I agree, this episode is really interesting on the subject of female sexuality. The show bravely pairs two variations on the theme: daughters having sex and strippers. Julie has sex; Lyla shacks up with Riggins and is horrified by her dad's behavior at the Landing Strip, although just last episode, she was drinking and dancing with one of its performers. It's not all that progressive to group drifting daughters and pole dancers, as you say, Meghan, but mostly it's sex as seen from a father's point of view. That scene where Eric walks in on Julie and Matt in bed was so perfectly played and shot. "Ahh! Dad! Get out!" we hear as he's walking out the door. Also the later scene at the Taylor house where Eric wants to kill Matt but instead takes out all of his aggression on his grill.
The scene between Buddy and Lyla, meanwhile, unfolds almost like a lover's quarrel:
"Don't touch me," she says and runs into her room to start packing so she can move in with Riggins.
"Please don't leave me!" he yells to her.
I imagine it must be near impossible for a father to come to terms with his daughter having sex. A mom of a teenage boy once told me that after her son had sex, their relationship changed forever; to her, it was more of a parting than him leaving for college. But it was all sadness, with none of the muffled rage and disgust the men seem to feel. This might be stretching it, but I felt like Devin, the cute lesbian oracle, was voicing the subconscious of the dads in this episode when she said to Landry, "You're like a prostitute. But you don't get paid."
This is so different from how Tami handled Julie. I absolutely loved their talk, so much that I want to tape it and play it back to my daughter when the time comes, because surely I won't handle it so deftly. "Do you love Matt?" she asks. That is so absolutely the right thing to ask first, both because it's the important question and because it proves she respects how Julie made her decision. Then she smiles, twice, despite herself. I don't think, Meghan, that the last part about wanting her to wait is her "true feeling." I think that's the Everymom feeling—the difficulty of letting go. Her true feeling is in her smiles. She can't help but be happy for Julie. I also love that speech she gave afterward, about not having to do it every time.
One thing we haven't talked enough about: This show is so good at conveying meaning through silence and gesture. There's Eric's twitch, of course, but this episode was a veritable ballet of twinned gestures: McCoy drinking milk cuts to Buddy drinking whisky. Julie and Lyla brush their teeth, then Tami and Eric brush. Julie can't look at her dad during that car ride; Matt can't look at him in the locker room. Then when J.D.'s dad wants to make a point to his son on the basketball court, he yells, "Look at me!" three times. McCoy is not subtle enough for gestures, as opposed to Eric, who has a beautiful one when he walks out of Matt's house and tensely flips his hat.
I liked Eric losing his temper in the end. It had a very "we are all sinners" feel. The episode began with Buddy losing his temper and Eric restraining himself, just as he had in the previous episode when he didn't hit Cash. Badgering the ref was a proxy, I think, for throttling Matt, or Julie, or Buddy; better to lose your temper in the game than in your house. As for Wade's rising—that did seem abrupt, and a setup for McCoy feuds to come.
I do need to mention The Giving Tree. I have always found that the oddest, most depressing children's book. It is such a raw take on the selfless nature of parenting (much like the first few pages of Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping). It also has the same problem as FNL: It seems to be written much more for adults than children. I hate reading it and can almost never get through it without choking up, for the sake of my future, bitter, empty-nest self. I'm glad Landry threw it at Tyra. She deserved it.