Spoiler warning: This is a recap for Friday Night Lights Season 5, airing now on DirecTV. If you’re waiting to watch on NBC, please read no further!
”State, state, state!”—The East Dillon Lions
Things are tense but exuberant in Dillon, Texas. Tim is finally out of prison, but struggling with how he’s changed and no one else has. Eric decided he wants to stay in Dillon, but now Tami has a job opportunity in Philadelphia. And the Lions are barreling their way towards State, while their funding for next year is quickly slipping away.
No matter whose life may be falling apart, the whole episode has the undercurrent of a Riggins motivational war chant. Condensing four games into one hour, it moves fast. It’s a little too rushed, we haven’t seen as much football this season as those past, but it keeps the victory rush going. All the Lions want to do is get to State as was promised on the white board by Coach several episodes ago. They’ll do anything to get there, including running three extra miles every night and chanting on the coach’s lawns. And although they barely scrape by when Vince scores the winning touchdown against rivals Arnett Mead in the final seconds, they’re on their way to State after all. They’ve come so far from the team that had to forfeit their first game.
While the team as a whole has grown, individuals are falling back into old habits. Now that Vince’s recruiting drama is over, and State is in his grasp, things should be looking up. But Ornette is going off the deep end now, arguing with Vince and Regina about wanting to keep beer in the house, despite Regina’s recent struggles with addiction. Things escalate when he shows up at dinner drunk, with gifts he couldn’t afford, and more drugs in his possession. Vince and Regina try to stand up to him, but the confrontation quickly turns violent. It’s back at the apartment that he hits the extreme. After Regina changed the locks to protect herself and her son, he shows up under the influence and angry, almost kicking in the door. It’s beyond upsetting, and certainly brings back past memories for both of them. Vince is holding it together but Regina is struggling, and can’t go to Vince’s big game in favor of a support group meeting. He’s obviously worried, which makes it that much more satisfying when his mom is among the crowd there, sober, to greet the team after their big victory.
Eric, however, is left looking around with no one to congratulate him back home. After Tami attended the conference last week, and spoke out against test scores as representative of students, she gets a call that Braemore College in Philadelphia is interested in her for an Associate Dean of Admissions position. The tables are turned from Eric’s recent job recruitment in Florida. Eric made the commitment to stay in Dillon while Tami supported whatever decision he made. But Tami is excited about the new opportunity, even if going to the interview pisses off Eric and means missing the semi-finals. There’s a bigger wedge coming between them now than there ever was, and while Tami may be kicking Eric’s ass in their fights, no matter what the outcome, someone is not going to be okay with it. The decision will be even harder now that Tami was not just offered the job, but was offered the Dean of Admissions position after they were so impressed with her stance.
What could complicate the situation even further is the status of the football team. With budgets being slashed left and right, there’s a lot of pressure on football. Even with the Lions thriving this season and bringing in revenue with the games, it’s still not enough. Dillon will only have one football team next year, one that East and West Dillon will share. Who will be the school to house the team is yet to be determined, but it’s not going to be pretty, and the implications of combining the players after they were competitors would have been great material for a season six.
The Lions aren’t the only ones who have an uphill battle ahead of them. After being the team’s equipment manager this season, Jess knows what she wants to be: a coach. She even has the sense to learn from the best, Coach Taylor. The trouble is there’s only one female high school football coach in the 14,000 programs in the country. But she’s determined to double that percentage, and Coach gives her the opportunity to shadow him. It was nice to see Jess’s story break from Vince’s, and to give more emphasis on a girl who’s interested in more than just the players.
Tim is far more dismal about the future, and isn’t letting Billy forget it. He went to jail in order to give Billy a chance to fix his life, and made Billy promise to look after Becky. But when he came back, Becky was waiting tables at the Landing Strip, while Mindy still works there and little Stevie is under the care of fellow strippers half the time so Billy can get drunk. The only hint of a smile on his face so far this season was when he sees the Lions running and chanting on his front lawn, perhaps out of fondness, or the one thing Billy seems to be doing well. It’s a short-lived moment, however, and Tim picks a fight at the strip club defending Becky that ultimately gets her fired. The fight spills out into the parking lot, where Tim finally speaks out his frustrations to Billy, and with so much built up anger and resentment, punches him. Tim doesn’t feel much in response, just knows that he has to get out. Billy, however, who has been consumed by guilt all season, is left on his knees in the parking lot, weeping. The scene was heart-wrenching, particularly because of Taylor Kitsch’s strong performance showing Tim’s darker side. Even though Mindy begs him not to go, Tim knows he has to leave, and returns to the trailer he used to live in. What his plan is now is unclear, but after his disgust for his family and town, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he rode off into the sunset and left Texas behind forever.
Only two episodes left, and a lot of loose ends to tie. Any hopes for your favorite characters? Leave it in the comments!