Let's talk about the most interesting question raised by this episode. Was Tami wrong for confronting Noah the english teacher?
There's occasionally a disconnect between how a show presents something and how it reads to the people watching at home. What's interesting here is that, unless it's all a big fake out, the show seems to suggest that there is something mildly untoward, if not outright pernicious or actionable, about how Noah is acting with Julie. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, and assuming he has the best of intentions, Tami's not wrong to think he's being a little too familiar with Julie, if only because Julie is clearly nursing a crush and might get the wrong idea.
But at the same time, the show also seems to posit that Tami was wrong to confront Noah as brazenly and as publicly as she did. When Tami's sister asks her how she would have felt if their mother had done the same thing, Tami responds that she would have been mortified, and seems to take that admonition to heart. (What's more, Julie confronting her mother, telling her that she has no right and that it was taking away the one person Julie felt like she could talk to was appropriately angry, hurt, and devastated, and arguably the best brief-but-significant moment the actress has put forward.)
So let's examine both questions in turn. Was Tami wrong to confront Noah at all? I would say the answer is no. Again, the show could be intentionally faking us out here, leading us to believe one thing so it can reveal Noah as completely above board. Or, to give the show a bit more credit, it can be attempting to show us things from Tami's perspective in a way that makes them seem more suspicious than they are, so that we feel she's justified and then are left reeling in the same way Tami is with the significance of the fall out.
But I would argue that the answer is no. Again, even if Noah has a heart of gold and is completely above board, it's not unreasonable for Tami to take him aside and explain her concerns in a diplomatic way so that they could be resolved in a way that would, at a minimum, keep Julie from being hurt or having unrealistic expectations about what their relationship was. What's more, whether it's a red herring or not, the show has seemed to present their being something off about Noah and his behavior with Julie in particular, so it's not crazy.
On the other hand, I do think Tami was wrong in how she went about it. What's great about the story is how understandable Tami's reaction is, even as it's (I would argue) fairly clearly the wrong way to go. Julie is her daughter so Tami is understandably protective; the whole family has been through a lot lately so everyone's kind of raw, and Tami's especially concerned about how Julie's been acting lately in a way that motivates her to go full bore mama bear.
That said, being as inflammatory and public about it ensured two things. The first is that rather than being able to suss out whether there was an validity to her suspicions, Noah was never going to respond well to that approach. Obviously you go to great lengths to protect your child, but if you have nothing concrete to go on, you're unlikely to have the desired effect on the teacher, let alone be able to marshal support from the administration, if that's how you proceed.
But more importantly, the public nature of the whole thing lets rumors spread, let's it get back to and embarrass Julie, and makes her feel like, once again, her parents are dictating her life. Granted, teenager are, to some extent, always going to feel like their parents are meddling too much, but this exposed Julie to a lot of public scrutiny, and made her the star of a high school rumor, in a way that was clearly going to embarrass her and prevent either party to the Julie-Noah issue from being able to step away from their connection with any dignity or grace. There's a sense that Tami herself recognizes that and regrets how she went about all of this in her understandable and commendable zeal to protect her daughter.
As I've said before in these write-ups, I'm a sucker for these little moral questions, and this was a great one that gave understandable but complex and conflicting motivations to both Tami and Julie (though the sister is still mostly a waste and a cheap device), and gave both characters a little more depth and exploration through it.
It also dovetails well with the story with Coach. It's pretty ridiculous that Coach is jealous of Glenn, even if Tami also doesn't necessarily handle it in the best way there either. Again, the husband being jealous of nebbishy coworker is another big cliche. But the show draws back to the real and human to resolve it, namely by saying that independent of Glenn, Coach misses the rapport and fun he and his wife would have, and with all the stress of their lives at the moment, it's not something they've had a chance to share. That's on both of them (and Coach's "focus on your family" comment was way out of line), as well as a natural product of their circumstances, but it's still nice to have the series anchor the story in their connection rather than in cheesy sitcom tropery.
Unfortunately, that's not the case for the rest of the episode. Most of the storylines get by on charm, but the worst of the remaining one is Matt's awful love triangle with Lauren and Carlotta. The whole thing just doesn't feel like the good-hearted kid we met last season. Obviously people grow and change, and him awkwardly taking Smash's advice and having it blow up in his face is amusing, but the storyline feels out of character, and it's moving at warp speed to boot.
Smash's adventures at the party school, on the other hand, are very much in character. But his whole run-in with the team's angry noseguard, and then inadvertently macking on the guy's girlfriend was pretty broad stuff. Admittedly, there's a lot of laughs to a panicked Smash dashing out of the dorm in his undies, but it's a pretty goofy plot for the episode.
Speaking of goofy, Tim hanging out with a tighty-whitey-clad meth dealer was probably supposed to be more amusing than it actually was. I suppose it's supposed to convince us how much Tim needs football, but that doesn't really comport with the issues that caused him to leave home. Still, his moment of apologizing to everyone was the funniest and most human he's seemed, and that moment really worked. Between this and his speech to Jason on the boat, is Tim Riggins actually turning into a decent character/performer? The jury's still out, but it's encouraging. Maybe the writers are just figuring out the actors strengths and writing accordingly.
Lastly, Landry's story was brief, but meaningful. Him confronting the brother of Tyra's rapist was an interesting scene. Landry is trying to soothe his own inner turmoil by telling himself that the rapist was an absolute monster and that made it okay to kill him. The idea that Landry's scene with the guy's brother puts forward, that even if this guy was an abhorrent person, he had friends and loved ones and can't be written off as pure evil, is an interesting and unexpected bit of moral nuance. Shows like The Sopranos and Dexter and many more have explored the human side of monsters, and while this one scene doesn't come close to that, it's a nice-if-brief exploration of the same idea and the effect that realization has on Landry.
I can't say I loved Landry's scene with Lyla. Again, nothing the Lyla character says ever really seems sincere to me (even if I can see that's what's intended) which means I have a difficult time connecting psychologically with any of her moments. Still, Lyla telling him that the truth is salvation clearly has an impact. I don't know if I really buy that, but I do see Landry as someone who tries to be a good Christian, at least in his values, and that the concept could seep into his already troubled thinking. Obviously his confession at the end is a big deal, and for whatever the clunkiness of the story, his tears in the station sell the significance of the moment like gangbusters.
Overall, a mixed bag of an episode with several intriguing parts.