In “Signs,” Richmond continues to unravel after their big loss.
Before we get into the Jamie Lee-penned and Matt Lipsey-directed (the teamed last season the previous Manchester City episode, the aptly titled “Man City”) episode, I have to address two prediction failures on my part. First, I thought I detected sparks between Jack (Jodi Balfour) and Keeley (Juno Temple). I said nothing, though, because I felt weird about being a cis straight dude insisting two women were interested in each other on scant evidence. Turns out I had good instincts. On the lousy instinct side of things, I insisted elsewhere that there was no way Jade (Edyta Budnik) and Nate (Nick Mohammed) would be a thing of any sort. Now it might not be a romantic pairing, but there’s, at the least, a friendship evolving. So I’m dumb. I apologize. Onto the good stuff!
This week’s episode forces me yet again to admit that time doesn’t always move properly when it comes to Ted Lasso. The start of the episode explicitly states that a month has passed since last episode. In that time, the Greyhounds have lost as many as three games and tied as many as five. I’m not trying to be cryptic. I just don’t know what exactly their record was prior because of montages.
The Nate subplot, however, feels like it is unfolding only days after the last episode. The tabloid photo making the front page a month later makes no sense. But, as I said, we’ll label that weird Lasso time and move on.
Their month-long slide has left Richmond in ninth. Given the pre-season expectation they’d finish dead last, it is a little weird that everyone is so worried when they’re still in the league’s top half. However, success changes expectations. So even if their winning streak was brief, it, plus Zava (Maximilian Osinski), changed the whole feel of the season.
While people may have reason to be disappointed or concerned, one person who shouldn’t be complaining is Roy (Brett Goldstein). Shouting how the team should pay for tickets if they’re just going to watch Zava is rich, considering that was more or less the plan since Zava’s arrival: get him the ball and stay out of his way. As I speculated then, it has turned into a bad long-term strategy. I didn’t expect it to come to fruition and resolution so quickly, but otherwise, I got it right.
See, despite yet another rousing speech—mostly cribbed from Jamie (Phil Dunster)—Zava is nowhere to be found on the day of the Man City game. As we soon learn, he’s retired to spend more time with his family and avocado farm. I expected him to be a toxic presence during the season, not to cut and run two episodes after arriving. I can’t say I’ll miss him, though. He designed to be an overpowering presence and delivered. But that sort of thing grows thin in a hurry.
It would be great if Osinski got to go out on his funniest turn as [Zava].
In the days leading up to the game, the episode focuses on four subplots. The first involves Ted (Jason Sudeikis) learning from Michelle (Andrea Anders) that Henry (Gus Turner) was involved in a bullying incident at school. Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) predictably reacts like a protective uncle proposing they commit arson to even the score. However, Roy steals the show with the funniest gag of this season and perhaps his funniest scene yet. His proposed best way to deal with a bully is a thing of terrifying art.
With Zava gone and no new game plan in place, the team falls badly to Man City, losing 4-nil. It makes it clear that the superstar may have given them an initial jolt of victories, but he also hollowed out the team. His presence robbed most of their motivation and reduced many—Dani (Cristo Fernández) especially—to hangers-on. (Although I did enjoy Dani’s Zava worship and mimicry more than most).
The twist is Henry was the bully, not the bullied. Well, sort of? The way the story goes, the incident seems more like Henry lost his temper and did…something to a classmate. I think of bullying as more of a sustained campaign than a single blow-up, but I may simply be out of touch with proper terminology. Regardless, the episode’s vagueness leaves the subplot a bit of a non-starter. Obviously, it intends to highlight Ted’s ambivalence about still being abroad. However, it doesn’t land for me. A tween losing their temper once seems pretty average.
The one part I found intriguing is Ted’s “count to ten, and if that doesn’t work, do it again” advice. It is VERY Ted but not necessarily in a good way. Ted’s been swallowing his emotions since childhood. So repeatedly counting to ten suggests not taking a moment to gain control but something more like doing a ritual until you don’t feel the bad feeling anymore.
After blowing up at her coaching staff, Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) is distracted by her own personal issues. Specifically, psychic catalyzed issues. Ugh.
There has been too little [Toheeb] Jimoh this season.
Ok, here’s my objection to the psychic thing despite not having a problem with other moments of magic realism in the series. First, it is SO close to prophesy, and prophecies are invariably dull. Second, the psychic’s prediction seemed so overblown that I was worried it would rob Waddingham of a better storyline. And it has in some ways, but this episode suggests the creators are doing something more complex and interesting with it.
