“We’ll Never Have Paris” stumbles toward emotional truths, sometimes awkwardly.
Big things are afoot at the Dogtrack right away in “We’ll Never Have Paris,” written by Keeley Hazell (aka Bex, scoring her first “Written by” credit here) and Dylan Marron (also his first “Written by” credit) and helmed by Erica Dunton (director of last season’s “The Signal” and surprise powerhouse episode “Rainbows”). Total football has finally come together. The Greyhounds are on a four-game winning streak. Thankfully, we don’t get to see any of it.
I’m not generally a “Where’s the football” guy. It always struck me a bit like focusing on how little paper selling we see on The Office. However, after a montage of the Zava-sparked win streak and footage from a few losing efforts, this frustrated. What may be the savior of Richmond’s season, an affirmation of Ted as a coach, and we don’t see a lick of it?
Instead, we quickly drop into Ted’s (Jason Sudeikis) latest misery. Michelle (Andrea Anders) and Dr. Jake (Mike O’Gorman) are dropping off Henry (Gus Turner) before heading off to Paris. The news surprises Ted as the original plan was they’d be hiking the UK. In very short order, Ted’s surprise becomes certainty. He’s convinced Dr. Jake has called the audible to ask Michelle to marry him in the City of Lights.
He doesn’t find much support when he shares his theory with the Diamond Dogs, who now count Trent (James Lance) among their members, and the DD membership-refusing Roy (Brett Goldstein). Each, to the one, tell Ted he’s worrying about something on the scantest of evidence. Nonetheless, he goes to Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham), requesting she help him hire a private investigator to confirm his suspicions. She similarly tries to reason with him but then eventually agrees. However, she later gives it another shot and triumphs over Ted’s whirring brain. Her point: Michelle is his past, but Henry is still right there, wanting his dad.
Speaking of Henry, he insists he wants to see a football game on the one day his father has off from football. Worse, the only game they can attend is West Ham. Still, Ted wants to make his son happy. Plus, Henry still thinks of Nate (Nick Mohammed) as his dad’s friend. Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) hates it but also goes along for the ride. His objection is expressed by dressing in his Richmond tracksuit. One character who doesn’t hate it is Nate. At the moment, he seems put out or uncomfortable. Off the pitch, though, looking at a photo of the Lassos plus Beard in the stands, the wonder kid cracks a smile. He looks like the kid whose dad finally showed up.
Later, while Ted is on the phone with Rebecca learning why he shouldn’t obsess about his ex, Beard talks to Henry about his parents’ divorce, aided by a busker’s rendition of “Hey Jude.” It’s rare to see Beard express an emotion that isn’t game-related anger and rarer to see it with anyone who isn’t Ted or Jane (Phoebe Walsh). Thus, while the whole “Jude” device is a little clunky, it’s forgivable to see Beard try to promise Henry, without saying the words, that he’ll be there for the kid.
There’s a thing that can happen when you are a fan of a serialized story, whether it be TV, books, comics, or film. You come to like the characters so much you want good things for them. Because of that, it sometimes can be hard to hash out whether a plot development or storyline is bad storytelling or just bad for the character. This week’s episode has several moments of this variety.
Take, for instance, the Keeley (Juno Temple) storyline. In brief, Keeley wakes up one more to news that a video she filmed of herself masturbating for an ex has leaked online. It’s part of a massive hack and leak of several naked videos and images of celebrities of all stripes that The Sun christens “The Great A-wank-ening.” If this sounds familiar, the real world went through a similar event in 2014. Hazell herself also experienced a similar invasion of privacy five years after that.
I immediately bristled at this storyline. The event it mirrors is nearly a decade old, so it felt stale, for one. (Understandably, it doesn’t feel stale for those that have had to go through it. I should try and be more aware of that.) What made it worse is I’ve already waded through internet sludge insisting that the Keeley character only does things through sexual relationships or wailing about her cleavage this season. It sucks to see a storyline about sex and Keeley because it feeds so easily into that narrative.
Is it bad for Keeley, or is it bad storytelling?
On the other hand, it is a thing that has happened and will happen again. And not just to celebs. If you could poll a high school near you (but please don’t!) I am sure you could find a tale or two, at least, of students shamed after a naked picture of them made the rounds. Thus, the conflict. Is it bad for Keeley, or is it bad storytelling?
What is clear is that the leak brings out the worst in many people. Jack (Jodi Balfour) initially seems supportive and helpful, promising Keeley she’ll help fix it. Unfortunately, her “fix” is her father’s lawyer crafting a letter of contrition filled with self-shaming language. When Keeley calls her on it, Jack admits that she knows it sucks too and promises to find a better approach.
Along the same lines, Jack cancels an outing the two had planned to attend a polo match with friends of her family. On the other hand, she proposes they get dressed up, go out, and have fun together somewhere less likely to be already staffed with press. Unfortunately, when an old classmate of hers sees the couple at mini-golf, Jack introduces Keeley as a “friend.” It finally comes to a head when Keeley rejects the new modified statement. Jack makes some fairly shaming comments and leaves, unwilling to share if she plans to return. After several weeks of people speculating Jack might be evil in some way, it turns out she’s just the blandest kind of bad: a judgy, self-centered romantic partner.
