Friday Night Lights: “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”

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Friday night, and the lights are bright, shining like malevolent suns on our two young quarterbacks. Coach Taylor — rent divided by loyalties — has decided to platoon Saracen and J.D in this week’s game. The strategy fails until J.D. proves himself the real McCoy by tossing a few spirals that fall like manna into Tim Riggins’ waiting arms. Ultimately, Saracen wins the game with a last second touchdown, but it’s McCoy whom the team hoists on their shoulders. Saracen limps from the field like a war-torn soldier returning from battle; his victory is studded with loss.

Back at the Taylor house, Julie shows off her new tattoo, a rose-filled heart. The Taylors aren’t pleased. Duh.

Next: the return of Jason Street, and his wheelchair comrade Herc. Jason cleans their apartment of salacious literature. Herc correctly points out that you don’t need to hide porn from babies because babies love vaginas. Enter Baby-Mama avec kin. Summary: trouble in Paradise, partly financial.

Cut to Buddy Garrity attempting to sell his house and spouting packaged wisdom about true entrepreneurs. Cut to Riggins eavesdropping from the living room. Soon Riggins is regurgitating said speech (“When all the scared rats are leaving the sinking market, that’s when a real entrepreneur steps in. A true visionary…”) to none other than J. Street and Herc. Next thing you know the three amigos plus Billy Riggins are buying Buddy’s house with Street’s savings and the Riggins boys’ “copper wire” money (Oh yeah, they stole a bunch of copper wire in Episode 3). They plan to restore and resell the house for a hefty profit. The problem, among others, is that the copper wire money isn’t money… yet; it’s still copper wire. Are we in a David Mamet play? In an attempt to liquidate, they meet with an angry meth dealer in a vacant field. No agreement is settled. Billy’s truck weaves back to Dillon through a hail of shotgun blasts. Luckily, Herc comes to the rescue; he has his own, less psychopathic friends. Money comes in. They buy the house.

Speaking of houses, Coach shows up at Saracen’s in the lamplit hours, to tell him — mano a mano — that, tough as it is, he’s starting J.D. next week at Quarterback. It is a poignant moment. Coach can’t find the right words for Saracen. A minimalist and a realist, he doesn’t sugarcoat. Instead he unveils the news to Saracen as if it is a corpse: cold, irreparable, inevitable. You can see in Coach’s eyes that it kills him to bench Matt, but that’s no consolation for Saracen. “Good talk coach,” he mutters bitterly as Coach walks away.

Next morning Landry and Saracen pull into school blasting FM power ballads like the lost sophomores they left behind in Season 1. Tyra’s necking Cash in the front seat of his pickup. Tami’s noticed them, and she isn’t pleased, though she might just be pissed that Tyra was the mastermind behind Julie’s tattoo. Tyra appears ready to heed Tami’s wisdom, especially when Cash continues his pill-popping (“It hurts to fall off a horse”). But just as we think Tyra might wobble, Cash takes her to see a newborn foal suck teat and all is forgiven.

Back at school, Saracen punches out some football helmets in the locker room. Coach walks in. Saracen threatens to quit the team. Coach calls his bluff. Saracen says he’ll stay on the team, but he’ll hate every minute of it, and Coach will hate it too. Silence. Both understand that they are doomed victims of an unfair world.

More heartbreak: Jason Street’s baby-mama shows up at the newly purchased house but she’s not impressed. In fact, she’s taking the kid and heading east to be with her parents. Jason is left speechless, staring at his purchase, the glitzed-out, unbecoming remainder of his open-armed grab for the American dream.

In the final scene, Saracen and his mother share a moment in Grandma’s kitchen. Matt needs a comforting voice so badly he’s willing to let it come from the woman who abandoned him. Matt opens up, mentions Jason’s paralysis, the impact of which has rarely been discussed on the show. It becomes heartbreakingly clear, once again, that Matt is still a kid, a slump-shouldered child overwhelmed by adult problems and adult repercussions. Even sadder: his mother, for all her maternal tenderness in this scene, will surely prove to be a disappointment, spun from the same corroding twine as Saracen’s blue and gold football jersey. You can tell by the look in her eyes.