The Spool / Recap
Ted Lasso unveils the series’ worst villain
"4-5-1" may reveal Richmond's newest star Zava to be an egomaniac, but the real villain is in Kansas.
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“4-5-1” may reveal Richmond’s newest star Zava to be an egomaniac, but the real villain is in Kansas.

While my feelings about episodes of Ted Lasso have differed, installment to installment, there haven’t been any that made me deeply angry. Sure, I’ve disagreed with certain developments (see how the treatment of Keeley and Roy’s relationship during the back half of season 2). I’ve even been annoyed at times. I have never, however, felt a sort of bubbling rage at a plot development. Until now.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This week’s episode comes courtesy of Lasso first time director Destiny Ekaragha—whose other directing credits include Paper Girls, Y: The Last Man, and The End of the F***ing World—and third-time writer Bill Wrubel—who worked on Season 1’s “Two Aces” and last season’s “Rainbow.” Its title, “4-5-1,” breaks the twoepisode streak of song-inspired monikers, for those who are keeping track of that sort of thing.

Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 3 (AppleTV+)
Brett Goldstein, Jason Sudeikis, and Brendan Hunt are puzzled. (AppleTV+)

It’s interesting. While reviewing the first four episodes of this season, each episode felt fast and uncomplicated. However, revisiting them for recaps, I’m really noticing how much they’ve packed into each episode. They still don’t feel overstuffed or too long to me. Nevertheless, I had a different memory of how the episode structure went down then I feel now. Even with this episode, which primarily focuses on Zava’s (Maximilian Osinski) arrival and subsequent first several games, there’s a lot more doing than the A-plot.

Zava joins the team about as one might’ve expected. Late. Two hours, in fact. And during at least some of that time that he was supposed to be meeting the press, he’d been hanging out in Rebecca’s (Hannah Waddingham) office judging her biscuit crumbs. So while he’s all bizarre apologies, promises of fidelity, and intense compliments, he nonetheless entirely skips meeting the press or fans. Even his team meeting, marked the same mix of self-involvement and New Age “appreciation,” is very brief. Then, in addition to not interacting with anyone in a way that didn’t involve speechifying, he rearranges the team’s formation scheme to make him alone out front and everyone else in an indistinguishable jumble behind him.

It’s a striking introduction that gives us a better idea of why this guy is a legend AND absolutely ruins teams. Other signs pop up later in the episode, including Zava not so subtly implying that Sam (Toheeb Jimoh, finally getting something of the spotlight this season) will change his restaurant’s West African menu to make room for avocado-based dishes. On the field, he’s incredible, but he also lies to Jamie (Phil Dunster) about passing to him. Worse, a few games later, Jamie’s shot is clearly about to go in before Zava intercepts it, claiming the goal for himself.

I have never…felt a sort of bubbling rage at a plot development. Until now.

It’s perhaps no wonder then that Jamie is the first to complain about the new superstar. However, he does so before Zava starts acting up, showing his increasing maturity. Of course, he’s angry about his diminishing role—as a conversation with Roy (Brett Goldstein) reveals—but his bigger gripe does seem to be the danger Zava represents to team chemistry. What’s odd is that Ted (Jason Sudeikis) doesn’t seem the slightest bit concerned. Yes, the coach had previously given a longer lease to Jamie, but he was always dedicated to blending his first “ace” into the larger team. With Zava, he seems to be perfectly happy to alter everything about the team to make it all about his most egocentric player yet.

It seems likely that this isn’t a “will this bite the team in the ass?” possibility. Instead, it’s more of a “when will this bite the team in the ass?” inevitability. Still, while I think everyone’s being a little blasé about it, this isn’t what got me angry.

Neither is the confirmation of Colin’s (Billy Harris) sexuality. Not only is he gay—finally putting the Grindr joke from last season in context—but he and his boyfriend, Michael (Sam Liu), seemingly live together. Despite this, Colin appears to be still closeted. At Sam’s restaurant’s friends and family opening, Billy introduces his boyfriend as his friend/wingman, and Michael goes along without hesitation. He even seems to have a joke locked and loaded for the occasion. While there is a moment during a meeting with Keeley (Juno Temple) and Shandy (Ambreen Razia) that implies Colin may come out in the press, no such reveal occurs. Instead, the only person who learns is former member of the press Trent Crimm (James Lance). He sees them making out in an alley near Sam’s restaurant, but keeps walking.

