“Friday Night Lights,” Season Five, Episode Four: Fathers and Sons

Spoiler warning: This is a recap for Friday Night Lights Season 5, airing now on DirecTV. If you’re waiting to watch until next year on NBC, please read no further!

It was back to basics this week on Friday Night Lights. Lovers are quarreling, kids are rebelling, parents are disappointing.

In the lovers corner, we have Julie who is back to sleeping with her married teacher. Vince and Jess, after a nice opening scene which *gasp* showed the two actually smiling, are arguing over her new position as equipment manager and locker room conduct. Jess was the only one still smiling by the end of the episode, relishing in moments when she knew more about the team than Coach Riggins, despite not getting the credit.

Vince is still struggling with trusting his deadbeat dad. He’s seething with anger, challenging all the good memories, pointing out that his dad doesn’t even know his birthday, and checking his apartment for drugs. It seemed like a baby step in the direction of reconciliation when Vince’s dad promised that he wouldn’t let his mother touch drugs again. Of course, I don’t think anyone will be surprised when that goes sour.

The one thing that could be promising for Vince this year is his college recruitment. Although Luke may not agree. Luke was brought to TMU, but Vince was the one sneakily called into a meeting with the coaches. (Were they ever really trying to recruit Luke? It was a bit ambiguous.)

It was Becky’s storyline that had the most heart in this episode, with a nice performance this week by Mindy (Stacey Oristano). After hating Billy for letting Becky stay at their house temporarily, Mindy seems to have found a friend. Mindy steps up when she goes to drop Becky off at home, and recognizes how horrible Becky’s home situation is. Now, Becky will be a permanent feature in the Riggins household, something she seems to appreciate beyond being able to stare longingly at pictures of Tim. Messed up home lives are nothing new for Mindy and Billy, but what’s scary is to think they’re in the running for most likely to be the next Eric and Tami, Coach and Mrs. Coach. Oh, how the tables have turned.

One thing I found frustrating in this week’s episode was the stereotyping of the “troubled” teen. We have Epic, who we’ve seen as a rebel already, and certainly someone with which Tami has met her match. This week, Epic is suspended for fighting and relieved to not have to go to school. But when she causes a scene trying to get into the dance, I didn’t understand why someone who hates school, and seems to hate her classmates, would want to show up at a dance at all. What this show is usually really good at is showing a rounded character from the start, so that the audience understands why someone is how they are, whether that’s good or bad. That seems to be missing a bit in some of these new characters.

Speaking of which, Buddy Jr. is now in town, after being kicked out of his mom’s house for smoking marijuana. First of all, props to casting, because Jeff Rosick looks perfect for the part of Buddy’s son. In a short few days, Buddy Jr. has already been caught being disrespectful, breaking into Buddy’s bar and getting wasted by himself in the middle of the day, and stealing from his own father. Pretty much anything a teen boy could be assumed to do wrong, Buddy Jr. has done. Even in a short lived character like Santiago, we got a better sense of who he was and why we should care more than we do about Buddy Jr. It was a bit heart-wrenching to see Buddy struggling to connect to his son, but at this point it seems more like a thin back story for another Coach Taylor salvation character arc.

Overall, a solid episode, if no real major developments. But the teaser for the next episode looks like a doozie, promising a road trip, fires, and a cat fight. Thoughts on the episode? Leave your troubled teen stories in the comments!