'Friday Night Lights': The Bad News Lions

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We've had a few weeks' rest from the thickening fog of depression that is the final season of "Friday Night Lights," so let's see if maybe things are lightening up a bit... 

In an embarrassing display of unchecked ego.Vince ( Michael B. Jordan) and his family (Sad Mom and Bad Bad Leroy Brown among them) have set up a television outside just to watch his post-game interview from the Lions/Panthers match-up -- in which he clearly takes all the credit. They're really driving this character deterioration home -- hopefully not so far that we can't salvage Vince, because right now, the boy is on thin ice. Jess ( Jurnee Smollett) shares our concern, which is good, because she needs some story.

Becky ( Madison Burge) and Luke ( Matt Lauria) are returning to familiar territory, in bed! (It's just like the fortune cookie game, only literal.) Luke doesn't understand why she doesn't want to go further than heavy petting, because apparently he forgot her teenage abortion. She leaves him unsatisfied.

Eric ( Kyle Chandler) rears awesomely paternal head when Derek the married TA shows up at the Taylor house. Julie ( Aimee Teegarden) and Tami ( Connie Britton) are a bit shocked by how aggressive he is, chasing him to his car with a piece of Gracie Bell's trike. He smashes his tail light and looks real angry. It's going to be another feelgood episode, credits!

The Lions mock Vince for his narcissistic display on the local news. He blames editing, which is hilarious, because he's a child in rural Texas and not Lindsay Lohan.

Epyck and Drunk Puppet Girl (remember them?) get into a fight at East Dillon, which is awesome on about every level. Tami sees that her work with Epyck is not done. DPG, on the other hand, is clearly a lost cause.

The lesser half of Dillon's new power couple, Billy Riggins, teaches the Lions defense a Samoan war chant as a means of intimidation. This does not fly with Coach Crowley. And it really doesn't work out well for Buddy Jr. He breaks his leg in an act of unprecedented lack of coordination. Buddy Sr. ( Brad Leland) laments his brief football career, but at least it's stopped him from stealing cars and looking at Tami's boobs.

Speaking of which! We're glad Derek the Married TA's eyes didn't drift down there when she was telling him the shove out of town. He's showing a glimmer of character though, resigning, trying to get Julie to go back to school. We still hate him.

mindy-riggins-tiara.jpgBecky explains pageants to Mindy ( Stacey Oristano) and the Landing Strip gals, who volunteer to take her on a road trip for her next pageant. When one of them tells him to show up at Luke's wearing only a tiara, Mindy makes an amazing face (figure 2) before her powers of perception let her know that something is amiss. Becky tells them about her abortion, and the strippers are amazing and supportive, telling her that they all lost their virginity in pick-up trucks too. Do all strippers have hearts of gold?

Vince and Leroy Brown take a road trip of their own to Oklahoma Tech, which we're glad isn't a real school, because in the "FNL"-verse, they ply potential students with prostitutes and blatantly violate every rule of NCAA recruiting. Not only are the Howard men jerks, they're also idiots. This little detour causes Vince to miss practice. And Coach is mad. And Jess is mad.

That Epyck sure is a piece of work, huh? We miss the days of Tami mentoring Tyra... pretty, docile Tyra. Surly as she may be, Epyck has taken a shining to Tami, and even though she's lying about the conditions in her foster home, at least she's trying to bond. Tami calls her bluff though, and goes to Chez Epyck to find a foster mother who, while in dire need of a root job, is sweet and likes to feed children.

Against whatever little good judgment she has left, Julie goes out to dinner with Derek at what looks a lot like the Mexican restaurant where Jason Street met his future wife.At least she has that Taylor chutzpah back. She tells Derek what's what, and he tells her to go back to school. But what he's really telling her is that she should go live in a Tennessee cabin with him while he writes his thesis -- which we presume is about rolling the sleeves of your blazer. Julie takes this all to heart and tells her parents she's going back to school and that she'll make them breakfast.

Vince is officially the worst. When Eric asks him why he missed practice, he basically says that his mom is doing drugs again -- which she definitely will be by the time this all goes to pot. Coach knows he's bluffing though, because he sees an article online about Vince's visit to Oklahoma Tech. (Um, can we acknowledge, for a moment, what a huge role "the Internet" is playing in this season of "Friday Night Lights?" Modernity!)

Vince says his father is the only one looking out for him, and 17 neon arrows point to Eric while a buzzer rings.

Meanwhile on "Teenagers and Tiaras," the strippers are absolutely livid about Becky getting second runner-up. Their unbecoming behavior prompts the pageant powers-that-be to tell Becky to reconsider the company she keeps. Thanks anyways, pageant people, but she likes her company just fine. Life lesson!

Julie leaves for college, take 2. Just kidding! After a call to Derek to make sure he cares nothing about her education and just wants more canoodling, she turns her car around and heads to Tennessee. Or does she?

Back at East Dillon, absolutely all hell breaks loose. Luke and Vince are fighting, the assistant coaches are fighting, and Eric is getting all kinds of red in the face. This is not a good way to go into the next game -- or the last five episodes of our beloved series. To drive home the horror of this, Eric and Leroy Brown have another heated exchange as the Lions all but riot going into their pep rally. Can't we all just get along?

This just goes to show you that one awful, overbearing father, regardless of socioeconomic background, can totally undo a team and a town. At least we never had to worry about Joe McCoy taking a hit out on anyone. We bet Eric's job offer in Florida, which Leroy Brown randomly knows about, has to be looking pretty good right now.

Julie arrives at OMG IT'S MATT SARACEN! Everything is going to be OK.
Photo/Video credit: NBC-Universal