Hello, party people! We’re officially at the halfway mark for the season. Clearly, we’ve had quite the time jump as well, as the episode opens with AFC Richmond clinching their fourth straight win. The winning streak is credited to the “Roy Kent Effect,” with Roy being the newest addition to the coaching staff. With their upcoming FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham—who, from the sound of it, are tough opponents—it seems like they’re going to need every advantage they can get. Speaking of getting it, [bites lip smugly] Rebecca is relaxing in bed with her phone (still chatting with her mysterious Bantr match) while a naked man named Luca (Oliver Savile) fixes her a cup of tea in the kitchen. She chides Luca to put on some clothes as her cleaner, Mina (Ruth D’Silva), is due to arrive any moment. Mina does indeed arrive, but not before Rebecca’s mother, Deborah (Harriet Walter), makes a thoroughly unexpected visit, brought on by the fact that she has left Rebecca’s father. When Deborah later provides the specifics to Rebecca, with Ted and Keeley standing by, Rebecca simply shrugs, informing them that this happens with some regularity, with the pair reconciling each time.
Meanwhile, everyone at AFC Richmond seems to be in grand spirits, save for Coach Beard, who’s clearly exhausted. It turns out that he’s back with Jane (Phoebe Walsh, who is also the series’ executive story editor), which all the Diamond Dogs (plus Roy) congratulate him for, except for Leslie, who keeps it real because let’s be honest, that sort of off-and-on situation rarely ends well. Later, the team trains out on the pitch, and Colin makes a kick that goes wild, prompting Nate to respond by calling him a “dolt.” At this point, I think it’s safe to say that Nate is going full Dark Side over here. More damning is that a second before that, you can hear Jamie—as in Jamie freaking Tartt—give an encouraging, “Chin up, lads!” Ted notices but opts to remain quiet, as Roy simply doles out profanity-riddled, but constructive, technique. The players are almost giddy to be coached by their former captain, but Nate is clearly in the throes of jealousy. It is worth noting, however, that all isn’t perfect, as Roy still has a lingering resentment against Jamie, going so far as to refuse to address him.
Back in the office, Coach Beard FaceTimes with Jane. She oh-so-casually (and by “casual,” I mean she seems to call him for this express purpose) mentions that she’s meeting an old uni friend named Finn, who happens to be an underwear model, to have coffee and look over his photos from a recent shoot. As Beard closes the laptop and begins to whimper, an extremely alarmed Leslie, having accidentally eavesdropped on the entire exchange due to his continual floating office status, makes what I presume are Gags of Concern for his friend.
Jamie decides to confront this uneven coaching situation head-on by asking O Snarling One himself why he refuses to coach him. Roy rattles off a host of reasons and Jamie, utilizing Keeley’s suggestion to simply go along with anything Roy complains about as a means of defusing him, concedes each point. Roy catches on quickly, and soon the two are full-throated shouting in the locker room. Ted intervenes and after some pushing, Roy finally discusses Jamie’s problem: in trying to be too much of a team player, i.e. overcorrecting his bad behavior, Jamie’s tamped down on his natural ability. Or as Roy puts it, “‘Cause, Jamie, deep down, at your core, you are a prick. So just be a prick.” Jamie is a little too excited at the prospect of no longer checking himself (Phil Dunster’s use of barely withheld glee to deliver, “So I can go back to being a prick?” is delightful), but Roy declares he will signal to Jamie the appropriate moment to be a prick. I appreciate the notion of wielding assertiveness and (measured) aggression in constructive ways. Assertion gets shit done and seems to be an emerging theme for the season. With what’s happening with Nate and his unhealthy use of it, it would stand to reason that someone like Roy could be the one to get his head back on straight.
While Rebecca texts her friend Luca, the Bantr Match messages her again. She asks straight out about exposing their identities, a perfectly natural question seeing as how they’ve been chatting pretty much daily for what’s presumably been weeks now. Bantr Match plays coy, however, which means that we’re probably in for a surprise when we finally do find out, since the intention is clearly to draw the mystery out for as long as possible.
But there’s no time for love, Doctor Jones, because today’s the FA Cup quarter-final. Neither AFC Richmond nor Tottenham Hotspur have scored in the first half-hour of the game. After a few flubbed maneuvers, Ted and Roy decide that it’s time to give Jamie the signal. Unfortunately, no one has actually come up with one. In a brilliant display of coach hive-mind, Ted, Nate, Beard, and Roy simultaneously give Jamie the bird (with Ted adorably half-concealing his middle finger with his jacket). Prick Jamie has now been activated and immediately comes up with a strategy, which consists of clever moves and getting a foul. It works, of course, but now Prick Jamie has to execute the tricky part of his plan, which is to score a goal from what appears to be an impossibly far distance. No one believes it’s possible. All except for Roy, who knows that Jamie’s gonna do it. It’s a wonderfully suspenseful scene, with the camera level with his feet slowly backing away, giving himself enough room for his running start. The whistle sounds and his foot connects with the ball. After a thrilling flight (an extraordinary amount of precision considering the distance), it lands squarely into the opponent’s net. It’s a glorious moment. The crowd explodes into cheers, AFC Richmond is joyous. Even Dr. Fieldstone gets a bit swept away in it. Ted walks over to Roy, but not before lightly pushing Nate out of the way. It’s a tiny gesture, the sort that Ted or anyone in his position wouldn’t even be able to remember if asked later. But for Nate, it’s another barb to the heart, and although he works to shake it off, it’s clear that he’s aching for a bit of approval.
