By Kaleena Rivera | TV | April 27, 2023 |
By Kaleena Rivera | TV | April 27, 2023 |
(spoilers for episode seven, season three)
All the way back in the Ted Lasso pilot, during Ted’s first press conference, Rebecca coined the phrase, “The Lasso Way.” While there was a (then-unknown) current of derision behind it, the label grew to encompass a philosophy of great significance within the series. It’s a motto that would go on to emphasize teamwork above all else. It became a shorthand for seeing to the mental and emotional needs of the players, with the natural conclusion being that men who do well off the pitch, become better players on the pitch.
Two and a half seasons later and said players now find themselves with their penises tied to one another. There are those high stakes we’ve been waiting for.
I jest, but in truth, I respect that big of a comedic swing, though I’m glad it seems to be a one-off (Beard: “That was a one-shot deal, Roy”), as it’s the sort of gag that has a short lifespan. The wholesomeness that Ted Lasso is known for—especially when applied to the positive masculinity that’s so frequently modeled (stopping to compliment a fellow player’s hat, for instance)—is offset nicely when they provide space for tonal changes such as the dramatic moments or, in this case, more bawdy humor. I never could have predicted a pegging joke to make it into an episode, but I heartily support it.
Episode 7, appropriately titled “The Strings That Bind Us,” brings the show back to form by weaving between humor and drama with stops in the middle. With Ted’s recent flash of inspiration, Richmond is changing tactics considerably, as evidenced by the, erm, genitally-enhanced training session. All of this is in a bid to utilize Total Football, the Dutch strategy that not only requires the team to level up physically but to also gain a better understanding of individual players’ positions. Writer Phoebe Walsh (better known as Beard’s toxic on-again-off-again girlfriend Jane Payne) deserves some serious accolades because watching these teammates happily embrace this exercise gives us what is arguably the biggest laugh of the season. The sincerity with which the players take their new roles (Dani as Isaac: “We’re gonna f*ck ‘em up, bruv!” Isaac, as Dani: “Ay, Dios mío”) is already tremendously funny, but the comedy reaches new heights with Will Kitman-turned-Beard with his perfectly executed, “Let’s go!” eagle cry.
The Richmond ensemble feels fully realized, with various teammates getting individual attention. Moving away from the core team produces more measured results, though Nate’s newly expanded storyline to include his family is a promising venture. I can’t say I’m as enthusiastic about his budding romance with Jade (it still feels so out of left field), but I can be persuaded should the series find a way to reconcile his heel turn with this healthier Nate that’s emerging.
I wish I could approach Keeley’s storyline with the same cautious optimism. I’ve tried to approach the subject of Jack with an open mind. It’s a thankless job being an actor playing a character who’s widely perceived as the obstacle between pairings, even if the new romantic interest eventually proves to be an asset to the story. Keeley and Roy were such a strong couple that it was always going to be an uphill battle introducing Jack into the mix, and that’s even if Keeley’s latest love interest was written as the ideal partner.
I can now confidently say that my issues with Jack go beyond mere preference for romantic partners; it’s now a source of concern. I’m vocal when it comes to pushing back on the treatment of books as precious objects (dog-earring, spine cracking, even tossing out are perfectly fine), but I also believe in the preservation of historic items, books among them. So when Jack’s scrawled, “Keeley, you go girl!” approximately one inch above Jane Austen’s hand-written signature came into view, my feelings were what could be conveniently described as jaw-dropping dismay. It’s careless and demonstrates a disregard for long-term planning—it’s not romantic, but true first editions are investment items. Signing a book like that absolutely detracts from its initial value.
Setting aside any bibliophilic outrage, however, there’s more worrisome behavior at work here. A romantic partner of any length of time confessing, “I can get very jealous, and I hate the idea of you regifting that,” is already worthy of pause, but hearing this from someone you’ve been dating for a month or two is even more alarming. There’s additional pressure once you add in the fact that said gift is worth many thousands of dollars. It’s not so much a gift as it is a mammoth responsibility, not something that is typically granted without significant investment in the relationship accompanied by extensive discussion.
