“The Strings That Bind Us” gives the coach back a bit of his spark, but remains tight-lipped about whether it will be enough.
As honest as Ted Lasso has been about mental health, loneliness, and more, it has always had a touch of fairy tale in its DNA. Ted (Jason Sudeikis) himself alludes to that truth in “Rainbows” when he discusses “rom-communism” and how stories never begin or end in the dark forest. Interesting that I once called Rainbows one of the thinnest episodes of Season 2, and yet it is a cornerstone connection this season.
I bring the fairy tale up, in part, because of the Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) storyline from last week. In the “real” world, that encounter would have ended with a very wet Rebecca in a taxi heading back to the hotel immediately after her unscheduled swim. But Lasso’s fairy tale streak led to a magical night. “The Strings The Bind Us,” from director Matt Lipsey (three-peating this season!) and writer Phoebe Walsh (her last script was “Headspace”—Lipsey’s first episode—although she’s story edited for all of Season 1 and 2’s episodes), however, offers far more than a mere streak.
The most obvious place we see the fairy tale is in Nate’s (Nick Mohammed) ongoing redemption/romance of Jade (Edyta Budnik) arc. In his storyline in this episode, viewers see both Jade and Nate searching for each other in and around the Taste of Athens but mostly winning one another. Aware of his past misinterpreting signals—with Keeley (Juno Temple), for instance—he turns to Siri for answers. Unfortunately, the digital assistant—who, of course, calls him wunderkind—offers no way of knowing if Jade is interested or just being friendly.
He asks his sister and mom the same question, and they similarly have nothing to offer. However, they do reveal Nate’s dad had/has a secret rom-com/fairy tale side which includes asking out Nate’s mom via a hand-drawn map.
Ultimately, that proves inspirational enough to motivate Nate to just ask her out, dammit. Well, eventually. First, he has to almost do it, then decide he needs to use one of his signature boxes. Unfortunately, he trips and drops the box, watching it get promptly smooshed by a vehicle. Nonetheless, he’s confident enough to ask, and she says yes. The episode closes on their awkward/sweet date. The fairy tale lives!
The other storyline carrying the scent of fairy tale is Sam’s (Toheeb Jimoh) online clash with a bigoted politician. In a mirror of last season’s “Do The Right-est Thing,” Sam finds the politician more than willing to push back at him publicly, unlike the team sponsor. Worse, her supporters are happy to vandalize his restaurant to try and persuade him to “shut up and dribble.” For those that complained about how easily Sam protested a sponsor with almost no consequence, this seemed like a corrective.
Sam storms into the locker room, enraged and wounded—with Jimoh getting his meatiest moment of the season—after that. It’s a powerful moment and about as dark as the show has gone. A moment later, however, the fairy tale sets in as his father (Nonso Anozie) arrives at just that moment. Then the fairy tale culminates in the team getting together to fix up Sam’s restaurant behind his back. It’s a wonderful act of camaraderie that feels at home with Ted’s rom-communism philosophy.
What makes the dollop of fairy tale more interesting is how Ted Lasso seems to be undercutting [it].
What makes the dollop of fairy tale more interesting is how Ted Lasso seems to be undercutting that sort of device. For one, there’s the love bombing situation between Keeley and Jack (Jodi Balfour). This is a bit of “cake and eat it too” development as Jack is WAY over the top but also appears sincere. Moreover, Jack was willing to take responsibility for it and change. My understanding of love bombing is that were Jack a true practitioner of the wicked art, she would be far more resistant and defensive. Nonetheless, it takes her fairy tale gift-giving and casts it in a new light.
The second is the stripping down of Coach Lasso’s mystique. First, the speech at the end of “Signs” immediately led to…a drubbing in Amsterdam. Here, it is the team losing to Arsenal despite the switch to Total Football. It isn’t that Ted isn’t good or that he won’t succeed in the end. But, these days, he has to put his shoulder a bit more into it than back when he was a novelty from the States. To make a weird (and possibly uncomfortable apologies) analogy, it is like losing weight. At first, it’s easy. However, as the changes become habits, you tend to plateau. Ted’s been in a bit of a plateau. With that lost goal at Arsenal, perhaps he’s entering a new period of change. Trent (James Lance) clearly thinks so.
