Friday Night Lights, Season 5

What Will Coach Do?
Talking television.
Jan. 19 2011 10:28 PM

Friday Night Lights, Season 5

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Connie Britton as Tami Taylor, Kyle Chandler as Coach Eric Taylor. Click image to expand.
Connie Britton as Tami Taylor and Kyle Chandler as Coach Eric Taylor

Did Coach Taylor promise to stay in Dillon? Or didn't he? Eric's answer to all those bullying, guilt-inducing questions was: "That's where I plan to stay. At home in Dillon." His team—and his wife—take this as a conclusive rejection of the Shane State offer.

But I'm not sure. He's explicitly talking about only what happens after this playoff game, not about what might happen if they win State. And we know from his earlier conversation with Tami that he's not going to consider the offer till after State. So has he left himself wiggle room to depart for a grand, and deserved, opportunity? Or is his sense of responsibility—to Vince, to the Riggins brothers—going to anchor him to Texas? I sincerely hope that FNL has the courage to let Eric and Tami leave for Florida. (I assume, incidentally, that Tami's weird flirtation with that tender-eyed, Pelosi-esque conference lady will open some new professional door for her.)

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Loyalty—the theme of this episode—isn't self-abnegation. Eric must do what he can to set his boys on a path to college and to manhood, and he does just that for Vince and Tim this week. But loyalty should not be a shackle. Loyalty should not mean sacrificing opportunity and family well-being, and giving up the chance to help other, different people—Shane State students—in the future. It's clear that going to Shane State wouldn't be selling out. He wouldn't be submitting himself to sleazeballs as he did when he went to TMU back in Season 2. He wouldn't be breaking up his family as he did when he went to TMU. On the contrary, he'd be providing better for Tami and Gracie—there's a charter school!—and he'd bring his wisdom and leadership to a whole new group of young men. Eric would be insane to turn down this job, and I think FNL knows this. I strongly suspect that the last three episodes will find a way to get Eric to Florida, probably by having Vince righting himself and coming to realize he doesn't need Coach to be a good man, and by having Billy and Tim Riggins rising together and becoming complete men.

(A slight digression: While I hope that FNL sends Eric to Shane State … reality check. There are very few examples of high-school football coaches jumping directly into college head-coaching jobs. High-school coaches must serve time as college position coaches—the job Eric flamed out of at TMU—before they can hope to head coach. Moreover, there is no chance—zero chance—that a school launching a major college football program would hire a high-school football coach—from another state, no less—to inaugurate their program. Shane State would hire a former college coach who understands recruiting and fundraising or a top-level assistant coach.)

I am so done with Ornette and Vince: They replay the same melodrama every week. (This is also putting pressure on the producers' supply of fake sleazeball colleges trying to seduce Vince! This week they gave us imaginary Mississippi Central. Who's it going to be next week: West Dakota U.? Intoxicated State University? Texas S&M?) On the other hand, how can you not be moved by Luke's sudden displacement? When Tim Riggins stared out at the sun-dappled Texas scrub last season, Becky at his side, we understood that Dillon was where he belonged. When Luke did the same this week, Becky identically positioned, I didn't feel it. Luke may settle for farming, but he shouldn't. Every minute of Luke until that moment had been premised on the idea that he would do anything to get a scholarship and get out of Dillon. That's why he played through injury last season. That's why he used the fake address and why he didn't make a stink when Tami transferred him. It is just not credible that he would suddenly give up his dream of leaving.

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David Plotz is Slate's editor at large. He's the author of The Genius Factory and Good Book.

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