While the crowd is still cheering with cries of “Jamie Tartt, DOO-DOO-DOO-DOO-DOO!” ringing in the air, things are calmer where Leslie and Rebecca are seated. That is until Leslie makes that Gag of Concern again. “Your noise is back,” Rebecca observes. After Leslie confides that he wants to warn Beard of his situation with Jane, Rebecca cautions him against it: “It doesn’t help and you’ll only be punished for it.” We then wind up getting more insight into Rebecca’s situation with her mother, as she recounts the first time that Deborah left her father. Rebecca was at uni and expressed her happiness and approval to her mother for having the strength to leave an unhappy marriage. Though upon the two reconciling, we find out that Deborah didn’t speak to Rebecca for the better part of a year, which is awful. Probably the only thing more awful than Jane herself, what with Keeley returning to her seat and divulging how Jane once followed her home to ask her if Beard and Ted had a thing going on. I’m firmly Team Breakup, but there’s a good chance that as much as Leslie may wish to hasten the process, things will have to naturally run their course.
Down on the pitch, spirits are still high. That is until Ted starts experiencing another panic attack. This couldn’t happen at a worse time, and he quickly sees himself off. As unorthodox as it is for a head coach to leave in the midst of a heated match, it’s easy for everyone to assume that he’s having gastrointestinal distress. Rebecca knows better, however, and she dashes off to check on him. Meanwhile, as Richmond is distracted, Tottenham scores a goal. It’s time to scramble, and as Roy and Beard try to figure out a strategy, Nate’s already got an idea. But his timidity, likely worsened by the recent knock against his self-esteem, is holding him back. Suddenly he rallies himself (again, with the spitting) and starts calling the shots, swapping players out and commanding Isaac to “Park the Bus.” Roy and Beard are too caught off guard to argue. It’s a brilliant call because it lands Richmond the goal they need to take the match, but we never get to see a moment of it, because we’re with Rebecca the entire time she searches for Ted in the locker room and offices. I was initially stymied by this creative decision (who doesn’t want to see what “Park the Bus” looks like in practice?), but I soon realized it was a fantastic addition to the narrative. One of the common struggles with mental illness is the fact that it can often deprive you of life moments. What better way to empathize with Ted not being able to be with his team as they make their most important win of the season than us not being able to see it either? When Dr. Fieldstone, making a last-minute stop at her office, unexpectedly comes upon Ted lying in the dark while clutching a pillow and looking bereft, it’s both harrowing and a bit of a relief, especially when he finally asks her for that long-awaited appointment.
There was a LOT happening in this episode. As much as I love the sweet feelings and awesome relationship building, it’s nice to have some big sports moments injecting some adrenaline into the proceedings. There are a lot of faux-happy endings going on as well, what with Beard quickly pushing aside Leslie’s wise counsel and leaving with Jane, and Nate beaming from having his moment in the spotlight at last. But we know that Jane is toxic and there’s no chance for the situation to work out, and as for Nate, although he has good reason to be proud, we all know that him seeking out his name on social media means that nothing but trouble awaits. With AFC Richmond now heading off to the FA Cup semi-final, the stakes are getting higher and higher. Things are only going to get more intense, so brace yourselves, people.
Oh, one last thing:
FOLKS WHO SAID THE BANTR MATCH WAS SAM, STAND UP AND TAKE A BOW. What a development. We’ll have plenty of time to dig around all the potential implications later, but for now, feel free to bask in your smugness. It’s well earned.
Ted: “Boy, I love meeting people’s moms. It’s like reading an instruction manual as to why they’re nuts.”
Jamie: “I don’t really know how to talk to you.”
Coach Beard: “Then it’s working.”
Jamie: “I’m trying to build bridges here!”
Roy: “You couldn’t fucking build…Jeff Bridges!”
Rebecca: “I mean, she’s a bit intense but she’s adorable. Like a tipsy Reese Witherspoon playing Running Charades.”
Arlo White: “We apologize for the fruity sign language.”
Chris Powell: “It seems like Lasso’s really settled into our culture.”
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t Googling what the heck Running Charades is (apparently it’s literally charades with running; why you would want to ruin a perfectly decent game by adding the world’s worst cardiovascular activity is beyond me), she can be found on Twitter here.
Header Image Source: Apple TV+