In the lead-up to Mindy and Billy’s wedding, everyone’s second-guessing themselves as they make a final grab for their dreams.
Previously on FNL: Lorraine doesn’t want to hold Matthew back, but can’t stand the thought of losing him, and Julie can’t either. Tyra tearfully admitted to Angela that her dream of college seemed hopeless. Lyla told Buddy she was going to San Antonio State with Tim, who was not well pleased. JD accused Coach of ratting his abusive, anger-issues dad out to the police; Katie coldly told Tami she wanted nothing to do with her anymore. The school board considered re-opening East Dillon High came up as an issue, but Eric pshawed that nothing was going to come of it. Monty and Buddy gerrymandered the redistricting line to make sure that no current or prospective Panthers players were redistricted to East Dillon, and Buddy vehemently told Eric that no one, no one was going to let a bunch of bureaucrats dismantle the Dillon Panthers.
We cut from the wrath of Buddy Garrity to the blissed-out serenity of Dillon, five months later. There are glorious shots of summertime: wildflowers and ladybugs, blue skies and baseball. Wait, baseball? Yes, apparently there is a Panthers baseball team. Who knew? Aside from the five fans in the near-empty stands, I mean. Jakob Dylan’s “Something Good This Way Comes” starts to play over a montage, and it’s such a perfect choice that I had to download the song. Anyway, montage: Billy and Timmy exit a tuxedo store with monkey suits in hand; Buddy and Eric play some golf and goof off; Tim brings Lyla a drink in the back yard, where the two of them are sunbathing. Matt and Julie watch a movie at the local cineplex, eating popcorn and giggling at the screen; at the lake, Tyra sits on the dock as Landry pulls himself out of the water. He kneels next to her, his shirt dripping wet, and I do believe Jesse Plemmons has been working out. Tyra kisses his cheek and brushes his hair out of his eyes. At Garrity Motors, Tami checks out a small blue car with Eric, and then we get multiple shots of waffles. Yes, I said waffles, because it’s the Dillon High Annual Senior Breakfast, and all our favorites plus their families are in attendance.
Tami, who is rocking her usual hot principal ensemble, announces the seniors’ future plans to the crowd: she proudly says that Matt will be attending “the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago”, and WOO MATT! Both Lorraine and Julie applaud him and smile, trying to hide their sadness that he’s moving on. Tami announces that Tim will be going to San Antonio State; down the table, Billy throws Tim a thumbs-up, and Tim waves back. Tami then announces that Lyla Garrity, who’s sitting next to Tim, was second in her class, and… will also go to San Antonio State! Lyla nods and looks down, a little ashamed at how far her college dreams have fallen; Buddy sits at the table behind her and doesn’t even pretend to clap. Tami compliments Tyra on all her hard work as Class President, and the Colette entourage claps like crazy; Tami continues that Tyra’s “still deciding on some real exciting choices”, nicely side-stepping the fact that Tyra apparently hasn’t been accepted to college yet…. and Angela joyfully shouts out that Tyra’s been wait-listed at UT. Nice, Angela. Tyra has to literally SHUSH her mother to stop the mortal embarrassment that her as-usual completely oblivious mother is causing her, and we cut to –
Panthers Practice. Coach announces to the team that they’re released until August 1st. As the Boosters and families look on, Coach adds that JD’s been named High School QB of the year by some organization – really? Even after the debacle that was State? – and Monty woos and flexes his guns in the stands like it’s all his doing. Coach tells the boys to have a good summer, and invites JD to “break it down”, which I guess is being the center of the group with all your hands up and shouting “PANTHER PRIDE.” Alrighty then! Wade Aikmen, who is still there in a coaching capacity five months later even after Mac has returned, puts an arm around JD and walks him off the field; Eric watches them go and then cuts a look at Monty. Cut to Tami, sitting in a bureaucrat’s office – the same school board rep who tried to moderate the discussion about redistricting. He reminds her that Eric’s contract is up for discussion at the board meeting on Saturday, and then offers her the option to recuse herself. Tami has the same “what, wait?” response to this that you or I might: she asks why she would want to do that, and he says that contract negotiations can get heated, so it might be difficult for her to be objective. Ohhh, not good. Tami, wide-eyed, says that she has confidence in her ability to stay objective and professional, so… “Okay,” bureaucrat guy says, sitting back in his chair, like, “Well, I tried.” Tami blinks, still getting a handle on what’s going on, and asks Paul if there’s any question about Eric’s contract getting renewed. “Like I said, Tami – these things can be complicated,” Paul answers. Tami can’t do anything but say okay, and push the worry away until she can talk to her husband, who is…
Driving across town with Buddy Garrity. They’re going to a recruitment meeting, and if you recall Eric’s meeting with Voodoo in the second season, you’ll recall how much Eric hates these things. He’ll still go along with them, of course, but he doesn’t like ’em. Buddy says it’s not recruitment, because recruitment’s illegal. Heh. Eric says Buddy’s gonna do all the talking, because that’s what he does best; Buddy argues that if they don’t get to this kid before Arnett Meade, they may lose him. Cut to the fake-wood-paneled living room of a gigantic middle school kid. I mean, he’s monstrous; he looks like he could take Landry out. Buddy talks about the tradition of Dillon Panther football, and cites Smash’s success over at Texas A&M, but the father interrupts him to say that they’ve decided to go with Dillon. Buddy gleefully shakes the father’s hand, and daddy leans forward with just one question: who exactly is gonna be the head coach of the Panthers? “Well, Eric’s the coach!” Buddy says brightly. The father asks if it’s not Wade Aikmen, and Buddy stammers no, Wade’s just been helping them out with their offense… “When they came by last week, I sure got the impression -” the father says, and Eric finally speaks up, asking who exactly came by? It was Wade and McCoy, of course. “They sure made it sound like they were the ones making the decisions,” the father says. Buddy stares at Eric, stunned; all Eric can do is glare, realizing how truly screwed he is, and we go into the awesome credits.
