'Friday Night Lights' recap: New, Emmy-nominated, and more mature than ever

Those Emmy nominations for Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton could not have come at a better time. This week’s Friday Night Lights gave us one of its finest hours ever. Abortion, addiction, and the way parents raise their children were central to this episode, entitled “I Can’t.”

Following last week’s revelation that Becky is pregnant by Luke, Becky (on the advice of Tim) went first to Tami for advice about what to do. Tami was caught in the awkward position of wanting to help yet knowing she’s in a tricky spot, as the principal of a high school (albeit not of the school Becky attends). She told the girl she could guide her to a “teen clinic, an adoption agency,” and — but Becky interrupted her by asking, “What if I don’t want the baby?” Tami’s carefully worded response was to tell Becky that she could “direct you to literature” on the subject. (As I did last week, I again want to stress that I am not going to discuss the pros and cons of this highly charged subject, but rather write only about how an abortion is presented in the context of these fictional characters.)

While Becky’s own mother supported the girl’s decision, the woman was too caught up in her own self-consciousness about how she and her daughter might be perceived (as “trash”) to offer much except love. (Terrific, laser-focused acting here by Alicia Witt, by the way.) It was left to Becky and Tami to have the excruciatingly difficult, delicate talk they had later in the hour about the 15-year-old’s final decision. When this episode first aired on DirecTV, I questioned whether Becky would go through with the abortion, since I doubted that NBC, which would and now has aired the episode, would permit such a controversial plot line to play out the way it did. Obviously I need not have wondered or fretted: FNL dealt with its subjects by addressing us as adults and by showing its characters as complex, agonized, and prone to doubt, fear, and guilt. In the end, Luke phoned Becky to comfort her only to be cut off in mid-speech as Becky said, “Luke, I took care of it, so you don’t have to worry… It was the right thing to do.” Yet everything in her voice told us that she wasn’t sure of that at all.

This was not the only plot of the night, of course. Vince had to cope with his drug-addicted mother, who had to be hospitalized and then placed in a rehab facility that Vince couldn’t afford. This was another heartbreaker (beautifully acted by Michael B. Jordan), since it led Vince to get the necessary $4,000 the only way he thought he could: by associating himself with his old pal Calvin and his law-breaking friends.

There was also a bit more nervous activity at Riggins’ Chop-Shop — I mean, Riggins’ Rigs, where Billy was jumpy and Tim was angry about the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.

And FNL finally found some good scenes for Steve Harris’ Big Mary, who was reluctantly pulled back into the football life he’s spent years trying to keep in his past. (The full story of Big Mary’s football career is one I’d be eager to hear about, wouldn’t you?)

All in all, an amazing hour of television. What did you think?

Follow: @kentucker

Comments (172 total) Add your comment
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  • JMB

    So good. I hate that the season they’re wrapping now will be the last.

    • KS

      Let us just be thankful that we got what we did and that it looks like they’re wrapping it up in a cohesive manner. :)

      • Anna

        Amen to that.

      • Gayle


    • left coast sports babe

      And hope springs eternal. Maybe a couple well deserved Emmys might change NBC’s mind. (Not like they are overloaded with great shows.)

      • RBlues

        “From your mouth to God’s ears”–seriously.

        I need this show to continue. I am so emotionally attached to these characters, I want to know what happens to them for years to come. That probably seems a little sad to some people but this show is THAT good.

      • bootsycolumbia

        It doesn’t sound sad to me. There aren’t too many shows that I watch where I really care about the characters. FNL might be the only one right now.

      • MB

        That’s the odd thing about this. NBC has nothing in drama that can even touch FNL, and yet it schedules FNL for Friday night in the summer. Is it any surprise that NBC is in fourth place with not much chance of escaping it?

    • Doug-H

      I believe they are starting to film season 5 now… Last year they started later in the year and they appeared on DTV pretty soon after they were done…

      Last night’s episode on NBC was terrific.. Hard to believe Alicia Witt was that sassy teen on Cybill but she’s a great looking 35… She plays the role of the single mom so well..

      • julie

        actually, in ausiello’s interview with connie britton about her emmy nom, she said they were wrapping up filming on season 5 within the next 2 weeks or so.

      • Gayle

        According to my friend who works as a tv and movie critic for a paper (and has insider info), the season/show has already wrapped.

    • seattleellen

      They are just finishing filming Season 5. Saw nice interviews @ TVGuide online with Kyle and Connie in Texas about their Emmy Noms.

  • Joanna

    One of the best episodes of one of the best, most intriguing programs on TV today. I cannot wait to see how they wrap up both the series & the season!

