Reminder! Like I said last time, I know people involved with the very heart of making this show so I’m crazy biased / disregard my take / yada yada yada. I just mostly want us to have a space to talk about this show each week and hear what y’all think. Cool? Cool!
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*Insert Cry Face Emoji* Don’t worry, we’ll get to that ending in a minute. For now, let’s just do the usual and go subject by subject.
NATE - I love that sometimes you can tell an episode is going to be good just from the opening song and image alone. Here we see Nate wander into a restaurant as his usual awkward self and it just hits us exactly where we need it. For one, I love when side characters get their lone focus in a show and we see into their lives. For two, it’s an earnest reminder of who this character is at his core (someone who is deeply nervous and unsure). But I’ll also admit that it goes to the point where I was worried for a second. Because we were so back with the timid “season one” Nate that it almost seemed like they were forgetting how they’ve been portraying his little mean streak this season? But of course, this is a show that deserves our confidence precisely because they always come around. And we see the anger come out the moment he “overcorrects” and screams at Keeley as they are doing their practice. Forget confidence, Nate’s someone who has never figured out how to regulate his emotions because he never felt like he could express them. But luckily, he’s got two people ready to help.
I also love that Rebecca’s method of help serves as a nice reminder of where she was at last season, too. Trapped in rooms with truly awful men (like her ex) and having to remind herself that she can deal with them by literally making herself “big” beforehand (which is the same strategy with bears I think?”). It’s not so much the actual posturing. It’s just getting to a good emotional place beforehand. It’s establishing that you have this right to exist and communicate the things you want. Sure, you might not get them, or you just might not get them in the way that you expect, but you can still pursue it. Which gets characterized so well with Nate’s moment in the mirror. Trying to make himself “big” doesn’t work for him, so instead it’s that spitting moment which might seem weird, but is kind of this guttural expression of anger that makes sense in a moment where he’s by himself. After all, anger is a necessary emotion, a way of reminding yourself that you are a person on earth with blood in your veins. And here he goes out confident, but has learned not to let it explode as ire. Instead, he talks positively and begins bargaining and promising that they’ll be out of the way in a reasonably charming way (though of course goes one step too far in asking for the number). Would I ever talk that way to a host or hostess? Never. It’s a little much, honestly. But we understand the way it is right for Nate. And more importantly, we understand who this gesture is really for.
I love shows that clue you into the architecture of how people came to be. From what he described before, it was easy to imagine Nate’s Dad as being all fire and brimstone (and thus why he would fear anger and yet let it erupt sometimes), but it turns out he’s more of a stoic sad sack of negativity. I almost slapped my forehead. It just makes so much sense. The anger doesn’t fit, nor does he have an anger problem because he comes from a home where hate was everywhere but never expressed. And that can be just as impacting. We always imagine the things that define us as being these big traumatic experiences. But often it’s the little things that fill up the space of our everyday lives. The things that fill up every second and are just as hurtful, but they’re so omnipresent we just think they’re normal... Which not only lets us excuse them, it means we don’t think there’s ever a way out of them. But with maturity, soon enough we learn that the only way to win a rigged game is not to play. To that, my favorite moment is when Nate looks at his father after they get a nice table by the window. He’s not even really amused or happy, there’s no “good job” this man could ever offer. But Nate smiles anyway. Because in the end he’s not doing it to please his father, but please himself. And we get to see the beautiful way he carries that confidence…
That is until the last shot when [redacted] happens. I love this choice because it’s very telling of the way the show can make things emotional, but not necessarily pat. Nate gets that moment of confidence, that little victory, but now he’s suddenly confused about his place on the team again. That’s the thing about life. We learn, but it keeps evolving. And we have to evolve with it.
