“Mom City” shows how the mother is also the father of the man when it comes to Ted and Jamie.
Back in Season 2, during “The Signal,” Ted (Jason Sudeikis) commented, “Boy, I love meeting people’s moms. It’s like reading an instruction manual as to why they’re nuts.” At the time, he was referring to Rebecca’s (Hannah Waddingham) situation with her mom with a fair amount of emotional distance. In “Mom City” this week, the karmic chickens come home to roost thanks to a script written by Ted Lasso co-creator Joe Kelly (from a story by Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt) and directed by Declan Lowney (back after directing last season’s finale).
Beyond Ted being forced to live out his distillation of Freudian theory, “Mom City” mirrors “The Signal” rather closely. While we’ll get to these details in more depth as the recap goes, the events of that last season episode revisited here include Ted’s most significant panic attack to date and his subsequent choice to truly engage with therapy, the idea that as good a team player as Jamie is evolving into sometimes he needs to be a prick, the beginning of both Nate’s ascension and downfall as the “Wonder Kid,” and the reveal of Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) as Rebecca’s secret text crush. There’s even a reframe of a line of dialogue about burning down an establishment which was played for comedy in “The Signal” while being serious here. To see what I’m on about, let’s dig in.
The episode opens with Ted strolling from his flat to the stadium, encountering various familiar faces. One woman in particular catches his eye. Who’s that? Why, it is Ted’s mom, Dottie (Becky Ann Baker). She’s shown up for an unscheduled and undisclosed visit. Not only did she not tell him she was coming, she’s been in London for a week. It gave her a chance to stay at a hostel surrounded by a cadre of particularly sexually active Australian 20-somethings.
Although the episode continues to build evidence throughout, it is immediately apparent that Ted got a large part of his “I’m always fine” disposition from his mom. She is a mom, though, so she added passive aggressiveness and blithe intrusion into her particular fuel mixture.
While Ted brings her along to see the Dog Track and meet his team, we learn that Nate (Nick Mohammed) has gotten a job at Taste of Athens, a role he seems all too comfortable with. Others feel differently, though, including Isaac (Kola Bokinni), Colin (Billy Harris), and Will (Charlie Hiscock), who show up to invite Nate back to Richmond. Nate is initially excited until he learns that Ted has no idea this is happening. He then begs off, lingering shame evident. Later, Higgins (Jeremy Swift) will leak to Ted that he heard about this meeting. While Ted is predictably cool with Nate’s return and Roy shrugs at it, Beard (Hunt) threatens to burn down the stadium if it happens.
At the Dog Track, Sam, Roy (Brett Goldstein), and Jamie (Phil Dunster) sit in a press conference. Everyone seems relaxed and joking, befitting the team’s 14-game winning streak. Everyone except Jamie, that is. He takes a softball question about how good he’s doing and turns it into an apology “to the kids” for not doing enough. Later, when Jamie says safety is more important than looking good regarding Van Damme’s (Moe Jeudy-Lamour) protective mask, Roy calls the superstar into the “Boot Room.” There Jamie goes into full breakdown before Roy gets two sentences into his check-in.
Somehow Dunster makes Jamie’s breakdown to Roy work despite it being so over the top.
Somehow Dunster makes Jamie’s breakdown to Roy work despite it being so over the top. The bit where he sort of bounces in place and shakes his hands, in particular, felt both maximumly silly and a moment of pure vulnerability for Jamie. Goldstein as a scene partner, helps. His “whooooa” tells so much. At first, I was concerned the show would play for pure comedy, but the scene really threaded the needle.
Meanwhile, Ted is showing his mom around his life in England. This involves her pretending to be his bodyguard, telling a series of clearly fake stories bragging on her son, including him dancing with Bruce Springsteen on stage and nearly being Coldplay’s drummer, and finally saying what we’ve all been thinking—Trent Crimm (James Lance) has fabulous hair. Predictably everyone loves her even as it tortures Ted endlessly.
At night’s end, they return to Ted’s flat and briefly have a “who can be more accommodating”-off over getting the bed versus sleeping on the couch. Then Dottie ups the stakes by handing Ted a ziplock freezer bag of his clippings, including, prominently, a headline about his panic attacks. It feels VERY provocative, but Ted seemingly doesn’t take the bait, so she asks directly. Unfortunately, the moment he starts talking to her about it, his mom pulls the “oh, I bet that therapist blames me” move and throws a wrench. Then she adds the final nail when Ted asks her if she might consider therapy, and she dismisses the thought. She also tells him (and us) she loves tea which, if I were a Freudian and Ted’s therapist, I would undoubtedly have a field day with next session.
The scene concludes when she rejects Ted’s offer to see the Man City game live the next day. Later, she does a quintessential “I don’t want to be a burden, but…” move, texting Ted to say she wished she had taken him up on the offer. Of course, I’m not Ted, and my relationship with my mom isn’t the same as his and Dottie’s. That said, oh boy, let me tell you, I could feel how Ted felt when he got that text. I imagine many people will also recognize that sensation in their chest and between their eyes.
