But then Tami caught Maura in a supply closet hooking up with some random guy (who wasn’t even hot), and took Maura back to the guidance counselor’s office for one more talk. Judging from Maura’s expression, that talk delivered the wake-up call. We raised our eyebrows at a show that would condemn a high-school girl sleeping around and getting a bad reputation. Isn’t that what feminism, being a woman comfortable with her sexuality, and growing up is all about? This show says no, and we sort of like that it had the balls to say that in this modern age where casual sex is portrayed as being everywhere, common, and normal. When casual sex is portrayed as standard, it makes people who act responsibly sometimes feel like freaks, idiots, and prudes, and that's not right. It's nice to see the other perspective on TV, for a change. We like balance.
Vince’s father got out of prison, and his mother let that father move right back in. Vince was upset and started acting out when Coach Taylor made the football team do charity and wear suits to make up for the YouTube video. He broke down in the coach’s office, asking him why he had rise above everyone else’s bad behavior when his father never taught him how to be a man. The coach responded that he had to STRIVE to behave well, because that is what integrity is: the striving. Nice line. We would make fun of it for looking like it should go on a sports-related Hallmark card, but it’s too true to mock. Then the show threw in a little “this is Vince’s real father figure” moment by having the coach tell Vince he was proud of him. Aww. On the football field, Vince performs incredibly and the team wins. His father, who was there, realized that Vince was the new man of the house, and that he needed to leave the mother alone. He packed up and left, saying he’d be around.
In subplots, we have Buddy back, struggling with the decision to let his son come live with him after his mother phoned in that she was having trouble dealing with Buddy Jr.’s love for marijuana. Coach Taylor convinced Buddy to be there for his son. Vince’s girlfriend, Jess, is the new equipment manager for the team. Julie Taylor slept with her married-but-separated T.A. at college. Gross. Whyyyy. We need to start a petition against girls sleeping with their teachers on TV. It's so overdone this fall season. Julie needs to make some friends, dump that weirdo, or move home. Her arc this season is going against everything the rest of the episode was trying to say. Was the show trying to be ironic? Showing that Tami was taking care of Maura's self-respect while her own daughter was running amok, at 18, sleeping with older, married men?
We love when shows delve deep enough into characters to give them flaws and don’t idealize heroes, but we also love when a show actually HAS heroes. The great thing about Friday Night Lights is that you have good people to root for. Sure, it seems the coach and Tami have raised a daughter who doesn’t know what the flip she’s doing, and they have made their own mistakes. But everyone on the show has a struggle to relate to, but the show doesn’t need to make them irresponsible or bad examples to show that struggle. We like Coach and Tami Taylor, because they are role models for coaches, teachers, and everyone else who works with kids. Also, to kids watching the show, they can be the guidance counselor and coach that most kids never have. Their lessons about integrity are the stuff that is rarely seen on television, for fear of being too preachy or not edgy enough. Concepts like “honor” and “self-sacrifice” seem to be largely out of style in the media (with the exception of the excellent Harry Potter), but FNL continues to bring these things up in the high-school atmosphere. Glee champions equality and acceptance, but hey, so do most shows now. FNL seems to be the only show championing making the most of your opportunities, having self-respect, and having character. It's not perfect, and it's no Leave it to Beaver, but we like it that way. It's more real.
Episode grade: B+