This is Matt’s big episode in the aftermath of his dad’s death in Iraq. Can’t imagine even his eventual farewell will match up to this tour de force. How Zach Gilford’s stoic face still conveys all the anger, confusion, hatred, and resentment on the part of his gram and mom, until he finally breaks down at the Taylors. The scene manifests itself as he reveals, in the course of trying to eat the meal Tami’s prepped, that he doesn’t like his food touching, and he doesn’t like carrots, but worse than that, he hates to be rude. It’s a simple, brilliant way to convey how duty and true emotion battle over his soul. Give him an Emmy already!

The Taylors once again find themselves as de facto parents, and Eric‚ sensing the only option he has for settling Matt down — walks him home, which is just the right thing to do. Tami takes charge when she goes with Matt to the funeral home. (As Julie puts it, she loves a crisis, putting a daughter’s spin on our perfect Tami.) Matt gathers the strength to speak kindly of his dad in his eulogy, despite all the venom he built up for him, and realizes he directed all his hatred at him so he could be a better person for his grandma and Julie. The most powerful scene in perhaps the history of the series thus far — Matt grabs the shovel from the gravedigger to finish burying his dad himself. My heart actually hurt watching this.

Before that is the wake, where Matt looks totally disembodied, the way you really might feel. Strangers paying respects, telling you about a father you never knew, or knew differently — as an abandoned child burdened with all his father’s responsibilities, who didn’t know him as a funny, reliable soldier. (And a delightful scene where Matt slams the door on JD and Joe, who show up at the wake.) We’ve known all along what a crushing weight Matt bears, but it’s never felt heavier. 

Zach nails every moment of this emotional seesaw, his deepset eyes alternately scorn-filled and child-like. Then comes a fun night out with the Riggins brothers and Landry, on the football field — the field of dreams where everything is right, if fleetingly. (The Riggins boys, who clearly MUST nickname everyone, call Matt “May Day” and “Cobra,” LOL.) Even so, Matt has no peace until they break into the funeral home to see his dad’s body. The guys’ reactions to Matt’s quavering mouth says it all. And Tim whispers, mouse quiet, “Seven,” signalling his ever-present support.

Tim attends the pageant where Becky could only pine for her awol father. (Gee, any trends here?) This time it’s not Eric as the supportive male, but Tim, as he has been all season for her — sitting beside her mom, his one night stand, who turns out to be a bit psycho, all fake protective of her daughter, whom she’s constantly ditching. (Tim’s freaked-out face during another contestant’s xylophone number is classic Riggs.) But Becky digs her claws in deeper, calling Tim at the Saracens’ during the wake to thank him for showing at the pageant, which even Tim finds incredibly inappropriate. And yet he realizes he’s supporting her emotionally, so he’s kind. Later that night, after the funeral home visit, Tim’s lying on a lawn chair drinking beer, pondering life, like the days of yore, only without any friends. Enter Becky, who tells him to shut his eyes. She kisses him, and amazingly, the stud resists. He walks away, saying he can’t do this. Yeah, Riggs! She’s just Trouble, and not the Tyra kind.

JD had potential to be a good kid, but now, with his mom gone, he’s seriously an asshole. He shoots Luke in the chest with a paintball — the last straw. Luke’s at the Kwikimart, semi-gratuitously shirtless and cleaning himself up, and who should he meet but Becky, trying to drown her sorrows in gummi bears and beer she’s too young to buy. Just the white knight she needs to buy her beer and “drive” her through the carwash, and hopefully undo her claws from Riggs’ throat.

Vince had a great game, taking over the play calling, allowing the Lions to score. He and Luke are working together now, which is key to the team’s potential success. Vince is chosen as one of Dillon’s players of the week alongside JD; they speak to a group of little kids, and JD gives the boilerplate inspirational crap, while Vince cuts to the chase: “Don’t panic, stay cool, get paid.” Just like the guy who shows him how to boost cars. Hey, whatever works. But that scene, and one where he picks up his passed-out mother on their porch to take her inside, remind us of his uphill battle. But he’s on his way, hopefully.

Some asides: Lyla shows up for the funeral, exchanging meaningful but complicated looks with Tim, who stands like a tree — a sultry tree — the whole service. She’s ba-aaackk…. Coach called Landry “Lance,” which was perversely comforting. When will Mindy have the baby? Isn’t it like the 10th month of pregnancy by now? Why has Matt’s mom turned into such a saint, and has Lorraine forgiven her completely?

(Image courtesy of NBC)


Contributing Writer, BuddyTV