The Washington Post

‘Friday Night Lights,’ the final farewell: Five poignant moments in ‘Texas Whatever’

Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) opens to the visitng Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) in the pre-finale episode. (Bill Records/BILL RECORDS/NBC)

Last week’s “Friday Night Lights” episode had me fixated on raising questions. Does Tami really have the experiece to become the dean of admissions at a university? Can Tim Riggins squat, completely unnoticed, in the Sproles trailer? And is there any way that a school board in Texas would eliminate one of their high school football teams, forcing them to merge with another?

On that last point, I’ll admit that I may have been a bit too close-minded. Reader Gary Fuller, a self-described native Texan and high school football player, wrote to me on Twitter to say it’s totally possible that such a thing might happen.

@chaneyj ......East Dillion football would absolutly be eliminated in real life. West Dillion has money / power and lost to East Dillion.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet ReplyGary Fuller

Certainly, to Gary’s point, those class and financial divides became pretty clear during the contentious school board hearing we saw in tonight’s episode, “Texas Whatever.”

But I’m not going to focus our penultimate “Friday Night Lights” experience on analyzing the logic behind certain narrative developments. At least not entirely. The finale is almost here, and that means it’s time to start getting teary and sentimental.

Yes, I teared up when Mindy and Billy Riggins realized they’re expecting twin Rigglets, then struggled to cope with the financial pressure that puts on them. I teared up again when Tim Riggins advised Luke Cafferty to embrace state, to play the game “like it’s the last time you’re ever going to lace up. Then let it go and move on.” And naturally, I teared up when a shirtless, sleepless Tim stormed out of his illegally occupied trailer and threw his mattress on the ground.

No, wait a minute. I’m sorry. That was just drool.

In any case, there were plenty of eye-welling moments in this week’s episode, clearly a weeper warm-up for next week’s sob-athon of a finale. Read about the five that were the most poignant, after the jump.

Episode 11 recap: “The March”

Episode 10 recap: “Don’t Go”

Episode 9 recap: “Gut Check”

Full archive of recaps

Buddy Garrity realizes he’s still a Dillon Panther.

Buddy has been a stalwart fan of the East Dillon Lions and a major champion of both the team and Eric. But let’s face it: the man’s got blue Dillon Panther blood running through his veins.

After listening to Slammin’ Sammy Mead make his radio show case for eliminating the Lions and rallying the community around the Panthers — Mead’s declaration that “We’ve got a JumboTron, for the love of God” was a nice touch — it was no surprise to see a Panther booster at the door trying to recruit Buddy back to their side of the field.

“Your Panthers can be the Panthers you remember and love,” the guy tells him. And it’s exactly the right thing to say to Mr. Garrity. With Voldemort — er, I mean Joe McCoy, although really, same thing — long gone, Buddy can rule the Panther roost again. It’s an offer that he can’t refuse and one that, once again, has him attempting to manipulate Eric into a particular position on the Buddy Garrity Football Field of Life. Aw, don’t you love Buddy best when he’s in selfish orchestrator mode?

Tim confides in Tyra

Tim Riggins was the loner tending bar, threatening to fight anyone that dared call him a jailbird. And then she walked in: Wonder Woman. Or at least the Wonder Woman whose pilot didn’t get picked up.

Fine, it was Tyra Collette (played by Adrianne Palicki, who also recently and briefly played Wonder Woman), the first person who has made Tim smile since he got out of jail and the only one remotely successfully at getting him to open up about his feelings.

Which is what led to another of those poignant moments: when Tim confessed to his former girlfriend that he took the chop-shop rap for Billy. “I had the opportunity to change something, to give something to Stevie we never had,” Tim said, referring to his nephew. “I gave him his father.”

We already know that’s what motivated Tim to do what he did. But the way Riggins — and the “Friday Night Lights” writers — phrased that explanation really made the nobility of his actions hit home. Tim Riggins didn’t just do time on his brother’s behalf. He made sure that Riggins history would stop repeating itself.

“I was living in a ‘Devil Town’...”

