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'Friday Night Lights' recap: No going back now

Season 1 | Episode 8 | “Crossing the Line” | Aired Nov 28, 2006

Points of no return—that’s what “Crossing the Line” is all about. Life is physics: Choices are made, events are set in motion, and at some point, momentum takes over and we become powerless to stop the outcome.

Smash Williams is in a downward spiral. His poor performance when Grady Hunt came to watch him, and his inability to make “the list” has shattered his confidence. Up until now, all Smash has been is confidence. There’s been nothing to suggest that an actual human being even exists under all of the blubbering and self-satisfaction. But with just one tiny chink in his armor, Smash is completely falling apart. There is, in fact, a person under there, and that person is in crisis. His response is to do whatever he has to do to ensure that he never again has a game like the one he had last week. His solution is steroids.

This in itself is not a great decision, but Smash digs himself an even larger hole when he approaches his mother for the $1,200 he needs for a month’s supply of the goods. His vision is so blinded by his fear of failure that he (grotesquely) spends his time trying to convince his incredibly hardworking mother to fork over the money she badly needs to take care of her family, so that he can take an SAT class. She says no, not because she doesn’t want to help him, but because Mrs. Williams doesn’t have anywhere near that kind of money.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Smash’s next move is to steal money from the cash box at the Alamo Freeze. Matt catches him in the act and rips into him for risking Matt’s good name. Matt vouched for Smash, so if Smash gets fired for stealing, it’s Matt who will take the fall. Smash is as honest with Matt as he’s been with anybody, and although he doesn’t spell it out, he makes it clear that the pressure of performing well is at the root of his bad behavior. The most cringe-worthy moment of the episode, though, comes when the Williams family is sitting in church and the pastor is speaking to the community about the importance of giving. As he speaks, it becomes clear that Smash’s good Christian mother was not satisfied with having to say no to her son. She felt she was failing Smash when she couldn’t provide him with the money for his class. So she went to her pastor, and he rallied the church members to donate their own money to sponsor Smash’s drug use. It’s all so horrifying; Smash takes the money and buys his steroids, and if he gives it a second thought, I missed it.

Meanwhile, Jason asks Lyla outright if she’s been having an affair with Tim, and though she says no, he remains convinced of their guilt. He desperately wants it to be untrue. As he tells Herc, Lyla is all he has. If he confronts her, if he goes down that road and puts the fallout in motion, he’s going to ensure he loses everything. But Herc points out that being crippled doesn’t—or shouldn’t—mean having to settle. Why should Jason let Lyla off the hook just so he can hold onto her when she has proven she doesn’t deserve him? I remember my younger self disliking Herc and his bluntness, but this time around, I have a profound appreciation for the way he helps Jason find himself in the midst of this major identity crisis. He may not sugarcoat things and he often comes off harsh and mean, but at the end of the day, he’s the only person who says the things Jason needs to hear to move forward.

Jason is working hard on creating his new life, and part of that is participating in quad rugby. His doctor tells him it’s too soon, and even Herc doesn’t want him to rush, but Jason needs to get back to competition. Lyla and Tim come to the scrimmage and cheer Jason on as he plays. He looks happy and hopeful for the first time in months. Afterward, Jason is running on adrenaline, he has the thrill of the game coursing through his veins, and when Tim comes over and bends down to congratulate his best friend, Jason punches him right in the face. Tim knows he deserves it, and can think of nothing to do but leave. “You’re a coward, Riggins!” Jason calls after him. I love Tim Riggins, but it is wonderful to see Jason taking control of his life—and refusing to accept this betrayal just because he thinks he’ll never do better than Lyla.

My favorite part of this episode, however, is Julie and Coach Taylor. When Julie casually mentions to her parents that Matt Saracen asked her out, Tami is thrust into a state of terror about what a football player is going to want to do with her daughter. It doesn’t help that a rally girl was just in Tami’s counseling office telling her how the football player she was assigned to was trying to convince her to have a three-way. The girl was clearly uncomfortable with the idea, but told Tami she was considering it because she liked the guy and he promised she could be his girlfriend if she agreed. (That anyone could meet the bumbling Matt Saracen and think he could behave in such a way is almost funny, but in Dillon the power of being QB1 is pretty intense.) Tami tells Eric he needs to chat with their daughter before she makes her decision, hoping they can convince her to turn Matt down.

Thus we have a spectacular father-daughter Ping-Pong match in which Eric explains to Julie that boys only want sex and that she is beautiful and special and deserves to be treated as such. Coach Taylor has already been presented as a father figure to his players, but to watch him in action with his actual child is another dimension that just fleshes out this man and makes him even more wonderful (who knew it was possible?). Coach wasn’t as effective as he thought, though, because as the episode ends, Julie announces to her parents that she is going on a date with Matt Saracen.

Loose Ends

  • Tyra and Tim run into each other in the supermarket and end up hooking up. The repercussions, if there are any, are yet to be seen, but it establishes a pattern of behavior with these two. They’re never quite fully off.
  • We get a lot of good backstory on the Riggins brothers in this episode. Billy has had to take responsibility for Tim since their father walked out. Tim, being younger and less clear on the reality, still defends and loves his father, whereas Billy sees him as a jerk who abandoned them.

Quotable

Coach gives Julie some fatherly advice:
Coach: If you’re wondering if a boy is thinking about you, he isn’t. He’s thinking about sex or he’s hungry. Those are the only two options.

Have you been rewatching? Are you having any new insights this time around? Are you a first-time viewer? What do you think so far? Sound off in the comments!