December 16th, 2009
In the show’s third season, the show said goodbye to two characters who, for the most part, were unconnected to the remaining characters. Yes, everyone had a relationship with Smash and Jason Street, especially the audience, but there was the sense that their relationship was coming to an end. Smash and Jason Street were ready to leave Dillon, and the show’s characters were ready to see them leave and achieve their dreams. As much as people respected these individuals, they were moving onto bigger and better things.
However, last week’s character exit left behind people who were emotionally connected to them beyond respect, people who don’t entirely know how to function without them. And accordingly, “In the Bag” becomes a discussion of those intense connections, as people try to deal with parts of their lives on which they are dependent and those parts where other people are dependent on them.
Yes, Matt Saracen is in fact a wanderer, and for Julie Taylor this is sending every single wrong message: it says that he doesn’t need her, and in fact that he needs to get away from her. And she’s discovering that she was dependent on her relationship with Matt, not in terms of some sort of ancient “women need men to survive” situation but rather in that their relationship was a source of great comfort and stability in her life. And to know that Matt needed to escape that relationship, even though she even helped convince him he needed to do it in order to find happiness, hurts Julie in a way that goes beyond “breaking up” or any other emotion – as it should, really, since in many ways we (along with Julie) believe him to be “the one” for her.
And Aimee Teegarden beautifully sells Julie’s pain and confusion, unable to understand why Matt would call his grandmother and not her. Of course, as someone not in the relationship, we’re able to see that Matt is comfortable leaving his grandmother behind (since his mother is there to take care of her, and she is financially stable) whereas he is less convinced that leaving Julie behind is the right thing to do. Talking to his grandmother eases his troubles whereas talking with Julie would only make him more guilty, but Julie she can’t avoid her pain (even in the Academic Smackdown, where a question turns into a psychological test almost immediately).
Elsewhere, meanwhile, all of the new characters deal with their own obligations and relationships that are proving to be a source of conflict in their life. Vince deals with balancing a life of crime (in which East Dillon apparently has drive-by shootings?) with his new responsibilities as quarterback, Luke contends with his responsibility to his father’s farm interrupting his ability to practice with the Lions, and Becky is taught an important lesson from Tim on how to deal with an absentee father figure who will always disappoint you. And even old characters get in on the action, with Tami discovering what happens when she’s just too awesome for a teacher to contain his desire and Landry finally deciding to cut ties with (an unseen) Tyra and work in earnest to win Jess’ heart.
As far as these stories go, they all had their moments. I loved what the Luke story did in terms of slowly introducing his Father to what football can offer (in this case, the enormously likeable Tink as a friend), and it should put him in a better position to contextualize Luke’s injury scare, and that while the story needed a bit more of Vince’s perspective there were some great scenes with Eric and both Vince and his mother that worked really well (and I’d think that, with Luke on the shelf due to injury, the pressure on Vince is going to give us more of his perspective in the weeks ahead). And while the Tami story was functionally useless, it did have the absolutely amazing moment where Connie Britton goes from “Eww, don’t kiss me!” to “Oh Glen, you poor thing” in about two seconds, which (like some of the scenes with Landry) was enjoyable enough to carry its relatively short running time.
As far as Becky goes, it’s always tough when you’re dealing with Tim Riggins, because Taylor Kitsch appears dead set on stealing this storyline out from under her. I thought that Madison Burge really sold the story well, but this was more about Tim confronting his own demons than it was about Becky confronting hers, as Tim rolls around in the mud with his own abandonment issues as symbolized by Becky’s father. With the ridiculousness of the stripper baby shower, there were plenty of distractions going around here, but Tim eyeing the open countryside and the chance to own something of his own in Dillon was certainly a look into his future, and combined with his new friend Skeeter promises that Tim is still at the heart of this narrative in a way that isn’t yet clearing the way for his exit.
- I don’t like to think that this is a predictable show, but this episode really laid out a lot of clear groundwork in a way that might seem more mysterious than it is: Vince’s friend is clearly eyeing a vulnerable Billy Riggins as a front for his strip shop (an idea which perhaps the friend got when he saw strippers on the premises? I doubt he enjoys wordplay, though), and I’d say the final scene that Luke’s current trajectory all but confirm that Tim Riggins might be making his way onto the Cafferty farm before the season is over.
- Man did “mouth rape” ever seem wrong in the Tami-storyline – I’m not entirely sure of its overall function, but at least we got to see Tami Taylor respond to “mouth rape” being uttered in her presence.
- Seriously, Academic Smackdown? Are we on an episode of Community, here?
- I’ll admit right now: I’m worried about some of the direction overall, especially as it relates to crime. The show does not have a good track record with crime (see: Season 2’s drug kingpin, which was in some ways even worse than Murdergate), so I’m a tiny bit apprehensive.