Unhealthy relationships and the past dominate this week’s episode.
Two weeks ago, we had a Christmas episode where I thought a lot happened, but none was specific to dangling plotlines. Then, last week’s episode was continuity oriented but not much happened. Now Ted Lasso comes in with “The Signal,” a Brett Goldstein (“He’s here, He’s there, He’s truly every-Fucking-where even writing episodes, Roy Kent!”) penned and Erica Dunton directed episode positively stuffed full of incident.
One central theme of this episode is people in relationships they shouldn’t be in and what the people around them do or don’t do about it. By far the least problematic of these situations is Rebecca’s (Hannah Waddingham) almost entirely physical relationship with Luca, a handsome man unashamed of his nakedness who doesn’t seem to have much chemistry with Rebecca beyond the sex. However, Rebecca seems pretty self-aware about that. The only reason it’s a concern is that the man she is talking to on Bantr is such a better fit for her. However, by episode’s end, we learn that it could be dodgy too, as her mystery man is none other than… SAM (Toheeb Jimoh)! Thank goodness they didn’t go the Ted route after all!
Rebecca also has a front-row seat to another unhealthy relationship, that of her mom Deborah (Harriet Walter) and her unseen in this episode father. After dropping by unnoticed to get a good stare of Luca, Deborah reveals she’s left Rebecca’s dad. Waddingham’s expression is intensely ambivalent in a way that nicely hints at a long-running dynamic. This is a recurring theme, dating back to Rebecca’s time in university. They fight, Deborah leaves, the dad makes amends with a lavish, environmentally friendly purchase, and the situation repeats. Sure enough, before long a Tesla has been bought and Rebecca’s mom and dad are together once more.
The whole situation speaks to Rebecca’s previously stated issues with being abandoned. Not only does Mom walk out on her after promising a favorite dinner and a meaningful conversation, but she apparently has even stopped talking to her daughter in the past when Rebecca has tried to be supportive of mom leaving dad.
The final unhealthy relationship is, of course, between Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) and Jane (Phoebe Walsh). They are together again and moving in after Jane got into a fight with her roommate. While everyone else makes vague congratulatory remarks, Higgins (Jeremy Swift) speaks up about what a bad idea he thinks it is. Throughout the episode, Higgins is repeatedly advised to let it go. Despite that, he does eventually tell Beard again that he’s worried Jane is wrong for him. Beard hugs Higgins in appreciation AND says they’ll never talk about this again.
Ted’s (Jason Sudeikis) assertion that you never say anything about a friend in a bad relationship and the reason he has that rule—he evidently waited until making a best man speech to tell his friend that the girl he dated since elementary school and had just married was, “a bit of a pill”—are further indicators that Ted isn’t perfect.
The series repeatedly flags moments where Ted shows his flaws or demonstrates his approach to life often leaves others out in the cold.
I’m not trying to rat Ted out or anything. I just think one of the mistaken criticisms of the show is that it thinks Ted and his attitude are flawless, while, if you watch it, the series repeatedly flags moments where Ted shows his flaws or demonstrates his approach to life often leaves others out in the cold. We saw it last season with his ex and when Coach Beard blew up at him for being too ok with losing. I think we’ve seen it more often this season but in subtler ways.
Anyway, onto the on-field action.
While the team has been doing wonderfully with Roy Kent on the sidelines, our favorite resident grump refuses to coach Jamie (Phil Dunster) even when the player literally begs for it. Eventually, with Keeley’s (Juno Temple) guidance, Jamie does get Roy to crack. He advises Jamie that now he knows how to be a team player, he sometimes needs to be a prick, too. Roy promises that when the time comes, the coaches will give Jamie an unmistakable symbol.
As promised, the entire staff flips off Jamie in unison, and Tartt lets out his inner prick. It gives Richmond a goal and the lead against the heavily favored Tottenham Hotspurs—a very real soccer team that is currently 5th in the Premier League here in our universe. As the time draws towards its conclusion, though, the Hotspurs tie it up.
To explain what happens next, it’s important to note Ted has seemed a bit off his game most of this episode. Early on, he receives a phone call about his son forgetting his lunch for a field trip. He has to explain that he can’t do anything to help, but, thankfully, as he’s doing so, his ex pulls up with the food. The way Sudeikis lets his eyes search about for something, anything, he can do is a well-observed bit of acting and clarifies that the call hit him harder than just a bit of inconvenience.