The Taylors sit on their back yard patio under a big sun umbrella. Tami holds Baby Grace on her lap while Eric drinks his morning coffee. Eric tells his wife that he thinks he knows why the board wants Tami to recuse herself at the meeting, and Tami guesses that it’s a scare tactic to keep Eric from driving his salary up. Oh, Tami. I adore you, but you have had blinders on where the McCoys are concerned for way too long now. Eric, who’s clearly told her about the meeting at the kid’s house, puts his cards on the table: “Joe McCoy’s tryin’ to get me fired.” Tami shakes her head in disbelief; she says that’s pretty low. Yes, Tami, but he’s a snake! Remember? Python? Sometimes it’s like she can’t even hear me through the TV screen. “I know they’re mad at us, but I can’t believe they’d do that,” Tami says. “I can,” Eric says, glaring past Tami. Oh, he’s gone all the way through angry and come out the other side: just a cold, flat calm.
Chez Saracen. Shelby holds up a black dress with ornate sequined trim around the neckline, asking Lorraine if she’s sure she needs all these dresses. Lorraine wags a finger at Shelby from the living room, telling her that yes she does need all her dresses, and this is when it hit me that Lorraine is leaving her home. I know Tami announced that Matt was going to the Art Institute at the Senior Breakfast, but I was so excited that he was accepted to the school that I didn’t stop to think about what else that meant for everyone involved, particularly for Lorraine. Matt comes out from his bedroom, protesting that “it’s only 15 minutes away”, and she doesn’t need to bring everything. Lorraine evenly says that she’ll need her dresses: “If you were a woman, you’d understand that.” Aw, Lorraine! I’ve got a whole show to recap, woman, don’t get the waterworks going before the guest star credits have finished running! Lorraine asks Julie, who’s pitching in, to back her up; Julie does so, of course, smiling at Grandma. Matt suggests that she can leave some things here “for when you come back”; Lorraine responds by donning a long winter coat with a fur collar and beaming a megawatt smile at him. HA!
Julie turns back with a stack of “Women’s Day” magazines from the ’70s, and asks if some of them can be thrown away. Lorraine protests that she’s not through with them. Julie starts to box them up, but is distracted by a school picture of Matt from about 7th grade. She trots over to Shelby with it and Matt moves to intercede. It’s a real pic of Zach Gilford, and his hair, y’all! OMG, it is poofy, middle-school magnificence. He pulls the picture out of Julie’s hands, embarrassed, and a smiling Lorraine takes it from him, saying that she loves that picture and that’s why she’s taking it. Matt says she can take the picture, of course, but repeats again that she doesn’t have to take everything, and then Lorraine kills me: “You’re right, I don’t, but I darn sure am gonna take this one. Now let’s just suppose that you’re away at college, and I wake up one morning and have one of my spells, and I can’t…” she turns away, a little out of breath, unable to say it. Cut to Shelby, looking wide-eyed at Lorraine. “…I can’t remember you, you know what I’m gonna do?” Lorraine asks, holding the picture up. “I’m gonna look right up on my wall, and there you’re gonna be, with that smile.” And then I’ll be alright. Because I could never forget that little boy. “That precious, precious boy.” She laughs and turns away, reaching for other possessions; the camera stays on Matt, who chews his lower lip anxiously.
Cut to Lyla Garrity, walking into Tami’s office, where Buddy Garrity is chatting with Tami. Lyla asks what’s going on, and Tami does a quick impression of a goldfish before gesturing to Buddy that he should take the floor. Buddy says that they want to talk about Lyla going to San Antonio State. “What about it?” Lyla asks, a little too sharply. Tami steps in, saying that Buddy has some reservations about the quality of SAS, and Tami volunteers that she doesn’t think it’s necessarily the best fit for Lyla, either. Lyla says she’s already been to the campus and paid the tuition – it’s a done deal. Buddy interrupts that it’s a party school, and Lyla quietly says that it’s not: they’ve had this conversation before. “It’s a… good school,” she says quickly, knowing how far she’s fallen to be going to San Antonio State. Buddy huffs that it’s a “candy-ass party school” and that Lyla’s only going there to be with Tim Riggins. Lyla counters gets her sass on, dropping her gs and snarking that maybe Buddy “shouldn’t a blown all my college fund on tearin’ up the strip club, then.” Point to the lady. Tami, who sees just how fast this is going south, interrupts and says that, at Buddy’s request, she placed a call to Vanderbilt and that they are interested in extending the window for her decision until Monday. “If you choose to go, they would like to have you,” she says. Lyla, flustered, asks how they would even pay for it, but Buddy’s got an answer for that, too – Lyla’s “Uncle Gary.” Just go with it. Lyla says Uncle Gary hates Buddy, and Buddy says he’s not fond of him either – please, let us meet Uncle Gary next season – but Buddy says he’ll do anything, including calling the irascible Uncle Gary to ask him to pay for his niece’s ivy-league education, if that’ll get his daughter to Vanderbilt (and away from Tim Riggins. That part’s unspoken). Tami cuts to the chase: “It’s an important decision. And I think Tim will understand.” Lyla stares at Tami, conflicted between keeping the life she has and going after the life she’s always wanted, and looks away.
