TV Club

Jess Deserves Better

Aimee Teegarden as Julie Taylor. Click image to expand.
Aimee Teegarden as Julie Taylor in Friday Night Lights

Hanna, my dear, you are forgetting the first tenet of every college sexual-harassment policy. The problem with Julie and her TA isn’t age difference. It’s power imbalance. He is grading her papers. That would make it against the rules for them to date or sleep together at any university, as it should be. Whatever grade she gets on her next Shakespeare paper is suspect—is there any way he’ll give her another C-minus? Whether TAs should be allowed to date students they’re not supervising is a different question. In our comments, MsB points out that this subplot retreads the same ground as the flirtation Julie had with her high-school English teacher (not to mention the Swede and the Habitat for Humanity guy with the annoying hair). I am with Todd Martens at the Los Angeles Times, who writes, “Julie is smarter than to spend the night with a married TA, no matter how much she likes older boring guys who no doubt have half-read every Saul Bellow book.” By FNL’s rules of moral rectitude, no good can come of Julie and the TA, whose name is Derek—not that he’s memorable enough that I knew that without looking it up.

School rules and expectations were also at the heart of some of my favorite moments this week. I am feeling more sympathetic toward Epyck now that I know the dreadful spelling of her name. I agreed with Tami’s protest against suspending her: “We can’t help her when she’s gone.” Meanwhile, when Eric tries to get a sense of Vince’s father when he shows up to watch practice, one of the old Lions tells him hopefully that people can change. To which Eric retorts, “I feel like a damn guidance counselor.” And that’s before Buddy brings his credit-card-and-car-stealing son onto the field.

I didn’t understand the surreptitious feeling of Vince’s meeting with the TMU coaches, either. Were they acting secretive because it was Luke, not Vince, who was the one who’d come on an official visit? Is that some sort of rule violation, which could then set up the recruitment scandal that you’ve been predicting, David? Insight requested from our college-football-fan readers.

I really like your point, Hanna, about how the show needs to push Vince and us by having him do something truly unsettling. Last season he went from surly and half-bad to reformed, and now he is the too-good-to-be-true ghetto boy, schooling his girlfriend’s little brother on how to be the man of the house and telling his mother she’s beautiful when she puts on a dress from her dancing and dating days. Vince has taken over Matt Saracen’s role on FNL, right? He is the sweet, earnest quarterback with the family troubles to break your heart and the girlfriend who is reaching out a hand to help him up the ladder. FNL did take chances with Matt—his attempted and then finally accomplished leaving behind of his grandmother, his howlingly rageful reaction to his father’s death, his self-preserving half-abandonment of Julie. Vince hasn’t been put through those crucibles. His anger toward his father is all too justified.

And so is his irritation with Jess’ new role as team manager! I am totally with Vince here—what is she doing in there, messing with his team Zen? This subplot irks me even more than Julie’s. Did Jess really tell Vince that she wants this role so she can put it on her high-school résumé? I know that’s how Tami set up the job with Eric, as a nice, productive extracurricular, but forgive me for an un-Texan strident feminist moment—huh? This is the best East Dillon can do for a smart girl? Trot her out to the locker room to do the boys’ laundry? And, no, it did not appease me when Jess grinned after Billy passed along to the other coaches her observation that Tinker was slow because he was listening for the snap count rather than watching the ball. How exactly is any of this supposed to translate into a better future for Jess?

Or am I being narrow-minded? One of our commenters, Josh Ellis, predicts that Jess will try out for the team. I don’t think so, but maybe the idea is that she has a coaching career ahead of her, and I’m supposed to set aside my disdain for laundry duty and wait for her to bust through football’s glass ceiling. What would Mindy say, now that she deserves the award for Stand-in Big Sister of the Year?

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