The Ted Lasso Way runs into a brick wall this week.
Someone pointed out that we punched quickly out of the episode last week with minimal reaction to Ted’s (Jason Sudeikis) panic attack. That was primarily because I figured, correctly, that this episode would be a lot about Ted’s mental health, and I wanted to keep the proverbial powder dry. As a therapist and a sufferer from panic attacks myself, I didn’t want to, you know, make the whole thing all about me.
I also didn’t get too far into the panic attack because I didn’t want to gloat too heavily without confirmation. For weeks now, the internet has been full of takes about Ted Lasso being edgeless, taking what people liked about last season and overindulging in it, and that the dreaded phrase “too nice.” I thought the conclusion to last week’s episode undercut a lot of that criticism, but I didn’t want to celebratory dance—a la Ted—until I had a bit more evidence. Evidence this week’s episode “Headspace”—from writer Phoebe Walsh (she’s also Jane!) and director Matt Lipsey in his Lasso debut—provides in significant amounts.
We get not one, not two, but three different rebuttals of the Ted Lasso way. The first of these, most obviously, comes in the form of Ted’s attempts to sit down with Dr. Sharon (Sarah Nile) for their first session. After last week, one might expect Ted would be ready and raring to start therapy. However, like many panic attacks, his seems to have come on very hard and fast and fading nearly as quickly. It’s easy to talk yourself out of therapy—an often difficult process—when the memory of your last attack loses its sense of emotional brutality. It’s easy to convince yourself you were just being silly and it was just an isolated incident, even when it is the third or fourth or fifth such isolated incident.
Ted in the first encounter is the Ted that has come in for a lot of criticism this season. Almost manic in his desire to please. Totally over the top in his search for a joke to break the ice. His prop work with the nodding bird might as well be a scream for help.
Far more interesting, however, is the second aborted session where we see Ted as angry and as nasty as we ever have. The closest we’ve come before was also triggered by Dr. Sharon when she tried to refuse a taste of the famous biscuits. Ted compared her refusal to eat sugar to his issues with video games with an underhanded insult. The difference this time is he doesn’t even bother plastering on a smile. He’s pure venom in a way no other character on this show has managed to date save for maybe Rupert relating his new wife’s pregnancy to Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) last season.
By the end of the episode, Ted has finally come around, but his hesitancy has told us volumes about what Ted has been trying to keep locked away since we “met” him and likely far longer.
The second rebuttal is the lightest and comes from the seemingly perfect relationship of Roy (Brett Goldstein) and Keeley’s (Juno Temple). With Roy now part of the coaching corps, the two never seem to have a moment apart. Even when Roy does give Keeley space at home to work, he’s just sitting there being responsive to her requests and hot. Try as she might to grin through it, Keeley needs her space, and she lashes out at Roy after he interrupts her watching of Sex and the City one time too many. The blowup initially drives Roy from the house. Eventually, though, thanks in part to Jamie (Phil Dunster) going off about something else in practice, Roy sees the error of his ways. Both apologize and he prepares her a warm bath and three hours of alone time.
[Ted]’s pure venom in a way no other character on this show has managed to date.
The message is evident in both directions: she should’ve said something sooner rather than trying to keep it all positive AND without her angry outburst, Roy never would’ve realized what was going on. Without that revelation, the relationship likely would’ve died due to the spreading poison.
Then, finally, we have Nate the Great (Nick Mohammed), the wonder kid. He’s riding high after his coaching delivered the win last episode and the oodles of good press and online buzz he’s been able to soak in since. However, none of that impresses his dad or gives Nate tough enough skin to laugh off references to his misspeaking wonder kid when he meant wunderkind. During the episode, he takes out his unhappiness on his two favorite targets Colin (Billy Harris) and Will (Charlie Hiscock).
Colin’s “sin” is joining in on the ribbing of Nate but not being as good as the others who are doing it. When Colin attempts to check in about it, Nate goes even further and crueler, making it clear Nate wasn’t just giving him the business back. Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) thankfully overhears the second incident and puts Nate rightfully in his place, leading to Nate apologizing and being re-embraced by the team.
