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"Friday Night Lights" Recap: Episode 15, "Blinders"

"Friday Night Lights" Recap: Episode 15, "Blinders"

An episode focusing on the uproar over a white coach's racially insensitive remarks is perfectly in character for "Friday Night Lights"; after all, one of the show's hallmarks is exposing the unspoken tensions that run through our lives. I’m just glad they waited until this point in the season to bring it out; unlike the Reyes vs. Voodoo episode earlier this year, we really care about these characters now. We care about the friendship between Smash and Matt, and we care about the rivalry between Smash and Riggins, and we care when these kids who have coexisted mostly peacefully until now come up against something that could tear them apart. This episode gave me chills, so

The episode picks up where we left off last week, during the Panthers' first playoff game. They win with a trick play where Smash throws a touchdown to Matt, but the euphoria doesn’t last long. In a post-game interview, assistant coach Mac gets asked about playing an all-white team next week, and while he starts out well enough by saying skin color is irrelevant, the reporter keeps pushing and Mac somehow ends up comparing "guys like Smash" to "junkyard dogs." It's instantly the talk of Panther Radio, where callers spin Mac's comments to sound more and more outrageous.

The Julie-Tyra friendship is still in full swing, and the girls get called into Tami's office for cutting gym. To make up those classes, Tami sentences them to play in the powderpuff football game — which is extra-bad considering that Riggins and Matt are the coaches. (Landry is a ref, which: awesome.) At the first practice, Matt picks Tyra, Riggins picks Lyla, Matt picks Julie third (ouch), and I have nightmares about gym class.

Meanwhile, Coach tells Mac he needs to apologize, and he issues a lame statement about all Panthers being valuable regardless of their skin color. Smash still thinks it's no big deal, which ticks off Waverly, who clearly expected Smash to be a crusader. He tells her his only cause is football, and she gives us our episode-title tie-in by saying someday he'll have to peek out from the blinders. Tami, meanwhile, decides in her well-meaning guidance counselor way that the school should hold a forum on race.

At powderpuff practice, Tim whips his team into shape; Matt lets his squad throw the ball all over the place while lying that they're getting better. Eventually, Matt begs Julie to play quarterback, and she snits back that she's not sure she's qualified, being his third pick and all. She wanders home later, supertired, and Coach picks that moment to give her a lecture about skipping class. He’s all stern until Julie says she just wants to go to bed; all this quarterback stuff has made her tired. Coach is suddenly giddy — "Matt Saracen's got you at quarterback? Wait, honey! Come here!" — and he takes Julie outside to teach her some plays. I, meanwhile, melt into a puddle of wholesomeness.

Cut to the powderpuff game. Matt tells his team they're all winners; in the end, Julie runs the play her dad taught her for a touchdown and the win.

Jason comes back to school, and when he struggles with a scalpel during the frog dissection (thus fulfilling the requirement that every high school TV show have a frog dissection scene), his teacher tells him that all anyone expects is for him to observe. Awkward. Herc has a surprise for Jason later on, though: He's been invited to try out for the quad rugby national team. When Jason tells Lyla later, she freaks and wonders what this means for their plans, and Jason says he's just going to Austin for two weeks and they'll take it from there.

Smash's mom gets turned down for a home loan, and she wonders aloud if it's because she's a single, black mother. Smash demands to talk to a supervisor, but his mom quiets him, saying all these rich, white folks are waiting for him to be the junkyard dog Mac said he was.

Tami's race forum, unsurprisingly, devolves into screaming. Smash goes to Mac to work things out, and Mac makes things so much worse by saying his feelings on race shouldn't matter, and if Smash whines, he'll be benched. That gets Smash riled, and he organizes a gathering of all the black players. The next day at practice, when Mac blows the whistle, the black players take off their helmets, then walk off the field.


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