film / tv / politics / social media / lists / web / celeb / pajiba love / misc / about / cbr
film / tv / politics / web / celeb

Keeley-Ted Lasso-episode 5.jpg

'Ted Lasso' is Dealing With a Bad Losing Streak

By Kaleena Rivera | TV | April 13, 2023 |

By Kaleena Rivera | TV | April 13, 2023 |

Keeley-Ted Lasso-episode 5.jpg

(spoilers for episode 5, season 3)

In this week’s cold open, it’s revealed that AFC Richmond is in the midst of a seven-week-long losing streak. Zava’s immense talent hasn’t been able to make up for the team’s collapsed spirit ever since that disaster of a match with West Ham. With loss after loss and no hope of improvement in sight, some, Higgins included, have begun to wonder if a change in leadership isn’t necessary. It’s hard to fault this line of thought; if Rebecca set aside her friendship with Ted, she would be similarly inclined. But her affection for him has solidified her loyalty enough that moving on isn’t even an option.

To borrow from the oft-quoted Oscar Wilde, life imitates art. Because were it not for the years of goodwill the show’s engendered, it would be difficult to argue why Ted Lasso should see the rest of the season through.

It’s tough talk, especially given how much dross occupies the television landscape. Compared to the average offering, Ted Lasso still reliably provides a better viewing experience. But with two seasons under its belt, there’s more than enough room to compare it to itself, and at this current juncture, it’s under-delivering.

I’ve written before about the speed bumps that the last-minute influx of secondary characters has placed on the final season and how this time would have been better spent focusing on our already-established ensemble. Now the situation’s only been exacerbated by plot lines that seem to have been dropped out of the sky. Well, in the case of Zava, more like being abducted by aliens. Because after dedicating a considerable amount of (mostly fruitless) time to him, all the pomp and circumstance amounts to him just … leaving.

Zava isn’t the only new hire to leave this week, though Shandy’s exit at least packed something of a punch. But the humorous dramatics fell short, due in part to how off-key it feels compared to the rest of the show’s tone, but mainly because I’m hard-put to think of a character I’m happier to see the back of than Shandy. There were a number of directions her storyline could have gone in, but the writers somehow landed on the one that’s the most bizarre (and the less said about that profoundly unfunny lamb prank, the better).

It’s an especially sore point because it also highlights just how Keeley’s entire existence seems to have gone off-course. Her evolution was expected, even a bit welcome, but when you have an ecosystem of characters that work as well as they have here, it’s unwise to disturb that delicate balance unless something of much greater potential awaits. As of right now, there’s nothing to suggest that any of this was worth removing Keeley from the central group dynamic. Even Keeley herself seems to have become a shadow of who she once was, her formerly astute and ambitious self replaced by a ‘lost babe in the woods’ persona.

Which leads me to the question that plagues me the most: why is Jack Danvers here? On a narrative scale, I understand the purpose is to complicate Keeley’s love life—their mutual attraction was obvious from their first meeting, though the fact that Jack is her boss is a point that folks who were vociferous over their disapproval towards Sam and Rebecca have been strangely quiet about—as well as introduce another powerful female figure to provide mentorship for the fledgling business owner. What I actually want, however, is an explanation as to why the head of a venture capitalist firm has so much time to hang out at one lone startup. The incredulity of the scenario, coupled with what looks to be the making of yet another love triangle (a trope that’s rarely rewarding) despite the fact that Jack has accrued little emotional investment, robs their big romantic moment of any sense of thrill.

The other major record-scratch moment involves Jade, a character that I grew to enjoy once Nate’s villain arc went into full swing. His wishes may be coming true, but here’s at least one person to keep him humble. But just when I start to fully appreciate this bit of balance in the universe, the mean-as-hell Jade is suddenly willing to have a spontaneous date with him. If this series was another genre, say, sci-fi or horror, I would accuse her of being a pod person. The moment doesn’t read as pity either, because no one is that warm to someone they pity, no matter how good the baklava is. It’s a startling turnaround that’s so unearned that the curiosity I feel towards Nate’s arc is on the verge of giving way to dread.

Nearly all of the current concerns can be summed up as issues with characterization, though some of the plots are also struggling to pay off. It’s to Hannah Waddingham’s credit as an actor that Rebecca’s storyline is working at all (that phone call and its immediate aftermath was pitch-perfect). It looks as though the psychic angle is here to stay, which is unfortunate because it possesses all the subtle finesse of that lumbering run-in with her short term romantic partner, John Wingsnight. Rebecca questioning the possibility of her fertility is less of a concern—while I appreciate storylines that permit women to be childless without interrogation, a powerful woman pursuing motherhood is equally realistic—than the shoe horn appearance of “shite in nine-ing armor.”

It’s not all bad. Even though our eponymous coach has been operating in the background for most of the season now, Ted’s “it’s just a sign” monologue serves as a great reminder of why the show appealed to viewers in the first place. It’s a highpoint that runs a close second to Roy’s delightful bully speech (“Then you sneak into their house at 4:00 am, which, statistically speaking, is the hour people are least prepared to defend themselves”), though his understated “Outclass ‘em, Sam” exemplifies the terrific writing opportunities that come when you remember to capitalize on an established character dynamic. Jamie is still operating as the seasons’ unexpected MVP, although his storyline also seems to be stuck in idle, presumably awaiting some major development that’s currently delayed.

Rebecca speaks for most of us when she screams, “Are we ever going to win another f*cking match?!” But unlike her, I’m more inclined to believe Ted when he says, “We’re gonna take that ship, we’re gonna turn around.” I believe it because the series’ ratio of success is substantial enough that with the time still allotted in the season (the excessive run times are a hindrance), there’s still a chance that this ship can indeed be righted. Such is the power of belief.

Best Quotes:

Beard: “Man City. I can’t believe our white whale has the same name as the strip club where I danced in college.”

Ted: “You know, like if your girlfriend runs off with some dude, and it turns out they were soul mates.”
Team: “Yeah.”
Beard: “Gina f*cking Gershon.”

Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t begrudgingly admitting that she would probably sit across from Nate for a platter of baklava, she can be found on Twitter here.