It was bound to happen. The writing on the wall was there for several episodes, and in “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” Matt Saracen was finally demoted to backup quarterback as J.D. McCoy was crowned QB1. Coach Taylor has finally chose talent over experience and potential over the status quo. As I mentioned last week, a quarterback carousel will only work for a few games, and this team needs to look towards the future. As far as the coaching staff is concerned, J.D. is that future.
Eric deals with the situation as respectfully as he knows how by going to Matt’s house to tell him face to face. Things get a bit awkward when Shelby and Lorraine come home to find Coach Taylor there as Matt’s grandmother begins proclaiming that Eric “walks on water” as far as that household is concerned. When Shelby introduces herself as Matt’s mother, Coach’s reaction tells us that he realizes he may not have done everything he could have for Matt. As Tami mentioned last week, this boy is like family to the Taylors. So how could Eric have neglected him to the point where he knows nothing about a development as significant as this one?
Matt appears to take the demotion like a champ, pushing through it. But soon he’s walking around with a numbness and an apathy that hints at a lot of pain on the inside. When Shelby reveals that she’s considering renting out a chair at a local salon, Matt simply says, “You can do whatever you want,” whereas a week or two ago he might’ve freaked out. His hidden anger finally comes out as he lets loose on some football equipment, and he reaffirms the inherent injustice of the whole situation. He’s done everything the coach ever asked him to do. He led the team to a championship. He’s helped them reach 3-1 so far this year (the sole loss, if you’ll remember, was the game that Matt single-handedly clawed the team back to contention, only to drop the ball during the game-winning play). After all he’s done, it seems so unfair to punish Matt when he’s technically done nothing wrong. Eric convinces Matt not to quit, but the quarterback promises that this decision will eat away at Coach every time he looks over to see his backup still doing what’s asked of him.
If there’s a silver lining for Matt, it’s that some of the weight that he constantly carries on his shoulders has been lifted. He gets a break from the pressure of being QB1 in Dillon, and he can focus on new things, like his relationship with his mother. They get a nice little scene at the end of the episode that could have easily been a clunker. The boy finally reveals to his mother everything that’s been going on and how it’s made him feel. The scene was dangerously close to being one of those “oh look, they’re bonding!” scenes, but there were several things that turned it around. Unlike many other scenes of this kind, we were treated to more of the actual conversation. So many times a show will begin this scene, and just when you catch on to the fact that the two are “sharing a moment,” it ends. Here, we get to hear Matt voice some things that we were already aware of but his mother wasn’t. To most shows, this is redundant and unnecessary, but the folks behind Friday Night Lights are smart enough to realize that just because the information is old doesn’t mean new things can’t be revealed. We get to hear Matt explain to Shelby how Jason Street’s injury was the only reason he ever became the starter, and also how scary Jason’s accident really was. It felt like a real conversation between two people who are truly getting to know each other for the first time.
Tyra and her hunky rodeo cowboy Cash are still together, and we once again see him popping some pills (or “cowboy candy” as he called it last week). Tyra notices that he’s popping them a little too often, but he just insists that the more pain he feels, the more pills he needs. This really is an overt setup for some sort of payoff in a future episode, and I’m a bit bothered by how amateurishly this device is being handled. Maybe I have to wait for the outcome to fully understand it, but I’m wondering why the show wants or thinks it needs this pill-popping situation.
Even without knowing of the cowboy candy, Tami is worried about Tyra’s relationship with Cash. She’s been skipping classes, bombing tests, and the principal just doesn’t want Tyra to throw away everything she’s worked for because of some man. Tyra pretends that she doesn’t care what Tami says, but deep down, she seems to suspect some of the same things. One day, Cash convinces Tyra to skip out on class again, but this time, he takes her to see something quite beautiful: a newborn horse (a foal, if I’m not mistaken). Tyra realizes that there really is more to this guy. There’s an appreciation for life and some of its magnificent surprises. When Tyra comes back and tells her principal that she’s wrong about Cash, I really like Tami’s response, which is a simple “okay.” Parents and parental figures have a hard time relinquishing control and trusting the decisions of their kids, but Tami knows that at some point or another, she has to trust Tyra’s choices, especially if she doesn’t want to push the girl away. As she said, she doesn’t care about Cash, she only cares about Tyra. So if Tyra’s okay, then Tami’s okay.
