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'Friday Night Lights' recap: It's a race thing

Season 1 | Episode 15 | “Blinders” | Aired Feb 7, 2007

There is plenty of drama and intensity in “Blinders,” but it is also one of the funnier episodes of Friday Night Lights. When Tami discovers that Julie and Tyra have been cutting P.E. class, she comes up with the greatest punishment imaginable: They have to play in the Powderpuff football game.

The Powderpuff game is an all-girl football game coached by two Panther players. Neither Julie nor Tyra is happy about the arrangement and, as luck would have it, the two Panther coaches are Matt and Tim, their respective exes. Zach Gilford has a chance to showcase his comedic chops as Matt stumbles through picking his team (making the mistake of picking Julie third), and then trying to coach with a quarterback who isn’t up to the task.

Eventually, he begs Julie to play QB to save their team from humiliation. She isn’t particularly inclined to help him, but ultimately she agrees, telling Matt he’s pathetic. Tim, meanwhile, picks Lyla for his team. Tim knows exactly what he’s doing, and his team seems destined for victory. I desperately want to see more Lyla-Tim interactions to gauge if there’s still a spark, but alas, we don’t get much.

Julie gets home from practice, exhausted and depleted, only to find her father waiting to give her a hard time about missing class. The Powderpuff game is only part of her punishment, he informs her. There will be further consequences at home that he and Tami have yet to determine. Julie is too tired to care and explains to her father through tears that Matt’s been yelling at her all day about quarterback stuff.

The conversation immediately shifts as Coach T realizes that his daughter has been tapped to play QB. He is beaming with pride and immediately gets her outside to practice routes. Julie’s mood changes as well, as FNL does what it does best. Tami looks on as her husband and daughter play in the street, and we get to look on with her, basking in the glow of this beautiful father-daughter relationship.

The distraction is good for Coach, too, who is trying to stay cool after Mac caused major controversy with an interview he gave the local news. After the Panthers won their first playoff game, he speaks with reporters and manages to suggest, among other things, that Smash, a black player, is better suited for running back because he’s like a “junkyard dog.” We have the unique perspective of hearing the entire interview, in which the reporters goad Mac into making these comments. They are ill advised and certainly offensive, but the picture they paint of the man is not exactly consistent with the man who made the statements. He should know better.

It is the way Mac responds to the criticism that is the real problem, though. He refuses to acknowledge that he made an error. He is adamant that people are overreacting and that nothing he said requires an apology. When Coach insists that he give one, he goes on TV and reads a form letter, barely taking a moment to look up from the piece of paper.

The issue goes way deeper than players or community members feeling hurt by Mac. The racial tensions throughout the team and school are building and sides are quickly forming, a fact that is made clear when Tami attempts to facilitate a dialogue. Smash, feeling as though people are overreacting, attempts to talk to Mac. This is when Mac’s most egregious behavior emerges. He berates Smash for having the gall to come to him, saying, “You save your dialogue for your Mommy,” threatening him with being benched if he brings the issue up again. Clearly, the public outrage over his comments has gotten to Mac, but what this response does is create an enemy where once he had an ally.

Meanwhile, Jason shows up at school for the first time since his accident. He has grown so much in the months since losing his ability to walk. He arrives at school with confidence, knowing he is capable of living a normal life. But he is met with discouraging comments by people who mean well but instead convey the fact that no one expects him to do anything other than observe.

Jason Street is not an observer; he’s a doer. So when he finds out from Herc that he has been invited to training camp for the national rugby team, it feels like a way out. School is not for him anymore. He still has the chance to pursue his athletic dreams, something he hadn’t imagined possible when he learned he was a quadriplegic.

Jason shares his exciting news with Lyla, only to discover she’s not exactly thrilled about it. Lyla doesn’t want to come up with new dreams, she likes their old ones. Jason may not be the star quarterback anymore, but she wants him to finish school like they planned, not drop out, go to Austin for three weeks, and then possibly to Beijing if he makes the team.

The Powderpuff game turns out to be a nail-biter, with Matt’s team winning on a last second touchdown. The tension on the field is palpable, particularly because Tyra has a hunch that Buddy Garrity is hitting on her mother and she’s taking it out on Lyla (as if Lyla would want her father to be doing such things). Matt and Julie’s ability to work together and win, not to mention have fun together, seems to be a good sign.

As the Panthers begin practice for their next playoff game, Mac blows his whistle to start a drill. The white players take off, leaving the black players standing still. Mac attempts to get them to move, blowing his whistle three times, and three times they refuse to move. Eventually, they walk off the field in solidarity. This problem is not going away.