In episodes past when FNL has thrown the Taylors off their game, the writers have usually done it through Tami. She has a baby or makes some bad decision and alienates everyone around her and for some limited number of episodes ceases to be the moral center of the show. This time, for the first time I can remember, the show does it through Eric. He's the one who makes a bad decision and then can't find his bearings, and that throws both his home and his team off balance. When he says about Julie, "She slept with another woman's husband," he is not thinking of broad religious or moral sensibilities—we have no evidence that he has those. He is thinking about his own marriage. And there is a certain smugness and selfishness in that. He knows nothing about this TA and his wife—whether they have children, whether they are actually separated. All he knows, and should know—as Tami says—is that his daughter has broken down. And yet he doesn't have it in him to see that.
The men on the show have always needed the women to give them space to feel and cry and make the right decision and then claim their manhood again. That's what Tami does for Eric over and over again, with Julie and Gracie Belle providing the feminine chorus in the background. But when one of his women falls apart, Eric can't respond in kind. He simply does not know what to do with himself.
The Taylors' falling apart creates a kind of universal humbling. Julie's Tiger Woods move and then Eric's shoving of Julie are not on par with the other acts violence, of course. But the Taylors no longer look leagues apart from their poorer brethren. In fact, Ornette is arguably the more honorable father in this episode, shielding his son from violence and putting a thug that threatens him in his place. I absolutely loved that dinner-table scene. I've complained about the saccharine dialogue they often feed Vince and Ornette. But this scene played out beautifully. Ornette wavered from cute, polite pie jokes to raw observations about prison that are not quite appropriate for the dinner table.
Speaking of inappropriate: Mindy? I knew the Mindy and Becky friendship had to go south because girl friendships never last on FNL. And Mindy, of course, turns out to be strange mother material. In this episode's mediation on flawed parenting, Mindy added her own take. Her line on Tim was all wrong, Emily—he is not at all the kind of guy who sweet-talks girls into bed. He is overly sincere and prone to nostalgic attachment. And "screw like bunnies?" A slightly rough way to get Becky and Luke together. But this is all made up for by her best line ever: "Rhinestones make me look trashy."