In the hotel in Manchester, Keeley (Juno Temple) drops in on Jamie to try and help him get back in a good headspace. Instead, she ladles on further pressure, and Jamie collapses on his bed. The scene (and the episode as a whole) reminded me how much Keeley’s presence in the larger narrative has been missed. The siloing of her story not only made her feel more passive than typical for the character, but it cost the audience the run of what she brings to the team dynamic. I think I was more ok than most with Jack during that storyline. Nonetheless, this episode stands as a reminder of how much better she works included in the dynamic than left on the sidelines.
That continues in the next scene with the team watching (and weeping at) You’ve Got Mail together. Dani (Cristo Fernández) is adorable about Roy and Keeley sitting together again even though they insist they’re just friends. Also, she just happens to look very nice. The scene also includes Sam and Rebecca “noticing” each other during the film. It’s the second episode in a row with a cute moment between them.
It seems strange to put them back together, but who knows? I know the whole owner-player thing squeaked a lot of people out. Tons of ink got spilled over that last season. I always felt the dynamics were probably different from your average workplace romance. As I’ve noted elsewhere, Ted Lasso has always had a touch of fairy tale to it. So a boss-employee coupling hits differently (to me) here than in real life or a more realistic television series. Still, I’m not sure if I were a writer on the series, I’d want to kick over that hornet’s nest again.
After the film, Jamie takes off with Keeley and Roy on his tail. They’re terrible at though, so he realizes it in no time but invites them the rest of the way for what turns out to be a visit to his mom Georgie (Leanne Best) and his very normal stepdad Simon (Steve Edge). Roy has a chance to turn the tables from last episode and call Georgie “fit,” but resists despite indicating his thoughts in several other ways. Jamie and Georgie have a too recognizable single mom-only son dynamic that initially seems to infantilize the striker. However, she also manages to buck him up enough to at least get him out of the house in a better state of mind.
It’s Hunt’s best bit of acting in the entire series and, I admit, absolutely slayed me.
While mom and son talk, Roy and Keeley visit Jamie’s childhood bedroom, finding posters of themselves on his wall. Given Jamie’s raft of Oedipal and daddy issues, those posters make a ton of sense. Roy and Keeley starting to talk about the state of their relationship on his bed? Less so.
Ok, so here’s my second relationship hot take of the recap. I’m not sure Roy and Keeley should get back together. Now, I know I was very vocal last season about how poorly I thought they guided the two toward their inevitable breakup. I stand by that. The show wanted it to seem like Roy felt unworthy of her, but in execution, it repeatedly made him look like a sexist who couldn’t handle not being the most recognized in the relationship. Still, now that the series did break them up, maybe they should stay that way.
Part of this is undoubtedly my distaste for on-again/off-again relationship storylines. However, another part is that both have evolved and grown separately, spurred on by the breakup. For Roy, Keeley gave him his first healthy relationship after years of dating mentally unhealthy women and thieves. For Keeley, Roy gave her her first serious mature relationship. But rarely do we end up with the ones who helped us break our unhealthy relationship patterns. More likely is that that’s the relationship that sets us up for the “right” one. I doubt Ted Lasso will go in this direction, but them both realizing what they had was great AND can’t be recreated between them would feel satisfying.
The game finally arrives, and the crowd is predictably mean-spirited toward Jamie. It gets in his head, but not enough to stop him from setting up the game’s first goal for Colin. While he’s not getting any calls, he hangs in. Van Damme is lights out all match, but one shot sneaks through. However, Jamie gets there to stop it, keeping Richmond up by one. Unfortunately, he also gets injured while doing so.
Rather than take him out right away, Ted holds off and plays with ten. The choice pays off as Van Damme stops every shot until Jamie recovers enough to return. While adrenaline and painkillers are mostly to thank, his conversation with Ted about forgiving his dad and playing for something besides spiting the old man helps. The superstar goes out and scores, giving Richmond a two-goal lead. That lets him leave the pitch to an ovation from the locals. Seconds later, Van Damme covers up the ball, and time expires, setting the Greyhounds up to possibly win the league in the final match.
Afterward, Roy and Keeley drop in on Jamie icing his ankle, and the three celebrate with two bottles of champagne, further solidifying their weird family triad. Meanwhile, Ted shows Beard all the footage after Nate ripped up the “Believe” sign, including him hiding from the team and the cleaning crew for hours. The head coach then suggests to his friend that perhaps no one should be judged by their worst moment.
Meanwhile, Jade (Edyta Budnik) thinks present-day Nate should quit the restaurant. When he defers, she blackmails Derek to force the issue. That proves enough to inspire Nate to be honest with himself and admit he wants to return to Richmond. So he sets about writing Ted an apology letter that is nearly 60 pages by the time Jade gets home.
