(many a spoiler for episode 11 of Ted Lasso ahead)
It’s game time! Or, rather, game over. But it ends on a great note, with Sam Obisanya solidifying his status as a full-blown superstar by scoring three goals, continuing the team’s recent hot streak. Amazingly, Richmond is now one win away from getting reinstated back into the Premier League. He’s on cloud nine, even after receiving a congratulatory text from Rebecca, though her courteous sign off leaves him a bit disappointed. That’s the hard thing about breakups and breaks: for quite some time afterwards, there’s the lingering hope that the other person will decide to change their mind.
In Rebecca’s office, she and Keeley are celebrating the fact that Keeley is going to be featured in a special business issue of Vanity Fair as a star on the rise. But the merriment stops short when Rebecca gets word from Leslie that a Ghanian billionaire named Edwin Akufo (played by the lovely Sam Richardson) possibly wants to buy the club. Upon his (splashy) arrival, however, he makes it clear that it’s not AFC Richmond he’s interested in, but Sam. The offer would come with a great deal of money, as well as provide Sam the opportunity to live and work much closer to his family. Rebecca is clearly panicked; not only would the team be losing their star player, but she would likely never see Sam anywhere besides a television screen ever again. The problem is too big for her to handle alone, and so she finally comes clean to Ted that she and Sam had “a torrid affair,” which is the juiciest possible way to ever convey that sort of information. He takes it surprisingly well (“Sam and Rebecca are already one of my all-time favorite TV couples. To have one of them in real life [whistles], yes please!”) though he ultimately tells her that neither he nor anyone else, Sam included, can tell her what step to take next. Rebecca needs to listen to her gut on this one.
Down in the coaches’ office, Nate, after giving Kitman Will some more grief (with Beard looking on), talks to Ted about a new team tactic. Despite Ted’s approval, once he’s gone, Nate finally gives voice to the dark ambition that’s been festering in him all season: he feels like he’s under Ted’s shadow and would like to run things. It’s mildly surprising that he would expect Roy and Beard to commiserate with him, though Nate’s reached a level of self-involvement that’s made it nearly impossible for him to think about anyone else’s feelings but his own at this point.
We see this again later, after Nate goes to ask Keeley for assistance purchasing a new suit (his now-familiar grey suit having been credited to Ted one too many times for his liking). With her Vanity Fair shoot happening later that evening, she decides they should make a day of it and go shopping together. “God, this place is so posh,” Nate says of the fancy boutique they’re in. “I feel like I’m not supposed to be here.” This isn’t a display of insecurity. On the contrary, he couldn’t be happier about it, and it’s actually what appeals most to him. What’s been so off-putting (performance-wise, however, it’s brilliant) about Nate’s arc is his greedy pleasure at making it to ‘the other side,’ this mythical platform of prestige and fame. What’s also disturbing is the vast difference in the way he treats someone like Keeley, a former model-turned-PR maven, from Kitman Will. It’s a solid demonstration of how so many abusers operate and is easily the most unsettling aspect of Nate’s heel turn. The most shocking development, however, is when Keeley is adjusting his tie and, after being hyped up by her (the way any good friend would), he goes in for a kiss. You can see the idea to do it take shape in his mind before he finally commits to acting it out, never mind Keeley’s feelings on the matter. He apologizes immediately after, though it never feels like contrition as much as it’s simply a means of covering over the fact that she clearly wasn’t into it. All it does is make Keeley work to reassure him to try and make him feel better about what he has just done, as though he merely stepped on her toe by accident. It’s his greatest breach of trust in the season. Thus far.
It’s Dr. Fieldstone—Sharon’s—final day at Richmond, and Ted wants to give her a big surprise send off. I don’t have a problem admitting that Ted coaching the team on how to perform NSync’s “Bye, Bye, Bye” choreography is the highlight of my week (their collective roar of triumph at finally nailing it had me replaying the scene over and over just to watch what each team member does). Unfortunately, Ted discovers that Sharon has already left. Worse yet, she’s gone without saying goodbye, which, to a man like Ted, is one of the most hurtful things one can do to him. She made a point to write parting letters to everyone, with Leslie (or “Higgy Stardust,” as I’m tempted to call him from here on out) handing Ted the one addressed to him. He refuses to read it, opting instead to storm out in order to confront her.
With Rebecca’s unwillingness to let Edwin buy out Sam’s contract, Edwin, clearly a clever man, makes the undeniable point that the choice should be up to Sam himself. The two men set off, with Edwin doing the absolute most to woo Sam. His wealth and influence is apparent, from buying out the actor-filled museum—it’s hard to make a positive ID on the man Sam recognizes from I May Destroy You, though it’s a fun shout out seeing as how Sarah Niles also starred in the Michaela Coel-helmed series—to having a pop up restaurant specializing in West African food (complete with the very real Ghanaian vs. Nigerian jollof rice debate). But it’s not the money that attracts Sam; it’s his identity and, with it, the chance to play a vital role in helping an all-African football club create history. Needing to think on it, he leaves Edwin without giving an answer just yet, though his decision is not made the least bit easier with the appearance of Rebecca waiting outside his door. I feel conflicted about this scene. On one hand, she’s being honest with both of them, which at least minimizes the possibility of regret, but on the other hand, he deserves to primarily think of himself when it comes to making such a life-changing decision, especially when the two aren’t together.
