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Friday Night Lights: In the Skin of a Lion

June 12th, 2010 | 3 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Men do dumb things in order to protect their public reputations.  When we feel like our success is at stake, there aren’t many boundaries we won’t cross.  And in this episode, the third, Coach Taylor crosses the financial line in a major, major way.

In other words, what I said about Coach being on the upswing?  Wrong.  Way wrong.

His decision to burn the old jerseys goes awry when he can’t come up with the money to pay for new ones.  To compound the problem, he lies directly to Tami about his decision.  It’s a painful scene–the sort of scene that reminds us why we watch the show.  Taylor’s performance is superb–there’s a subtle hint of agony as Eric wraps himself in a lie, and a palpable sense of anxiety as he scoots out the door just a little too fast.  The camera lingers a little too long on Tami, giving us the sense–nothing more–that she senses something isn’t quite right.  Watch:

And man, the reconciliation:  “Don’t ever do that again,” Tami says, with all the forthrightness and grace that we have grown to love.  It’s a tender moment, completed only by Eric’s reaffirmation that they’ll get the money at the end of the episode.

Meanwhile, the race relations on the team continue to fester.  Both Luke Cafferty and Vince continue to demonstrate their sensitive sides.  It’s a surprising episode in that regard–Coach hammers both of them, and they both bristle at the lack of encouragement.  Vince’s friend turns it into an explicitly racial issue, telling him that “the white man will stick with the white man.”  But Taylor goes out to see Cafferty and tells him–like he told Vince in the previous episode–that he needs him to lead.

And that’s going to keep Coach Taylor up at night.  Especially since Vince bails on a block, which prevents Cafferty from scoring a touchdown, prompting the second screaming fit of the season by Coach.

Meanwhile, Julie continues to grow up.  For as much as FNL focuses on the family, this is one of the few episodes where they overtly deal with religious elements.   And in one way, that’s entirely appropriate.   The structure of religious life in small-town Texas is, I understand, an overwhelmingly social affair.  Tami’s particularly lame justification for Julie’s questioning is painfully accurate for others in her situation.  And Eric is completely missing from the affair.

But Tami’s reasons for wanting Julie to continue going to church–it makes her feel like a family–highlight even more the tension Julie is feeling in her relationship with Matt.  She”s been told by the artist that she’s holding Matt down, and Matt didn’t do much to convince her otherwise–because in part, she is.  The separation is inevitable as Julie goes off to college and Matt paves his way as a small-town artist.  The danger of broken relationships that she cares deeply about is a particularly poignant one for Julie in this episode, and Tami’s comfort hits those chords.

We’ll see how this goes for Saracen and Julie.  I suspect ‘not well.’