'Friday Night Lights:' The Jason Street show
When "Friday Night Lights" returned this fall for 13 episodes on DirecTV, the first question on the minds of most fans was what happened to Jason Street (Scott Porter)? Last season ended with a cliffhanger, with Jason pleading with Erin (Tamara Jolaine) to keep her baby and let him raise it with her.
Writers and producers kept fans waiting for four full episodes before providing an answer. And this week, the Jason Street storyline was officially wrapped up. As "Friday Night Lights" nears its stretch run (five more episodes to go, after tonight!), Jason Street obsessees were rewarded with a bittersweet 44- minutes.
For this episode was devoted to little other than Street, but alas, it marked the character's send-off.
For the remotely sensitive, this episode surely brought out the tissues. The final scene, with the wheelchair-bound Street holding his months-old baby, while pleading with Erin to let him move in (or near) her, even caused tough-guy Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) to swell up. And it featured not one, but two, locker-room-ready inspirational speeches from the character, one stunning (the aforementioned speech in this paragraph), and one less so.
The good: Porter's Street is not the only fan favorite leaving this season. This episode, the series lost Street to a baby, but earlier this year, "Friday Night Lights" lost Gaius Charles' Brian "Smash" Williams to college. The series deserves definite credit for showing a teen pregnancy storyline from a new point of view -- a sentimental male lead having to persuade a more skeptical mother-to-be, which the series continued to play up this season. As Street came up with crazy schemes -- like flipping a house -- it was Erin who kept the level head.
This episode also marked the first time that "Friday Night Lights" brought some of its main characters out of the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, and into a major city. Street brings Riggins along on his trip to Manhattan, hoping to score a job with a fancy sports agent he briefly met (another one of those crazy schemes). Walking around Manhattan, Street and Riggins looked less like Texans, and more like Brooklyn scenesters.
And at first, it seemed a bit odd that Riggins was so into seeing the Broadway production of "Gypsy." But his intentions became clear in the episode's strongest comedic moment: "Strippers are in it!"
To be clear, it has been good, these past few episodes, to see so much of Street. And yeah, the boy deserved some good luck after having his football dreams (and spine) shattered in the series premiere. But his sudden penchant for coming out a winner was entering unbelievable territory. Street's mission to flip a house for some quick cash was this season's weakest storyline, and one most full of holes.
But fine, he succeeded. But to suddenly become a sports agent? Even with his charisma and charm, it's over-the-top. So it was nice when Street was told flat-out by the agent that these jobs only go to the Harvard-educated, not high school grads who work in a car dealership.
It was a nice shot of reality in a largely fairy-tale episode. But as fairy tales go, you can't beat the final speech Street gave Erin, with the former star football pleading that he wants to be a good father. Erin is won over, but not before Street mentions that he's willing to find a place "far enough away that I'm not going to be stalker ... but close enough that I can be here."
The bad: OK, so you can take the boys out of Texas, but you can't take the Texas out of the boys. But they're not dumb.
When Street wanted a suit to win a job and win his girl, are we to believe that the boys are really so brain-dead that they have to stop a businessman on the street and ask him where he got his suit? Paul Stuart, he answers. So instead of hitching a cab to a Macy's, Riggins and Street spend an entire day acting like cellphones don't exist, wandering the streets of Manhattan looking for the designer store. Please.
And Riggins trying to break a hundred at a hot dog stand was cute, but you can't break a hundred at any fast-food joint or coffee shop either, so this shouldn't have been a shock. Living in a small town doesn't equal ignorance, and it was a rare moment in which "Friday Night Lights" played up stereotypes.
Later, when Street realizes you can't became an agent just by wheeling in an office, it's Riggins who offers Street an out. A friend of Street's, Wendell, has spurned the agent, and if Street can persuade Wendell to change his mind, Street will likely score a job. All fine and dandy, but Street's speech to Wendell is full of small-business cliches, and offers Wendell no real solid points for sticking with the smaller sports agent.
Verdict: Street will be missed. After seeing the great hope of Texas go down in the series' first episode, "Friday Night Lights" built Street back up as a character who could talk and charm his way in and out of every situation, regardless of how real. Those qualities were played up in the character's final episode. "Friday Night Lights" veered too close to soap opera territory, letting Street win his way out of multiple outlandish situations in two episodes, but his final, heart-wrenching speech was likely enough pay-off for most fans.
No more real estate: When Janine Turner's Katie McCoy tries to persuade Connie Britton's Tami Taylor to spring for an expensive house, thank God Eric Taylor becomes the voice of good reason and flat-out refuses. "What if I lose my job? he asks, knowing full well that buying the house puts him fully indebted to the football boosters.
Cash is king: Poor Trya Collete (Adrianne Palicki). When she opts for Cash Waller (Zach Roerig) over continuing her college pursuit, she essentially dooms the rest of her life. But can't say the cowboy didn't warn her. When asked if he'll be faithful whilst on the rodeo circuit, he replies, straight-up, "I’m gonna try," he says. "I’m gonna try my best to be faithful to you 'cause I love you." This should anger her beyond all belief, but teenage love works in unexplainable ways.
Coach's choice: Coach Taylor is faced with a couple of dilemmas this week. First, Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) wears him down and persuades the coach to let him move to wide receiver. The coach, rightly, is against it at first, but eventually gives way to all football reason and lets his backup QB become a receiver.
But hey, there he was! Just last week, Show Tracker was wondering what happened to J.D. McCoy's (D.W. Moffett) personal trainer Wade. When Coach Mac McGill (Blue Deckert) suffers a heart attack, Wade is ready to step in as interim coach. Mac smells a rat, as he should. Wade is the pride and joy of the football boosters, coming with a USC-trained resume, and he has the backing of the spooky Joe McCoy (D.W. Moffett).
When Taylor names Wade his interim coach, he's making the right choice, putting football first. Wade knows J.D. McCoy, and Wade has experience. But when Joe McCoy tells the coach that he's glad the two could "set aside their differences" to hire Wade, one wonders what mess Taylor just got himself into.
-- Todd Martens
Photo: DirecTV / NBC