The football powers-that-be snub them in the rankings, and a group middle-aged white men with nothing better to do than bring down underprivileged teenagers think that Luke’s (Matt Lauria) game-clinching hit in game 1 was illegal. Is no one on their side?
Yes, Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) is. And that’s all they really need. “On The Outside Looking In” starts with one of “FNL’s” most heart-exploding, tear-inducing kind of moments. Vince (Michael B. Jordan), who we first met just one year ago running from the cops to a soundtrack that screamed “lovable scamp,” is already getting recruiting letters from top 50 schools who’ve seen him on the field.
Vince is shocked, Coach is his usual jokingly disinterested self (“get these off my desk!”) and when Vince goes home to share the news with his former crackhead mother, we’re prepared for our tears of joy to turn into acid and burn our faces. Instead, she’s crying and happy and Vince tells her they can go to whatever school she wants and that he’ll take care of her. We’re so glad his creepy necklace-wearing friend bit it in Season 4, making this all possible.
Coach Taylor changes lives. And it though his tactics may not work on men as resilient to evolution as the Riggins boys, it certainly floats for the wide-eyed variety desperately lacking a father figure.
Now that the Lions have banked a win, it’s time to assign the rally girls, high school football’s storied tradition of turning teenagers into prostitutes by asking them to make baked goods, puff-paint t-shirts and sexual favors in exchange for attention from popular boys. Vince is assigned an aggressive redhead, with no issues about him having a girlfriend.
Modern lady that she is, Jess (Jurnee Smollett) seems fine with all this, until the redhead puts her panties in Vince’s locker. Then it’s all catfights and beer bong races.
Meanwhile, somewhere else in Texas, College Julie (Aimee Teegarden) is lost outside of the town she never really loved, so she decides to repeat her failed Season 2 storyline with that guy from John From Cincinnati by flirting with her teacher. Though in college, anything goes, and this guy’s only a T.A., so we’ll see how it plays out. We’re already sort of bored with this.
Back at the Taylor house, Eric and Tami (Connie Britton) are continuing to embrace bad parenting, offering up little Gracie Bell macaroni and cheese for breakfast (she speaks!) and turning Julie’s childhood bedroom into an office before her car is halfway down the block. (Our parents didn’t do that until at least our junior year.)
Tami is instead focusing her maternal energies on the “at risk” youth of East Dillon – in particular, “Epic,” who we first heard about in the season premiere and meet smoking in front of the school. “Even babies can’t smoke on school property,” Tami informs epic, before waging an awkward battle of getting her to go to class. Epic comes around by the end of the episode, because their really is no fighting success once you’ve got a Taylor in your corner.
Not as easy to turn around, that obnoxious teacher from last week, who didn’t want Epic in her homeroom. Tami’s attempts to get her new colleagues to take an active role in their students’ lives and befriend her are all — until Happy Hour. Instead of getting drunk and encouraging them all to make out with her, like she did with the staff of her last school, Tami instead looks neglected and awkward with Texas-sized margarita she’s barely touched, before someone spills a drink on her. Cue exit.
But wait! Surly teacher runs out to apologize. She wants to be friends — or she’s a lesbian. (Her name Laurel, after all, which has “all-girls Brooklyn poetry club” written all over it.) Either way, she wants to be a part of Tami’s mentor program, and we regret our brief distaste.
All this immediate female reconciliation is so unlikely. Even Jess is tending to the drunk panty-planter. Why does everyone on this show have to have so much character? With the McCoys seemingly out of the picture, we’ve no one to aim our vendettas at.
Just kidding. Billy and Mindy are still here. And though Mrs. Riggins initially accuses their new tenant Becky (Madison Burge) of trying to pull a Rebecca De Mornay and take over her cradle-rocking duties, she quickly comes around and realizes Becky just needs a mother figure. (It might help her to stop pursuing that guy who got her pregnant after that off-screen one night stand.) Ugh, stop being so nice, Dillon!
Our confidence in humanity is still shaken a bit, though. Luke is out of game 2, and the un-ranked Lions are looking pretty bummed in the locker room — especially when Coach Taylor comes in to dramatically erase plays from the dry-erase board. But what’s that he’s writing — “STATE?”
Faith in humanity restored, courtesy of Eric and Tami Taylor.
Photo credit: NBC-Universal