The reveal happens when John Wingsnight (Patrick Baladi), Rebecca’s ex, runs into her at the coffee shop where she dumped him. He’s engaged but otherwise every bit as mid as before. He still harasses celebrities at West End musicals. He is still splitting his loyalties between Man City and Manchester United, depending on who’s doing best, as evidenced by his scarf. For Americans, that’s a bit like cheering for the Cubs and the White Sox at the same time, I believe.
While talking to John and fiancée, the wife-to-be misspeaks and calls Mr. Wingsnight her “shite in nining armor.” This was a relief. Not only does it derail the theory that Jamie would be integral to whatever the psychic was talking about, it suggests the psychic’s prediction for Rebecca was actually several predictions. She wasn’t describing one grand event but rather a series of signposts on her way to…something.
The encounter is enough to send Hannah to her doctor for fertility evaluation. He tells her he works with many women her age, and lots can still have kids. Unfortunately, their phone call at the end of the episode suggests that his assurances were premature. Some women her age can still have kids, but judging by Waddingham’s quiet withdrawal from the call, she is not among them.
From exes to perhaps new loves, the other two subplots are Nate and Jade’s baklava connection and Jack and Keeley’s post-lamb feces hookup. I discuss them elsewhere, so let’s move to the final speech.
It’s a great one! After finally talking to Henry, Ted breathes his way through a panic attack. Then, he walks into the locker room, clearly planning to dismiss the team. However, Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) has a great moment of quietly calling the coach on not giving them what they need. There has been too little Jimoh this season, in my opinion, and these little moments are a reminder of why he’s so good.
- The thing that makes the wounded chimp gag work is Goldstein finally joining in but playing his ape as noncommittally chest thumping rather than hurt.
- I love Higgins (Jeremy Swift) for bringing up the possibility of firing Ted. It shows his growth from Rupert’s (Anthony Head) co-conspirator in acts of infidelity or Rebecca’s first season yes-man. It’s exactly what someone with his job should at least consider. Similarly, Rebecca screaming about losing is a nice inversion of her Season 1 goals.
- No need to call me out for my love of physical media by giving Wingsnight the same feelings about streaming music, show!
- Many people are bristling about yet another workplace romance between a boss and a subordinate. I understand it. However, 1. Bill Lawrence created series almost all contain this particular device/trope. 2. Some ridiculously high number of people meet their romantic partners at work. They aren’t all boss/subordinate, but some certainly are. 3. The relationship between Jack and Keeley in terms of boss/subordinate is not typical. As someone who stuck hard on Dr. Jake, I’m sympathetic, but the show clearly doesn’t have the same feelings about “Is it ok for a boss to date their employee?”
- In other controversial pairings, Nate and Jade. Look, I don’t know here. He’s as “Nice Nate” as we’ve seen him in forever, but it feels too easy. I don’t want anyone to suffer, but maybe this would’ve felt better if Nate was farther into his redemption arc?
- Speaking of Nate, him practicing for calling Anastasia by calling his mom had an understated sweetness. Couldn’t be me, as the youth say, but obviously, he and his mom have that kind of dynamic.
- Bravo to the show for that Zoolander reference. Good work!
- Trent’s rainbow mug, which he drops with perfect comedic timing, is another suggestion that fans guessing he’s gay may well be onto something there.
- While I am very much not interested in a “Ted drinks too much” plotline or even discussion, I do like how the show has utilized the choice Ted makes between water and scotch to tell a story about how he’s feeling.
- I absolutely do not believe this is the last we’ll see of Zava. His joining West Ham before the end of the season only for Richmond to beat him using teamwork over star power would be clichéd, but it might be the sort of cliché too difficult to resist. It would be great if Osinski got to go out on his funniest turn as the character, though.
- Ok, but what are in Barbara’s desk drawers? Given her newly revealed love of violence, all kinds of ninja turtle weaponry frowned on in the UK seems the likeliest outcome.
Let’s Go To The Tape
- “Even with Zava, Richmond eats more ass than your mom.” “Buddy, you gotta get off Twitter.” “This is a text from my father.”
- “Ever think sunshine gets jealous of her?”
- “I don’t care about moving pictures. My favorite thing to watch is my wife.”
- “I can’t believe our white whale has the same name as the strip club where I danced in college.”
- “Fingernails. What’s that about?”
- “Why can’t the world just have one big timezone?” “The Sun.”
- “I’m a huge fan of your face and body.”
- “Without Zava, this team doesn’t belong in my church league, Arlo. It’s actually a competitive league. There’s some very talented clergy.”
- “It’s not like we could handcuff him to his locker and make him love us.” “We could’ve tried.”
- “Belief doesn’t just happen because you hang something up on a wall.”
- “You are not my followers, you are my believers.”