I'll be honest, this one probably shouldn't merit a rating of "Good." I shouldn't have enjoyed this one as much as I did. There's another dumb development in the "Landry kills a guy story"; we get an appearance from Tami's sister who is a walking trope; there's a lot of focus on Jason, Lyla, and TIm, who aren't my favorite characters; and even the bit with Coach having to take on the AD job to make up the difference in his paycheck is a pretty sitcom-esque development.
But man, if it all wasn't just enjoyable enough for me to gloss over the weaker parts of the episode.
Well, that's not true for everything. The story with Landry took another detour into dumbsville. Again, while this storyline is fairly out there to begin with, if the confrontation at the convenient story had resulted in Landry calling 911 and a season of struggling with his guilt and prosecution, it could have been a more interesting, less-soapy story. For however corny the past few weeks of secret-keeping and Crime and Punishment bits have been, if Landry's Dad's discovery of his son's crime had resulted in the two of them going to the police station and facing the consequences, we could have gotten back to what would have been the best version of this story. Instead, the episode doubles down on its Dexter-esque ridiculum by making Landry's dad complicit in the crime and participate in a coverup that will undoubtedly fail at some inopportune moment. (I mean, the car is still registered to Landry's family, right? Won' that raise questions.) Again, at a micro-level, Landry's dad confronting him works in the moment, but the larger story machinations are just too out there to function.
At the same time, Tami's sister is such a stock character, encouraging Julie's worse angels, prodding Tami to give up her responsibilities, and jabbing at Coach for his paycheck. In keeping with last episode's story about Coach trying to get laid, it feels like a bad retread of a story Home Improvement might have done. The show tries to salvage it with the revelation that Tami is legitimately struggling with the idea that her various responsibilities, to Grace and more generally, are going to keep her from the kind of freedom and fun she might want at times. As I've said before, Connie Britton is such a pro that she makes the moment where she breaks down meaningful. But her sister's thrown in admission that her life is "sad and lonely" feels perfunctory, and all told, the storyline is too trite too function properly.
Jason Street may as well be the king of trite storylines, and yet, credit where credit is due, this is the most interesting and best-performed the character has been in the entirety of the show. Jason's realization that he's constantly been trying to get back to where he was before his accident, and that since that's impossible, he has to find a new way forward that may not involve coaching, may not involve football, and may not even involve Dillon, is a canny and mature one. The moment when he watches his old tapes and is able to appreciate them without living in the past or living with regret, especially considering Buddy's insensitive comment, is a big moment of growth for the character. And his moment with Lyla (who's still pretty much useless) where he acknowledges that Dillon is a certain kind of fishbowl where little changes, and he may need to get out in order to really change, is a good one as well. The whole Jason storyline from episode one of this show has not been nearly as compelling as it should have been given the merits of the story on paper, but this was a definite step in the right direction.
Similarly, a story about Riggins facing real consequences for his typically cruddy behavior, and having to earn his way back onto the team is one that works better in paper than in practice, but it was some nice moments in the episode as well. The whole love triangle with his brother and his ex is still a ridiculous plot development, but the scene with the two of them in Tami's office felt very genuine, and even funny despite the subject matter, which helps. The same goes for Tim's dinner with Smash, which perhaps felt a little too charming to be real, but once again Gaius Charles brings it, and absolutely sells the monologue that despite Brian and Tim's differences, they both need football to really be who they are, and that makes it worth fighting for. The fact that Tim is eventually motivated to train Santiago in order to do right by Lyla and get back in Coach's good graces is too cheesy for words at a larger plot level, but the show imbues the actual training with enough lived-in, real elements, from Smash and Matt arguing over who should have to get the ball, to Tim encouraging Santiago after he gets knocked on his behind, to Coach's laugh when Tim asks if he's earned the right to be back on the team again, that it works.
The same can be said for the continuation of the Matt-Julie storyline. The introduction of the new cheerleader is such a stock narrative device, and their making out is such a predictable development. But Julie's apology at the Alamo Freeze and Matt's hurt but appreciative response is a great moment given how heartfelt Julie's plea was. At the same time, her clear hurt after she (super conveniently) sees Matt making out with his new paramour works, as does Tyra's sweet attempt at support.
And like I said, Coach's having to take on the AD job in order to make his paycheck whole is a pretty cliche plot in and of itself, but I instantly liked the fiery and sarcastic soccer coach, and the promise of future AD-related headaches for Coach Taylor could lead him to cornball land, but it at least adds a new wrinkle to his usual duties. Overall, this is an episode that got by on the charm of its individual moments rather than because of any larger storytelling points, save for the developments with Jason.