Applebee’s. Landry sits outside in his car, waiting for Tyra, who comes storming out of the restaurant looking like she’s ready to spit fire. She gets into the front passenger seat; Landry asks how she’s doing, and she doesn’t respond, just brushes her hair from her face. She sits stony-eyed for a second, and then girlfriend throws an actual tantrum. She bangs on the dashboard with her fists over and over and then sits back suddenly. “Doin’ okay?” Landry asks. Heh. Tyra snarks that “Janine Warwick” got accepted to Brown, and Tyra had to wait on her and her family as they celebrated it. Ouch. Tyra snaps that it’s a metaphor for her life, and don’t to be too hard on yourself, Tyra – you just used the word “metaphor” correctly! Not many people can do that! Landry tries to play it cool as Tyra lists another fellow student who’s gotten into Rice. Landry says that Tyra’s going to UT, and Tyra snarks that he sounds like her mother – she reminds him that she’s on the waitlist, so the only thing she can do is wait, which she’s not very good at. “Well, why don’t you just go to UT, then?” Landry asks, ever the harbinger of dubious advice, suggesting that she track down the admissions officer and plead her case instead of simmering in Dillon, banging on his car. “It’s a bit desperate,” Tyra hedges, and Landry points out that the word “DESPERATE” has been written on her forehead by the universe, so… might as well give it a shot, right?
Speaking of last-ditch efforts, guess what Coach is doing? He is climbing the steps to the McCoy estate. Yes, he is. This is how bad it’s gotten. Monty asks “Eric” what he can do for him, and Eric plays it straight, saying that he and Buddy went to the middle-school Hulk’s house yesterday. “That kid’s an animal,” Monty says glibly. “Want a water?” HA! Oh, like you even thought that playing completely innocent would work, Monty. Eric declines, and says he knows Wade and Monty stopped by the week before, and Monty freely admits that they did. “Yeah, well, you might be able to imagine how that makes me feel,” Eric says, not buying a bit of Monty’s act. Monty says that they’re dead without the kid next year, so he figured they’d just go get him, and now the gloves really come off. “Hey, Joe? I don’t want you and Wade running around making house calls, acting like you represent this team,” Eric says, because etiquette doesn’t matter when someone’s got a knife to your back. Monty shrugs that he didn’t see Eric moving aggressively for the kid, and he didn’t want the team to miss the opportunity, so he stepped in. “Joe, you do not represent this team,” Eric repeats. Gosh, he’s just not getting it. Maybe if you put it on the Jumbotron, Coach?
That’s exactly what Joe’s been waiting for, of course, because he’s got a laundry list of the ways in which he does indeed represent the Panthers: “I backed up a truckload of cash for this team this year, and without my son, there is no team; so as far as I’m concerned, I represent this team as much as anyone else in this town.” Eric goes into a steely gaze, but can’t keep from smiling at the insanity of it: “You tryin’ to replace me?” he asks. Monty smiles, savoring the moment, and looks away before answering. “If you would like to continue, I need your guarantee that – barring injury, of course – my son starts every game next season. I also need your guarantee that Wade Aikmen calls all the plays.” And by extension, that means Monty, of course. Eric, still smiling slightly, corrects that Mac calls his plays. “Yeah. I know,” Monty smugs, implying that Mac will be sidelined or fired as well, and this kind of overt, roll-over crap really doesn’t work with someone who has balls of steel like Eric “Coach” Taylor, who has had it up to HERE with it: “Joe, I don’t give a damn how much money you got. I don’t care how well you think that boy of yours can throw a football. But you’re not just messin’ with my livelihood now, you are threatenin’ my family -” Monty quietly interrupts that he’s not threatening anybody: “Against my better judgment, I am offering you an opportunity to continue with this team.” Eric stares at him for a second. “Well, I’m sure you know just what you can do with that opportunity,” he says, walking out the door and jogging down the steps to his car; Monty sips his water and watches him go. FINALLY, the lines have been drawn.
Lyla approaches the newly-painted Riggins Rigs auto service center – complete with a longhorn steer sculpture over the front entrance, heh – and we hear the Riggins boys talking about a broom. Tim half-shouts that he’s pushing down on the broom, and Billy snaps that he’s not pushing hard enough, because no dirt’s piling up. Cut to inside the shop, where Tim’s sitting down on a rolling chair and holding a push broom between his knees; Billy’s pushing him around to sweep up the dirt. Oh, yeah: this business is going to be rolling in dough. Hee! Lyla giggles at the ridiculousness of it, and Tim breaks into a huge grin at the sight of her. He asks what she thinks, and she admits that it’s amazing. It is, too – everything’s painted, they’ve put in some windows, there’s metal shelving units for tools and everything. Well done, Billy! Lyla cozies up to Tim, asking if he wants to go get something to eat and work on their schedules. Tim says he would, “bad”, and when Lyla rolls her eyes – my guess is Tim’s probably been putting off anything to do with college this summer, including making a schedule – he says he and Billy need to go pick up a hydraulic lift for the garage at auction. Lyla shrugs it off, and Tim asks if she’s really okay with it; when she says it again, he asks how her meeting with Tami went, and what Tami wanted. Lyla lies that Tami wanted to discuss her schedule. “Perfect,” Tim says. Lyla can’t even make eye contact with him; she looks down at the floor.
At the UT campus, Landry holds Tyra’s hand until she walks away from him, presumably to the administrative offices. She walks into an office, asking for Mr. Garth; the overworked higher ed administrator corrects that he’s Dr. Garth, so well done straight outta the gate there, Tyra. She introduces herself as someone on the waitlist, and says that she appreciates being on the list and respects the process, but that UT is a dream she’s had her entire life, and asks if there’s anything she can do to improve her chances. See, I work in higher ed, so this would be the point where I would be saying, “Really? All your life? How do you reconcile your freshman year 0.75 GPA with that?”, but I am reining it in for YOU, people, all for you. Dr Garth awkwardly asks if Tyra has her letter with her; she hands it to him, nervously brushing her hair out of her eyes, and he looks it over. He folds the letter up and tells her that UT gets 35,000 applications a year. Land sakes, that’s a lot of applications! He informs her that there are about a thousand people on the waitlist, and Tyra’s jaw drops: the odds are even worse than she thought. Landry’s going to get an earful on the hours-long drive back to Dillon.