Roy goes to pick up Phoebe from school but didn’t get the memo that the kids were let out early. After inquiring about the kids’ art hanging and asking about Phoebe’s, he’s shocked to discover that her art couldn’t be displayed, and more shocked still that her art consists of nudes (side note: Phoebe might be a prodigy because they’re quite technically proficient, far beyond a child of her years). Also it seems pretty clear that Phoebe’s teacher has a bit of a thing for Roy, likely to do with the fact that she’s got a working pulse. She smoothly asks if he’s married, to which he replies that he is not. It’s the correct answer, but an incomplete one, as he opts to not mention that he’s in a serious relationship with Keeley. It’s not the worst thing he could do, but it’s not exactly cool, either.
The Chancellor of Charcoal (Grey) arrives a bit late to the photoshoot at the house. Keeley is fretting over the shoot (though I can’t help but wonder if she isn’t also still shaken over the incident with Nate earlier) and the fact that it’s not a simple modeling job, it’s highlighting who she is as a person. Roy soothes her nerves, and she goes on to have a successful shoot. But when they finally get a private moment, intimately posed with direct eye contact, Keeley tells Roy about what happened with Nate during their shopping trip. I do find it interesting she phrased it as Nate “tried” to kiss her, though I allow that it’s okay to hold back since it’s unnecessary to reveal the entire truth, especially since it wouldn’t help in any way. Roy, secure in his relationship, is more bemused than anything else. Roy then confesses that he spent three hours(!) talking to Phoebe’s teacher and that he didn’t divulge his relationship status when asked. It’s hard to read Keeley at this moment, but it certainly bothers her a little. That’s when she lets out the big confession that happened in the previous episode: that Jamie told her that he’s in love with her. This is very different from what happened with Nate, which seems almost cute in comparison (lack of consent notwithstanding). In an amazing demonstration of nonverbal acting, Keeley and Roy can only stare at one another in fear and sadness over the fact that their relationship, something that is so powerful and has improved both of their lives for the better, may very well be in real distress.
Ted catches Sharon near her flat, and once they’re upstairs, he lets her have it. It’s bad enough that her leaving early has ruined his elaborate send-off plans (“You know how hard it is to get grown men to learn choreography?!”), but it’s also hit him in one of his vulnerable spots, namely, feeling abandoned by people. Sharon points out that she addressed all of these points within the letter she wrote for him. Angrily, Ted finally opens it and begins reading. To his surprise, the letter indeed says everything that needed to be said, although we, the audience, aren’t privy to it. There’s no big send off to be had, but they get the next best thing, which is some pints at the Crown & Anchor. Under the guise of using the restroom, Ted turns the tables on her and leaves without saying goodbye, just a simple hand-written “goodbye” note and a pint glass with a small green Army man inside.
Now home, likely feeling a bit blue over a friend now gone, but still having had a pleasant evening, Ted receives a text message. It’s from Trent Crimm, The Independent, and it’s bad news: they’re running a story on Ted suffering a panic attack during the FA Cup match based on information provided by an anonymous source. Trent giving him the heads up is partly out of courtesy considering their professional relationship, as well as a chance to grab a comment from Ted. But Trent continues, and in a major departure from fundamental journalism practice, he writes the following:
“As a journalist, I had to write that. But as someone who respects you…My source was Nate.”
Despite the fact that the entire season has taken painstaking care to lay out all of the pieces to form this final picture, it doesn’t make this moment any less devastating. Ted writes a simple “No comment,” and as he exits the frame to the sound of Radiohead’s “Karma Police,” we’re left to wonder how he will even begin to cope with this monumental betrayal.
That, my friends, is the penultimate episode. Sarah Niles’ presence will be missed. I’ve grown very fond of Dr. Sharon Fieldstone. Speaking of missing people, I fear we may have to prepare for the strong possibility of Sam Obisanya leaving as well, although imagining a Sam-less AFC Richmond is almost unthinkable. It may break Rebecca’s heart a bit, but there’s little reason for Sam to stay. But for the Ted Lasso writing team, one broken heart isn’t enough. Nay, all of our hearts need to be in peril, thanks to the threat hanging over Keeley and Roy’s relationship. But as much as it would hurt, the fact of the matter is that they would both eventually be fine. What Nate’s done, however, I truly can’t imagine coming back from that. When Ted discovered Rebecca’s betrayal, it was on her terms and included a heartfelt apology (as referenced earlier in Ted’s office). But what Rebecca did was conniving and insensitive. Nate was simply cruel. Even if Nate expressed nothing but the deepest contrition—which, barring a complete road to Damascus moment, I don’t see happening—we’ve now seen enough of Ted’s rage to know that there’s little chance of forgiveness on his part. We now have one episode, the big finale, ahead of us. I’m certain Nate will be leaving the team but who else may follow in his steps remains to be seen.
Ted: “Congrats, Keeley. That’s going to be a Vanity Fair to remember.”
Ted: “Trickle down economics may stink, but trickle down support smells like pizza, roses, and, I assume, Viola Davis.”
Roy: “Fuuuuuuuuuuuu….nnn. That’s fun, innit?”
Ted: “You spelled ‘favorite’ wrong.”
Ted: “They make good harmony, like two-thirds of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony”
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t looking to see if Kelechi Nwaneri, the artist whose work Sam and Edwin admire, has an online presence (he has an Instagram), you can find her on Twitter here.
Header Image Source: Apple TV+