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Friday Night Lights Recap: Season 3, Episode 8, “New York, New York”

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<em>Friday Night Lights</em> Recap: Season 3, Episode 8, “New York, New York”

Whenever a character makes the trek from a small country town to the Big Apple, you know something important’s going to happen. Jason Street and Tim Riggins seem to realize this as well. While celebrating the success of their house-flipping project, Jason reveals his intentions to go to New York, get a job as a sports agent, and win back his gal and son. “Why would you want to leave Texas?” Tim asks. “Because it’s not about Texas anymore. It’s about Erin and Noah.” “New York, New York” is Jason’s right of passage. He’s proven himself worthy, now he must voyage across the land and complete his trials. If he fights hard enough, he’ll earn the life he craves so badly.

Tim and Jason’s trip to NYC harkens back to their trip to Mexico, when Jason was seeking experimental surgery for his condition (a trip that pays tribute to Y tu mamá también). Because of the nature of the situation, there’s a bit of a benevolent “City Mouse and Country Mouse” thing going on. The Texas stereotype of simpler, friendlier people has some validity to it, so a place in the Northeast like NYC is going to be jarring for a couple of kids who have barely left Dillon. They see the sights, they eat New York hot dogs (to which, through a mouthful, they both say, “Worth it”), and they begin suit shopping for Jason’s meeting with the sports agent. They hear the name Paul Stuart thrown around, only to find that those suits are upwards of $1,800. They go for the next best thing: a little shop in a much different part of town selling 2 suits, 2 shirts, 2 ties, 2 pairs of socks, and a pair of shoes all for the low, low price of $200. You won’t find a deal like that in Dillon.

The pair go to see Grant Harbert, the World’s Friendliest Agent, who isn’t nearly as friendly anymore, especially since Jason’s old friend Wendell decided to sign with a different, glossier sports agency. After telling Jason that he’s got no shot at getting even an entry-level position in the agency, especially against Harvard grads, Harbert’s sure to give him a “Welcome to New York.” The boy is ready to give up until Tim, rarely the brains of the operation, concludes that in order for Jason to get what he wants, he needs to give Harbert what he wants, which is Wendell. It’s almost like a quest from a video game or a feat from mythology; in order for Jason to win over the now-cold agent, he must first travel to a specific college campus, retrieve the football player, and present him to the agent.

And retrieve the football player he does. Despite it being one of those “he’s talking about one thing but he’s actually talking about himself” speeches, Jason’s words to Wendell about fighting for what you love still manage to be effective. He even admits to the football player that his primary reason for approaching him is his desire to work at the agency. Once Jason, Tim, and Wendell show up at Harbert’s office, the World’s Friendliest Agent returns, rewarding Jason with a position at the agency.

Just as we had our final moment with Smash earlier this season, we see presumably the last of Jason Street. The final scene, where he shows up in New Jersey to see Erin and Noah, had some potential as a poignant farewell for a character, but there were a few slip-ups that held it back. Lines like “Texas forever” felt forced, and Taylor Kitsch, who plays Tim, as good as he’s been throughout the show and especially this season, just doesn’t seem able to carry the weight of an emotional, even demonstrative moment. His personal goodbye to Jason was well acted enough, but the final shot of the episode, a push-in on a very emotional Tim standing by a taxi, was hard to watch. Every time I see it, it takes me out of the scene because it feels as if Kitsch just isn’t quite sure how to handle the moment, the emotion his character is supposed to feel, or perhaps even the direction given to him. Had the actor or the director gone for something smaller, like the show typically does, the moment could have worked no matter what Kitsch’s acting abilities.

As it was, the entire scene was partially saved by a completely separate scene. Jason’s monologue to Erin about how he’s never going to let her or Noah down could have simply been another typical canned TV speech. But earlier, we see Jason in the cab rehearsing that very same speech, trying to perfect the wording. Because we are essentially able to compare the two speeches, we can see what choices he kept, what he added in the emotion of the actual moment, and we can see the difference between reciting something and meaning something.

When Mac, Coach’s right hand man on the Panthers, goes down with medical problems, Buddy is first to chime in with an interim replacement: Wade Aikman, J.D.’s personal quarterback coach. Coach hates the idea because Wade is on Joe McCoy’s payroll, but he needs someone to help the team, especially getting ready to make a playoff run. Eric feels he has no other choice, so he brings Wade on board. Soon, the young, intelligent assistant is showing the players new practice drills “that I learned at a coaching clinic at USC.” When the hospitalized Mac finds out about this development, he informs Eric that he’s got a fox in the hen house. The move to bring in Wade really was the best thing the team could get for this year’s playoff run, but it was a foolish move personally for Eric. He’s had enough trouble from Joe as it’s been, but he’s been able to push the father away by essentially claiming jurisdiction over all football matters involving J.D. McCoy. Well, now Joe has gotten some control back by having Wade in the locker room with the quarterback. And I keep getting the Jason Garrett vibe from Wade; a young, talented, educated, exciting assistant who brings something fresh to the table. He has a charisma that could easily win over a room, or a team.

