Thanks to the writers strike, Friday (Feb. 8) night’s episode of Friday Night Lights is very likely to be the drama’s season finale. Thanks to ratings that have never equaled its critical acclaim, it may also have been its series finale. It sure didn’t feel like either kind of ending.
[The following recap contains spoilers, plus information about sperm motility in quadriplegics. Consider yourself doubly warned.]
While there have been media reports that Friday Night Lights may at least be shopped to another network, it’s hard to imagine Ben Silverman’s administration bringing the show back to NBC. Even in an oft-infuriating second season that has fallen far short of its banner first run, Friday Night Lights is probably too… What’s the word? Oh yeah… "good" for NBC’s current brand, which prioritizes gladiators, ’80s retreads and overt product placement over scripted quality.
Friday night’s episode, titled "May the Best Man Win," may not have offered an iota of narrative closure, but in one very amusing way, it brought the series full circle with a guest appearance by Peter Berg. The actor-director who helmed both the Friday Night Lights feature film and the show’s outstanding pilot popped up as Mo McArnold, Tami Taylor’s former flame and Coach Taylor’s vanquished nemesis, now a successful real estate mogul.
As much as I’ve admired many of Berg’s directing choices over the years, his presence behind the camera has occasionally caused me to miss the Chicago Hope and The Last Seduction star’s presence in front.
Frankly, the Mo McArnold character was just the latest example in the increasingly conventional plotting that has sometimes spoiled this season for me. We’ve already played the Jealous Coach Taylor arc once this season and the Eric-Mo dynamic would have been better, for my money at least, if they’d resisted the predictable and overblown restaurant brawl and just let these two blustery Alpha Males get embarrassingly drunk as the resolution to their competitive trip down memory lane. The brawl was mostly good for this exchange between Julie and her hungover, bruised father on Sunday morning.
Julie: What happened to you face?
Coach: I was defending your mama’s honor.
Julie: With your face?
Coach Taylor dropping the hammer on Mo was meant as a contrast to the end of this week’s Dillon football game. Wait. Football? Since we’ve seen more volleyball played in the past two weeks than football, it was good to see the Panthers out on the field and romping. And everybody seemed to get involved, including Landry, who scored a touchdown, and Santiago, who seemingly anchors the defense and got the signal from Coach to let the opposition score a TD to avoid a humiliating shutout. Coach Taylor knows when to be soft and he knows when to be hard, I guess.
The week’s other football-related activity was a bit less plausible. If you’ll recall, in addition to his three game suspension, Smash had his TMU scholarship pulled last week. In the real world, this just happened to be Signing Week and college football teams loaded up on recruits, many of whom will arrive on campus with a far longer rapsheet than Smash. In the real world, a Smash Williams would — worst case scenario — go to a junior college for two years and then head off to the Big 12 or SEC program. Even that’s less likely than a stud running back finding a different Div-I program willing to take his baggage and 4.4 speed with glee.
The piece of Smash’s journey that I liked most was when he lied to Coach Taylor about the interest he was getting from Miami and Alabama. That served as a nice counterpoint to the real-life story of Kevin Hart, who fabricated the story of his own bidding war. And I join Mama Smash in being pleased that her boy is going to end up at Whitmore, where the football team may not be good, but at least they’re a family.
The episode wasn’t just about football, as Jason Street was doubly shocked when the waitress he bedded back in December (after the awful blind date) showed up at Buddy’s car dealership pregnant. On one hand, he was shocked because the character hadn’t been mentioned in a half-dozen episodes and wasn’t even featured in the "Previously on…" montage. But he was even more surprised because apparently people in his condition have only 20 percent sperm motility and it’s mighty difficult for them to get women pregnant as part of a traditional manner of intercourse, or so he explained to the bewildered waitress in the middle of her restaurant. The waitress, you see, didn’t really want to keep the baby she conceived as part of a one-night stand with a guy she hadn’t bothered to call back in the subsequent weeks, but Street decided his "Miracle Baby" deserved to live.
Friday Night Lights has handled Lyla’s born-again rediscovery-of-faith with striking respect this season, but the background politics of Jason’s desire to have this stranger keep his baby were a little awkward. From Knocked Up to Waitress to Juno, Hollywood had a busy year for women who kept unwanted pregnancies without even a mention of the word "abortion" and tonight’s episode seemed mighty tentative in supporting the idea that a 19-year-old woman might be within her rights to consider alternatives. I’m truly sorry to have opened up this political bag of worms, but this is a recap and I’m just sharing my feelings. Street’s speech at the end about "being there" was mighty sweet, I guess, but it also seemed creepy to me.
Meanwhile, in the night’s final major arc, Lyla was ready to have sex with Not-Logan-Huntzberger, especially after his family welcomed her with far more open arms than the Huntzberger’s welcomed poor Rory. I loved the shout-out to the classic "I Think We Should Have Sex" episode with Lyla and Not-Logan getting ready to seal the deal under the approving gaze of a mounted stag trophy. Meanwhile, though, does anybody else figure that Lyla’s carnal desires were going to lead her back to Riggins by the next episode?
Will we ever see that next episode? Will we find out if Dillon could win out to make the post-season? Will Matt ever stop moping over Carlotta? Will Tyra lead the the volleyball team to glory? Will Landry realize as talented as Tyra is in the boudoir, Jean was perfect for him? Will Smash and Noel ever consummate their relationship? Will we ever see another scene between Lyla and Santiago?
I’d still kind of like to find out…
What’d you think of this week’s episode, y’all?