That moment bears fruit after Hotspurs tie as Ted goes into another panic attack. While the commentators and his fellow coaches assume it is a stomach issue, Rebecca recognizes it for what it is and leaves the stands to look for him.
Meanwhile, with seconds ticking down, Nate (Nick Mohammed) seizes the moment—doing his spit ritual again—and calls a counterintuitive play that nonetheless wins the game. The celebration interrupts Rebecca’s search and she leaves, assuming Ted has as well.
However, that’s not the case. Dr. Sharon (Sarah Niles) discovers this after telling the team she’ll join them for a drink and makes a quick stop at her office to lock up. There she finds Ted curled up on her couch in the dark, looking in very rough shape indeed.
The way Sudeikis lets his eyes search about for something, anything, he can do is a well-observed bit of acting.
- I’m still puzzling out the deal with Jamie being not as good now that he’s a team player? The reel during the cold open implies Richmond is on a tear since Roy started as part of the coaching team. That, in turn, suggests that Jamie being a team player has, at least, not been a bad thing for the Greyhounds. I guess this could be a “he’s good, but he could be even better!” bit, but it feels like muddled storytelling to start with “we’re doing great!” and then have a storyline about how one of the team’s best players isn’t doing great without ever showing us him struggling.
- As the nephew of someone who died from ALS, I applaud AFC Richmond front-office employee Liza and her ongoing commitment to the ice bucket challenge.
- Liam with the laugh shows up after being mentioned all the way back in Episode 2.
- Oof, Luca, that Guardians of the Galaxy joke was rough.
- Ted and Beard have an every other Friday thing where they make one another a sandwich and often make the same thing. Adorable prosocial bonding.
- The boys at the pub are equally passionate about The Great British Bake-Off as they are football.
- Deborah’s description of life is very reminiscent of Dani Rojas’s post-therapy description of football back in Episode 1, “There comes a point when you realize life is long, and it is also very short. And sometimes it’s neither. But it is always what it is.”
- Jane’s last name or nickname is Paine? (Payne? Pain?) That seems…foreboding.
- Shouldn’t the sign be the two-finger salute, given this is Britain? Or did Roy choose the middle finger specifically because he knew Ted would be uncomfortable?
- I like Nate’s reaction to messing up “wonder kid” for “wunderkind.” Such a small bit of business, but you can see the moment of panic in his eyes.
- The last scene with Beard and Jane ends up being quite interesting. She scares him, which seems to be a point in the unhealthy relationship interpretation, but their conversation after is flirty and sweet and sees Jane reassuring Beard, without him asking, about another guy he was jealous of earlier in the episode. I welcome the complexity.
- Bad Dad Alert: Nate’s dad sabotaged all of Nate’s relationships, including one in which he told both Nate and his potential GF they could do better; Potentially Rebecca’s dad? Regardless, Rebecca’s mom qualifies as our first bad mom of the year.
- Bad Nate Watch: While Roy attempts to be constructive, Nate calls Colin a dolt. Also, he’s clearly unhappy about people loving Roy’s return.
- This week’s film reference: Nothing, but we do get a solid H.R. Pufnstuf reference.
Let’s Go To The Tape
- “Wheewwww Doc, you are more mysterious than David Blaine reading a Sue Grafton novel at Area 51.”
- “That is a joke for people born in the early to mid-70s!”
- “Dukes of Hazard style. Or as you probably call them, the Earls of Risk.”
- “And the name’s not Rebecca’s mom, it’s Deborah. I’m a work in progress, a voracious book-on-tape listener, and a staunch believer that if you get dealt lemons in life then you should make lemon lavender mojitos.”
- “I don’t really know how to talk to you.” “Then it’s working.”
- “You’re gonna wanna look up Philistines.”
- “Temper your chocolates, you twat!”
- “If you ever left me again, I’d throw myself off a cliff.” “And I’d lay down at the bottom so you can land on me.”
- “It’s true, I do play in a dull and conformist…ist way.”
- “I swear if we actually win this match I will burn this pub to the ground.”
- “Like a tipsy Reese Witherspoon playing running charades.” “What’s running charades?” “What’s running charades?!”
- “This is what a fish pie can do to a team.”
- “I want to make an appointment.