But it’s this realization that gets Tami thinking about her situation with Julie. We saw remnants of the young girl’s rebellious streak back in the first episode of the season (tricking her dad into signing papers to change her schedule despite the disapproval of her mother), and it seems to be back this week as Julie gets herself a bona fide tattoo on her ankle. Cue the parents freaking out. But after everything with Tyra, Tami realizes that, whether she likes it or not, she’s going to have to learn to trust in Julie’s decisions. On their way to get the tattoo removed, Tami pulls the car over and reveals to Julie that she had nearly dropped out of high school, and that the only reason she didn’t was because she met Eric. He had his own problems, but they had the help of each other to make it through those problems (probably a very big reason why Tami and Eric have the relationship they have today). Tami’s point is that paths like those are so easy to take. Julie is very independent. She doesn’t want her own “Eric” to pull her out of problems. But her mother just needs reassurance that she can put her faith in the decisions her daughter makes.
This story isn’t needed to advance any sort of plot, but it didn’t feel out of place in the episode. It could easily have been botched, but I think it was held afloat by the choice to let Tami get things wrong at first. Her and Eric’s approach to solving the situation failed on several counts, and it’s not until Tami finds the right approach with her “surrogate daughter” that she can finally reach Julie at a level the girl can respond to.
I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t surprised to see Jason Street show up this week; deep down I’d hoped that we were through with his story. I didn’t find his one-night-stand plot from last season to be all that interesting, but the consequences of that development are central to his story this season. When Jason knocked up Erin the Waitress, he considered it a miracle; doctors told him we wasn’t going to be able to have kids after his accident. When the last episode of Season 2 ended, Jason vowed to care for this baby with all his heart. Apparently, he’s a man of his word because the new Jason Street is a proud, infatuated father of a chubby young lad named Noah. Erin, who seems to have lost some personality since we last saw her, is a stressed out mother trying to make ends meet. It’s difficult to gauge her relationship with Jason. They care for Noah like divorced parents would, sharing custody, yet Jason tries to convince Erin to stay the night at his place. He talks about making more money to provide a better life for her and Noah. Eventually, Jason voices that Erin is keeping him at arms length until he can prove to be a worthy man, one who can provide for her and their child.
Jason has always come across as an intelligent person, though we know that he can do dumb, rash things when he’s desperate (such as going to Mexico to receive experimental treatment for his paralysis). Well, he must be quite desperate to enter a “get rich (relatively) quick” scheme with, of all people, the Riggins brothers and Murderball Herc. I’m no realtor, but if you ask me, flipping houses sounds a little risky to begin with, let alone in this economy. But it goes to show you what a salesman Buddy Garrity actually is.
Buddy? That’s right. Tim uses Buddy’s line (“When all the scared rats are leaving a sinking market, that’s when a real entrepreneur steps in—a true visionary”) to convince Herc, Jason, and Billy to buy the Garrity house and sell it for a profit. Just one line and everyone’s convinced. And when you think about it, it’s when Tim hears Buddy’s utterance that the whole idea is cooked up to begin with. Just like that, Buddy’s blatant line converts 4 people with absolute ease.
