Notes on tonight's telecast on DirecTV, spoilers included, after the jump.
As much as Eric Taylor has been aware of his predicament since taking the job at East Dillon, it has been nothing compared to the slap in the face he gets early in tonight's episode. Pleading to the school principal (whom we do get to see, thankfully) for money for new uniforms, Eric is confronted not only with the embarrassment of the forfeit but with the cold fact that his being offered the job was an embarrassment he was thought too proud to take. "You wasn't ever supposed to take the job," the principal tells him. "You're the only one who didn't get the joke."
Eric, of course, isn't laughing. He just realizes that his job is that much harder and that he is going to have to beg, borrow and steal to help achieve even modest success (which, later, is measured by getting a single score against a clearly superior opponent).
Indeed, before the episode is over, he will have done all three of those things, with two of them involving his deception of Tami and leading to some of those scenes that make Eric and Tami the best married couple on television; they fight, but they're in it together. Indeed, we're shown later that just as Eric has fallen from grace in town, Tami is on the precipice, with Joe McCoy telling his entourage of boosters that he will take her down.
And the revelation of that pronouncement finally makes Buddy realize that he, too, is a joke, that McCoy has both shoved him to the margins and changed the rules so that Buddy's old notions of honor -- flexible though they may be, since the mailbox was his -- have become meaningless to the McCoy mob.
If that was all that was going on in "FNL," it would be enough. But we also see the latest in Saracen's work with the crazy sculptor, and Julie and Tami discussing whether Julie should go to church, and Riggins hanging around the football team, helping out, clinging to the last good thing in his life, and yet another potential romance for Landry (as well as another challenge to his sporting skills), and -- because that's still not enough -- another sign that East Dillon is not Taylor country when it comes to matters of race. Eric has had to face the racial divide before, during the African-American players' protest at West Dillon, but that's nothing compared to what he is in the middle of now, where the school is heavily African-American (including the principal) so any player feeling wronged is going to have a support system in place. And I don't think for a minute that that issue has been swept aside by the sheer force of Eric's coaching will.
Not all of that was successful, but much of it is. The Saracen story is a bit of a distraction from the flow of other stories, but in its own context it is working pretty well. I like better the way Riggins is just hanging around the football team, looking for his niche, and probably thinking of Street as he does so. And I am very happy with "FNL" at the moment.