With selfishness and excuse-making pervading the Panthers in the wake of an upset loss, Coach Taylor buses his players to a remote location in the middle of the night and makes them run wind sprints uphill in a driving rainstorm. until Smash invokes the team's motto -- "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!
The result was an organic experience that consistently elevated the show throughout its five-year run.
("It was the first time I got to see the real Matt Saracen," recounts Julie in a post-date debriefing with Tami.) But it's the moment when Chandler opens the door for Matt and prods his jacket, with a blend of incredulity and thinly veiled anger, that captures the disarming, wrong-footing humor that made Coach Taylor such an unforgettable character.
Spurned by Julie, seemingly forgotten by his father abroad and wasting away on the Panthers' bench, Saracen shows up to school directionless and drunk.
The entire episode -- written as a series finale during one of the show's multiple cancellation scares -- is golden, capped by a powerful speech from Coach Taylor after a Saracen-led rally (following freshman phenom J. The compulsively reserved Saracen finally breaks down during a dinner at the Taylor house, confessing that he hates his father and wishes he could say so to his father's face -- only he doesn't have one.
Critics everywhere hailed it as the consistently strong Gilford's finest work.