Panthers field. Like Tim and Landry did in one of my favorite episodes back in S2, Tami and Eric sit together on the empty bleachers and try to figure things out. Tami glances at her husband before telling him that he needs to come to the school board meeting; she can’t even finish the sentence before he tightly asks why he should. She wants him to stand up for his job, but Eric is livid, and Kyle Chandler delivers his lines like machine gun fire, all in one breath: “There is nothing I could, should, or need to say at that meeting, they can look at what I’ve done and decide for themselves, if they want Joe McCoy to take over this team…. it’s their damn funeral.” Tami points out to her husband that such an approach might not be the most successful strategy, and Eric counters that it’s not a strategy, which is the whole point: that’s one of the many differences between Eric and Monty. Eric keeps his strategies on the field, and Monty has them everywhere else. Tami evenly says that she thinks they may need a strategy; Eric points out that he can’t “outspend nor out-talk” good ol’ Monty. “I have given everything I’ve got for this team,” Eric says, staring out at his field. “I’ve still got that, I’ve still got my pride, I am not giving that up.” Tami immediately says that Eric won’t ever give up his pride; that’s not what’s at stake. “But uf you don’t fight for this? I think we’re gonna regret it,” she says. For the first time in the entire scene, Eric looks at his wife: he knows she’s right.
Auction! In an open-air warehouse, an auctioneer – standing, I kid you not, on a PULPIT – lists the many valuable items which will be auctioned off. Billy and Tim are front row center in a crowd of about 70 people. He points out a welding machine and a barbershop chair; Billy, who’s wearing a “Landing Strip” T-shirt with a design of a beautiful woman descending like a plane, mutters: “Nuh-uh. That’s stupid.” Tim, wearing a simple black T with “33” in block letters, nods. Hee! The camera pans over to the taxidermy cage, which holds a deer head, a stuffed dog – dude, who’s going to buy someone’s stuffed dog?!? That’s just wrong – and “a deer’s rear end”, which has had faux owl-eyes implanted on either cheek to look like, yes, a giant OWL HEAD. I cannot do this absurd scene justice, not least of which because my great-uncle Rege was a taxidermist, and used to make squirrel rock bands and boxing matches and whatnot, and before you ask, no, I am not joking. Anyway, Billy and Tim actually debate the merits of buying the giant owl head. “It’s cool…” Billy says, looking at Tim, who shrugs and sits back in his chair. “…but naw.”
The auctioneer calls on item 27, the hydraulic lift, and both boys get ants in their pants. Billy – whose auction number is 33, HEE – starts bidding, and there’s some competition from another bidder. “Git ‘im. Git ‘im,” Tim coaches, and Billy finally wins it at $1200. The boys immediately leap up, with Tim doing that bizarre, girly, screechy-scream that he has, and they CHEST BUMP. HA! Oh, someone make me an animated icon of that, please. Tim is so psyched at the accomplishment that he doesn’t want to stop bidding, and counsels his big brother to get the next item: a live Texas longhorn steer, which a cowboy actually brings out before the crowd. Sweet baby Jesus. Tim: “Hey, listen to me. Things happen for a reason, Billy.” BWA! Oh, Tim Riggins; sometimes your advice is genius, and sometimes I guess you wind up with a longhorn steer. You’re the one who’s gonna have to clean up after him, Billy.
Cut to the Taylor house, where a much happier-looking Eric and Tami are leading Julie out of the house. She’s got a canvas hat pulled down over her face; they’re both guiding her to the driveway. Holding little Gracie Belle in her arms, Tami says that this is for “great report cards, all your help around the house, all your help with Gracie Belle… for being the most beautiful, amazing daughter anyone can every dream of…” They pause at the end of the walkway, and Eric takes the hat off Julie’s head – the blue car Tami saw at Garrity Motors in the montage? It’s sitting in the driveway with a big red bow on the hood. AW. Julie asks if they’re serious, if it’s really all hers and not just a third family car: Eric and Tami have the biggest smiles on them I’ve seen in weeks. Eric hands her the kids, and she skips over to explore it – the first thing she does is set the alarm off, of course, and Eric cracks up: “That’ll do.” Heee! Julie climbs in the front seat and turns the car over, gunning the engine, and his smile fades. “I didn’t think about her driving it,” he says doubtfully, and Tami cracks up, handing Gracie Belle over to him so she can get in the car with her daughter.
Once the Taylor women are in the car, however, Julie’s not giddy with the idea of zipping around Dillon; Tami, slightly panicked, asks her daughter if the car isn’t what she wanted. Julie says the car is great, of course, but her voice breaks; she can’t even put what’s upsetting her into words. It’s the idea of Matt and all of her friends going off to high school and leaving her behind, of course. Man, Julie has been a real trooper through this whole saga, I have to say. Tami quietly says that it’s a lot of change; Julie protests that she’s proud of him, but it’s hard to let him go. Tami says what every good mother’s told her daughter in this situation: they’ve had a good relationship, but if it’s meant to be, it will be. If not, Julie will still find someone who recognizes how wonderful she is. A teary-eyed Julie looks at her mother, her heart breaking: “But not Matt,” she says, her voice cracking. You remember; you remember how it felt.
