'Friday Night Lights': J.D.'s new play book and Landry as female repellent
"Friday Night Lights" went straight for the awkward this week.
The tone was set from the opening moments, with the thick-skinned Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his no-nonsense wife, Tami (Connie Britton), standing on the steps of the McCoy mansion. And what a mansion it was! Not even the "Batman" films have show a manor this grandiose. It would be over the top even for a superhero.
But in the life-like world of "Friday Night Lights," set in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, the absurd quickly turns into some very real human discomfort. Cue some bad adult contemporary music, and on camera comes a meddling parent. Joe McCoy (D.W. Moffett) micromanages his son's life — taking all the fun out of being the star quarterback — and his easygoing, over-friendly way of speaking has perfected the innocuous threat.
When last we saw Joe and his son J.D. (Jeremy Sumpter), Joe was publicly shaming the boy at church for getting drunk at a high school party. Tonight he's telling the coach that the two of them will "make a hell of a team." Whereas Tami seems happy to have a new friend in the obnoxiously nice Katie McCoy (Janine Turner), a woman who appears to always be about two glasses of wine ahead of the rest of the world, the coach sees Joe for what he is: an overprotective parent who wields his money and influence in a way that assures that no one in his life ever says the word "no."
He blatantly ignores the coach's request to stop filling his bourbon glass, and Tami ignores her husband's glare that clearly says It Is Time To Leave — Now. Credit here goes to Kyle Chandler. Even when his Eric Taylor is interacting with Joe in an open field, the coach always seems to be looking for an exit route, his face displaying a subtle hint of panic — the inner-knowledge that something is always just on the verge of going terribly wrong when Mr. McCoy is present.
Things don't wholly erupt between Joe and the coach this week, but they get close. A few miscues by J.D. on the football field lead to Joe leaping from the stands at halftime. Taylor ties to warn J.D., telling the kid he failed to live up to the expectations placed upon him by his own father, but J.D. doesn't see it. But lo and behold, when the coach tells J.D. to stop looking for "daddy," the high schooler starts making his passes.
And then an unexpected hero emerges: Katie McCoy. J.D. still hasn't been granted the privilege to party with his teammates, but at least his dad didn't barge in the locker room after the game this week. But if J.D. hasn't woken up to the emotional abuse yet, at least his mother has, and that's clear when — for the first time this season — she drops her overreaching smile and assures J.D. that his father isn't mad at him, but her son should care less even if he is. "Look at me, he should be mad at himself ... You want to go get some junk food?"
It's a welcome moment, as "Friday Night Lights" had let Katie McCoy play the fool for too long. Even if loading up her son on carbs and fat is a small gesture, it's enough and instantly brings more depth to her character, one who misquoted books by Malcom Gladwell and seemed to care more about closets than stepping between J.D. and her husband.
The final six episodes of "Friday Night Lights" seem to be setting a great conflict among J.D., the coach and Joe. Here's hoping Katie has a part to play in it.
Other notes from this week's "Friday Night Lights":
Say, whatever happened to . . . J.D.'s very own quarterback coach from Dallas? We saw glimpses of him in the second episode of this season and then — poof. His very presence undermined Coach Taylor, and he could have potentially added some drama to the McCoy plot. Say, perhaps, Taylor had opted for some different lessons than the private coach. It could have opened "Friday Night Lights" up to a whole new world of plotlines, pitting Joe, his pocketbook and all of the football boosters against Taylor.
Teenage romance: "Friday Night Lights" has lost — or is losing — some big-time players this year. Gaius Charles' Brian "Smash" Williams is gone, and Scott Porter's Jason Street is on the way out. But if the characters who replace them are as strong as Devin, there shouldn't be any complaints.
Introduced last week as a new potential love interest for Landry (Jesse Plemons), Devin is the new bass player in Landry's band, Crucifictorious, and she's an absolute delight to watch on the screen (the pair are pictured above). She's quiet and almost gracefully ill at ease, but there's an underlying streak of confidence in her that contradicts her soft-spoken responses. It all nails her role as a musician here. She's a bit socially awkward but comfortable in front of an audience.
She seemed, in short, the perfect foil to Landry, and last week it was noted that Landry, for all his geekiness, had pretty good — almost unbelievably good — luck with women. But "Friday Night Lights" has come back to reality in its third season, especially when it comes to Landry's luck with the ladies.
Devin, it turns out, is a lesbian. And Landry's comedic response to the news: "No you're not."
While Landry is probably one of the few characters who inhabit Dillon who wouldn't bat an eye at such information, "Friday Night Lights" managed to find a way to unveil a gay character while illustrating the unintentional cruelness of teenage life.
When Landry asked why she kissed him if she's gay, Devin matter-of-factly says, "I didn’t want to be rude, Landry, and I had to make sure." So in one one season, Landry has been dumped by one woman and officially turned another off of men for good. It's enough to drive the man to say he possesses some sort of "repellent that repels females." And with those few words, and the struggle on Tami Taylor's face not to laugh when she hears them, last season's murder plot is now officially forgiven.
The power of the Flaming Lips: "Friday Night Lights" showed viewers what music geeks have known if years. If a Flaming Lips song can't bring a smile to your face, you have it bad. Not only is Landry depressed about Trya, he has to listen to the senior class president make announcements over the school intercom each day. Devin comes to the rescue, taking to the piano to play the Flaming Lips' wacky 1993 hit, "She Don't Use Jelly," a song also featured in the original "Beverly Hills 90210."
Landry doesn't break a smile at Devin's take on Wayne Coyne, but later, when she wants to know that the two will remains friends and that her "secret" is safe with him, he lets her know both are true by breaking into the opening riff for "She Don't Use Jelly."
Conservative Texas: Will Devin being gay become a source of conflict later this season? There were a number of hints this week that the more conservative nature of Dillon, Texas, may come into play as the season winds down.
Brad Leland's Buddy Garrity, who's beefy, football-loving character is a walking-and-talking Texas billboard, went from Season 3's villain to Season 3's most tragic figure in a matter of weeks. Even in this shortened, 13-episode season, "Friday Night Lights" is finding ways to show different shades of its major characters. Here, we saw a visit from Buddy's two children.
Gone to live with Buddy's ex in California, the kids came back to the South hating meat, loving veganism and looking down upon football. Before all is forgiven and the kids warm up to their father (and really, this plot would have been a dud if it weren't for Leland, who spent the whole episode walking the line between crying and having a fit), Buddy lashes out at the "left-wing propaganda" devouring his kids.
And earlier, Tami and Eric diffuse a principal-versus-coach conflict by winning over — a bit too easily — a family skeptical of letting its delinquent son play football. Or, in the words of the skeptic, "a dumb game that this whole whacked-out town is obsessed with."
Mixed Street: The attempt by Jason Street and the Riggins boys to fix up Buddy's former house seems to be wrapping up a bit too quickly, and a bit too cleanly. Only last week the house was in tatters, with giant holes where kitchen walls once stood. Now it's about to be sold for close to $300,000 in a depressed market. But if this plotline is being wrapped up with a pretty bow, Street fixing Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) with a highlight football reel for college recruiters was this season's sweetest moment thus far.
Photo: Bill Records, courtesy DirecTV