The school board’s decision — to stick with the Dillon Panthers and merge the possibly soon-to-be state champion Lions into their fold — was no surprise. But coming as it did, with the song “Devil Town” playing on the soundtrack, made it especially moving.

Close FNL watchers will recall that the song — a Daniel Johnston tune, covered here by Tony Lucca — appeared twice during season one, first as the background music that accompanied preparations for the Panthers’ first game without Jason Street, and again during the parade that followed the Panthers state championship win.

To use it again here — when the show is bringing us back to the Panthers, and also rallying the troops for a Lions run at state — brought the whole show full circle.

To me, the lyrics of the track speak to living in a tiny Texas town that can be stifling and provincial, but that ultimately feels like home, that place that the Dorothy inside us forever longs to return to. It’s a song about Dillon. Which, as Julie Taylor — who miraculously finished her exams early despite the fact that she should have flunked her entire first semester of college — succintly put it, is indeed “a hard place to shake.”

Matt Saracen and grandma

At this point, the sight of Lorraine Saracen, or the name Lorraine, or the sound of any older woman saying Matthew, can potentially bring me to tears. So when Matt Saracen showed up at his grandma’s house with a Christmas tree and a hug, well, I pretty much lost it.

But the kicker was when Lorraine — in her joy and admittedly increasing mental fogginess — asked her grandson, “Did you tell your daddy you were home?” If you hadn’t needed a tissue yet, that might have been the game changer.

Eric, Tami and “Congratulations.”

The core conflict in this episode was, of course, the issue of what Eric and Tami plan to do about her job offer from Braemore. She, recognizing the rarity if not flagrant impossibility of finding such opportunity, wants to take it and move to Philadelphia. Eric is hesitant and, frankly, being a little selfish.

Let’s pause for a moment and remember back to the end of season one, when Eric was struggling over that offer from TMU. At one point, he told Tami that she was the most important thing in his life, and that he’d have to turn it down so he could stay in Dillon with her, Julie and the soon-to-be-born Gracie. What did Tami — the evolved, perpetually outside-the-box-thinking spouse — suggest? That Eric go to Austin and commute back and forth because she did not want to be responsible for him not living his dream.

Now here we are, five seasons later. And Eric has yet to say that Tami’s the most important thing to him, or that she should live out her dreams. Which led to that gutpuncher of a line that Tami delivered when she, clearly looking defeated and immensely hurt, realized that Eric was entertaining the idea of coaching the new Dillon “Superteam.”

“I’m going to say to you,” she said, her voice breaking, “what you haven’t had the grace to say to me. Congratulations, Eric.”

Now, it’s safe to say that “Friday Night Lights” is not going to end with Eric and Tami filing for divorce. But this is, as Tami might say, a “tough, tough thing, y’all.” Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler, as always, are playing every emotional chord just right. Which makes it all the more painful to watch the always connected Taylors getting completely out of synch.

While I dab the tears from my eyes with this damp Kleenex, take a look at the episode by the numbers, and feel free to vote in the quote of the week poll below. Also, make plans now to join me as I live-Tweet the finale next Friday night @celebritology. Because: clear eyes, full hearts, can’t avoid the finale any longer.

The Final Season Cry-o-meter Rating for “Texas Whatever,” on a scale of 1 to 10: 9. “Did you tell your daddy you were home?” Oh, man. I’m like Rita Wilson in “Sleepless in Seattle” weeping as she remembers “An Affair to Remember.” Total goner.

The Tim Riggins Hotness Scale Rating for “Texas Whatever,” on a scale of 1 to 10: His 8 from last week is upgraded to a 9 because he was both angry and shirtless this week. Hence, the extra credit.

Julie Taylor Irritation Spectrum Rating for “Texas Whatever” on a scale of 1 to 10: 1. That’s right. You heard me. Julie didn’t annoy me this week, other than the whole final exam thing. But next week ... um ... I think Julie could be controversial. That’s all I’ll say.

When she isn’t at a movie theater or writing about movies, Jen Chaney is ... um ... probably at home, watching a movie.


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