Cut to the man himself, driving Lorraine across town. She holds his arm, smiling bravely: she’s put on bright lipstick. He puts his arm around her shoulders before they even get to the door, and when they walk into the lobby, she clutches at his arm, scared. These places, with a few exceptions, all seem the same – elderly men playing cards, a few old women sitting together to gossip or reminisce about old times. Matt rubs Lorraine’s back consolingly as they walk down the hallway to her room. They unpack her boxes and hang her mirror; pictures of Matthew are everywhere you look. He really is the center of her world. She tells him to go on, and she can do the rest – he says he just wants to make sure everything’s done before he goes. But you can only keep your chin up for so long, and it proves too hard for Lorraine; she practically begs him to go. She pulls him close in a hug, her face crumpling against his shoulder. It’s like a prayer; it’s goodbye. They break apart quickly and turn away as they say goodbye, and Matt makes a beeline for the hallway. He leans against the wall immediately outside her room, pacing in place, unable to leave and unable to stay; inside the room, Lorraine sits down on her bed, devastated and lonely, and begins to cry. Speaking of crying…
On the long drive back from UT, Tyra is snarking that college applications should just have a section telling you not to apply, and passive-aggressiving that she’s still got her job at Applebee’s, so THAT’S great. Landry, who’s clearly been listening to this since they left campus, does the stoic, supportive thing until Tyra snarks that Mindy can always get her a job dancing at the Landing Strip, “and why don’t you and I just get married and start poppin’ em out?” Landry scrubs his hand across his face and pulls the car over: he is DONE, y’all. Tyra gets out of the car, demanding what the heck Landry’s doing, just pulling over and stomping off. Landry tells her that he can’t take how much weight she puts on what other people believe in her, and Tyra counters that it’s not just some administrator at a college, it’s been everyone her whole life telling her that she’s worthless, that she’s nothing. “You know what, screw you,” she says, lashing out at the one person who’s been her rock for the last six months. “Screw you and your 4.2 GPA, you can go wherever you want.” She starts ranting about how he doesn’t understand anything about her life or how hard it was, and Landry finally snaps: “Would you shut up for one second? I don’t care what anyone else thinks about you. I don’t care what YOU think about yourself, but I believe in you!” Tyra shuts up, finally, and starts to listen to this man who loves her more than anything else. “I want this for you more than anything, but you just gotta start believing in yourself,” he says. She looks away, her face crumpling, and starts to cry. The camera goes wide, and he holds her under a slate-grey sky, next to an empty field. It could be sown with seeds or it could be a patch of dirt: only time will tell.
Thank God for the Riggins boys, who can lighten the mood from all this weeping, right? They’re also pulled over on the side of the road – Billy’s got the hood up and is tinkering around with the engine. “Maybe we shoulda had the steer towed,” Tim says, throwing stones into a grass lot while his brother gets dirty. They bought the longhorn steer, of course, who’s standing in his tow stall behind the truck. “No kiddin’, dumbass,” Billy snaps. “You know what else?” Tim says, not even noticing. “I hate San Antonio State.” Oh, Timmy! No! I mean, well, of course, because it’s academic work and it’s you, but still: nooo! Billy is indifferent to Tim’s revelation, so Tim explains: there’s no bar where he can go and just relax, the class schedule’s too much. “I got four classes in a row. There’s no me time. I’m gettin’ these books that are, like, 800 pages long! Where’s the me time, Billy?” HEE. Billy worms his way out from under the hood and tells his kid brother to turn the engine; Tim does, but it doesn’t turn over, of course. These are the Riggins boys we’re talking about. Billy kicks at the front bumper of the truck half-heartedly as Tim gets out, asking why Billy’s messing with the alternator. Billy says the engine’s not getting enough juice, but Tim thinks it’s the timer. “What’re you, the Car Whisperer, Tim?” Billy snarks. Heh. Tim messes around under the hood for two minutes and tells Billy to try it again: of course, it turns over. Hee! Billy chews on his lower lip for a minute and then storms out of the truck, slamming the door in frustration.
Tim asks why Billy’s so upset, and Billy snaps that he just bought a repair shop but can’t even fix his own car. Aw. He leans against the bed of the truck and worries that if he doesn’t start making money with the garage, he’s going to lose the property, he’ll lose everything. Tim walks over and leans against the truck next to Billy, confiding to his older brother that buying that garage was the best thing Billy ever did. “You’re livin’ the American Dream right now,” Tim says. He tells Billy that he’ll have his own employees, have a few beers, hang out at home with Mindy and some kids in a couple of years: “Sounds pretty damn good to me,” he says. Billy laughs that Tim didn’t mean a word he just said, and Tim says he does mean it – he wishes he were in Billy’s shoes. Billy hesitates, and then says it would be pretty cool: “The Riggins brothers – sittin’ around all day fixin’ cars, drinkin’ beer.” Tim nods that it would. “Yeah, well, it better work,” Billy says, hesitating before he drops the bomb quietly: “Mindy’s pregnant.” He pushes his body away from the truck and starts to walk away; it takes about five seconds for Tim’s brain to go, wait. What? No, no way. No, I think he said… “Say that again,” Tim says in disbelief. Billy handwaves that she’s pregnant, like it’s no big deal, but Tim already has a HUGE smile on his face. “For real? A hundred percent? We have a little football comin’ our way?” Billy says it’s something like that, and Tim starts sparring with his brother, he’s so happy. He goes to grab Billy in a wrestling hold or something, and Billy picks his little brother up off the ground. The two of them tumble over into the field; the camera goes wide and we see a stunning sky behind them, full of mountainous white clouds and sunbeams pouring down on the ground. It’s perfect.
