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Friday Night Lights “Don’t Go” Review (5×10)

4 Oct

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“Coach…he’s the best.”

The past is important. The memories you’ve shared with those around you stick with you throughout your life, influencing your decisions and your future relationships. Sometimes, there’s that one moment that fundamentally changes who you become. Maybe, for example, it’s a meeting with a football Coach, someone who takes jail and lying in a ditch somewhere out of the equation.

As we see in “Don’t Go”, Coach has had a profound impact on this community. He’s a molder of men, a builder of character, a leader and a husband and a father. The episode is essentially a love letter to one of the greatest television characters of all time, one who should be celebrated and doted upon until the end of all time. Like Tami says, although the intention of the banquet is pretty on the nose, everything the players say is 100% genuine.

I’m talking, of course, about the Fall Sports Banquet, featuring a clear-cut manipulation tactic by Buddy Garrity, through which each member of the Lions walks up to the podium to talk about how much Coach means to him. Yet, as Tinker and Luke and Vince express their appreciation, we get the feeling that these aren’t so much sales pitches as they are outpourings of gratitude from the bottom of their hearts. These words are the Lions’ version of the slow clap, with any uncertainty or even resentment being tabled for a moment of thanks. Vince showing up at Coach’s door is reminiscent of Matt Saracen back in “State”. Coach is faced with a decision about a college coaching job, as he was in that season one finale. There are so many similarities, but there’s also one key difference: Coach stays.

“You know what I want more than anything else right now? To bring these kids to state,” he tells his wife as he’s massaging her shoulders (pilot vibes, anyone?). That statement is significant because of the unfinished business it implies. It’s not necessarily that his only goal with the Panthers was to win state and then get the hell out; it’s that here, he’s making his decision because he realizes that the “keys to the kingdom” are right here in Dillon. He can accomplish what he wants to accomplish here, and he can do so much for these kids he already has inseparable bonds with. (It’s a realization nicely paralleled with Luke wondering about whether he wants to go down the college road or not.)

“Don’t Go” also takes us back to one of those bonds, one that involves him and Tim Riggins. The banquet features the team speaking about Coach’s character, while the parole hearing features Coach, Billy, and Buddy speaking about Tim’s character. It’s devastating to watch Riggins so broken down and resentful of his brother, feeling unworthy of the praise and the support and the love, and the statements given are so laden with emotion; Buddy’s, in particular, is especially heartwarming because he begins by sweet-talking one of the judges (Billy: NOT A JUDGE!), then later causes Tim to crack a smile after he goes on about Lyla, a promised job for Tim when he gets out, and loyalty and family. Then, it’s just Coach and Tim in an empty courtroom, and we get shades of Jason Street when Tim apologizes for letting Coach down. Each person wishes he could’ve done more, talked more, visited more; in the end, what matters is that they’re here right now.

Tim will undoubtedly have a difficult time readjusting, but with such a great support system, he’ll be fine. Coach will be just fine as well, and now that he’s committed to staying, he’ll continue to have a Lions team that improves with each day, a town that loves him, and a wife who supports him and sends him on his way to the playoffs.

“I love you. Have a good game, Coach.”

And so, he boards the bus for one more push to State.

GRADE: A

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Coach, I kind of wish you’d talked to your wife first before making that decision. She’s happy for you and all, but still.

-I do wonder about Luke not getting any scholarships. Why isn’t Coach doing much to help with that?

-I like how Regina calling Ornette out for hounding Vince about college is immediately followed by Mindy calling Billy out for being an asshole to Becky after visiting Tim.

-Becky and Jess…a bit underused, no? Especially considering the time put into the Epyck and Julie storylines.

-Love Buddy starting a “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” chant with Gracie Belle.

-I have a feeling Mrs. Coach is going to be the one who accepts a college offer somewhere. We get a teaser of that in this episode with her panel.

Photo credit: NBC, DirecTV, Friday Night Lights

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