David, you are totally right, this was the episode in which the Taylor world fell apart, and it was riveting. I went back to watch the opening sequence at church a second time. It was full of Dillon's ordinary glory. The early morning sun, Buddy's good-natured wisecracks, the innocent romping of Jess' brothers—all was right with the world on a Sunday morning. And then it was entirely not right. I'm not sure Eric will ever think about his family in the same purely doting way again.
As you pointed out, Julie's crackup exposed all sorts of fascinating undercurrents in the relationship between her and her parents. Those taut scenes made the Derek affair worth it, even for me, its chief detractor. Eric sat in judgment: "I damn well hope so," he burst out when Tami said that Julie felt ashamed and humiliated. When Eric asked Julie if she knew Derek was married, she couldn't answer. Tami, meanwhile, tried to do compassion and tough love at once. Hanna, what did you think of her big love talk with Julie—did she live up to your expectations? The mother in me liked the stress Tami put on Julie's own choices, a word she used twice. And Tami's closing line, "That is the girl I raised," put Julie on the hook while taking away some of the sting of Eric's rejection and disappointment. Julie is still the Taylor daughter. Now she has to act like it.
I also loved how the episode drew its power from the juxtaposition of Julie with Vince. She broke her family code, took a sledge hammer to her father's image of her, and threw the Taylor household so utterly off balance that Eric was late to pregame with the team and resorted to physically manhandling Julie, ineffectually. (This was a brave scene, I thought—fathers and teenage daughters aren't supposed to wrestle like that, but they do.) Vince, by contrast, reverted to his father's code. He went up to the Taylor's door in his moment of trouble but he didn't knock. Instead, he appealed to Ornette. Unlike Eric, Ornette did not sit in judgment, because, of course, he's implicated. His shouldering of Vince's burden and the savage beating he gave Kenard were the rough justice Ornette had to offer.
David Hudgins, where does Ornette fall on FNL's moral spectrum? For the first time, I thought he had flashes of likability. He had just the right touch in his speech to Jess' brothers about the dread of prison. This made me worry that the writers were making us care about him so that we'll be sorry when this time the father pays for the son's transgressions. If the cops find Ornette with a gun, or if Kenard's friends get to him first, will Vince's TMU prospects and happiness with Jess come crashing down? Will this be the show's latest lesson about how the accomplishments of football can take you only so far? I thought it was Tim's role to remind us of this, shades of Jason Street. And I'm not sure the show has enough darkness in its soul for two bleak endings. But it all seemed to teeter on the brink this week, and dramatically speaking, that's excellent.
Meanwhile, all the love you lavish on Billy, David, I give to Mindy. She deserves it for those green sunglasses and the purple bikini she rejected for being trashy. Where Billy leads Luke astray by telling him to dial while drunk (that call to the TMU coach has to boomerang), Mindy is pure entertainment in sowing trouble for Becky and Tim. "Baby girl, you know, you are not Tim Riggins' girlfriend. He's not gonna be with you," she decrees, before marching Luke over to mash him and Becky together. Billy and Mindy are our very own Oberon and Titania, a king and queen who leave a trail of destruction behind them. I do not for one second believe that Billy made Tim's land payments.