At Garrity Motors, Lyla walks into the dealership, nervously tugging at her own fingertips. She finds Buddy with a client, and Buddy takes one look at Lyla’s face before asking the client for just a minute. He asks her what’s going on, and she breathlessly says that she thinks they should talk to Uncle Gary. Aw. Cut to the Colette household and a very thin letter from UT, addressed to one Tyra Colette. Oh, sweet baby Jesus. Mindy and Angela are arguing over whether to give it to Tyra now or after the wedding; Mindy says she doesn’t want her little sister to be “all mopey and Tyra-ish” if it’s not good news. Snerk. Tyra walks in, asking what they’re talking about; when they fall silent, she asks what Angela’s holding in her hands. She takes it from her mother’s hands as Angela says it’s from UT, and Tyra Colette, God love her, goes sprinting out of the house to catch Landry. She runs across the long patch of dirt that passes for a yard, screaming his name, stretching her long legs out like she’s running for her life, and this is where I started to lose it, because Tyra Colette is finally, beautifully, magnificently in love, and with a guy who adores her. When your first thought isn’t “I have to open this letter” but “I have to have him with me to open this letter,” you are IN LOVE, girl. Landry hears her, of course – he slams on the brakes and jumps out of the car, running to meet her at the fence. He tells her not to worry that it’s thin, and that she’s worked so hard for this, and that he’s so proud of her, but she’s only asking one question: “You’ll love me no matter what?” DAMN, girl. In love, hardcore. “I love you no matter what,” he says before she can even get the words out, and that’s when she can finally tear open the letter, her hands shaking. She can barely read it in the dark; Angela and Mindy stand in the middle of the yard, waiting, and then Tyra laughs. “What did I tell you?” Landry says, beaming. She screams for joy and grabs him in a bear hug; behind her, the Colette women shriek and run to join them. He jumps the fence as she jumps up and down with her mother and sister and hugs her again, telling her that she loves her. Tyra smiles back like the world is suddenly hers, and I guess it is. After the hells and the trials and the tribulations of the last three years, she’s finally happy, in love and going to college: well freaking done, Tyra Colette.
Cut to reality, where dreams don’t always come true. At a crowded school board meeting, the superintendent asks Monty if he’s approached Wade Aikmen about coaching the Panthers. Wait, Wade doesn’t speak for himself at all? Monty steps up to the standalone microphone and says that Wade is eager to take on the position. I’m sure he is. The superintendent starts to ask about salary, and Monty interrupts with a sly grin at the crowd: “He’ll take whatever we give him, or I’ll kick his ass.” The room laughs with him as he backtracks, paying lip service to Wade understanding that it’s a first-year coaching position, so he understands the salary guidelines. Monty sits down, and the superintendent asks if anyone in the room wishes to say anything on behalf of Coach Aikmen or Coach Taylor. Tami is sitting with the school board and has been anxiously fidgeting for the entire scene, and then she looks over and sees Eric come into the room, wearing a blue-collar shirt, a black blazer and a tie. Aw, Coach! The camera cuts back to Tami, who’s so proud of her husband that she tears up, clasping her hands together and pressing them against her chin. The entire room realizes what’s going on and turns to see Coach at the back of the room; he walks past the microphone to the front of the room, and we get a quick shot of Monty smugly pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
Eric turns to face the room: “I did not want to be here today. Here I am,” he says, and pauses, searching for the words. “I love my job, I’m good at it, and I’d like to keep it.” Cut to Buddy, who just gazes at Eric proudly; they have a strange brotherhood, Eric and Buddy, but I think it is genuine. Eric says that he loves the school and the kids, and that he feels like he’s just gotten started. He says some people there want to replace him “for a man with a lot of money, and a kid with a good arm.” Cut to Monty, staring at Eric. “To those people, I would say: you’re wrong. You are dead wrong.” This is not just about the Taylors; it’s about this show, too. Monty? Wrong. FNL’s ratings? Wrong. The audience that just doesn’t get this show? You know the rest. He tells them to have a good Saturday – which is just so southern that it breaks my heart, to tell the people who are threatening to take your livelihood away to have a good day – and walks away. Tami stares after him, hoping everyone there feels half of what she does for this wonderful, driven, complex man.
Cut to the Riggins/Colette wedding! Oh, glory be. Angela dabs lip gloss on Mindy’s lips, and we get a quick view of Mindy’s dress. In a nice nod to her pregnancy, I do believe the meringue monstrosity (complete with the butterfly wings) has been let out a bit. The band, which consists of men in white tuxes and white cowboy hats, plays a rough version of “Baby, I love your Way.” HA! Peter Frampton as the pre-wedding march music. God bless you, Mindy and Billy. A stunned Matt and Julie elbow each other in the small congregation; a distracted Lyla sits with Buddy, who’s got his arm around his little girl; strippers wear bridesmaid dresses and walk down the aisle.
Eric sits alone, anxious and worried, until Tami comes in wearing a knockout green dress and quietly slips into the seat next to him. He scoots over for her and stares at her expectantly; she takes his hand wordlessly and just stares at him. The entire conversation is unspoken until a wide-eyed Eric finally says Tami has to be kidding him, and Tami silently shakes her head, leaning over to murmur that they offered the job to Wade. DAMNIT! My rage is distracted by the sight of Tim Riggins – wearing the wedding party’s white tux and cowboy hat ensemble – and Tyra Colette, the maid of honor, walking up the aisle together. Lord, those are two pretty, pretty people. Eric sits back, seething, and grits that at least now they know. Tami’s not done bringing the bad news, however: “They offered you the head coaching job at East Dillon High.” Eric’s eyes go wide at this insult, and all I can say is BLASPHEMY! SACRILEGE! Oh, someone will suffer mightily for this. But let’s put the sword of righteous fury down for a bit, because Angela’s coming down the aisle with Mindy, and the church organ has kicked in. Tim takes his hat off first; Billy follows suit, brushing his hair down nervously, and I wonder if Mindy’s going to actually say the Finding Nemo wedding vows… aaand we cut to the reception. Well, that was fast!