- I love a good Cranberries needle drop.
- I’m very curious about Jack’s situation. On the one hand, she is very open and quick to apologize and change her behavior. On the other hand, Barbara gives a couple of looks in this episode that seem to suggest she might know more about the boss’s dating history than we do.
- Jack’s gifts include the first edition of Sense and Sensibility, announcing to the office their relationship, paying for Keeley and Rebecca’s hangout dinner, an office FULL of daisies, and a croissant-covered ring.
- Barbara’s morning routine sounds absolutely dire. And totally self-inflicted.
- Signs of Jamie’s (Phil Dunster) growth in this episode include him “cracking” how to play Total Football, even though it means more passing and less scoring for him. Also, there’s his reaction to Beard’s joke about him during the Total Football presentation. It’s impossible to imagine him being fine with it in Seasons 1 or 2, never mind participating.
- Nate continues on the comeback trail with the most heartening sign yet. His mirror confrontation ends not with spitting but with a small smile. Even better, it inspires him to do something long-term, not angry, frantic, and immediate. I’m still on the side of “this is too fast,” but I was delighted by that change.
- Related: Nate’s dad is a jerk. His sister asks about his love life, and his dad dismisses it as “inappropriate” and “girl talk.” Jeez. And why wouldn’t he want Nate to know about the map?
- It was great to have Rebecca and Keeley hanging out again. I like this season, but I’m almost certain that when it ends, I’ll wish we had more time with established friendships like these two or Rebecca and Ted. Also, too little Sam.
- The bit where Rebecca learns Jack is paying for the meal and responds by running up the tab had me. Even if you’re rich, there is almost always someone more affluent, and it will feel great to take advantage of them.
- All the identity swaps were entertaining, but Dani and Isaac’s, in particular, were a delight.
- Speaking of Dani, how concerned and comforting Cristo Fernández plays the scene where we are waiting to see the fate of Jamie’s penis is an excellent example of committing to the bit. He’s so good there.
- Given Brett Goldstein’s well-documented love for the Muppets, the fact that Roy laughs like one is perfect.
- The pub trio had a stellar episode.
Let’s Go To The Tape
- “One, it wasn’t priceless. It was actually very expensive.”
- “Look at that head of hair. God had to take it away just to balance things out.”- This is more or less my origin story. Gone too soon, Tim’s aggressively average head of hair.
- “Where he briefly coached a very talented young player until that beautiful dumb dumb quit to go do a reality show.”
- “Actually, we are going to do it this Saturday against Arsenal.” “Well, that’s fucking mental.”
- “Hush your butts.”
- “I never would’ve thought that you liked books.”- Jesus, Barbara, may turn down the disrespect a little.
- “I’m get away with murder, rich.”
- “But yeah, I would’ve really liked to see his penis.”
- “She laughs in my face and says no. Then I scurry away, humiliated, never to be allowed in my favorite restaurant ever again. So the next time we have some kind of family celebration I’ll just have to, you know, sit on the pavement outside eating takeaway fish and chips, watching you through the window like some kind of Dickensian street urchin.”
- “I like to eat my breakfast without chewing. To conserve my energy. In case an impending class war breaks out.”
- “The way I see it, it is kind of like taking a hike with Robert Frost. Could go either way.”
- “It’s ok. His penis is ok!”
- “There wasn’t anything alive in there, was there?” “Oh no, no, no. Not at all.” “If you say so.”- This is my favorite variety of Jade. Playfully giving Nate the business in a manner as dry as a Syrah.
- “Would’ve been called Sharp Dressed Men…God, I hate what you’ve fucking done to me.”
- “Got my cousin to fix your window this morning. Didn’t get a discount, though. Because he’s a prick.”