Yes, Hanna, we did get a dose of Riggins realism—though there aren't too many consequences to that fist fight. It looks like Tim beats the crap out of Becky's dad. I shuddered a bit in my seat. But pretty soon it's cut to puppy (now named Skeeter, because Riggins is a dude's dude) and golden sunlight shining through our man's hair as he looks out at a pastoral green field dappled with, yep, cows. The camera slides left, and we can just see a sign promising acres for sale—"Reduced." It's a lovely moment, but I feel about it the way you feel about Vince's mother's Vassar talk: Bogus, no? It's a bit of small-town porn, I thought—Look! Americana! Green fields! Hot guys and cows!
But who am I to talk? I'm currently living in a small town in Texas just because to me, like Riggins, it seemed "pretty great." (Barry Tubb—who plays Luke's dad—is from the town I'm currently living in, and everyone's all abuzz about it.) To your assertion that the episode is a referendum on masculinity, Hanna, I add that it's also an exploration of trust and lack of it and how often trust in others (a blessing) trips us up. "That kid trusts me," Eric says to Tami, after Vince brings the gun by. They're solemnly sitting at the breakfast table, incriminating paper bag between them. (Did they even look inside, I wondered?) I was so glad they didn't call any authorities this time.
Trust—it's hard to earn and still harder to maintain. Landry trusted Tyra to show up at their assignation and she didn't; Becky trusted her dad to tell her the truth, but he lied; Julie trusted Matt—"I thought he was the one," she tearfully says to Tami at the Smackdown episode—but he ran off and hasn't called her (though he's talked to his grandmother; how painful). Billy Riggins' wife trusts him to get her through the end of her pregnancy, but his lack of insurance has left him susceptible to his old scheming ways, and it looks like we might get a dose of that next episode. (I thought this part of the episode, at Riggins' Rigs, was a little melodramatic.)
My favorite two moments: Vince pulling up his hood in self-protection after he walks away from Coach's house, having handed over the gun. And the abovementioned scene between Julie and her mom. Tami says, rightly, that some day soon good things are going to start happening to Julie again, and says, also rightly, that some day she will be able to look back at this differently. I had almost identical conversations with my mom. Julie's loss swells up beyond mere fact into feeling—the way she runs her fingers over Matt's scrawled name on the CD he gave her made me shiver. It was a novelistic moment, carefully observed, telling, moving.
This whole season is so much about loss. I wonder if it's the show's way of forecasting its own demise, somehow—our loss of it. So, ladies, what do you think: Are Becky and Tim going to hook up down the line, or what? That scene when he grabs her at Riggins Rigs and tells her about her dad had some true intensity. Hanna, I agree with you about Vince's mom, but that whole thread played out more engagingly than I'd imagined it would. After that conversation, I thought Eric was going to go apologize to Vince for having his locker searched. (After all, Tami's said to him that he has to get Vince to trust him.) But no. He goes and plays hardball. That took me by surprise.
Emily, what did you think of this story line? I found it a touch odd that he didn't approach Vince first to say, "We're gonna search your locker, and this is why."
But that might be my naiveté.