Also on the field, Matt Saracen has discovered that he has talents that would benefit a wide receiver. He’s no Larry Fitzgerald, but he is athletic; we’ve seen him scramble for touchdowns on many occasions. He naturally knows every route, he can catch, and he obviously thinks like a QB. What more could you want? Thing is, coach will hear none of it. If Matt gets hurt playing receiver and then J.D. goes down, they have no quarterback, promptly ending their championship hopes (it would probably cost Eric his job as well, considering what happened the previous year with Smash).

Julie tells Matt that he just needs to keep asking and pestering Eric; it works for her. Matt refuses to push the issue, so his girlfriend steps in. With enough pressure, Eric agrees to consider the proposition, only if Matt is able to catch 10 different passes. Drop one, the conversation’s over. Another video game quest; in order for Matt to become a wide receiver, he must catch 10 different passes in a row thrown by the skeptical coach. The boy catches nine, missing only the last one, a purposefully overthrown bomb by Eric. But the coach calls it a “piss-poor pass” and agrees to consider the issue (once he gets some aspirin for that throwing arm).

Before you discount this plot development, I must assure you that it’s not very far-fetched at all. High school football players often play several positions (usually offense and defense), and the NFL has several wide receivers who are former quarterbacks, either in college or high school (the first that comes to mind is Patrick Crayton of the Dallas Cowboys).

While Joe works Eric on the field, his wife Katy works Tami on the housing market. A dabbler in real estate, Katy shows Tami the house of her dreams; the problem is that it has the price tag of Eric’s nightmares. They could barely afford the home at that moment. Imagine if either of them lost their jobs. Tami’s desperate to get the home, as it would be the perfect place to raise their infant, Gracie Bell, and even a great location for Eric to hold dinners for the team (such as the one that they passed over to the McCoys earlier in the year). Ultimately, Eric convinces Tami that, while he would love to give her this house, he would never be able to sleep at night. The subplot slightly stinks of “filler,” but it’s still one that rings true. Having just moved into my first house with my girlfriend these past few weeks (renting), I can tell you that for some (or many) women, a house they love is as important as almost anything. Me? I’ll live anywhere, just make sure it’s got an Internet connection. I plan on using my tax returns to fund some trips to film festivals; my girlfriend is using all of hers to do more stuff with the house.

It’s an important time for Tyra, to say the least. She’s got a couple of college interviews coming up, hoping to get into a school, not as a handout, but having earned her way in by working extra hard after beginning slowly. At the same time, Cash is ready to go back on the rodeo circuit, leaving town and Tyra behind. He asks her to join him—“just a couple of days” he says—but with school and the interviews coming up, it’s just not realistic. Surprisingly, the cowboy seems to understand. He knows that college is important to Tyra, and that it’s more important than a little rodeo tour with him.

Tyra’s mom has other ideas. She believes Cash is probably going to be gone for much longer, barraged by women in tight jeans, and she’s convinced he’ll give in. “He’s a cowboy.” Tyra asks her man about this over the phone, and, because he loves her so much and doesn’t want to lie to her, he confesses that he’ll try to be faithful, but can’t guarantee anything. Sometimes those nights on the road get awful lonely and cold, y’know? Hearing this is bad enough for Tyra, but it just so happens that she was about to walk into her first college interview. As you can imagine, college was the furthest thing from her mind. The interview goes horribly, and Tami can barely hide that fact. The possibility of losing Cash plus the (apparent) probability of losing college is too much for Tyra to handle, so she packs a few bags and hops in the cowboy’s truck to go on tour with him.

I’ve said it before: this is the storyline I was waiting for, especially when it comes to Tyra. This is how a person who was once focused and determined can lose her way. This has been going on for several episodes now, and we’ve seen how, despite her best intentions, Tyra will compromise little things here and there for the dreamy man she’s become so attached to. We all know that Tyra’s making a huge mistake, and we could see from the beginning that her relationship with Cash was probably going to be a bad influence. Balling up your dreams along with that list of potential colleges seems like an incredibly rash and illogical thing to do—and it is. But in Tyra’s state of mind, I can see how she could come to that decision. It’s almost tragic.

Some miscellaneous notes:

• If this is the last we’ve seen of Jason, I’m going to assume it’s also the last we’ve seen of Murderball Herc. I loved his line about what he’ll do with his money: Either open up an orphanage, or see how many margaritas he can buy with $14,000.
• Jason mentions that his salary at the agency is $40,000, which is not much in the Northeast. Down here in Texas, it’s actually pretty good for an uneducated 19 or 20-year-old, mainly because the cost of living is so darn low. So you can see partially why Jason seemed rather excited or proud of the fact.
• If Tim is in New York/New Jersey with Jason, isn’t he missing school? Even if it was just one of the weekends, we saw at least one practice taking place during his time up north. If I’m not mistaken, last time he took off and missed school and practice, he was kicked off the team, wasn’t he?
• I particularly enjoyed the way Tim and Jason waited as long as they could to outwardly say how much they care about each other. Throughout the episode, the two boys would hint at the implications of Jason’s eventual move, but they’d end the conversation by teasing each other, pretending they didn’t care, when the opposite was true.
• If any of you noticed any overt homages during this NYC trip that I was too blind to catch, name them in the comments. If the Mexico trip paid tribute to Cuarón’s film, I’d imagine this outing would do something similar.

Jonathan Pacheco is a current web developer and future freelance writer. He blogs and reviews films at Bohemian Cinema.