TV Club

Week 8: Jason Street Makes a Brand-New Start of It—in Old New York!

Taylor Kitsch as Tim Riggins, Scott Porter as Jason Street.
Taylor Kitsch as Tim Riggins and Scott Porter as Jason Street in Friday Night Lights 

The can’t-miss theme this week is the journey. Jason and Tim hit Manhattan. Tyra takes off for the rodeo circuit with Cash. Tami journeys to a new house, at least in her imagination. The bundling works, I think. The contrast between Tim as loving sidekick and Cash as casual no-goodnik points up the worth of each relationship. The line that captures the bond between Jason and Tim: “Texas forever.” I knew it was coming, and I wanted to hear it, anyway. Less welcome is “He’s a cowboy,” which Tyra’s mom says to send her off with Cash, when really it’s the reason she shouldn’t leave her college interviews behind. What kind of boyfriend talks you into going away with him by saying he’ll try to be faithful?

A second, underlying theme this week is about making the big pitch. Tami (egged on, of course, by Katie McCoy) tries to sell a new, grand house to Eric. Matt tries to convince Coach to let him play wide receiver, with Julie’s help making the case. These bids build to Jason, who pulls off the sale of his young lifetime. Actually, it’s Tim’s idea to persuade Jason’s former teammate to sign with the sports agent Jason hopes to work for. Since the guy has just summarily dismissed the boys from his office, Tim’s plan is a display of the fortitude Eric praised on the football field, translated to the world of business. Maybe this kid will make it in college.

When Jason wins the job and then shows up at Erin’s door and asks, before anything else, to hold his baby—well, it sounds soapy as I write it out, but in the moment, it felt to me wholly earned. We’ve seen Jason as savvy salesman before, on Buddy’s car lot and in the house-flipping deal. Now he’s performing in a bigger venue with the same blend of naivete and determination. I appreciated the acting—the set of Jason’s chin, the veins in his forehead and neck. I also liked the way the script deals with his paralysis. We’ve grown accustomed to the shots of Jason sitting when everyone around him is standing. In this episode, we see a shot of Tim helping Jason out of the car into his wheelchair, and the camera lingers on his dangling legs, just long enough. It drives home Jason’s own analysis, in a bad moment on the New York sidewalk, of the pity his wheelchair evokes. What did you guys make of the New York visit? Is it one of the more ingenious moves of the season, or am I falling for melodrama?

I was also taken with Tami and Eric and their house-buying tempest. It seemed prescient, even, as recession fear deepens around us. Tami wants a nicer, bigger house for all the natural reasons. She keeps pointing to the backyard that Gracie Bell would have to play in. Since yards have factored heavily into every home-buying or rental decision my husband and I have made since our kids were toddlers, I sympathized.

But I sympathized more with Eric when he told his wife that much as he would love to give her and their kids and himself this house, they can’t have it. Maybe the mortgage is straight-up too high—it’s not entirely clear. Instead, what’s unmistakable is the anxiety Eric knows he would feel by making a purchase that would give his family no financial wiggle room. We see his internal conflict, and it’s laced with gender politics. Eric frames the decision in terms of what he can and can’t give Tami, even though she’s working now, too. He clearly wants to be a husband who can fulfill his wife’s material desires. At the same time, he calls her back to what really matters to their family. They are together, whether they live in a three-bedroom split-level or have a kitchen with granite countertops and a stone fireplace. “I don’t need this house,” Tami tells him, like a woman sprung from a trance. They take each other’s hands and dance away from the real estate agents, like escapees. I see the father-knows-best aspect of their marriage. But as ever, I care so much more about the spark (after all those years!) and their evanescent, playful spirit. They’re a walking rejoinder to the excesses of feminist dogma.

Cash and Tyra, on the other hand, are a reminder of the continuing relevance of that old story: the girl who is reaching higher, only to be yanked back to earth by her cowboy man.