Landry and Tyra cut a rug on the dance floor, both of them beaming like lighthouses; Buddy asks Angela to dance, and she gets up to join him. Well, there’s a storyline for next season… again. Billy and Mindy dance with a little gaggle of kids, which is another nice nod to her pregnancy; Julie dances goofily with Matt. Aw. Lyla sits at a table, feeling sad; she’s going to miss all this, too. The wedding band starts to play “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” which is perfect for these two. Tim glances at Lyla from the wedding party table and walks over to her, taking a white rose from a wedding bouquet as he goes. He gives it to her and she thanks him, and then immediately says she has to tell him something. Tim sits back goofily and squares his shoulders before telling her to shoot. She tells him that yesterday, when he was at the auction, she had a crazy idea: Tami and Buddy suggested she could still go to Vanderbilt, and that they could get the tuition money from her uncle. “But I’m not gonna go,” she says, her voice breaking. “And I don’t want to go, and I just wanted to say that I’m sorry that I would do something like that without talking to you first,” she says. Tim, God bless him, is already nodding: “Go.”
Lyla stops dead, staring at him like he’s the one who’s not understanding, the poor dear. Lyla Garrity, do you not know Tim Riggins at all? If he’s gotten good at one thing in his life, and especially recently, it’s letting go of the people he loves the most. Also, sometimes Tim’s way off the mark, but when he’s right about something, he is dead. On. He tells her that she has to go to Vanderbilt, of course, and Lyla protests, saying that she wants to stay, but Tim is adamant: “San Antonio State? No. You’re so much better than that. You know this.” Substitute “Tim Riggins” for San Antonio State” there and tell me that’s not, deep down, what Timmy really thinks. Aw, Timmy. He tells her that opportunities like this happen for a reason – “and I’m not gonna be that guy to stop you from achieving your dreams.” Lyla is near tears, trying to tell Tim that he’s what she really wants. I think that’s been partially true for Lyla for a while, but Tim and the audience know it goes deeper than that: she might not resent him if she stays for him, but she’ll always wonder what she could have accomplished if she left. “Don’t make me be that guy,” he says softly. She looks away, near tears, and looks back at him. He smiles at her sadly, completely sure of what he’s doing. After fighting for her for three years, he’s finally letting her go.
Coach stands at the bar, watching the crowd, wondering how many of them voted him out of his job and if he ever knew any of them at all. The wedding band start to play a waltz – specifically, “Waltz Across Texas” by Earnest Tubb – and Coach takes a long draw from his beer. Tami watches her man drown his sorrows from across the room, knowing there’s nothing that she can say or do to help him right now. We cut to a few hours later, when the party’s thinning out and the younguns are getting their respective grooves on to “Mustang Sally”. Lyla twirls around with Buddy, blissfully happy; Julie goofily shakes her groove thang with Landry, who stands stock-still, staring at her in stunned disbelief. HA! Matt sits at a nearby table, watching his two friends who are so totally different from one another; he cracks a sad smile and looks away. Julie catches this and tells Landry she’s going to check on Matt.
She asks him if he wants to dance, and he says not really. She hesitates and then decides to just rip the band-aid off: she doesn’t want to be “debbie downer”, but matt’s going to leave and take new classes and meet new people and new girls, and Matt rolls his eyes. Julie says she doesn’t want to be the high school couple who stay together just to prove everyone wrong and wind up getting into fights all the time. “I love you… I just think we should break up,” she says. OFGS, Julie! Matt looks at her for a second and then, magnificently, he says: “…no.” HEE! Julie’s all “you can’t say NO” and he’s all “Too bad, ’cause we’re not breaking up.” He leans forward with his first real smile all day and pulls her onto his lap, kissing her and telling her that they’re going to be fine. Awww. They turn back to watch the dance floor; in front of them, a dad dances with his little girl. Julie comments that Lorraine really would have enjoyed the wedding. “Yeah, she would have,” Matt says, and then he smiles a little, and we cut to…
The assisted living facility, where Matt is walking into Lorraine’s room. She’s sitting in her easy chair, and startled, she asks what he’s doing here. He tells her to take her curlers out of her hair, because they’re going to a wedding. She swats him gently and says that he’s crazy, but Matt’s not done: after the wedding, he’s taking her home – for good. Lorraine starts to protest, telling him that he can’t do that, and Matt actually raises his voice to get her attention: “You’re the only person who’s never left me. I’m not gonna leave you.” I just… I… could you hand me those tissues, please? Look, I have a lot of mixed feelings about Matt staying behind and giving up college, much less taking on the burden of taking care of an individual who really does need professional care, but I think all Matt ever really wanted was to be accepted and loved and part of something. I get it. Lorraine starts to smile, not daring to believe it, and cracks up when Matt deadpans that he’s going to stay at the facility. “My chair,” she says, glowing, hugging her boy. “I’m gonna need my chair!” Sniffle.
Back at the reception, Billy and Mindy slowdance to “When a Man Loves a Woman”. A few of our favorites come out to slowdance as well: Lyla and Tim, both quiet and sad; Landry and Tyra, holding on to each other like there’s no one else in the room; and Coach and Tami, who wave a hello to the happy couple. Tami says she knows it was a sucky day, but Coach seems to be thinking it might not work out so badly, if you know what I mean. “I don’t even know what the hell we’re doin’ here. I don’t even know Billy Riggins that well,” he says. Tami bursts out laughing, telling her husband that she thinks Billy thinks very highly of them. Coach, you helped to get Timmy into college: you have no idea. They kiss and Tami stares up at Eric, utterly smitten. “No matter what happens, no matter where you go, no matter what you do, I’m always gonna be behind you. Always, and always, and always.” Tami Taylor, ladies and gentlemen! I think that as long as Eric has her, as long as he knows that he always has her, he can face anything. “I know that,” he says, crushing her close and closing his eyes; for a second, it’s almost like she’s holding him up. Poor Coach.
Cut to a radiant Lorraine, who looks like a million dollars, coming in on the arm of her grandson. He walks her straight past Julie, who’s smiling, and onto the dance floor, to the exact spot where the father and young girl were dancing before. They sway back and forth, beaming at each other; Matt spins her out and Lorraine bursts out laughing. AW. We get quick shots of the slowdancing couples again: Tyra and Landry, Tim and Lyla, and finally Eric and Tami. Eric smiles like he’s not got a care in the world.
