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'Friday Night Lights': Of tattoos and babies

October 29, 2008 |  7:30 pm

Those going through "Smash" withdrawal were rewarded early with this week's "Friday Night Lights." One of last season's biggest cliffhangers was answered, and then some.

Just as Gaius Charles' Brian "Smash" Williams was getting out of town, viewers were reminded that Scott Porter's Jason Street was still in Dillon. Not that anyone forgot, as nary an episode goes by without a character in Dillon mentioning the name Jason Street.

The fallen legend, met with a tragic end in the series premiere, went from the town favorite to the town martyr. And despite his sometimes hair-brained schemes, and underlying anger, he can still win a favor just by flashing a smile, or tapping into the glorified nostalgia that Dillon holds for football.

But if Street were looking for a purpose after suffering a spinal injury, he's found one in Erin (Tamara Jolaine). The mother of his son (cliffhanger answered, and there's photographic evidence up above), Street viewed the birth as a miracle, as the doctors told him it wasn't possible. Now if only Erin would corporate.

If "Friday Night Lights" spent its first four episodes dealing with football and community concerns, what with the whole JumboTron saga and Smash's college tryout, Episode 5 goes straight to the heart. And when Street pleads to Erin to move in with him -- if their names are together on a birth certificate, it's only logical they're together on a lease, he argues -- it's a giant bundle of warm, desperate puppy love. One almost feels awkward just watching it, and Street's roommate Herc (Kevin Rankin) is helpless to stop him.

A brief diversion to praise Herc: For those who missed Street, who didn't miss Herc just as much, if not more? At first, Herc seemed a bad influence, dragging Street into some hardcore games of wheelchair rugby. But really, he's done something Street -- and many in Dillon -- have failed to do, and that's learn to laugh of the absurdity that's around them. When Street is frantically trying to clean the apartment for the arrival of the baby, Herc is right behind him, picking up everything Street is throwing aside. And how does he let Street know he's gone too far? By yelling this:"You do not have to hide porn from a baby!"

Back to Show Tracker: Love can sometimes impair one's judgment, and perhaps that explains why Street thinks it's a grand idea to get in cahoots with the Riggins boys. Has Street not learned anything from watching every girl who's ever tried to date a Riggins? It ends, more often than not, badly, despite their woozy good looks and boozy charm.

Yet Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) says what Street wants to hear, even if he's drunkenly paraphrasing Dillon's No. 1 Used Car Dealer Buddy Garrity (Brad Leland). It may very well have been this episode's highlight, as well as its best line, when Riggins tries to match Garrity's theory that "when all the scared rats run away from the sinking market, the real entrepreneurs run in."

It's enough to sell Herc and Street that flipping a house -- even though, as Street says, "the housing market sucks right now" -- is actually a viable possibility, and not just something people on reality shows do. And suddenly the villain of the first four episodes -- that'd be Garrity -- becomes the voice of reason. It's his house the boys want to flip, and when Garrity sees that his former home has been sold to four boys, two of them with the last name Riggins, he tries to put a stop to the whole deal.

It's to "Friday Night Lights'" credit that no character is truly good or evil. Buddy is obsessed with football, money and chasing women, but there's never been any doubt he loves his daughter, and he loves helping out the town's fallen star in Jason Street. "You're selling me the house," says Street. "And you'd do that, wouldn't you? You'd sell that house to me ... If you ever cared about me as a player, as the quarterback of the Dillon Panthers, you will sell me that house."

Garrity isn't one to resist some football romanticism, and now the house is Jason's. Except Erin is realizing that she's going to need the help of her East Coast parents to raise her child. And thus, Episode 5 ends with a similar cliffhanger as Season 2: Jason persuaded her to keep the baby, now can he actually see the child?

So now how real is "Friday Night Lights" going to get? Are Jason and his cohorts actually going to be able to flip a giant, outdated suburban monstrosity in 2008? Is it going to give the budding real estate moguls enough cash to send Street happily back east to be with his baby and Erin? Or is the house going to languish on the market -- a Buddy Garrity-approved Realtor couldn't sell it, after all -- and send the boys careening into a life of debt and petty crime? There's only seven episodes left, and Porter leaves the series before it concludes this season, so here's bettin' on the happy ending.

Other notes from this week's "Friday Night Lights:"

Strongest subplot: Julie's tattoo. With Tami (Connie Britton) having been promoted to principal, we haven't seen too much of her just being a mom this season. That changed this week, when daughter Jule (Aimee Teegarden) showed up at the kitchen counter with a tat scribbled on her ankle. While Julie's choice in ink isn't that great -- a rose in a heart, no color -- Julie's justification for it is all frustrated teenager, annoyed at even being questioned about it: "I was walking home from work, and I had my paycheck, and I always wanted one."

It leads to a tearjerker of a scene with mom and daughter, on their way to have the tattoo removed. They never get to the tattoo removal shop in San Antonio, as Tami pulls the car over, and reveals to Julie that she had a wild streak herself. With the anger having long subsided, she doesn't lecture, and instead offers a quick lesson plan for every parent watching the series, simply asking her daughter to promise that the tattoo doesn't equal some journey down a rebellious path.

It's the simple things: Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) had a tough episode, with Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) finally breaking the news that he will not be the stating QB anymore. That scene was probably a little weaker than it could have been. He talks himself out of quitting to the coach with this speech: "I'll sit on your bench. I'll come to practice and do whatever you want me to do, but I'm gonna hate it, and you're gonna hate it." A bit melodramatic for "Friday Night Lights," and the coach will probably get over it with a win.

Better was the scene with Saracen and his mom (Kim Dickens). He's reluctantly warming to her, and the two seemed to finally have a moment of understanding near the end of the episode. After explaining to mom, who had just done some grocery shopping, why it may not be a good idea to come to the football game, what with having lost the starting job and all, he extends to her a peace offering: "Want a cookie?"

-- Todd Martens

Photo credit: NBC / DirecTV