The back and forth did raise another bad development or bad writing hackle for me. Keeley’s job is PR. Her entire business is PR. I get that she’s reeling, but this crisis is fully in her wheelhouse. Once Jack was either unable or unwilling to give her the help she wanted, Keeley should’ve been able to put a plan together herself. Or am I just asking for miracles from a human character?
Another Keeley romantic partner who proves a disappointment is Roy. This also gives us another “bad storytelling or just bad thing” moment. I hate that Roy can’t help himself from asking who Keeley made the video for. My kneejerk reaction was something along the lines of “Why make him say that?” But Roy is also a guy who broke up with Keeley, in part because he perceived her as ascending while he was descending. The character is beloved, but that doesn’t mean he has done or will always do the right thing.
The one ex who gets it right is the apparent source of the leak, Jamie (Phil Dunster). Despite his fastidiousness about deleting sexts, it seems he forgot to delete old emails. That, plus a comically bad password, made it easy for the hackers to find Keeley’s sexy video and leak it to the world. He admits fault and, more importantly, is unreservedly in Keeley’s corner. There’s no hedging, no attempting to avoid responsibility, no judgment. Just him saying he should’ve done better.
[This episode] gets a lot of emotional beats right, but sometimes it seems to stumble in making its broader points.
Her best ally, though, unsurprisingly, is Rebecca. Waddingham is on fire in this episode. After several installments of her having her own “is this just an unfortunate development or bad writing” moments, it felt great to see her so in the pocket, giving her friends just what they need. She even lands a funny joke about her own early masturbation experiences.
Keeley’s experience also sparks an interesting locker room conversation among the players about how to deal with the images and videos they’ve received. However, besides being interesting, it’s also a little…inert. Several times, it feels less like people talking to each other and more like debate participants stepping forward to make their already written point.
That’s a summary of the episode as well. Again, it gets a lot of emotional beats right, but sometimes it seems to stumble in making its broader points.
- This episode finally gives us a hint of how Ted and Michelle worked when they were good. The back and forth on things that feel awkward felt like it was probably common for them at some point. The fact that they both have that Dave Grohl fact pocketed reminds us how much they shared. Still should stay divorced though.
- Nate’s budding romance with Jade (Edyta Budnik) still sticks in my throat, especially as she, while remaining sphynx-like, begins to drift towards magic healing girlfriend. That said, there’s a moment when Budnik has the briefest of smirks while Nate is trying to ask about relationship status, and she works it perfectly.
- Speaking of Nate, his attempt to start his version of the Diamond Dogs is very funny and illustrative. He chooses another dog name, seemingly three other members at random, and immediately makes the group all about himself. He may be on the comeback trail, but there’s still plenty incomplete about him. The wonder kid has work to do.
- The team’s use of Henry as kitman and entertainment is cute for sure, but focus up and do your jobs, Will and Ted!
- Speaking of Will, apparently, he’s impressive enough a lover to get paintings sent to him. And Jamie sort of doffs his cap to Will’s collection of digital nudes? Guess Higgins didn’t need to make him a man after all.
- I’ll never stop mentioning there isn’t enough Sam this year, but he does get a great moment in this episode. After the “delete all your pics” moment, Sam briefly touches base with how Jamie is doing. You can’t quite hear them, but it’s a great reminder of how their connection to the team has evolved and how naturally inclined Sam is toward kindness.
- Isaac (Kola Bokinni) proves the MVP of the locker room scene immediately on the spot with a clear moral stand. Bokinni deserves huzzahs for how he plays the entire thing, including insisting everyone delete their files in a way that commands respect without going over the top. I’m still holding out judgment on his reaction to learning Colin (Billy Hughes) is gay.
- Some quick things I loved: the team’s love of Les Mis, Higgins’ panicked run, the fact that Keeley’s nails are much shorter these days, Barbara’s unusual gentleness, Nate’s before Jade wakes up morning routine.
Let’s Go To The Tape
- “I’m a handwash guy Ted.”- Somehow, this made me like him even less.
- “Actually, I think there’s 3 Parises in Ohio.”
- “Is this a game or child labor?” “In late stage of capitalism, what’s the difference?”
- “Roy, got anything you want to talk about?” “Fuck you.”
- “I didn’t know Oscar Wilde was dead. So many of his quotes feel so modern, so of our time.” “I know. Powerful.”- The way Sudeikis says this one as though he’s choked up is really something.
- “What is the opposite of clever.” “The Sun.”
- “No one can steal your memories.” “That’s not entirely true.”
- “What if… I’m French.”
- “What about commissioned painting.” “Is it in a nice frame.” “It’s leaning against my couch.” “Gotta burn it, bro.”
- “Well, to be fair, I did think I’d fool ’em because I spelled it with two S’s.”- The fact that this could be a joke or entirely serious on Jamie’s part is a testament to both how strong the writing has been for the character and Dunster’s performance.