Once again, the on-field action takes up very little space this week. In fact, this episode could keep up with The O.C. in its many varieties of romantic drama: the accidental, drunken kiss (Glenn and Tami), the divorced parents (Joe and Katie McCoy), the rebound (Julie and the Habitat hottie) two love triangles (Jess, Landry, and Vince; Becky, Tim and Luke), the teenage girl who takes multiple pregnancy tests and wonders if they can be wrong (Becky), and even the lesbian who once played for the other team (Buddy and the mayor). Of all these moments the one I liked the most was the scene with Jess and Vince after her dad has just hired him at the restaurant. She scolds him to clean the toilet correctly and not mess it up, like her little brothers do. "I'm not your little brother," he says, standing up to give her a good view of his ripped chest. This bodes ill for Landry. How long can you resist a guy who can be sexy while he's cleaning the toilet?
For comic relief, we got round two of the Glenn sitcom. Glenn shows up at East Dillon to apologize to Eric, which Glenn has convinced himself is the noble thing to do. "You have every right to deck me," he says, not realizing that Tami never told her husband about the kiss. Then Eric is glaring at him, wondering whether this doofus is even worth decking, when Glenn pushes Eric even further by providing the visual: "My lips on her lips, my mouth on Tami Taylor's mouth." What follows is one of the great Coach Taylor scenes. Instead of punching Glenn, Eric takes the violence out on himself, scratching his head, biting his lip, laughing in a manic way. Of course poor Glenn just ends up as the butt of a series of Tami/Eric jokes and another way to prove how damned in love they are.
More trouble arises for Vince when his homeboys show up at Virgil's barbeque joint and demand that Vince serve them outside. Virgil breaks up the tension and pushes himself one step closer to "magical Negro" territory. * His quick transformation has been a little hard for me to take. All those years of hating football and Vince, and now he's turning into the East Side football fairy. "Go on back and get you an apron," he tells Vince, after giving him the tough-love talk about the house rules.
The show continues to do its best to take the teeth out of the East Side. This episode managed to transform Larry Gilliard Jr., who played D'Angelo Barksdale on The Wire, into a nonthreatening activist type whose version of taking on the white man means schooling him on how he can really "make a difference." Part of me wishes Tami could have gone into that game at Carroll Park and been really terrified, just to see how she would have reacted. Instead, she glides in under the protection of Elden, the East Side philosopher.
The one place where the show isn't playing it safe is the abortion subplot. The show has always been excellent on the subject of teenage girls and sexuality. Remember Tami's sex talk with Julie? It will still be my model when the time comes. Or the great moment when Eric walked in on Julie and Matt in bed? The set-up has potential for them to break new ground on network television: Becky's decision, her mom's role, the objections of Luke and his parents. If she doesn't have that baby, no doubt she'll pay a price in that town. Whatever happens, though, I want it to end well for Luke.
I don't feel similar affection for Ryan, the Habitat hottie. I knew those guys in college—in my years, the 'Free South Africa" grad students who showed up at the college rallies to "teach" us co-eds how to be better activists. He will string Julie along, letting her think she is the one holding the cards. Also, in real life, they would be getting high in the tool shed.
Correction, July 6, 2010: Originally this entry mistakenly referred to Virgil as Vernon. (Return to the corrected paragraph.)