Ted Lasso 4-5-1 (AppleTV+)
Cristo Fernández and Billy Harris can’t wait to see what Zava thinks of his new friendship bracelet. (AppleTV+)

However, still closeted or not, there do seem to be some interesting developments here. While he doesn’t know immediately, Colin already suspects he’s lost his spot in the starting lineup to make room for Zava. In the locker room, waiting for confirmation, he jokes about having sex with Zava. That’s the first time he’s ever joked about his sexuality. Then, later in the episode, he brings Michael to Sam’s opening, as noted. It is clear he’s never introduced his teammates to Michael or vice versa. Finally, he makes out with his boyfriend, only a block from the restaurant. And it’s in a pretty visible area besides. It all adds up to suggest that losing the starting spot has knocked Colin off his axis more than he’s acknowledged. In turn, that’s made him more cavalier about hiding his sexuality.

This could be good—“this shakeup has led me to realize I want to be out.” Or it could be bad—“this shakeup is making me act erratically without really considering what I want.” Either one is an intriguing and valid development. After an entire season of waiting for the shoe to drop, it’s nice the series is finally addressing this long unaddressed implication/theory.

Ok, finally, what made me so fucking angry. Ted’s ex-wife Michelle (Andrea Anders) is dating their former marriage counselor. To be clear, I have no issue with her dating someone new. It’s sad, it’s painful for Ted, but those are all understandable developments after a divorce. What I’m so mad about is that her former couple’s therapist is so incredibly out of line, and so far, the show seems to barely be blinking at it. As bad as the therapist behavior in Bill Lawrence’s other current series Shrinking was, no one does anything nearly as unethical as Dr. Jacob (Mike O’Gorman) is up to here. At least Jason Segel’s character’s mistakes were in the name of helping his clients.

“4-5-1” made excellent work of the soundtrack to create laughs.

The LOOSIEST ethical standards regarding romantic relationships with clients state that seven years need to elapse between the end of therapy and the start of the relationship. However, any teacher of therapeutic ethics will tell you that even at seven years, a counselor dating a client is a tremendous professional risk. If things go south and your ex-client/ex-romantic partner decides to seek payback via an ethics complaint, one better not have even SEEN that ex-client in those seven intervening years. And that’s only thinking about the therapist’s career, not the ex-client’s peace of mind.

Dr. Jacob apparently waited just a year and a half. And who knows if he talked to Michelle between the end of the therapy and the start of dating. Additionally, as a couple’s therapist, his standards should be even higher. Regardless of if he did it intentionally or not, the fact is that he guided Ted and Michelle toward the dissolution of their marriage. Then he started dating her something like less than a year after the paperwork was signed. Perhaps it was only a matter of months.

I’m not mad at the show or creators for this. Not yet, at least. But for a season where the villains seemed obvious at the start, Dr. Jacob has jumped out to a substantial lead as the “worst person on Ted Lasso”. Sorry, Nate (Nick Mohammed) and Rupert (Anthony Head).

Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 3 (AppleTV+)
Ambreen Razia and Juno Temple practice their knowing looks. (AppleTV+)

Post-Game Analysis

  • “4-5-1” made excellent work of the soundtrack to create laughs. The callback to Colin, still unable to handle his car, interrupting the opening theme was fun. The transition from the montage song (which was great) to “Superstar” from Jesus Christ Superstar is even better.
  • I appreciated everyone’s appreciation of Julie Andrews. They’re all wrong, though. Best Julie Andrews is Victor/Victoria, obvi.
  • I keep forgetting to mention one of the players is named Bumbercatch, which takes a tired joke (no one knows how to say Benedict Cumberbatch’s name) and makes it kind of clever again.
  • Norm McDonald makes the list of “charisma unicorns” alongside Paul Newman and Idris Elba. Everyone seems to agree.
  • I used to use a Tibetan singing bowl when I taught Wellness to my clients. Zava using it as he does further reinforces what an egomaniac he is.
  • You may notice I didn’t discuss Rebecca’s meeting with the psychic. As good as Waddingham is in those scenes, it is more profound (although unlikely to be fulfilled) hope that the show similarly never mentions it again either.
Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 3 (AppleTV+)
Maximilian Osinski sure can wear that jacket. (AppleTV+)

Let’s Go To The Tape

  • “The voice. The eyes. The way you know she’d tell you off if you’d been bad.”
  • “Time is a construct. Like gender and many of your alphabets.”
  • “I wasn’t being ironic. I was being hypocritical.”
  • “I was literally just making a joke.” “I know. Which is why I just made two.”
  • “Like Pele if every letter was different.”
  • “Well, hey, Mr. Former President. Boy, have I got a bone to pick with you.”- In some other life, Ted Lasso could’ve been quite the improv comedian.
  • “Please tell Zava that many of my friends’ moms like his abs.”
  • “If I wanted to be scammed out of all my money, I’d go the old-fashioned route and become obsessively religious.”
  • “Are you cheating on me?” “Yeah, I am. With you.”- Beard and Jane, still weird, still seemingly moments from imploding.
  • “You frowned your whole career.” “No, I never smiled. That’s different.”