  • julia

    Really, one of the besr episodes they’ve done and that’s saying something because this show is so, so good.

  • Jay

    Vince and Becky were devastating in this ep. So good, so good.

    • julie

      this. becky really annoyed me at the start of the season but this is the episode that made all that change. and the actress that plays her, knowing that this is her first role ever, she blew me away. god i love this show.

      • noam

        in her first few episodes, i think the actress tried too much to be like adrianne palicki’s tyra. however, with becky actually having a storyline now (rather than random interaction with tim) she is doing great.

    • PMD

      I know Becky’s character was irritating to some but I really enjoyed her – she plays a 15 year old, they are kind of irritating at that age. I also thought the actress who played her was decent during past episodes – she was often overshadowed by Gilford and Kitsch. However, last night she delivered above and beyond!

      • julie

        i agree. i’m not sure why i didn’t like her much at first, could have been that she was new, and a little annoying, but she really grew on me as the season progressed. especially during these last two episodes.

  • Jen S

    Tonight’s episode was amazing! The writing team really hit a homerun with these storylines. I cried through the last fifteen minutes feeling such authentic emotions from Becky, Luke, Tami and then when Vince lovingly told his mom that he believed in her and then hopped in a car with his old law-breaking friends I found myself yelling at the TV -“No Vince, no!!!” Wow, what a show.

    • Jenn

      I agree. Vince delivered a very believable performance!

  • JC

    I am one of the lucky few that have already seen this entire season, thanks to my DirecTV subscription. This series has always been well-acted and written, but this episode, along with the one in which Matt’s dad died, tops them all. This may in fact by FNL’s best season in terms of writing and acting, I think.

    • laura

      I too have seen it on Directv and feel that each espisode was better then the last one. The whole season was right on the money and you laugh ( not out loud but smile ) and cried and yell and just stared at the screen after it end and take a deep breath and press play to watch it all over again. ;) Or maybe it was just me jajaa.

    • Julz

      I have seen the entire season too and I really think it’s the best season so far. The writing and acting is just brilliant.
      @laura, you’re not the only one. I think I have watched some episodes 5 or 6 times between seeing it on Directv and now on NBC.

  • Amy

    I was amazed at how deftly and matter of factly this episode was delivered. Talk about a topic to get us into hyperbole and vitriol, but not FNL. It knows better and does better.
    Bravo to Luke and Becky for ‘being’ teenagers. And leave it to Eric and Tami to deliver some much needed humor when she takes him to his car. No fireworks in this episode, just honest storytelling. And that’s why we love FNL.

    • seattleellen

      I agre with you. Once again the writing and acting was so spot on. I am so thankful we get one more season which they are filming right now to look forward to. The previews for in 2 weeks made me cringe for Tami, since Luke told his parents and all we can say is OMG. Was fun to see Coach providing us with some comic relief with having Tami take him to his car. Thankfully he & Connie Britton have finally been recognized. Like others I had seen some episodes here and there, but really got hooked this season. So now I am going back and watching Season 1 and am thoroughly hooked!

      • julie

        when i first saw this episode i thought coach maybe saw his car across the street or something, somewhere not super close. but when i saw it was like, what 20 feet away or something i just laughed. so mad it took emmy so long to recognize the awesomeness of connie britton and kyle chandler but so happy they FINALLY did.

    • seattleellen

      Julie, OMG the dinner scene with the habitat kid was too funny. It showed how he isn’t a sports guy with the comment that it must be weird to play in the rain. I loved how Coach said Yeah, Weird or something like that -as of course we’ve seen them play many games in the pouring down rain. I loved it too that when the kid said he was going to AZ next week both parents really perked up.
      And yes, I laughed out loud when Coach said aren’t you going to take me to my car and here it really wasn’t a very far walk.

      The show did get a nomination for best casting or some such thing & also a writing nomination for The Son.
      Thank God it will at least have one more season. Check out TV Guide online for interviews with both Connie & Kyle about their noms – they are just wrapping up filming of Season 5. Love this Show!

      • julie

        there were a few laugh out loud moments in this episode. even though i was sad during the riggins boys conversation, i admit i laughed a little when billy suggested driving the cars off of cliffs and tim responded that they had no engines. i’ll have to check out tv guide for their interviews. i only saw the one ausiello did with connie britton so thanks for the tip!