Yet it was nice to have the tables switched on Buddy. When he refuses to sell the house to the four young men, Jason has to use his own salesman skills to make Buddy a believer, and he knows exactly how to do it. Buddy seems to have 2 major weak spots: his daughter and his football team. His daughter is, in a way, the reason he’s so against selling the house; he’d be selling it to Tim, the guy who could end up being the father of Buddy’s grandchildren. That eats him up. But Jason pushes Buddy’s football buttons to the point where he can’t resist. Buddy’s not selling his house to the Riggins, Jason says. He’s selling it to Jason Street, quarterback of the Dillon Panthers. He’s selling it to the guy who came through in the 4th quarter. The guy who, when you needed a leader and you needed someone to take charge and steer the ship, he was there. “That guy is who you’re going to sell the house to,” Jason says. The scene is so much fun to watch, not only because Jason is able to sell to the ultimate salesman (and leave him staring off into the distance, his eyes full of nostalgia), but also because the scene further reveals Jason’s strengths. He’s a good salesman, and while he hates using the disability or small-town QB cards, he’ll do it if he has to. This passionate young man is fighting for Erin and for his son. He’ll do whatever it takes.
Unfortunately, Erin has reached her limit. She’s moving back east to receive help from family, and she’s taking Noah with her. Jason tries to convince her that the house flipping project will work, but it’s to no avail. “You can come visit. He’s your son, too,” is the only comfort she can give Jason. He’s now left with only one option: flip this house and make that profit, otherwise he’ll never convince Erin to come back with Noah.
As I mentioned, I find this whole plan very iffy and risky, yet I have a hard time believing that Friday Night Lights would set Jason up just to knock him down again. Would they really be willing to let him fail when he’s desperately trying to do the right thing? You could argue that it’s a possibility, given what happened to Matt this week. But it seems to me that Jason’s subplot will be much like Smash’s; it’ll last a few episodes until we can finally be reassured that Jason will be okay, which probably means that the house flipping will work. It’s an assumption on my part, but I think it’s a fairly safe one. So if I think I know what is going to happen, all that’s left is the “how.”
Some miscellaneous notes:
1. I’m praying, praying, praying that this is the last we’ve seen of Guy, the crazy drug dealer of last season. I feared the copper wire plot would bring the show down much like last year’s “stealing money from a drug dealer” development, but I didn’t think they’d actually merge the two! Luckily, all the copper wire has been sold (to some shady guy who carries 20 grand in his backpack), so I’m assuming that effectively ends that plot device. Here’s hoping there are no more scrapes with drug dealers firing guns.
2. Jason’s words and actions tell us that he loves Erin, but I’m just not feeling it between the two. Honestly, I think he is totally in love with his son, and it simply spills over onto the boy’s mother.
3. If Jason’s subplot indeed only lasts 4 or 5 episodes like Smash’s, this season is going to start feeling like Season 3 of Veronica Mars. The show had opted to create several 4 or 5 episode mysteries as opposed to grand 22 episode ones of seasons past. Oddly, Veronica Mars made it work, but I still missed those whirlwind finales where everything finally unravels.
4. I’ll admit that I didn’t notice this until I read something on IMDb, but in the early scene with all the coaches convincing Eric to make J.D. the starting quarterback, “CRM 114” is written on the whiteboard. It’s a nice homage to Stanley Kubrick and Dr. Strangelove, though at first it seems a bit out of place. Why would someone choose this time and place to put an homage to Dr. Strangelove? Just pure fun? Maybe. But take a moment to remember what the CRM-114 Discriminator was in the film. Once the attack orders were given to the bombers (Plan-R), the CRM-114 was ultimately used to block any incoming transmissions that didn’t have a specific three-letter prefix; further orders were only obeyed if they were received through that device. This prevented the White House from communicating with the bombers in their attempt to recall the mission. If memory serves me (it’s been a while since I’ve seen the film, so I’m consulting the script found online), the prefix for the CRM-114 was cracked, and all planes were recalled except for one, who’s device was fried, meaning they never received the orders to abort. I think we all remember what happened with that bomber. Maybe I’m reaching here, but could this be a very subtle yet specific hint? Is the coaching staff like the crew of that bomber, unable and unwilling to listen to any other reasoning or scenarios? Will the decision to go with J.D. McCoy eventually blow up in their faces? But most importantly, if J.D. is the bomb, will Coach bull-ride him?
Jonathan Pacheco is a current web developer and future freelance writer. He blogs and reviews films at Bohemian Cinema.