Matt got a bad boy episode! Heeeeeee! \o/ That was totally to my taste, I'm afraid. I love it when Matt gets pissy, and I especially liked him snapping at Smash ('You don't have to talk always') and Landry ('Stop talking!'). I think he captured sullen teenager-hood perfectly. This is something FNL does so well--show kids acting like kids, ineloquently and clumsily. And it was a brilliant study of the 'good kid' who keeps his frustrations to himself most of the time until things tip him over the edge... and then people are shocked to hear what he comes out with because they never expected him to be like that. I can relate to that, I'm afraid--I tended to be like that in high school myself. Most of the time, teachers thought I was the good (quiet) reliable one, but when I (occasionally) lost it, I could pull a pissy tantrum better than anyone.
I'm not saying it's admirable, but I did find it amusing, and well acted. And before anyone thinks I'm a big fan of 'woobie-ing' Matty, let me say that I was completely fine with Coach grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and hauling him around. He deserved it and someone needed to straighten him out. BUT I do think this has been coming a long, long time with Matt and I think the reasons for his descent into delinquency were very well drawn.
I'm especially glad that they referenced Coach leaving the Panthers as one of the causes of his repressed anger. Matt felt seriously abandoned when Coach left, but it was never voiced or addressed on the show and Coach probably had no idea of the depth of his emotions about it. Matt's bitterness was showing in comments like 'I don't need one of your Coach/Dad speeches'. He's resentful of Coach acting like a father, when he's also (in Matt's eyes) abandoned him without a second glance. Drifting apart from Julie only compounded that sense of abandonment for Matt--from having the Taylors as a substitute family, he was left without anyone again. Then Carlotta left him . And of course his issues stem back further than that to the fact that his father's left him alone to care for his grandmother.
So yes, I think Matt's got good reason to be pissed at life. And when Coach starting making his 'this is about more than football' speech, I knew it wouldn't play well to Matt. Matt doesn't need another round of adversity, and he's pretty cynical about it's ability to turn into an 'asset'.
Does anyone else think Grandma Saracen knows more than she lets on? She's adorable, and I really liked her response to Coach showing up to take them home. She didn't see herself as the one needing care at all--she was well aware it was Matt who needed help, and she was also cluey enough to realise that she couldn't help him herself. I think she was trying to draw him into conversation about Carlotta earlier with questions like 'why did she leave?' and in saying 'we'll see' about Carlotta coming back.
Matt and Tim skipping school together was brilliant. I loved Tim catching Matt on the motorcycle, and the parallels between the two of them in the last couple of episodes really paid off in their drinking buddies scene. Oh, the irony in Matt saying that Tim is always on an 'even keel' and can get any girl he wants. They're both totally cut up over their respective romantic failures, and Tim was busy making even more of a mess of things with Lyla in that very scene.
I thought it was good of Smash to try and reach out to Matt, but of course that scene backfired due to Matt's hangover and resentment (and also partly due to Landry not knowing when to shut up). There's also a bit of territorialism there since Smash and Tim have traditionally been rivals. Smash won't be happy about Matt spending more time with Tim--especially when it has such a detrimental affect on his game. However, there was a nice twist there with Tim being the one to drag Matt along to practice despite everything. He's not completely a bad influence, and in some ways I think it'd be good for Matt to have someone to commiserate about life with. And he and Tim have a lot in common--both from broken families, with messed up love lives and looking to Coach as a father figure.
Poor Coach! He really is spread too thin with all these boys needing his support!
It was great to see Tami being 'good cop' again with Julie, and excellent to see Coach giving Julie a hard time before her driving test. I was pleased that the mother-daughter relationship might be improving so their fight and reconciliation worked for me in this episode. Largely because Julie had legitimate cause to be upset this time. I remember how nervous I was sitting my driver's test, and it was obvious in the episode that everyone was a bit blind to her anxiety leading up to it. Coach and Tami are great parents but they've got so much else going on, and they were also loading their own expectations onto her. So to have Tami not turn up and then to come home and find her partying with the volleyball team? Yeah, I can see that stinging. So while I still don't like Julie in pissy jealous brat mode, I found this episode's confrontation very well played. I also loved Tami rushing to the centre to redeem herself. And I was relieved that Julie actually passed!
I'm also delighted with the handling of Tyra-Landry in this episode. I liked the fact that the show addressed the issue of popularity and the way other people's perceptions and attitudes can have an impact on attraction To begin with, I liked little Jean confronting Tyra
Because Landry dating Tyra is always going to be a huge risk. She's perceived as having much higher status than him. Even Tami assumed that there was a power imbalance in the relationship. But while Tyra might once have agreed without question, it wasn't what she wanted to hear now. Is it bad that it took seeing that Landry was desirable to someone else to trigger Tyra's admittance of her feelings? Yes. But it's also very human and very realistic. She admitted being messed up and confused about it, and she's still not been able to find anyone she can confide in comfortably about it. With both Julie and Tami, I think she felt there was an implicit judgment being made even before she'd indicated her feelings. And that was enough to put her off admitting the depth of her affection for him. So I was really glad to hear her acknowledge the truth to Landry.
I also really admired the way Landry handled that situation. I was a bit scared that he was going to pull the random melodramatic brushoff that he did at the prom. I was equally scared he was just going to ditch Jean straight away. Instead he did the right thing and told Tyra knew he was on a date. He then obviously reflected on the situation before talking to Jean about it. While she may feel hurt, I think he acted as maturely as possible given the circumstances. And I'm happy for both him and Tyra now. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out--especially with the public acknowledgment of the relationship.
And finally, Smash. Wow, that last scene was a total heartbreaker! As was the scene where his mother found him taking down his TXU pamphlets and posters. I can't believe how much I care about this young boy's football career! But for better or worse he's poured so much of himself into it, and his expectations and hopes for himself run so very high. To have it taken away from him now is very painful to watch, especially because the circumstances are unfair. Yes, Smash's suspension came about in part due to his immaturity. But it's also obvious that the press beat-up of the affair influenced TXU's decision that he was of 'suspect character'. He's guilty of immaturity and rash action, but not, I believe, of having an irreparable bad character. Ouch!
Smash was a great contrast to Matt in this episode. While Matt's first reaction to the disaster was to chuck it all in, get angry and blame other people, Smash admitted his mistake and kept his chin up in front of the team. He turned up to practice even though he knew they'd be angry at him. I'm glad Coach acknowledged Smash doing that, and even after he asked him to sit out the practice, Smash found something constructive to do in lifting weights. The final scene, with Smash inspiring the team with a speech was incredibly moving, in part because we know very well that Smash can be incredibly self-focused. His speech was not completely selfless--he's invested in the team getting to playoffs so that he can play again--but it was genuine, heartfelt and supportive. And it can't be easy to stand up in front of a team you've let down. Seeing him break down into tears when left alone in the locker room was just awful.
Damn, I love this show!