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'FNL': Where's Papa?

October 13, 2007 |  9:11 am

Taylor We are moving inevitably, inexorably, gloriously to the episode in which Coach Taylor returns to Dillon to re-take over Panther football.

Right?

It has to work out this way. Coach’s coach (wife Tami) is falling apart. Uber-booster Buddy Garrity is falling apart. Coach’s daughter Julie is turning into a harpy. Riggins is adrift again. And the Panthers haven’t even opened up defense of their state title!

You could practically subtitle this second season "Where's Papa?" For all of Dillon, it seems, is moody and unstable, what with Coach Taylor up in Austin.

A wise friend once told me: "The best job you'll ever have is the one before the one you thought you always wanted." And so it is with Coach Taylor, who isn't so much coaching college ball in Austin as babysitting bling-ridden players.

And meanwhile, Rome burns. I blame the Swedes — or "The Swede," a sweaty, swarthy alt-rock band singer with a beat-up van. With his early-Springsteen facial hair, the Swede oozes rebellion, which is what attracts Julie; she dumps sweet and honorable Dillon quarterback Matt Saracen because she looks at Matt and sees herself becoming her mother.

But you don't have to cry too long for Matt; into his night life arrived a comely Latina home-hospice worker, come to take care of his grandma. Thanks, Social Services! Soon enough, she's discovered the soft porn under Matt's mattress. Let the sexual games begin.

Which brings us to last night's main event, involving Saracen's nerd friend (and now teammate) Landry and the chastened hottie Tyra. When last we saw them, they were dumping the body of Tyra's stalker into Dillon River, Landry having accidentally killed the creep while he was attacking Tyra.

Last night's episode began with Landry and Tyra holding hands as they returned to the scene of the crime in the middle of the night, and it ended with the two of them having sex.

I love the lookie-loo camera work on "FNL," the way it makes you feel V.I.P-privy to the characters' lives, but the Landry-Tyra courtship still feels, in the end, like an intimacy with a shaky foundation. Did Tyra have sex with Landry out of pity or love?  Did Landry care? (No.) Their hookup, as it played out Friday, was brief and mostly implied -- maybe the producers themselves couldn't quite believe it.

Yeah, Landry confessed his feelings of love to her, and dared to expose how haunted he remains by the night of the attack, but "FNL" was still displaying basic Hollywood math: Nerd joins football team, nerd konks bad guy, nerd gets girl.

-- Paul Brownfield

(Photo courtesy NBC Universal)