(spoilers for episode 9, season 3)
Friendship has always been a prevalent theme throughout Ted Lasso. It helped Rebecca overcome her worst inclinations in the wake of her painful divorce (thanks to both Ted and Keeley), provided the glue that holds the Diamond Dogs together, and became the delightful outcome of Roy’s enemy-turned-protégé relationship with Jamie Tartt. But, with the exception of locker room one-liners here and there, individual relationships within AFC Richmond have garnered little air time save for memorable moments like the charming Nerf gun fight last Christmas. With the test of friendship that was set up last week between Colin and Isaac, series fans are finally treated to a substantial conflict and resolution between teammates. Even more than that, however, there is also the intersection where friendship and identity meet.
On a narrative level (much improved over last week), the various plotlines are working in greater tandem, much of which is owed to the fact that our core cast is beginning to feel more firmly established in the positions they’re in. Granted, it’s taken three-quarters of a season, but better late than never. Roy, in particular, has felt unmoored from any specific storylines. He’s been relegated to little more than a background character this season, save for the moments designed to let Jamie shine (bike riding lessons in Amsterdam, for instance). It’s been a rocky journey otherwise, with one particularly out-of-character moment raising many an eyebrow. For a while there, it looked as though the more unlikeable aspects of Roy had started becoming a pattern, with this week’s variation in the form of flagrant insubordination when Rebecca asks him to head a press conference. I can excuse his characteristic “F*ck no,” (despite it being directed at his boss) but brushing it off after receiving clear instructions, followed by hostility (“What the f*ck is your problem?”) when Rebecca is naturally frustrated over his defiance, left me wondering if an exorcism is in order.
Looking at his arc over the course of the episode, as well as Rebecca’s pointed comment about Keeley back in “Sunflowers” (“Somewhere that believes they deserve her”), â€‹helps us understand that the breakup not only had an adverse effect on him but is also indicative of even deeper issues. I wish there had been more time dedicated to showing Roy wrestling with feeling a lack of self-worth, seeing as how this was a topic that wasn’t really broached in previous seasons. But by the end of the episode, Roy’s characterization lands in a nice place, a very Ted-like press conference speech that allows us to get a rare detailed glimpse into his past and a very Roy-like immense capability for compassion.
As jarring as Roy’s jerk period is, it mercifully heralds the return of Rebecca “Boss Ass Bitch” Welton. While I do enjoy Romantic Rebecca, along with Supportive Friend Rebecca, I’ve missed the hell out of Business Rebecca. She’s had so few times to demonstrate her savviness this season, it’s almost easy to forget that up until now she’s been an active participant in the club’s goings-on.
I was very ready for that Rebecca, she of the, “Get your hairy arse into my office!” roar, to chime in on the subject of Jack once Keeley finally confirmed that she’s gone for good. Opening up the door for complete honesty in regard to her now-ex should have given us something juicier than Higgins’ passing mention of her too-firm handshake, especially from Rebecca. Her lack of anger directed toward Jack has been a surprise, though her appalled, “So much blue,” is nicely done. For someone who’s merely “heart-bent” over being ghosted, those are an awful lot of one-sided texts, Keeley.
The current sole relationship plot, Nate and Jade, continues to develop in pleasantly surprising ways, beginning first and foremost with how very unimpressed Jade was over Rupert. Jade’s less than enthused reaction to meeting him is due in part to the fact that she isn’t effusive by nature, but her, “He seems very wealthy,” followed by the “nice-like” observation is the very definition of damning with the faintest of praise.
It appears Jade is waiting for Nathan to come to his own conclusion, a process that’s begun sooner rather than later. Rupert’s, “Would you look at that smile?” is nauseating, though Nate’s face only really begins to waver at that vicious ‘compliment’ about her being out of his league. But Nate is more than willing to cling to the hope that Rupert will eventually prove to be a friend—what a difference from the shrinking presence Nate had once been, a kit man astounded by the mere notion of a coach learning his name. That hope comes crashing down when he arrives at a swanky bar for their “guys’ night,” which turns out to be code for hooking up with random women. There have been times when I’ve questioned the cartoonishly awful nature of Rupert, and this incident is no exception. Rupert as a serial philanderer is absolutely to be expected, but testing Nate’s monogamy is a new level of awful. Once it’s framed as a means of ascertaining the amount of control Rupert has over him, the scenario does hold more water.
It does lead to one of the episode’s sweeter moments: when a shocked and gravely disappointed Nate begins to see the writing on the wall, he goes to Jade’s place, and rather than reaffirm their romantic status, he embraces her in a mixture of comfort and relief for their mutual affection as well as the fact that Jade is one of the few genuine people who reside in his orbit.
The central dynamic this week is, of course, Colin and Isaac. I admit that I wasn’t sure of what to make of Isaac’s rejection of every single one of Colin’s attempts to reach out. My initial reaction was that there’s something teeth-grinding over Isaac’s positioning of himself as the aggrieved party in Colin’s coming out story, but subsequent viewings added an additional perspective; namely, that there’s a near infinite number of reactions that people are capable of expressing upon discovering that someone they previously believed they knew has withheld a major component of their identity. For Isaac, his affection for a dear friend was clouded by not the secret itself but the implications of how he may be perceived as a person, which itself conflicts with his inability to be vulnerable.
Like many acts of acceptance, it’s one that’s a work in progress, though a positive one thanks to the fact that despite his admitted hang-ups, Isaac is committed to becoming a better person. It’s arguably the series’ most dominant theme, which on the surface seems at odds with the emerging theme of making peace with oneself (this episode closes out with “I Am What I Am” from La Cage Aux Folles). But bettering oneself as a person, as counterintuitive as it may seem, is almost as reliant on self-acceptance as it is on acknowledging what shortcomings need to be attended to. “I’m trying be less f*cking stuck in my ways,” Roy says at the beginning of the episode, before going on to admit that the change he was loath for the team to undergo has turned out to be a wonderful thing (almost as wonderful as Beard’s brilliant mock faint shortly thereafter). For a show that’s felt stuck in a number of ways, this motif is a welcome expansion of its already-established direction. As Ted tells it, “You know, they’re having fun, we’re having fun, these folks are having fun. It’s a whole bunch of fun.”
Beard: “I haven’t seen 22 dudes have this good a time on grass since I saw the Grateful Dead jamming with the Black Crows and Phish.”
Jade: “Thank you. It’s actually short for ‘Jaded.’ My mother named me after her favorite aunt. But I don’t care.”
Beard: “I mean, Joe Walsh is a poet. Jimmy Page is a f*cking court stenographer on Adderall.”
Trent: “Don’t forget, you’ve known you were gay for 20 years.”
Colin: “Much longer than that. Once I was out of my Mum, I never looked back.”
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t fawning over how perfect Jamie’s reaction when the question of his sexuality arises (“I’m flattered”), she can be found on Twitter here.