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Posted at 05:44 PM ET, 06/18/2011

‘Friday Night Lights,’ the final farewell: ‘Gut Check’

“Friday Night Lights” already came to a close on DirecTV and on DVD. But the final episodes of the Dillon, Tex., drama are now airing on NBC. And that means it’s time to bid the final-for-real farewells by assessing each installment shortly after it airs on the Peacock network every Friday at 8 p.m. EST. Why? Because “Clear eyes. Full hearts. Must blog.” Or, um, something like that.

After a hiatus due to the Stanely Cup finals, “Friday Night Lights” returned, with more butting of heads between Coach Eric Taylor and star quarterback Vince Howard, Becky’s further immersion into the life of the (growing) Riggins family, an unpleasant resolution to the Epyck/Tami relationship and Julie’s spontaneous decision to relocate to Matt Saracen’s stylish, brick-accented Chicago studio apartment. We also got to see Luke nearly send his mother to the emergency room by suggesting that Becky join him and his parents for a celebratory dinner, and Jess prove that she’s the true unsung MVP of the East Dillon Lions.

Since this episode is called “Gut Check,” let’s collectively check our guts re: some key plot developments. (Watch the full episode, and read more, after the jump.)

Episode 8 recap: “Fracture”

Episode 7 recap: “Perfect Record”

Episode 6 recap: “Swerve”

Coach Eric Taylor vs. Vince Howard: Coach Taylor told Vince’s father in the last episode, “Fracture,” that he “means what he says” when it comes to the importance of teamwork. And despite his affinity for wearing BluBlockers, Eric Taylor is clearly a man to take seriously.

In an effort to drive that point home, Eric asked Vince to spend some time helping back-up QB Luke Cafferty learn some plays. You know. Just in case. Vince’s ego prevented him from following through, and that forced Eric to pull Vince out of their game, play Luke at quarterback in his place and incurring the wrath of Vince’s dad. The Lions managed to squeak out a win, making Luke the hero, but playing the farm boy was clearly a risky move on Eric’s part. 

Gut check: Eric is right to push Vince to value his team members and overcome his arrogance. But was his decision to put Luke in the game, as Vince and his father have suggested, a power move? Absolutely. Coach Taylor doesn’t like being told he’s not the boss, especially by Vince’s dad. And he’ll do what he has to do to emphasize that. The result: a whole lot of stubbornness and testosterone is polluting the Dillon, Tex. air.

Luke and Becky: Becky called Luke on his reluctance to inform his parents that the two of them are dating. Which is totally valid from Becky’s point of view, but understandable from Luke’s, too. The Caffertys are conservative and clearly concerned about the fact that their son previously impregnated this girl. But I mean, they need to realize she’s not, like, a stripper or something ... oh, crud.

Becky’s not a stripper yet, but she is flirtatiously waiting tables at the Landing Strip and stuffing bills into her waistband, which is a brief stop on the highway to Mindy Riggins City. (By the way, why is the underage Becky allowed to serve alcohol? Or it it best to assume that the Landing Strip generally has a liberal attitude toward most legal matters?) For the moment, matters got resolved, as Luke insisted on bringing Becky to dinner with his parents after that big Lions win. Although, unbeknownst to him, he did it while wearing a tie that Becky bought with money earned at a strip joint.

Gut check: Becky needs to follow Mindy’s advice and wait tables at Red Lobster -- or at least Applebee’s, a la Tyra. And Luke is a grade-A, solid boyfriend for showing Becky the respect she deserves. But one wonders if he’ll feel the same way if and when he finds out about her extracurricular, booze-serving activities.

Epyck and Tami: Just when it seemed that Tami was beginning to reach East Dillon’s most out-of-control troubled kid (and we know she was because Epyck was so sweet with Gracie Belle), Epyck got into an altercation with Laurel. Which in turn led to an altercation with Tami. Which in turn led to Tami’s head mostly accidentally getting injured, Epyck being led away in handcuff and the end of the girl’s East Dillon career. “You did everything you could for that girl,” Eric told his wife. But Tami remained clearly wracked with guilt.

Gut check: Tami did go above and beyond for Epyck. But despite what we learned from movies like “Dangerous Minds” and “Teachers,” going above and beyond can’t always save a student. It’s a sad reality. But I like that “Friday Night Lights” stayed true to that reality. 

Matt Saracen and Julie Taylor: After what appeared to be a lovely weekend together, Julie told good ‘ol Matt Saracen (or rather, lied to good ‘ol Matt Saracen) that she didn’t have any particular place to be. Hence, it would totally fine for her to indefinitely insert herself into Saracen’s life in Chicago. Matt — who has an undeniable new aura of maturity about him — had his doubts, especially after hearing about Julie’s dalliance with Derek “Idiot McGee” Bishop.

Rightly, he accused the Poster Child for Freshman Year Avoidance of not facing up to her responsibilities and told her that she neeeded to get back to school and deal with her real life. Unlike Idiot McGee, he actually meant it and wasn’t just trying to convince her to have sex with him in a remote cabin. Which is ironic since, at one time, Saracen totally did try to have sex with Julie in a remote cabin. Anyway, it was back into the Chevy Aveo for Miss Julie, who shared a tear farewell and set of “I love yous” with her former Dillon Panther sweetheart.

Gut check: Are there still genuine feelings left between Matt and Julie? The gut says yes, although it’s hard to gauge their realtionship well since this episode included only a few key scenes between them. But even if there is love here, Julie is using it as a crutch. It’s time for her to man up, though it seems the only person on Earth she’ll actually take that advice from is Matt Saracen. Perhaps that’s meaningful?

Jess Merriweather: Maybe Julie could take a few “man up” lessons from Jess, who not only dumped Vince on his arrogant bee-hind, but also stepped up and tried to teach Luke some plays when her soon-to-be-ex boyfriend refused. Just when you thought you couldn’t love her more, she showed some vulnerability, attempting to have a private break-up cry until she was interrupted by Coach Taylor, who reminded her that he has daughters and encouraged her to “take all the time you need.” See, this is why we love the man, BluBlockers and all.

Gut check: Jess was right to dump Vince, which could be the wake-up call he needs, assuming being pulled form the game doesn’t do it.

Lastly, a shout-out to Billy and Mindy Riggins, who have another little Stevie on the way thanks to, according to Mindy, Billy’s desire to have sex while reeking of nacho cheese. That’s love, people.

Now, a quick breakdown of the episode by the numbers.

The Final Season Cry-o-meter Rating for “Gut Check,” on a scale of 1 to 10: 3. Not a particularly weepy installment, but the scene in which Jess cries and Coach Taylor shows his sensitive-to-women side may have caused partial verkemplentness.

The Tim Riggins Hotness Scale Rating for “Gut Check,” on a scale of 1 to 10: Bad news: another 0. Good news: This rating will shoot up after next week’s episode.

Julie Taylor Irritation Spectrum Rating for “Gut Check” on a scale of 1 to 10: Holding steady at 8. Attempting to move in with Matt indefinitely? Not cool. Realizing she needs to go back to school and acknowledging that she still loves Saracen? That makes her a little more empathetic.

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By  |  05:44 PM ET, 06/18/2011

Tags:  Friday Night Lights

 
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