Outside the Dillon Elks Lodge, which is where the reception’s taken place. A huge crowd’s gathering outside, ostensibly to throw rice at the happy couple. Eric and Tami emerge from the ballroom, and Eric hustles his wife to the car, telling her there’s someplace he wants to show her. Tami very cutely says she’ll be the one driving, because Eric’s drunk. Heh. Cut to Billy and Mindy heading out, and lo, the rice is thrown and the crowd is cheering, and they’re almost to the limo when Tim Riggins comes out of nowhere and tells his big brother that he has to talk to him right now. Mindy, quite rightly, is all “You have GOT TO BE KIDDING ME,” but Tim pushes Billy aside and tells him that Lyla’s going to Vanderbilt. Billy, quite rightly, is all, “…so?” Tim informs his big brother that Lyla was the sole reason he was going to college, and now he doesn’t have to go – he’s staying in Dillon! It can be the two of them, working at Riggins’ Rigs! Won’t that be cool? Billy half-drags Tim a few steps away, and I’m sorry, but there’s no way that I can recap this without transcribing this awesomeness in its entirety:
“You listen to me, you little idiot,” Billy says quietly. “You are not gonna wuss out on this. You’re gonna go to college and you’re gonna go get a degree. And I don’t care if it takes you seven years. And when you start thinking that it’s too hard or you can’t handle it, I want you to remember one thing. I want you to think about the kids that you don’t have yet. And I want you to think about my kids.” Cut to Tim, looking shamefaced. “And you’re gonna get the job done so that one of these days I can tell them that they don’t have to settle for second best, that they can be whoever the hell they want to be, because their Uncle Timmy went to college.” He pauses, sizing his little brother up, trying to get him to understand. “Now God bless our Mom and Dad, wherever the hell they are,” he says; Timmy nods an almost-silent “yeah” in response, like they’ve had this conversation before, but this time Billy’s not done: “But we’ve got to do better by our kids. Do you hear me?” Tim shakes his head, still Not Entirely Getting It, and Billy has to repeat the question before Tim turns it into a nod. “Yeah,” he says quietly, looking at his older brother.
Unbelievable. If you had told me, back when the pilot aired, that the half-naked, slovenly, grumpy guy who didn’t care whether his kid brother went to football practice or not would wind up delivering what is quite possibly the best monologue and scene in the history of the series, I would have laughed in your face. Well done, Derek Phillips. I hope we see a lot of you next season, and the one after that. Billy tells Tim he’s got to leave for this honeymoon thing, and tells Tim not to burn down the house while he’s gone. Tim half-smiles: “No promises.” Heh. The Riggins boys hug each other tight, and then they let go. Billy gets in the limo with Mindy and everyone cheers them on; in the crowd, Buddy hugs a weeping Angela. Well, that could be interesting next season. The limo drives away, cans attached to the back bumper; Tim shakes his head, smiling that wry, disbelieving smile of his. For someone who never wanted anything to change, Tim’s let a lot of things go tonight.
Speaking of letting things go, we cut to Eric and Tami. They walk up hand in hand and stop dead in their tracks. The camera cuts to their POV and we see a desolation. It’s the East Dillon High football field, or at least it was once; now it’s a trashed field of weeds and dirt, scattered with trash. Eric puts his arm around Tami, pulling her closer to him as they go out to the field. There’s trash on the ground and some of the game lights on those super-high poles are busted; the wooden face surrounding the field is gap-toothed and falling apart. In a slim glimmer of hope, you can still piece together the words “1987 STATE CHAMPIONS” painted on the fence. As the camera circles, we can see the words “EAST DILLON LIONS” painted in faded letters at the foot of the small, rickety bleachers. This isn’t the worst of it, of course; the worst of it is that Coach refused to speak up about Monty and Buddy’s redistricting gerrymandering, so now any kid with a lick of talent for the game is squarely on the Dillon High side of the redistricting line. Coach isn’t just starting over at a new school with no budget, he’ll have no real team; he’ll have to start completely and utterly from scratch. In the last shot of this magnificent season, Eric stands separate from Tami, stunned by the devastation; she reaches out and strokes his shoulder supportively. He pulls her close, putting an arm around her, and she rests her head on his shoulder. The camera pulls up, revealing giant patches of dirt and sand on the abandoned field; the Taylors stand alone in the desolation in the middle of the fading Texas sun, and we fade to black.
When season 3 started, I hoped for another season, but I also felt that I would be okay if the show was not renewed. I didn’t see how they could graduate so many of their key characters and still keep the story going, and I didn’t want new versions of the characters I loved; I had loved them and their stories, and I was willing to let the series go. But my God, what a brilliant, brave and magnificent decision on the part of the writers, because it is literally an entirely new ball game, and I see so much potential. I see a whole new group of disenfranchised, low-income, dare I even say minority kids, who have no hope and few parents and don’t know or care much about football or how it can change your life, coming under the leadership of Eric Taylor and seeing their lives change completely. I see families and players coming out to repair that fence; I see first-time cheerleaders holding bake sales to buy new turf and uniforms. I see Matt volunteering to help Eric run practices and coach the team; I see Buddy being so moved by Eric’s efforts that he roots for the Lions so long as they’re not playing the Panthers; I see JD starting to understand how much he admires and respects Coach; I see a whole community stunned and revitalized with the incredible faith and teamwork that is Eric and Tami Taylor, and oh yes, I see them KICKING THE PANTHERS’ ASSES AT STATE (hell YES, I said it!). I loved the Panthers, but this move is genius, pure and simple, and I cannot wait to experience the next two (two!) seasons. Thank you, NBC and DirectTV.
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. GO LIONS. See you all in the next season.