Coach Taylor has lost his team.
Not “lost” as in they don’t respect him. It’s worse than that: they aren’t even coming to practice.
But in this second episode of television’s best show, other storylines begin to take precedence over Coach Taylor’s struggles: Matt Saracen gets an internship with a somewhat overdone artist. Luke Cafferty–the star running back at Dillon High–turns out to be a mild-mannered softy who is, ahem, playing for the wrong school. We see the beginnings of a relationship between Landry and the strong-willed Jess Merriweather, and Riggins moves in next door to Becky Sproles, a high school diva-wannabe whose bravado doesn’t quite strike the right notes.
In fact, the scene where Riggins and Coach reconnect is delightful: they are two men united by a love of football but who are pretty uncertain about their station in life.
But if there’s one storyline that stands out, it’s Tami’s. Her fight with Eric is a masterpiece of straightforward arguing, and she continues to establish herself as an incredibly savvy political operator. She sends Luke Cafferty to East Dillon, a decision that ends up with her being booed at the Dillon High pep rally. And while she demonstrates her own political savvy in the move by turning Joe McCoy’s threats on their head, it’s pretty clear this is going to be a defining moment for Tami at Dillon High.
And therein lies the difference between Coach and Tami. Coach manages to get Vince to bring the team back to him, and they burn the old, tattered jerseys. “Let’s finish it” becomes the new rallying cry, and with that Coach’s crisis is over. He has his team again.
But Tami’s crisis is just beginning. “They booed….boo….” she chokes out in the final scene. The tiny moral triumph of doing the right thing has come at an enormous cost. And while Coach’s problems were largely mistakes of his own making, Tami’s are due to, um, Eric’s refusal to tell her the truth and her refusal to cede the high moral ground. And that’s a tough place to be.
And that’s what strikes me about this episode: Tami and Eric are in different places, facing different challenges, and not really approaching them together. While Eric is somewhat comforting in the final scene, it’s hard to lose the image of Tami standing alone on a podium taking the boos and Joe McCoy’s smirk head on. She’s alone, and I’m not sure Eric realizes it.