I like Nate accepting responsibility for his lousy departure from Richmond, but I wish the series better illustrated how he got to be ok with all his complaints. For example, we know Ted has Nate’s photo at home, but Nate still doesn’t know that. I can squint and assemble the details. Rupert being a way worse father figure. Nate’s dad confesses his failures and apologizing. Still, it would’ve been nice for the show to give us more of that internal journey especially given how dark they let him get last season.
Anyway, while asking for edits, Beard arrives. He shares his story of drugs, jail, and theft with Nate and how Ted saved him. He then, tearfully, extends Nate the same forgiveness. It’s Hunt’s best bit of acting in the entire series and, I admit, absolutely slayed me.
The scene [between Sudeikis and Baker] is well-staged and acted and, frankly, devastating.
Ted takes Jamie’s “Fuck you and thank you” attitude toward his dad back to his flat and applies it to his relationship to his mom. While thanking her for being there for him, he admonishes her for making him feel like he couldn’t be sad or broken about his dad. It’s enough to finally get her to admit she came to tell her son that his son misses him. That news breaks Ted open, and he confesses he’s been holding himself at a distance from his child out of fear that Henry will be just another person he loves that will leave him.
The scene is well-staged and acted and, frankly, devastating. I found myself with the nagging thought that it didn’t exactly line up, though. The series has never made it feel like Ted was running from being a Dad, so the idea that fear keeps him in England seems strange. Ted’s fear of being left makes sense, given his dad’s suicide and the divorce. In practice, though, it always felt like Ted was living in exile, not that he was running away.
The show goes into wrap-up mode, revealing Bex (Keeley Hazell) and Ms. Kakes (Rosie Lou) showing up on Rebecca’s door in search of advice and Ted’s mom leaving him for the airport without waking him. I admit that pulled me up short, but that’s my issue, I suppose. Her leaving him his favorite bread and a sweet note seemed enough for Ted. Finally, Ted shows up to work the next day for Rebecca’s truth bomb. Except she doesn’t have one. That’s ok, though, because Ted does.
- This episode successfully made people eating kebabs an effective sight gag.
- I love how delighted Isaac gets at Nate’s suggestion of 25 kebabs of each meat as if the captain honestly didn’t think of that solution. His smile is so perfect.
- Bumbercatch’s (Moe Hashim) particular brand of weirdness has been kept at a nice simmer all season.
- Even now, Nate continues to insist he said “wunderkind.”
- Both Budnik and Wix had strong episodes this week. The amount of fun Wix rung out of eating an apple and accepting a compliment alone was delightful. Ditto Budnik’s disappearing act.
- Depressed Jamie opting not to pose for pictures with fans but just to take them is a simple joke but surprisingly effective at revealing how badly he must feel about himself.
- Ted’s not wrong about Sleepless in Seattle. The idea that You’ve Got Mail comes anywhere close to as good is just nonsense.
- Keeley being on the hotel channel at every place the team stays is one of the show’s best running gags. Especially because they keep showing it, but no one’s reacted to it since the first time. It makes it clear how many times it has happened that we haven’t seen.
- I wonder how often Jade is filthy with Nate, and he completely misses what she means. For instance, in the scene where she requests nuts, and he takes her literally.
- I didn’t like the scene where Man City’s real-life coach echoes Ted Lasso’s “wins and losses don’t matter; only making these guys the best they can be does” philosophy. It felt super artificial. Plus, if that’s his perspective, it kind of mucks with the story of Jamie’s evolution.
- By episode’s end, Richmond is on a 15-game winning streak heading into the last game. That ties them with, ironically enough, 2018-2019’s Man City for the fourth-longest streak in Premier League history.
Let’s Go To The Tape
- “Ted, if it’s not rough, it isn’t fun.”
- “Hello, we’re not open for another half hour. Would you care to wait not here?”
- “That goal is a lie! It should be retracted from the records. I apologize to everyone, especially the kids.”
- “That doesn’t make any sense. Babies can’t talk, nor do they understand empathy.”
- “I wash me hair, but I don’t use any conditioner anymore because, like what’s the fucking point?”
- “What is time, Higgs-Boson?”
- “I do believe in second chances, Ted. That’s why I’m still married, and all my sons are still alive.”
- “Lotti Dottie, she like to party, she don’t cause trouble, don’t bother nobody.”
- “They fuck you up, your mom and dad. They might not mean to, but they do.”
- “Goddamn environment.”
- “Yeah, I fucked it. Made it worse.”
- “I’ve literally never thought about work the second after leaving work. Or even while there, really.”
- “Richmond isn’t playing with a keeper. They’ve got a brick wall in front of the goal.” “No, Arlo, that’s a person. I can see his arms and legs and his hideous mask.”
- “I got one.”