ROM COMS - Ted outlines the thematic ground of the episode pretty damn clearly with his speech about the lovely merits of romantic comedies (here here!). But it’s not just to set up the list of references that will fly fast and furious throughout the episode. It’s more about how the team is in the middle of the forest, not sure of what their destiny will be, but why it’s so important to have zero expectations in the process. Because they have to know that things will “work out.” But not blindly so. Ted still offers that all important caveat, that even though it will work out, it may not work out in the way that you expect. Speaking of which…
REBECCA / THE MESSAGE - Oh god oh god oh god. The moment it cuts to Ted texting and smiling after Rebecca sends the message it’s just like… is this… are they… oh god oh god oh god. I mean, first of all, this might just be a misdirect. Secondly, I have no idea what I thought about this pairing because I haven’t super thought about it and obviously neither have they? But thirdly, there’s also all the obvious reasons to worry. Not just because of the clear conflicts of interest / Sassy history / but the fact that the friendship and work relationship they have is so damn solid. Granted, these things CAN be grounds for meaningful relationships, but it really takes some real grounding / ground rules / etc… Mostly I feel… I feel… nervous!?!? Anyway, it was really just a brief tease and there was so much more going on in the episode. Like with...
ISAAC - As I said, I love when side characters get their focus in an episode. And all of this just clicks so perfectly. Starting with the way Ted pulls Roy into the mix because he needs another “big dog” to deal with this big dog. And then there’s the fun as hell scene where Roy brings Isaac to his childhood home for some real rough play on the playground, specifically with a bunch of hard players who don’t give a fuck about him. What I love is it wasn’t about really humbling him or showing these players are better. Because yeah, Isaac is right, he’s a fucking professional. But it's a reminder that that doesn’t matter. They’re gonna hit him. And more importantly, that Isaac can fucking kick ass and have fun because it’s just a game and all that pressure he was putting on himself doesn’t really matter.
What I also like is that this storyline reminds us of the way that Ted can really be an excellent motivator and DOES have some good solutions for what his players are looking for. Yes, Sharon is such a critical element to the health of this team. But one of the things you talk about in therapy is that sometimes you are spending SO much time in your head that you don’t need to keep going into your head. Sometimes you really do need that kick in the butt. Not literally, mind you. Sometimes it can be the same as breathing in fresh air, going on a walk, and getting sunlight, but for Isaac? It’s playground games. And that fun butt kick is what gets him to finally loosen up about all the pressure he’s been under (the handshake sequence is joy and a nod to Lebron’s leadership). It’s so lovely to see, but ultimately, the wonderful thing about Isaac’s story is that it wasn’t just his story… It was right in lockstep with...
ROY FUCKING KENT - Fucking goosebumps y’all. But once again I want to hammer home how much this catharsis was all about the perfect set up in getting there. We’ve spent half a damn season with Roy away from the game. But crucially, we came to understand why. All the blustery curmudgeon of the surface is just that, the surface. As it’s shown us so many times, he’s also a scared little boy at heart. We saw it the moment right before he tried to be a pundit and asked Keeley, “what if I’m shit?” When you worry about that in your core, it’s easier to push people and the things you love away. And it’s not because he doesn’t want to be involved in football anymore. It’s not because he doesn’t care. It’s because he loves it more than anything else in the world. And to watch him have spent these last five episodes keeping at arm's length has been quietly heartbreaking, because we understand why. He thinks that because he can’t play anymore, a part of him is erased forever. He has no idea how to be a shell of himself. But we know how much he loves it.
Ted knows too. He even says the line that highlights it all: “I would never make you do anything you don’t want to do.” But he knows that Roy wants to. Because we never want the things we love to be far away. Roy learned it a bit when coming back to punditry. It brought him happiness because he was closer to the game… but then his interaction with Isaac reminds him that it’s still not close enough. In a moment of spectacular clarity, he sits there in his seat and eviscerates punditry so simply: “We sit here and guess what a bunch of little pricks are going to do and then come back and complain at halftime that they didn’t do what we thought they’d do.” It’s the armchair. And in the end, he knows where he has to be...
So begins a patented rom-com-esque trek to the stadium with all the hiccups and comedic beats that makes those scenes the climactic sequences they are. But what separates the ones that work from the ones that don’t (and end up feeling like obligatory nonsense) is how much you actually care about the relationship at hand. How much you truly want the two of them to be together. That’s what means everything. But what makes this so powerful is he’s not running to a person... he’s running to football. Yes, he can no longer play as his bum knee teaches him again and again, but as the Rom Com lesson states: just because it’s not going to work out how you thought it was, doesn’t mean it won’t work out. He has to get absolutely as close as he can, close to that beautiful green pitch as he stares through the entrance, close to the fans screaming his name, close to an entire community coming to life, close to Isaac, close to all the people he cares about most. And close to the game that brought all of them together. That’s the thing about football...