Additional gifts follow, and although Rebecca correctly identifies the behavior as love-bombing, the lack of outright concern is odd, especially since she illustrates the tactic with Rupert via a story about driving home with a new Jaguar after their second date. One can argue that the minor caution she does offer (“But sometimes shiny things can tarnish”) is in keeping with her hands-off approach when it comes to commenting on other people’s romantic lives, plus whatever toxic side Jack has—between the first edition and the casualness with which she states she’s “get-away-with-murder-rich” I find it almost impossible to believe she doesn’t—will have to play out now that it’s been introduced.
Happily, other side characters are beginning to pay dividends. Barbara’s judgmental snark plays nicely off of the, well, niceness of the show (“I never would’ve thought that you liked books. I mean, that you collect first editions”), especially now that it looks like the softer side of Jade is here to stay. Sam’s restaurant, a storyline that was introduced four weeks ago but left dormant until now, is also paying off, as we’re finally beginning to get to know a little more about the crew that run the place. Chef Simi (Precious Mustapha) is especially of interest, as there seems to be something more than merely platonic vibes between her and Sam.
There’s no flirting on that front currently, as the main thrust of Sam and the restaurant this week (as well as the dramatic arc of this episode) is the topic of xenophobia. With the multiculturalism/racial diversity present within football and England as a whole, it was only a matter of time before immigration was addressed in a significant manner. Any given number of English (as well as American) politicians are personified in the form of British Home Secretary Brinda Barot (Lucy Bayler) as an all-too-familiar miscreant who stokes hatred with anti-immigration sentiments and policies. Simi’s righteous anger is extremely relatable, but the good-natured Sam prefers to “speak to the better angels of this clearly misguided person.”
Unfortunately, his worldview is soon shaken by Barot’s insulting response to his mild tweet—notably, her disrespectful “… shut up and dribble,” is a direct quote from bipedal bloodworm Laura Ingraham in her infamous response to LeBron James’ criticism of Trump—only to be shattered when bigots trash Ola’s. It’s alarming when someone who’s known for being mild-mannered goes into a rage, and Sam’s (fully justified) anger is appropriately jarring. But when his father, the eponymous Ola (Nonso Anozie, with his instantly winning presence), appears during Sam’s rant, his anger and despair become bitter tears when he collapses into his father’s arms. I have no qualms in saying that I, too, burst into tears at this moment. Ted Lasso has long-recurring themes surrounding fatherhood, but seeing a father treat his adult son with such tenderness is a welcome development (the closest we’ve come is that hug).
The episode ends on a perfectly sweet note, specifically with Richmond coming together to secretly fix up the restaurant. Although there are issues that persist, the latter half of the season is already shaping up to be far stronger than the front half. I’m especially excited to see how Jamie’s emerging role as “conductor” to the team’s proverbial orchestra will continue playing out. It will almost surely prove to be inspirational. That is, after all, The Lasso Way.
Baz: “We wanted to apologize.”
Ted: “What for?”
Baz: “For getting all soft on you.”
Jeremy: “Yeah, we humanized you and lost all objectivity.”
Paul: “Main reason why farmers don’t name their livestock.”
Roy: “God, I hate what you’ve f*cking done to me.”
Ted: “Remember what you said to me?”
Beard: “Your goatee makes it look like you ate out Bigfoot’s butthole.”
Ted: “That’s right.”
Roy: “AKA ‘ass-squatch.’”
Ted: “You’re on fire.”
Roy: “Make it stop.”
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t blinking over the fact that a bottle of ‘34 Chateau Cheval Blanc Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru (the multiple bottles of wine Rebecca happily puts on Jack’s bill) goes for somewhere in the vicinity of 2K, she can be found on Twitter here.