What phantom is this that appears Through the purple mist of the years
A woman of cloud and of fire-a;
It is she; it is Tyra
Yes, I massaged the poem a little, but ahh, Tyra. Her return calls for some verse. I hadn’t realized how much I’d been accommodating the cloying, deferential Becky or the ever-reliable Jess or the broody Julie until I saw Tyra’s hard face again. She looked even more beautiful with her darker hair and her face starting to show its lines. Her return begs a few questions—where does she go to college, and why did she skip three boyfriends back to Tim, and since when does Tim have an iota of feeling left for her, and why is Landry the only person not home for Christmas break? Still, I just about yelped when I saw her name in the credits, so starved am I for the badasses of seasons past.
Anyway, the plots were whizzing by at such rapid speeds in this penultimate episode that one hardly had time to ask a lot of questions. The marriage showdown that you predicted earlier, David, has finally come to pass. Tami wants to be what the sociological literature calls a “top wife,” one who calls the shots in the family, and Eric wants things just as they are. My revelation this episode is that Tami is the feminist prototype of the Sarah Palin/Tea Party age. She represents one of the thousands of American women in the South and Midwest who never felt at ease with progressive feminism but are now having their moment, propelled by political role models and great new economic “opportunities”—one of Tami’s favorite words.
Should we root for Tami? The episode sets us up to believe that Eric is just being a jerk and that, as Tami repeated several times, she has been a loyal coach’s wife for 18 years—18 years, got that?—and now it’s her turn. Her line at the end, when Eric told her he had been offered the coaching job with the Panthers, was a dagger straight to the heart—”I say to you what you haven’t had the grace to say to me. ‘Congratulations.’ ” But if you think about it, wasn’t she being somewhat unreasonable. Philadelphia? How could she spring that on him? What is Coach Taylor going to do in Philadelphia? Coach the Charter School Liberty Bells? He’ll be a nobody. And it’s only because of Tami’s great stubbornness and charisma that she makes us believe through the whole episode that she is absolutely in the right, and that it’s just a matter of time before the world comes around to see that.
Unlike Tami, the episode kept its heart with Texas. As the season, and the show, comes to a close, it circles back to that first pact between Tim and Jason Street—”Texas forever.” Eric measured his ties in the old, traditional breadwinner way—my job, my work, my friends are all here. Tinker and Vince measured in blades of grass, trying to rip off pieces of the Lions’ field to savor them. Tim’s efforts to sever his ties to blood and Texas land, meanwhile, left him literally unmoored. They shot the Tim scenes in that handheld way we haven’t seen much this season, with odd angles and blurry movements. Tim was made to look as if he were tethered to nothing, flying off the ground toward a mythical Alaska. It’s only when he connected with his old flame Tyra that Tim came back to earth. His advice to Luke about State, and how to ground himself in the future, brought my favorite line of the episode: “Play it that way, like you’re never gonna lace up again. Play it that way, and then let it go.” He opened the door for Luke to live a happy life in Dillon.
Tyra’s perspective on Dillon serves as a road map for the entire show. You can see Dillon only when you’re outside it, she said. When you’re inside, you get swallowed up. The show has led us outside this season more than any other, to the Internet, to sleazy college recruiters and mythical leafy colleges and Philadelphia. But now at the end it will lead us back in. We even got the old evil Buddy back for a flash. Now let’s be brave and make some predictions for the finale. I’ll start.
1. Eric and Tami leave.
2. Billy coaches the Panthers. Thus feeds the twins.
3. Vince gets to be quarterback.
4. Luke marries Becky and they live on the ranch.
5. Tyra goes. Tim stays.
6. Matt disses Julie, gently.