'Friday Night Lights': Unexpected redemption, instant gratification

tim-riggins-dont-go.jpgLast time on "Friday Night Lights"... absolutely everything went to pot.

So unless they want our hearts to fully break before we even make it to the series finale, this one has got to be at least a bit of an upper. Eh?

We enter on Eric ( Kyle Chandler) speaking with the athletic director from Shane State in Florida over a nice dinner. He hands Eric the official offer package, as fancy-type music plays in the background, and you just know it's a good one.

Back in East Dillon, Buddy's ( Brad Leland) sixth, high-school-football-related sense tells him that something is amiss. There's a box of oranges in Eric's office. Oranges come from Florida! He and Principal Levi scheme about how to keep their coach from leaving them in the lurch, inadvertently revealing themselves as the "FNL" dream team we never imagined. This scene is honestly the closest the show will ever come to a sitcom.

Vince ( Michael B. Jordan) and his dad -- we're too weary for nicknames -- are playing a game of pick-up, when a call comes in from evil Oklahoma Tech. And guess what? They don't want Vince. Dad goes absolutely nuts, throwing his phone to the pavement and leaves Vince looking confused. (Really Vince?) Credits!

The whole town seems to know about Eric's offer by the time he gets back. At least they're being a little less sanctimonious about it this time. The man can't stay here forever. Tami ( Connie Britton) is also taking the news well. She's probably still bummed about Epyck.

Oh, she is. At the East staff meeting, Tami asks for another volunteer for her homework program, and her colleagues once again show themselves as reprehensible and apathetic. It's no surprise that "FNL" chose to address how lazy and hateful so many teachers are. (Sorry, it's true.) But at least it shows that there are also teachers like Tami. And Levi has noticed. He's sending her to speak on a panel for awesome education professionals.

Vince tells his dad that they should talk to coach about recruiting. He is clearly not cool with this. Coach Taylor is only good for one thing, and that is pie.

Billy ( Derek Phillips) forgets about his adopted brother Luke ( Matt Lauria) long enough to see a lawyer about springing Tim ( Taylor Kitsch) early for good behavior -- that's right, we said "Tim," as in Riggins. He has to give a statement about Tim's character, but the lawyer says it would help if he had reinforcements. He turns to Eric (who naturally accepts), and Buddy makes it clear that he wants to help too.

It's totally a Buddy week.

He wants to help Vince too, so long as it helps him keep Eric in Dillon. He tells him about the sports banquet and asks him if he'll say some nice things about his coach. Vince doesn't think the coach cares anymore. Silly Vince. Coach never gave up on anybody -- except maybe J.D. McCoy

Becky ( Madison Burge) and Luke are being pretty cute these days, but Luke has ennui. He's come to the conclusion that an offer won't be coming in for him to play football in college, and he lacks a plan B. He goes to see the Plan B expert (oooooooh, bad joke!), Tami Taylor. She asks him what he loves and what he's good at. Luke is at a loss.

The thing that they're doing with three of the couples this season is sort of brilliant, in an odd, "Christmas Carol" way. Billy and Mindy ( Stacey Oristano) are the late-20s, albeit trashier, version Eric and Tami. And Luke and Becky are high school years. They're all wildly different, yes, but you get a certain sense of destiny for all three. They're also among the most compassionate characters on the show.

Especially Mindy this week, who tells her tweaking husband that he's a good brother and the hearing will be fine. He mentions something about siblings and she makes her "thinking about abortion again" face. Noooooo! Anyone who's pro-choice would certainly have an exception for someone carrying a Riggins seed.

Vince has already told the coach that he wants to come back from the dark side, but his horrible dad is still courting college recruiters. Dad tries to make him court the recruiters, but Vince has no part of it. He runs off to a jazz soundtrack. At home, when his father corners him, mom finally steps up and tells him Vince needs a father, not an agent. You can imagine how this goes over.

And if you thought Tami was going to be skeptical about Florida, you're wrong. She's all on board. They don't really dwell on the topic when the go to bed, though. They talk about Gracie Bell, Tami's panel in the morning and Tim Riggins - because who doesn't lay in bed and talk about Tim Riggins?

We're predicting, right now, that Tami is going to get a big job offer out of this panel -- and it's going to derail any plans of going to Florida.

During the symposium (you like that?), Tami gets steamrolled by another panelist. She says something about how they shouldn't be dwelling on standardized tests and we're pretty sure he calls her naive. Oh. Hell. No.

"Would you have us sit down with every student in the state?" he asks.

"Yes, I would."

Tami Taylor gets a round of applause, naturally.

Wait one moment. Our eyes are blurry. Is that Tim Riggins? He's wearing a white jumpsuit and speaking kind of Hannibal Lecter-y, but it's definitely him. He tells Billy not to speak at the hearing -- because "he's done enough damage" -- and, somewhere in Neverland, 47 fairies drop dead.

Not that Billy's speech was going to wow anyone. And it doesn't. Thank god Eric is there to swing the tribunal with his character-building speeches and general football-ness. Buddy speaks too, and it's simultaneously awkward and moving.

At the sports banquet, Buddy gives Gracie Bell a Lions t-shirt. She giggles and we wonder how ever called her the Cousin Oliver of "FNL." The speeches from the team are classic high school, and Vince, still rebounding from his three episodes in the dog house, is not ready for public redemption.

And Jess ( Jurnee Smollett) is not ready to get back together with him. Sorry Vince!

The Taylors seems settled on moving to Florida and Luke seems happily resigned to a life of farming, with Becky at his side. But Becky seems down with that until she comes home to a newly released Tim Riggins.

Vince shows up at the Taylor house, and what starts out as a train wreck, turns into pure "FNL" magic. He begs Eric to not take the job in Florida, telling him he's one of the best things that's ever happened to him.

Eric does his fake grumpy thing and drives him to the field house, where reporters are waiting to send them off on their away game. One of them confronts Eric about his plans to take another job and he shocks everyone, Tami included, announcing he's staying put in Dillon.

We're conflicted! But does it really matter where you are or what your job is when you come home to this magical lady everyday?

tami-taylor-dont-go.jpg Three. Episodes. Left.
Photo/Video credit: NBC-Universal