his son.
Much like Tyra’s “escape” from Cash, this scene runs the risk of feeling too soap opera-ish (not to mention that the Taylors also seem to swoop into these situations right in the nick of time). But we’ve been building up to this moment for practically the entire season, and I feel the payoff is appropriate, and even at times frightening when you see just how physical Joe gets with his son.
J.D. and his mother stay at the Taylors’ house that evening, with a tearful Katie shocked at what she witnessed and her son letting out some pent-up frustration. In this scene, J.D. comes across as very young as he talks about how sick he is of his father, how he can’t take the negativity anymore, how nothing is ever good enough. These are very much the types of feelings kids his age feel, even if they come across as a little self-righteous in their delivery. But that’s okay. That’s precisely how a teenager in J.D.’s situation would sound. And just like Eric assured him, this was not his fault. Should he have talked back to his dad and shoved him? Of course not, but that’s still no excuse for a father smacking around his son. There’s a big difference between physical discipline and what Joe did.
A tea party seems like an odd occurrence in Dillon, TX, let alone in the Collette household, but that’s the kind of bridal shower Mindy demands that Tyra throw. Way in over her head, she bumps into Landry at the grocery store, who offers to help. Apparently he no longer feels like a tree from a children’s book after Tyra landed his band a gig; Crucifictorious has been invited to play again, and may become a permanent fixture. All seems well as Landry helps Tyra, their relationship rekindling by the minute. Though they’re preparing a tea party, I think Tyra is quite attracted to the way Landry begins to take control of the situation. When Mindy calls Tyra, trying to change plans or ask for something different, Landry grabs the phone, informs Mindy that the tea party is being prepared on schedule, and tells her to leave Tyra alone. Even when he tells Tyra to slice the cucumbers thinner (as cucumber sandwiches should be delicate), it’s a masculine sign of Landry taking charge.
After the successful party concludes and Mindy happily leaves with Billy, Tyra finds herself in tears, wondering to her mother why she can’t just want what Mindy wants. She wonders why she feels she has to do more, especially when more requires the academic struggles she’s been going through. She just received her new SAT score, increasing by 100 points, but figuring she needed at least another 100 to get her score where it needed to be. Every day, it looks like her chances of getting into college are slimmer, yet that’s what she truly wants. If only she could just want what Mindy wants—to settle down with a local Billy Riggins-type and be content.
Tyra’s mother comes through with some wise words for the first time in a while—a welcome change. Instead of telling her to hold onto any man with money to provide for her, she informs Tyra that Mindy, bless her heart, has never surprised her. But Tyra surprises her every day with her ambitions and drive. She doesn’t know what the future holds, but she knows that there’s something special out there for her younger daughter. Particularly this season, Angela has too often been a negative influence on Tyra, merely providing shallow advice, encouraging her daughter to settle. While I find the turnaround a little jarring, it felt good to see Angela being so perceptive, revealing, and even a little vulnerable (but in a strong way, if that makes sense). The scene also feels like a goodbye scene. The two know that some big changes could be happening—good ones, but changes that will be difficult to deal with. But Angela is proud of Tyra and shows here that she wants what’s best for her daughter, even if it means letting go of her.
Buddy, on the other hand, just wants to get his daughter back. Since her father lost all of her college fund, Lyla’s lost motivation. She drinks more than usual, skips school, and is generally uninterested in what the future now holds for her. A desperate Buddy approaches Tim, asking what he needs to do to win Lyla back, to which the Older, Wiser Tim (debuting last week) says that Lyla just needs some time right now. Truth is, Tim’s not even entirely convinced of that himself. Lyla’s been taking time, but she doesn’t seem to be getting any better. I imagine it’s a temptation for the writers to allow the Older, Wiser Tim to have all the right answers to his girlfriend’s issues, but Friday Night Lights allows him to stumble a little as well. He brings Lyla to the church that her and her family first attended in an attempt to somehow help. How is that supposed to help Lyla’s situation? I have no idea, and I don’t know if Tim does either. He’s just trying anything at this point. He finally has a heart-to-heart with her after the team’s Friday night victory (he chooses not to attend any parties that evening, again giving off the Older, Wiser Tim vibe; he’s been there, done that). I mentioned last week that Lyla still has options for college. She’s a great student, and there are a plethora of scholarships available. Tim echoes these sentiments, assuring his girlfriend that they’ll figure something out to get her to Vanderbilt, and if not, he and San Antonio State would love to have her.
“Did I just say I loved you? Did I?” he asks.
“No? Because I’m kinda madly in love with you, and I’ll be here no matter what.”
