The good-hearted, good-for-nothing Billy Riggins lies supine in squalor, clad in day-old briefs and surrounded by empty beers. A lone playing card is stuck to his back. Mindy has broken off their engagement. Billy doesn’t want to talk about it.
Tammy Taylor, looking fresh as ever, has turned the page on another year. She doesn’t want a birthday party.
Big Game this week against Arnett Mead, who they seem to have played five times already this season. This one’s special because it’ll be shown on national television. An NBC truck pulls into school, how meta is that? Coach isn’t pleased: this is an unnecessary distraction. Cue Alice In Chains.
Tyra and Cash hit the rodeo. Things are fine so far. Tyra gets a free cowboy hat. Unsurprisingly, it looks good. Even less surprising: Cash owes money to men in black.
Scotty Simms, recruiter for San Antonio State is in town to check out Tim Riggins. Riggins plays uninterested, but he’s just scared and wary of disillusionment. Billy’s a broken man, shattered by his own awkward grasp at the status quo, and Tim fears the same rejection. Lyla encourages, but Tim is a classic self-destructor: drunk, wind-blown, parentally-abandoned. When will the kid learn to believe in himself?
Coach, claiming his place as greatest husband on television, has booked a hotel room for Tammy’s birthday. They’ll be living it up Biggie-style, popping cristal, sullying the sheets. They deserve it.
Back at the rodeo, Cash comes in 2nd. He’s pretty pissed — he needs that first place money! He yells at Tyra.
The Saracen household is a stratum of sadness: bunny-eared television, Depression-era décor, and a lone photo of Matt arm-in-arm with his Iraq-stationed father. And there’s Matt himself, eating a sandwich out of paper foil, resting for once, too tired to get a plate. Like Riggins, Matt wants to be a phoenix, to rise from this hovel. Too bad Grandma won’t have it. When Matt tells her he’s considering college, and that his newly-present mother could take care of Grandma next year, tears form beneath Grandma’s bifocals. “That sounds like the worst idea I’ve ever heard, and I’m not having it.” Matt, loyal and selfless, retreats.
Back at the Riggins shack, the brothers toast to their own destruction. Lila shows up to take Tim to his meeting with Scotty Simms. Oops! — Tim’s drunk. Lyla confronts Tim about his attempts at self-sabotage. She believes in him, but he doesn’t believe in himself. Tim skips the meeting.
In another episode of domestic disrepair, Cash yells at Tyra. Tyra can’t take it. She walks out of the motel room. Street-side and rained-on, she calls Landry, longing for his gentle voice. Landry jokes about Tyra’s class-prez duties, and Tyra laughs. For a moment, her sweet smile is back. Too bad Landry has to go do an interview for NBC about being a student-athlete.
In a brief moment of anti-Riggins-related camaraderie, good-girl Lyla, and stripper Mindy get drunk together and dance. Turns out Billy tried to make Mindy quit stripping — which would be fine if he himself could keep a job. Lyla learns some stripper moves. Mindy says, “There ain’t no Billy in my chili.”
Everyone else is at the Football game, which isn’t going well. The team is too distracted by the national spotlight — that is, all but Matt Saracen whose on-field intensity is only spurred by his off-field frustrations. He doesn’t even notice the cameras. Coach puts Saracen in at his new position, Wide Receiver. In football as in life, Saracen takes big hits but keeps on pushing. Matt’s mom and Grandma briefly bond over Matt’s success in the new spot. For, like, the 100th episode in a row, the game comes down to the success of a final play involving Matt Saracen. This time Saracen comes through. Panthers win. Saracen deserves it.
Cash plays cards with moustached-men. Not a good sign. He’s down big, and he takes it out on Tyra, forcefully pushing her. Tyra is in tears.
Scotty Simms finds Riggins post-game, and it’s good news. San Antonio State still wants him. Tim is humbled, happy, terrified.
Coach and Tammy hit the hotie, pop the bubbly, put on a little reggae, and prepare to wear robes. Too bad their fun can’t last — can it ever? — Tyra calls crying. She needs a ride. The Taylor’s have no choice — they suffer because they care.
Billy shows up drunk at Mindy’s and re-negs his no-stripping clause. The pair re-unite.
Coach and Tammy arrive just in time. Cash is yelling and about to get violent. Coach breaks it up, and the three exit in the Taylor SUV. We see them, in shadow, mute and maudlin. Coach stares forward. Tyra’s face sinks like stone.