  • TB

    I loved the ep but admit I cringed @ the end when Vince got in the car & the guy says “yeah I got u” now I understand that they r depicting a community that is not abundant in resources & that often times 2 make ends or meet (or pay 4 decent rehab/treatment) u have end up making awful choices (aka the riggins brothers) but I’d like 2 see a tv show where the drug dealer actually was multifaceted…. The Wire was great @ that @ showing most of the characters, even ur lowly corner boy different motivations 4 their actions…. So I’m really hoping that Vinces understandable desire 2 help his mother doesn’t continue 2 lead 2 the “all my friends in the hood are preying on me”…. PS…. Super excited about the emmy recognition… Very cool!

    • missly1212

      there is a “web//site” named “B l a ck w h i t e C u p i d” for dating or relationship, black or white singles can go there to find something sexy or beauty online !!!! ;)

    • PMD

      Ohmygod – when Vince was leaving the rehab center and I saw him walking towards a car I was hoping so hard it was not his old gang friends but I quickly realised this is FNL – there are no fairy god mothers in real life – and true to the real, grittiness of good tv, the car that Vince walked into was his old gang friends. And my heart literally broke for him!

      He acted sooooooooo well!!! The scene in the hospital with his mom – his eyes kept darting all over the place as he was sooo scared to show real emotion to the nurse, but he just could not hold it back.

      I only watched a few epis of the first season of The Wire – it is on one of my list of ‘ended series to catch up on during the summer’ – but now I really want to get it and watch just because of Vince!

      • ellie

        Michael B Jordan steals the first season of the wire…I am still not over his performance and story. I will literally watch everything show this actor is on because he is just to talented for words.

  • zoot

    oh how I miss Smash’s mama..now she was a strong single mother doing the best she could for her children…I feel so bad for Vince and hope that he rises above his challenges and gets to put his talent to good use…FNL never disappoints …wish I could stuff the Emmy ballot box!

    • No Regrets

      Funny…I was thinking that same thing…if only Vince was as lucky as ‘The Smash’ to have a Mom like that!

      • Sara

        I had the exact same thought! Where’s Smash’s mama when you need her?

      • KSH

        Amen. Smash’s Mama did not play! I was like if only he could be so lucky to have a mama like that!

  • Ceballos

    Although I’ve definitely enjoyed the characters introduced in season 4, as I watched this episode I realized that I was ALL IN as far as caring about what happens to them.

    Michael B. Jordan and Madison Burge were outstanding. Steve Harris is fully getting something other than cranky to play. In fact, the only storyline I’m not really caring for is Julie and her Habitat for Humanity guy. (Although, the scene where he tried to chat with Coach Taylor about the rain was deliciously awkward.)

    Big congrats to Chandler and Britton.

    • julie

      that scene was great! especially when he told them he was leaving for arizona the next week. i loved how coach and tami, coach especially, piped up and started talking A LOT more…

      • seattleellen

        Yes, that was a very funny scene & truly how awkward. Coach probably still wasn’t feeling good from his drinking + the fact that we have seen many of their games in downpours – so what a naive statement for the habitat guy to say it must be weird to play in the rain. I loved how Coach said, yeah weird in a very scarcastic tone. I laughed out loud when kid said he was off to AZ, immediately both Coach & Tami perked right up.
        Also loved how Coach didn’t want to walk to his car after they found it-when he said are you kidding me & here it wasn’t very far away at all! Was glad to see that the show got a nomination for best casting or some such thing – it so deserves that & finally their leads nominations – way past due!

      • bootsycolumbia

        I also loved that look Julie gave her parents AFTER they perked up and became more chatty. That cracked me up. I love the closeness between Julie and her parents.

  • Carla

    I hope they don’t portray Becky as coming out of the procedure with serious mental health issues. Until we find that out, I really can’t say that I enjoyed this episode.

    • Amy

      Great point… but I think given Ken Tucker’s points about network tv and the abortion issue, I think they would’ve tried to move on.

    • Kris

      The fact is that some women do come out of “the procedure” with serious mental health issues. But you can’t say that you enjoyed the episode until you’re absolutely sure that it matches up with your views.

      Try being more tolerant of other viewpoints and less close-minded.

  • laura

    Carla …. enjoy this espisode … trust me.

    • julie

      ok, this is the second week in a row, possibly third, that you’ve commented this way in response to someone who i’m assuming has not seen the entire season. last week it was vince and someone called you out for it and yet here you are again doing it. you may not considered it spoilerish but it is. i’m getting annoyed with it and i’ve seen the entire season so i can only imagine how the people who haven’t seen it feel. maybe you should just keep your discussion comments to what happened in the episode, not allude to what is coming. ok, sorry. felt it had to be said.

      • Donna

        THANK YOU, JULIE!!! I am VERY sick of this person offering “innocent” comments that are indeed spoilers! I have been so impressed overall with the DirectTV viewers who have gone out of their way NOT to spoil things for us–not on this site, not on Facebook–anywhere! They (and you) have shown real restraint and prove you are a true fan. These current EW posts are for the NBC season, and I can’t stand knowing anything ahead of time. So again, THANK YOU for getting it!