“I love you, too,” says Lyla, and she kisses her boyfriend.
It’s the first time the two have said those words to each other. The show and its actors, Taylor Kitsch and Minka Kelly, play the scene to perfection, allowing the significant moment to exist without forcing it. The dialogue is written and performed so naturally that it really elevates the small moment to something very personal and wonderful.
Matt is hoping to attend college, leaving his grandmother in the care of his mother, Shelby, but serious doubts creep in when Lorraine falls out of the car as Shelby begins to pull away from the curb. Matt recklessly blames his mother, especially when, at the doctor’s recommendation, she mentions that they should consider putting Lorraine in a home. He tells her if she wants to bail like she did so many years ago, then fine, but he’s taking care of his grandmother. It’s a little bit of an overreaction on Matt’s part to go that far, but he’s understandably upset when the grandmother he’s watched over for years gets injured under someone else’s care.
Things get complicated when, at home, Lorraine begins to cry and yell at Matt, asking for her slippers, which happen to already be on her feet. The realization that even he can’t care for his grandmother anymore hits Matt pretty hard, and he and Shelby agree to figure Lorraine’s future out together. It’s an important development to Matt’s story, but it feels clipped. There are essentially just four scenes to the subplot (the accident, Matt’s blowup at the hospital, Lorraine’s breakdown, and Matt’s apology to Shelby), and it ends with plenty of time left in the episode. There was lots to get to in “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” but I wish this story had a little more time to breathe.
There’s some talk from the school and the board that’s going around, and not everyone is happy about it. They’re considering redistricting the town of Dillon, literally splitting the town right down the middle to create East Dillon. The town would then reopen East Dillon High, a long-closed cesspool of a school. The reason behind this plan is that redistricting looks like the only way Dillon High can receive much-needed additional funds. The problem is that the redistricting would send more than half of Coach’s Panthers to East Dillon High, their new rivals.
The boosters refuse to stand by and let this happen. They meet up, take the redistricting map, and start changing the line, zig-zagging it to ensure that the Panthers stay in Dillon High. Evidently the boosters have the superintendent’s ear, giving them the power to make something like this happen. Eric tells Buddy that he doesn’t feel right about what the boosters are doing, to which the car salesman passionately tells him that none of the boosters will ever let some politics divide the Dillon Panthers. I’ve talked several times about Buddy’s willingness to manipulate in order to protect what he loves. He feels he’s losing Lyla, so this man is desperately willing to fight for his Panthers. If Eric doesn’t feel comfortable with what he’s hearing, he shouldn’t be asking, says Buddy.
The story is left hanging a little as Tami hears rumors of the new jigsaw puzzle-like map, and I imagine a development that could split this championship-caliber Panther team apart will have to be explored further in the season’s final two episodes.
Some miscellaneous thoughts:
• I was impressed by the continuity between last weeks episode and this week’s. Stories continued fluidly, really building upon the events that had already taken place.
• The scene at the church was really the only reminder we get of Christmas, which was the timeframe in which the episode aired on DirecTV. No lights, trees, gifts (from what I could tell), just a choir singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
• One of my favorite moments was at the bar where the boosters redrew the map. When Buddy orders a beer, Joe makes a crack about how Buddy’s last tab was quite hefty (referring to the $30,000 in damage he caused at the strip club). Buddy comes back with a joke (“That was the most expensive lapdance I ever had!”) but right after that, Buddy has a subtle reaction, resenting Joe’s comment, as Joe just looks on (knowingly?). It’s easy to miss, but once you catch it, it speaks volumes.
• Coach Taylor really seems to love the rain and the mud. There was, of course, the Mud Bowl of Season 1, but several times during the rainy game this week, he would say, “It’s a beautiful night!” That’s my kind of coach.
• With McCoy playing as badly as he was, I’m shocked that no Panther fans called for Saracen to come in as QB. Heck, they were calling for J.D. while Matt was playing good, yet they put up with interception after interception? Here in Dallas, Tony Romo’s the man, as far as Cowboys fans are concerned, but when he has his off days, you’ll always have some people calling for the backup QB, no matter who that may be.
• During Tyra and Angela’s final scene, I heard string instruments in the background music. I can’t recall any time before that I’ve heard violins in the score. It seemed odd and, for me, out of place.
• I know this is a short season, but man, the Panthers got to State really quickly. If we in fact saw every game they played this season, it easily comes short of the number of games from their championship run two years ago.
Jonathan Pacheco is a current web developer and future freelance writer. He blogs and reviews films at Bohemian Cinema.