In "Don't Go," rifts were healed, bonds strengthened, and Tim Riggins returns! The main story concerned whether Eric might actually accept an offer from Shane State in Florida to become director of football operations (or as the rep so appropriately put it, the "keys to the kingdom" for the kingmaker!), tarted up with a sleek house and pool that sure look good to Tami after yet another morale-crushing staff meeting. Eric won't confide in Buddy, who sniffs out the sitch when he spots a crate of oranges in Eric's office. He and Levi conspire to convince Eric to stay; Buddy gets the team to make testimonials at the athletic banquet.
Vince is eating humble pie after not getting a scholarship at OK State and is suspicious of his dad's now-desperate pursuit of other scholarships. Also, his dad's dark side resurfaces when he gets the bad news phone call, screaming at the caller, smashing his phone. Vince also sees how much Coach has meant to him and goes to his house to tell him so, right before the big game. "I'm asking you not to go to Shane State. Having you as a coach is one of the best things that ever happened to me ... if you come back next season, I'll be there for you. Don't go." Ironic that the entire town is consumed with feeding Eric's ego (considerable, if cloaked in humility), and Vince -- just accused of being selfish and causing a rift in his team -- is the one to make the ultimate plea, and in the meantime, wins back his starting slot. Eric sees that job thing is a distraction and, in a pre-game interview, pledges that he'll stay in Dillon. Woohoo. State's looking better than ever.
Billy's prepping for Tim's parole hearing (he was sentenced to 24 months, with 10 months served and time off for good behavior). He asks Eric to speak as a character witness, and Buddy volunteers as well. The camera's trained on Billy, nervous and red-faced, right before the hearing, and it pulls back to show Tim's face, graven and skeptical. He thinks Billy shouldn't talk because "he's done enough damage already." Ouch. Clearly those months have been spent building resentment, to which he's entitled. Indeed, Billy stammers and sweats bullets as he speaks about Tim, mangling words.
Coach to the rescue, as usual! He says he hired Tim as an assistant coach not because of his prodigious skills, but for his character. Tim, hearing the first praise in like a year, looks like he's gonna break down. Then Buddy pipes up and Tim pales, thinking he'll bungle it too, but instead makes an equally strong statement, saying he's know him from before puberty (snicker), his daughter dated him, he's like family, and has more heart than anyone. "It's time to let Tim Riggins come home." I second that! And, the kicker -- he has a guaranteed job working for Buddy (beer me) and that nothing like this will ever happen again. Buddy's parenting gene is kicking in again; plus he's loyal.
In the most wrenching scene, after the hearing Eric's sitting with Tim, waiting to be locked up again. "Did you get my letters?," Tim asks with puppy dog eyes. "Sorry I didn't come visit more often," Eric answers. Thinking of Tim in that cell all those months, wishing that Coach would visit, yet feeling he disappointed him, is seriously painful. As is watching the cuffs go back on, and him shuffling off to his cell in his baggy-assed white jumpsuit and slip-on sneakers.
Tami gets sent to a conference to speak on behalf of East Dillon, which is a nice recognition for her skills. (Both Epyck and Julie aren't in this episode, which -- sorry -- is for the best.) She's eyeing that pool and encourages Eric to seriously consider Florida but is supportive when he decides to stay. Their interactions with Gracie are, as always, extremely adorable.
Luke is accepting that he probably won't get a scholarship to get him the hell out of Dillon. In fact he seems mighty happy. He and Becky are steady, playing catch on the gridiron, or surveying the farm, or training Tinker on how to show a pig (Marigold places second!). He asks Becks if she could imagine living on a farm, and for once she sees a future with him. That is, until she gets home to the Riggins household and who should be there but ole Timmy, home from the klink. Confused feelings flood alert!
The parole guy's there toasting Tim's freedom, and Billy's leaving for the big game. Tim is clearly seeing the life he'd missed -- Stevie growing, love, Becky, even Billy's role as a coach. All denied him for that year and probably fostering resentment toward Billy even more. Billy tosses him his truck keys, providing closure from that same action before Tim went to jail. Tim manages to smile at Stevie and Mindy, but storm clouds once again gather over the Riggins house. Just three to go ...
(Image courtesy of NBC)