By Kaleena Rivera | TV | April 20, 2023 |
By Kaleena Rivera | TV | April 20, 2023 |
After getting absolutely trounced in a “friendly” (a non-competitive match) played in Amsterdam, Dutchman Jan Mass is interviewed by the press and, as usual, plays it straight:
Interviewer: “Would you agree that this has been an extremely demoralizing result?”
Jan: “Yes. But luckily our spirits were already broken.”
Meme potential aside, Jan’s response is a slightly exaggerated version of how I felt going into this week. After a positively dispiriting episode last week, it would have taken only the tiniest push to bring things back on an upward swing. Sure enough, by the time the credits rolled on this episode filled with laughter, romance, and low-stakes adventure, I felt satiated once more. But like an evening filled with numerous desserts polished off with an entire bottle of wine, the rush of deliciousness that flooded my senses began to dissipate, and by the next morning I found myself with that distinct “I definitely overdid it” sensation.
Much of this has to do with the sheer bloat the final season has taken on; once regularly clocking in somewhere around a half hour with the occasional foray into 40 minutes, this season has gone past the 45-minute mark without fail. ‘Sunflowers,’ however, clocks in at just over an hour, a run time typically reserved for intricate dramas á la Succession. For a production that’s long claimed that three seasons would suffice to tell their story, the mad dash to fit as many ideas and pairings as possible, stretching an already-supersized season into supersized episodes, makes me wonder if perhaps Jason Sudeikis and co. shouldn’t have conceded and simply signed on for a fourth season.
In screenwriting, a television plot structure typically consists of an A, and B plot, with the central storyline occupying the A slot while other members of the ensemble engage in a side plot designated as B. Even a C plot can make an appearance, time permitting. The latest Ted Lasso is alphabet soup, going all the way to F. Taken separately, each of them sport their own charm, even if it doesn’t impact the big picture. But as sweetly whimsical as the show can be, choices need to be made when it comes to the final product. The pairing of Higgins and Will is lovely and all, but did we need an homage to jazz stuffed into a story that’s already accommodating multiple side plots? Watching the team spend quality time together is humorous commentary on the challenge of finding a single activity that a large group can agree upon is fun, but with so much else happening, my editor heart is fully aware that this is easily trimmed fat (despite the wholesomeness of grown men engaging in a pillow fight).
There are some valuable narrative inroads made, however. It’s been three episodes since Jamie and Roy’s Rocky/Mickey dynamic began to take shape, and we’ve been waiting patiently for it to pay off. It pays some dividends when Roy is forced to admit that he never learned to ride a bike as a child because his grandfather died. Though Jamie’s initial instinct is to laugh uproariously (the expression of disbelief Phil Dunster initially displays is priceless), his newly minted compassion kicks in, and he makes it his mission to teach Roy in a sequence set to “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.” While I would have loved it if they’d committed to the bit and gone full Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid by having Jamie ride on Roy’s handlebars, I’m happy to make do with Roy’s attempt to wield a bicycle as a weapon. Jamie, in turn, confides to Roy that his knowledge of Amsterdam is due to two very different childhood vacations, one with his abusive father, one with his beloved mother. While extremely sad, it also shows how remarkable it is that Jamie has managed to become an even half-decent human being.
Vying for a spot in the A plot is Rebecca’s magical evening, courtesy of a very unexpected dip into a canal. I’ve been vocal about my dislike of the psychic storyline, but I am willing to make an allowance for the “upside down and drenched” prediction thanks to it ushering in one of the dreamiest, rom com-iest plots in the entire series’ run. In a classic meet cute, a now-drenched Rebecca winds up on a very good-looking Dutchman’s (the character is never named but is played by Matteo van der Grijn) houseboat so she can dry off.
Over the course of the hours it takes to dry her clothes (a sacrifice that comes with conveniently-sized appliances), the two proceed to have an evening filled with drinks, food, and conversation. “Gezellig,” as this charming man mentions repeatedly, a term alluding to the companionable coziness they find themselve sharing. Upon waking up the next morning, having fallen asleep on the couch thanks to a combination of alcohol and an extremely sexy foot massage, Rebecca departs without exchanging names or contact information. It’s a mildly frustrating choice, but between the romance of it all and this gentleman almost certainly being set up as her end game—the frilly pink bedroom gives away exactly how Rebecca will achieve her dream of motherhood—it’s a mystery that I’m certain will eventually reveal itself.
Ted gets to have a bit of the spotlight once again, though his Dutch adventure is more emotionally reserved than any of the episode’s other storylines. After gulping down a mug of drug-infused tea (having been abandoned by Beard, who reappears in the morning in a pun-steeped costume), Ted visits the Van Gogh museum before fulfilling his heart’s true desire by dining at the Yankee Doodle Burger Barn, complete with an absurd quantity of food and 50 Nifty United sauces to choose from (the Puerto Rican queso is a bemusingly eyebrow-raising touch). In a slightly silly bit—made more so by the later reveal that there was no active drug in the tea—involving an educational hallucination, Ted recalls how Chicago Bulls Assistant Coach Tex Winter developed a triangle offense. The flash of insight inspires him to put pen to paper (lucky thing he had that Van Gogh notebook gifted to him), and soon he’s passionately scribbling down a number of plays based on that very same offense.
This new array of maneuvers will probably be exactly what AFC Richmond needs to change things around for them. I hope the same can be said for the show. Because much like how Ted is fully capable of being a good coach when he calls upon his previous sports experience, Ted Lasso works best when it expands upon previously established narratives. The Colin and Trent pairing is an excellent example of the show creating a mosaic out of the pieces it’s scattered around (damn near everyone called that Trent would also be gay). I would have loved for it to get a little more screen time, because Colin confiding about the difficulty he has existing in two separate worlds (“An ache for both my lives to be my only life”) was genuinely moving. Moving forward, I hope the series concentrates more on these powerful moments and better resists the urge to indulge in what seems to be every idea proposed in the writers’ room. Because if so, they’ll have a good chance of closing out the back half of a season that’s struggled to find its focus and inspiration.
Will: “Oh, no. It’s like the time I was front and center at an improv comedy show. Are they gonna make a song about how I look like an altar boy?”
Ted: “Hey, where in the States are you from?”
Restaurant Host: “Melbourne.”
Wait Staff: “Yankee Doodle Burger Barn Happyyy Birthday / Yankee Doodle Burger Barn Happy Birthday, Mel! / World War II was wonnn by Americaaa / But the West was liberated thanks to Canadaaa!”
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When part of her isn’t wishing that the eventual spin off series can revolve around the Yankee Doodle Burger Barn staff (“F*cking hate Derek”), she can be found on Twitter here.