Unfortunately, Beard isn’t around for when Nate tees off on Will. The kitman, in what seems to be a genuine expression of respect, encouraged the team to get Nate his own jersey with “Wonder Kid” on the back. Of course, Will doesn’t realize how Nate has been chewing on this error since it happened. All it takes is one relatively weak insult on Twitter and Nate loses it.
Ted may have changed Nate’s job and finances, but opportunity isn’t enough to address the rage twisting inside Nate.
Here the refutation of the Ted Lasso way isn’t a lack of talking about issues; it’s a demonstration that the way isn’t always enough. Ted saw Nate, was kind to Nate in a way no one on the team (and maybe in his life, save his mom) had been before, and then elevated Nate to the coaching team. He’s mentored Nate well and included him in his inner circle, the Diamond Dogs. And yet, it doesn’t “fix” it all. Nate is still angry after years of an unsupportive father and a host of cruelties dealt to him by players, some of which he still sees every day. Ted may have changed Nate’s job and finances, but opportunity isn’t enough to address the rage twisting inside Nate.
I don’t think this should be read as a total rejection of kindness or optimism. I don’t believe the show named after him is out to paint Ted as an idiot or a fool. I think it still believes in those things as much as its titular lead.
It’s also pointing out that love, kindness, and optimism need effort to work and flourish. They aren’t just things you can flip on with the ease of a light switch. To be kind, to be optimistic, you sometimes have to confront the ugly stuff. Even kindness and optimism let you whistle past your problems for only so long.
- The opening sequence reminded me of back when my wife and I were just dating. Any time we ran into each other in the apartment, we’d say hey to one another. Honestly, we still do this, and we’ll have been together (dating, then married) for 20 years next month. However, when she still had a roommate, her roommate LOATHED this practice. In this analogy, my wife and I are Roy, and I suppose the roommate is more of a Keeley.
- Very nice to see another nod to the Shelley family tradition of box making at the start of this episode. Have we had one of those this season?
- There is some cute stuff about the ongoing Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) and Rebecca will-they won’t-they this episode that I just didn’t have space for in the recap. Sufficed to say, they still don’t know who is who and no one has referenced Cheers yet.
- Higgins (Jeremy Swift) and Rebecca are very good at scatting together.
- Higgins lighting up a pipe in the boot room, where Rebecca and Keeley have determined smoking doesn’t count, is another wonderful moment for the Communications Director.
- Roy killed me repeatedly with his love of reading The DaVinci Code and being utterly blasé about other people talking about him.
- The best Roy moment, though, was how Goldstein lets this note of broken vulnerability into his voice during the couple’s fight before squashing it with his signature anger.
- Turns out Coach Beard has a bit of Batman in him.
- Film reference: Sam’s favorite film is Ratatouille. Then there’s the bit about having sex with a cartoon rat (see below). The Sex and the City movies also come in for criticism from Roy, while Keeley says it’s just the second one that’s bad. He’s more right than she is.
Let’s Go To The Tape
- “The Jerky Boy were a national treasure. You all should give ‘em a google sometime.”
- “Darn tootin’ Vladimir Putin.”
- “How about the truth? ‘I’d love to meet up, but I’m worried you can’t live up to the fantast I’ve created in my head so I’m going to let my insecurities keep me from possibly finding my one true love.’”
- “Stop your dithering and go and fuck your cartoon rat!”
- “All relationships are a nightmare…Apart from Leslie’s marriage which is a bloody greeting card of some kind.”
- “You doing exactly what I tell you to is so fucking hot!”
- “You’re like a painting at Holiday Inn. You know? You don’t inspire, you don’t move people. You’re there. You cover a blood stain. You do the job, so…just do the job.”
- “I can’t be your mentor without occasionally being your tormentor.”
- “Babe, I think you’re the cat’s pajamas, but your feet are a fucking state.”
- “Do better.”