      • julie

        you are very welcome! as i said to laura, if it’s annoying the heck out of me i can only imagine how it feels to those who haven’t seen the season. i hate getting my shows spoiled for me even in the slightest. and someone saying it’ll work out, or don’t worry or you’re spot on etc., etc. is terrible. some people don’t want to know that stuff. the whole point of watching a show is to find out what’s going to happen and knowing what’s coming kind of takes the enjoyment out of watching.

      • seattleellen

        Julie, Thank you for doing that – I don’t want to know any spoilers and unlike others, I grew to care for Becky-even tho a snot as many teenagers can be, but we got to see why pretty early on – even tho her mother is obviously loving – she has to work a lot-so Becky is left alone a lot + when her deadbeat Dad finally showed up-then it was all making sense. My heart broke for her last night as I’m old enough that I remember when abortions were not legal and many girls that age ended up putting babies up for adoption. Or more recently if lucky enough and both sets of parents could help the baby was kept, but that was with kids a couple of years older than Becky – everyone should remember she is only 15. Whatever the choice NOT an EASY one.
        OH and a few weeks back also when Becky’s dad left and Tim went back and got the dog Skeeter-there again it showed he has such a big heart. (For me, the one character that I really cannot stand is Tyra-even tho there again we know why she is the way she is, but I admit sometimes I just want to smack her and Say, Snap out of it!
        Sorry for the digression, but thanks for your posts about not spoiling it for those of us that have not seen it on Direct TV.
        (Oh and it did break my heart when Vince came up with the money for his mom and then we see where he got it. As someone else said where is Smash’s mom when we need her – she was just great when she threw Tyra out & told her to walk home in the 1st season!) LOVE THIS SHOW!!

      • julie

        @seattleellen- i thought i was the only one who didn’t really like tyra! she was so awful to landry after everything he did for her. i wanted to smack the heck out of her when she left with that stupid cowboy! she’s the only one i’m not super excited about returning. i’d like to see her give landry a good explanation for basically dropping off the face of the earth on him. that’s all i really want out of her comeback…

      • seattleellen

        Julie, I know in speaking to a couple of other friends that love the show they also cannot stand Tyra. Kudos to Connie Britons charac. when she was first the Guidance Counselor and Tyra said to her I don’t want to be like you. Boy, if I was sitting there listening to that I’d have a hard time not being snotty back. Mrs. Taylor handled it so well. (And I suppose kudos should go to the actress that plays Tyra, but unfortunatey for me she’s done such a good job of playing the beeyotch that I can’t stand her.)
        And yes, Tyra has just treated Landry awfully-even when he helped her write her college entrance paper. An Aside about Jesse Plemmons, I have a sister that lives in Austin & they see Connie around quite a bit and 3 years ago Jesse volunteered for this Empty Bowl Project. My sister makes pottery and various potters would make bowls and then they’d be filled with soup/food for the homeless. So Jesse sounds like his charac Landry in that he has a good heart.

        Oh if you have problems finding the articles on TVGuide – go to the seattlepi.com for Friday 7/9 and in their entertainment section they have the articles there with Connie & Kyle.

        And yes, those Riggins boys-I laughed too when Billy suggested driving them over a cliff & Tim’s response. I also liked it that Tim said the things he did to Billy about being done with illegal activities. I am keeping my fingers crossed as I want something GOOD to happen for Tim. He is so deserving of it!

  • Big Dave

    What do I think? I think they ought to hold the damn cameras still, that’s what I think.

  • seattleellen

    I meant to say Congrats to Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton for their much overdo Emmy Nominations! (and I left out an e on agree – a long day I guess. Now I may have to watch tonight’s episode again or one of my older ones. I also hope the Riggin’s brothers can get it together. Things are not looking good for Vince I fear. I admit I did miss Landry tonight for his comic asides – oh well….

  • Tara

    It would be the first time a network had someone actually get an abortion in many years that I could remember. They usually have a miscarriage right at the last minute, decide to keep it or “oops – guess I wasn’t really pregnant.” It would be a refreshing change if they did this legal procedure. We’ll see…

    • Brett

      Uh, it’s already done. Becky had the abortion.

    • PMD

      The NY Times has also been writing a review on FNL – I think this shows how pretty much FNL has grown and come to be adored! – but in this review they discuss how abortions have not really been shown or discussed properly since the 70s. It is a very interesting article!

      • PMD

        I meant to say review/article.

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