In "Perfect Record," even as kingmaker Eric continues to see things going his way, his control is dissolving. Everyone's favorite website, Lionhaters.com, has posted rap sheets of his many players with criminal records, including, shockingly, Tinker! Eric suspects that the evil Panthers boosters did it, but of course they deny it, although Mac looks terribly guilty. Not only does the whole world know the Lions' perp records, but Vince thinks his potential scholarship chances are imperiled -- but his dad thinks he's wrong. Ornette has firmly taken control of these bids for his services, basically sticking it in Eric's face when confronted. "You're his coach; he's my son," he says. Interesting to see these two control freak guys' styles -- so different, yet so similar at heart.
And Eric has no control over his own daughter, who is on hiatus from school, basically vegging at home. This has forced Tami to become a taskmaster, ordering Julie to do chores. The big solution: a barbecue! A morale building event that requires lots of work, which Julie will contribute to. But even this jolly occasion is tainted; Tami admits she doesn't really want to throw it, but it's for the best. Tami is in sacrificial mode, skipping Friday's game to drive to Burleson and get Julie's books and assignments so she can take exams when (if?) she returns. Of course Tami runs into Derek, and the tension is thick, as is the mutual curiosity. Julie somehow didn't even know Tami went on this run and is shaken when she finds out, yet of course curious about her run-in with Derek.
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After Eric sees Buddy and his posse setting up camp, literally, on the Lions' field to protect it from the Panthers' hijinx, he goes to meet ... Jason Street! Who is now a full-fledged successful sports agent and also married happily to Erin, who wants to have another kid. (I felt a bit cheated that Street got happiness without our witnessing it, especially after so much suffering.) But he's not just there for chitchat; he dangles the possibility of Eric going to coach at a university again. Eric says he's never been happier, but we feel that the luster has faded from the kingmaker's crown. He phones it in when Jess asks him for a recommendation for Baylor's football camp staff; he tells her to write it and he'll sign it. (Even though this is not uncommon, coming from Eric it feels wrong.) Another dis against Eric is that at Friday's game, Street is on the Panthers' sideline giving them a pre-game pep talk. It just seemed like his loyalty would follow Coach, kind of how the Riggins brothers did.
His way of dealing with the perp sheet post is to tell his team to get angry. On top of that, Billy is now privately coaching Luke, who is gifted, but tame. "The difference between you and Tim is that he liked to hit people," Billy says, slugging a beer, with Stevie strapped to his chest. He has Luke doing the junkyard workout, pressing truck bumpers, jerry-rigged chains and weights, and doing tire drills. All this rage building works; the Lions steamroll the Panthers, literally, decking them with huge hits. Vince, on his dad's encouragement, throws a big Hail Mary pass in the final seconds. It's complete, gaining the attention of the scouts in the stands, but it runs up the score, showing poor sportsmanship. The team's locker room celebrations drown out Eric reaming out Vince for that move; it's obvious Eric is also disappointed that Vince has chosen his dad's guidance over his own. Slammin' Sammy criticizes Eric for playing dirty, underscoring the fine line between guts and violence in football. When he gets a call from a college in Florida about a possible head coaching job (as recommended by Jason, again going against Eric's stated wish), it suddenly sounds appealing.
Billy's even giving Luke romantic advice, telling him to play hard to get with Becky. So Luke tries it, calling Becky "Fours" when she's wearing his jersey, being aloof and rude, so counter to his very polite self. There are predictable feeble results, although after he confesses his strategy to Becky and they admit their mutual affection and kiss, he says it totally worked! Heh. Luke had a career game, but we don't see the scouts interested in him, which is probably more a time constraint than plot being ignored. Still ... give him some scholarship love!
Vince's home life is the happiest it's ever been now that his dad is back. It does look convincing when he and his dad are playing touch football with Jess' brothers, and Vince's mom tells Jess it's all a girl could want. And Jess starts to believe too, although she's caught between her loyalty to Vince and coach.
So the old cast is starting to trickle back in for the final episodes and series finale. (One more episode till Taylor Kitsch returns, I do believe.) It really sunk in that life must move on when, in the same night, I saw ex-regulars Scott Porter (and Matt Czruchy) in The Good Wife, and Jurnee Smollett in The Defenders. I wish them nothing but the best, but how we'll miss them all as Texas high schoolers.
(Image courtesy of NBC)