Just when we were getting lulled into the old drama/game/drama rhythm, FNL goes and shakes things up. In this scary episode, Eric phases from "kingmaker," which is splashed across the cover of a glossy magazine and used by his team to gently mock him, to a tyrant who has lost control of his dominion.
The most shocking moment in "Swerve" comes not when Vince is threatened by a menacing guy to pay back a loan for his mom's rehab, but when Eric violently wrestles Julie toward her car to force her to return to the university, where she lost any shred of dignity. Julie knew she'd have to face some consequences at home, but clearly she didn't expect that both her parents would not find a way to forgive her after a few days of letting the news sink in. She's faced with two dark paths and makes yet another bad decision by swerving her car on purpose to avoid returning to school. Eric's baffled at how they could have raised a homewrecker, telling Tami that Julie was a stranger to him. The perfect Taylor household has crumbled around them. (Although Gracie's holding down her end of the deal so far.)
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This affects Eric at work, too. Driven to distraction by Julie, he leaves practice early and arrives late to pre-game, although this gives Billy the opportunity to spit some fire and show a little leadership and not just anger (plus he gets a wink from Eric, who arrives at the last second). Eric's truancy with the team is reminiscent of when Tim missed some practices and was punished mightily by Coach. And in a welcome warm breeze of Timminess that portends his hopeful return soon, Billy is rewatching the video Jason made to help Tim get recruited. And Tim calls Billy as he's watching TV with Becky and his family, but, fittingly, a bad signal causes a failure to communicate.
Meanwhile, Becky's begging Billy to talk to Tim; her obvious affection for him causes Mindy to push her toward Luke ("hump like bunnies, but use protection"). Mindy clearly doesn't know about their pregnancy drama, which sits between them like the Great Wall, even though they're attracted to one another. (Luke still thinks he traded his pig for Becky, his gal.) And Mindy draws Becky deeper into her own weird rabbit hole, taking her shopping at a Frederick's style lingerie shop and letting her babysit Stevie backstage at the Landing Strip, where she's lookin' all too comfortable. Not a far leap from the Miss Texas pageant to the Landing Strip, eh?
Vince is offered a scholarship to TMU, and not Luke. The whole ticket scenario was a ploy to get poor Luke to invite Vince to TMU as a guest. Apparently they couldn't entice Vince otherwise (which seems far-fetched). Luke's feeling betrayed that Coach was going behind his back, at least until Billy takes him aside and tells him he'll get a scholarship for sure, especially after he gets the game ball (from a game win we saw nothing of!). Vince's dad steps up, or should I say back, into his thug life, threatening the debt collector in scene more appropriate to The Wire. This feels good, but it can't be good in the long run, can it? Or does street justice prevail? In any case, Vince and Jess's families have a dinner together in a show of the domestic unity that has now left the Taylor household. And that, we hope, will take hold of the Riggins home when Tim returns. Counting down ...
(Image courtesy of NBC)