It’s his rainbow.
And it puts me in fucking tears, y’all. But the bigger lesson here is not just about the nature of catharsis. No, it’s located in Keeley’s advice to Rebecca about dating where she says it’s best to be unapologetically who you are. And this show is unapologetically what it is. Because Ted Lasso is a show that throws fun references without a hint of moderation, it steeps itself in naked emotion and openness, but then backs it up with genuine insight into the conflicts of being a person on this earth. It knows how hard it is out there. And it certainly knows the victories are fleeting. Which is exactly why it knows to celebrate those victories with reckless abandonment; to be the kind of show that has absolutely no problem with what it is.
And neither do we.
BEST JOKES / RANDOM THOUGHTS
-Ted: “No, I gave you an indoor whistle”
-I had no idea what “piles” were in British lingo before this and good granola.
-All shows have to deal with the albatross of product placement, but I actually like how the Nespresso thing was spun into a dialogue about how athletes always get free shit? Maybe it’s that I literally live off of my Nespresso machine. No, really. It is the single most important thing I own. I’m drinking it right now.
-Speaking of Sharon, I like that she gets to see how Ted can work really well here, but I’m still wishing she gets to have a little more fun? Then again, the second I wrote this I realized she’s now going to have interactions with Roy Kent and that literally makes me laugh just thinking about it.
-I really like how much Jamie is present in this episode, but mostly in the background as “just one of the guys,” which feels more like a beautiful meta point about his integration.
-Love the beat where Rebecca is emotionally vulnerable and then throws her phone and has to tell herself that it’s fine. She also has the best line reading when Keeley tells her she’d look cute in pigtails and she says “I do!” with the most pleasant smile.
-Roy to Ted, who won’t stop talking: “Why won’t you let me be happy?”
-Find it curious they haven’t addressed the fallout with Dubai Air yet and the financial ramifications, but as I keep saying, this show earns our patience.
-The scene where the Kebab guy gives the speech about how being a doctor “wasn’t what I was meant to do” is a really good lesson in set-ups. Namely how important it is to be clear with them. Because I’ll be honest, it felt a little forced in comparison to the show’s usual gracefulness, but when the exact same sentimetnt got echoed by Roy Kent later it landed so, so fucking hard. A clunky set-up can still have a resounding catharsis, which is why I will take abject clarity over vagueness every time.
-Also, the scene where Roy appears directly in front of them when they text was such a great visual gag.
-Keeley, upon seeing Rebecca’s big bear energy: “Let’s invade France”
-Isaac, regarding Roy: “He’s like 24 / 7 hangry.”
-Ted’s little kid energy: “Can I keep score?” / “Fine!” / “I’m gonna use my fingers! It is zero, zero!” / “Nil nil.” / “It’s nil nil!”
-Roy once went on a date with Gina Gershon!!!! It’s canon!
-With the 9 million rom com callback lines I think my favorite is when Ted went for “As you wish!”
-When they went to the fans and did the When Harry Met Sally interview right to the camera I was dying. Once again, they are just totally unapologetic in their rule breaking. I love it.
-“I believe you're holding a ticket for Reba McEntire.” What a fucking pay off to that gag.
-Are Higgins and his wife now my favorite tv couple? The “She’s A Rainbow” story put ‘em in the running, that’s for sure.
-I mentioned it above, but that quiet moment just before Roy steps onto the pitch is everything. Not just because you’re feeling him take it in and emoting alongside it - it’s the way it sets up the calm before the roar of when he steps out there. I keep saying it, but catharsis is all based on set-up folks. Even from little beat to beat.
-So! We’re halfway through this season I think and we’re not only firing on all cylinders, but beginning to understand the shape of how this story has been coming together. Also, having Roy around the clubhouse going forward is so key because he’s someone who brings low-key grumpy conflict to each and every single interaction he has (it’s just in a really fun way). Boy howdy, folks.
I can’t wait.