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Diplomacy in Dillon

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Panther fans, are you familiar with the term realpolitik?

I’m no poli-sci expert, but realpolitik (and Wikipedia backs me up on this) refers to the art of diplomacy and doing politics based on desired outcomes as opposed to things like ethics and core values.

In world affairs, realpolitik means you sometimes do business with the bad guys, and on “Friday Night Lights,” it meant Smash’s mother stared racism in the face and, instead of getting her back up, backed down in the interest of unhinging her son from the gold-digging white girlfriend hoping to ride his coattails into life as a pro football wife.

Yes, it was a little shocking when the gold-digging girlfriend’s parents invited the Smashes for dinner, only to announce that they didn’t think Dillon was any place for interracial relationships. So much for dessert and coffee.

You expected Mrs. Smash to get indignant, but only Smash did; his mother pursed her lips, softened and quietly agreed that the two kids should break up.

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Well-played, Mrs. Smash. You sensed an opportunity to free your son from this too-smooth little tart on his arm and took it; Henry Kissinger himself would approve.

Smash, however, was less sanguine and later used his baby sister to sneak a make-out assignation with his girl at the multiplex, only to have his sister get harassed by one of the white boys in the house.

“You got one of ours, why shouldn’t we get one of yours? Know what I mean?” the white boy taunted Smash in a Dillon suddenly revealed as a small-minded place.

FNL was all about the socio-economic/racial politics of the town Friday night; it was as if the writers woke up from their Riggins-induced fog and realized they’d forgotten their show was also supposed to be about the makeup of this Texas town.

So they overloaded the episode with echoing B-stories about class, race, religion. Good ol’ Buddy Garrity invited his boarder Santiago to have his friends over, only to remove his valuables from his home, worried that Santiago’s ex-homies would steal from him (Buddy later put the stuff back, caving into his softer side).

Saracen’s Guatemalan girlfriend announced she was returning home to her family — because what chance their love in gringo Dillon? — while Lila gave sex-advice to people calling in to a Christian radio show, only to engage in some flirting herself with the show’s host, which ended in a kiss.

I’ve lost track of that whole realpolitik motif, but I think when you kiss the boy counseling God over sex without love you’re straying into dangerous diplomatic waters. Or, to put it another way, where does Kissinger stand on premarital heavy petting?

But I liked this episode of FNL because it felt removed from the claustrophobia of recent weeks, most of which focused on Coach and Tami’s travails as new parents again, while we followed hottie wastrel Riggins’ search for a place to lay his weary head.

I know our boy Riggins is cute, ladies, but really — Dillon is more than a pretty face. Or Tami’s post-partum mania (Tami’s a great character, but they’ve overplayed her hand too).

Friday night, we even got to glimpse the long-lost character Jason Street (QB1 in the house!), and Street’s friend Herc, and assistant coach Mac, while Landry was in a scene with Saracen, learning that his bud was sleeping with “the hot maid,” as Landry called her.

FNL is always at its best when it seems to move easily among its wealth of characters, the natural voyeurism of the hand-held camera work making it feel as if we’re a fly on so many walls. If the ax of cancellation didn’t hang over this show’s head, FNL might even be allowed to relax into the kind of sneaky-smart show about innocence lost that it’s always been.

-- Paul Brownfield


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