Season 3, Episode 5: ‘Signs’
This episode of “Ted Lasso” was a bit disjointed — what Raymond Chandler would have called “passagework” — following individual stories that were only loosely connected. But it did push forward several important subplots.
The episode opens with the news that despite the heroics of Zava, AFC Richmond is on an epic losing streak that dates back to their loss to West Ham last episode. I’ll have more to say about Zava below, but first let’s address the arcs of a few of the show’s central characters.
The predictions of the psychic she visited in Episode 3 continue to materialize. First it was the green matchbook. Now it’s the spoonerism for “knight in shining armor,” i.e., “[expletive] in nining armor.” (This is a family newspaper, even when the swears are distinctly British.) At the coffee shop where Rebecca dumped the unfortunate John Wingsnight last season, she runs into him with his new fiancée, who immediately blurts out that precise inverted phrase. Rebecca is, understandably, more than a little freaked out.
The remaining question regarding the “nining armor” phrase is whether it has any meaning beyond its repetition in the coffee shop. The green matchbook, for instance, doesn’t seem to have any significance beyond the fact that its appearance was foreseen by the psychic.
If the phrase does have further significance, it seems all but certain that it will involve Jamie, who sharper observers than I am quickly noted wears the No. 9 on his jersey. (It is typically the number worn by the striker on a Premier League team, which Jamie was until Zava showed up and surely will be again now that Zava is gone.) And here I can see two obvious possibilities, one more appealing than the other. It could mean that Rebecca is going to hook up in some way with Jamie, but that would be bizarre, given that it’s very difficult to believe either would be remotely attracted to the other. It would also be, forgive me if you must, gross. After Sam, Rebecca really can’t date another 20-something subordinate, or we are entering the territory of a damaged psyche and probable lawsuits.
A far better — and more plausible — reading is that under the 4 a.m. tutelage of Roy, Jamie emerges as a true star and begins leading Richmond to wins again. This, in fact, seems to be where we’re headed, psychic prediction or no psychic prediction.
It’s perhaps worth noting here that so far the psychic’s predictions have occurred in the order she predicted them: the matchbook first, and the nining armor second. Does this mean that her third prediction — “Thunder and lightning, and you, and you’re upside down, and you’re drenched” — is imminent? Time will tell.
‘Ted Lasso’ Is Back
- Episode Recaps: The Apple TV+ soccer comedy starring Jason Sudeikis kicked off its third season on March 15. Read our recaps here.
- Life After ‘Lasso’: Brett Goldstein, who became the show’s breakout star as the gruff and profane Roy Kent, is preparing for what comes next. But what he’s really after is human connection.
- Stepping Out of the Background: Just as Toheeb Jimoh’s character, Sam Obisanya, has grown over the series, the actor’s career has also soared.
But Rebecca is obviously far more interested in the psychic’s final prediction: that she will become a mother. So she heads to a doctor who gives her hope that her age might not be an obstacle to pregnancy and then, after tests, dashes that hope. Rebecca will not have a baby.
There has been much speculation, here in the comments and elsewhere, about how and for whom Rebecca might become a surrogate mother. Put me in the camp that thinks Bex will leave Rupert (presumably after learning of his affair with Ms. Kakes) and that Rebecca will somehow help to raise her awful ex-husband’s infant child. But feel free to offer alternative theories.
Hannah Waddingham offers a magnificently subtle performance here, some of the best acting she’s done on the entire show. And she is at her peak when she is not speaking at all, when her face oscillates seamlessly between hope and disappointment, sometimes conveying both at once. Her work during the devastating call from her doctor and immediately afterward is beautiful and heartbreaking, and the choice of music, “Quiet,” by Rachael Yamagata, is perfect.
Nate is oscillating too, as he has been for a few episodes now, between his true self — decent but hopelessly insecure — and the mask of the bullying egotist he keeps trying to wear, with limited success. After a nice bit in which he calls his mum to practice how he will ask the supermodel Anastasia on a date, he does in fact call her, and they go out for dinner.
Nate being Nate, of course, he takes her to the relatively downscale restaurant where he and his family have celebrated special occasions for years. With Anastasia in tow, he tries once again to impress the hostess, Jade, and she is once again entirely unimpressed.
Anastasia is unimpressed, too, but with the restaurant itself. If Nate were truly the big shot he is trying so hard to be, he would have foreseen this and taken her someplace “cool.” But he didn’t, and Anastasia, worried that she might appear on social media in a place “so dumpy and sad,” makes a quarter-hearted excuse and flees the premises.
At which point Jade sees the true Nate, wounded and vulnerable, and joins him at his table, where we see them drinking wine and laughing easily. The mask is off, at least for now. I found it a lovely, if perhaps improbable, twist. It is certainly further evidence that in the battle for Nate’s soul, Good Nate is gaining the upper hand over Bad Nate.
Last episode, we saw signs that Ted was tiring of his own mask of perpetual affability when he voiced his displeasure about Dr. Jacob to his ex-wife, Michelle. This episode, he has to contend with the news that his son, Henry, has been involved in a bullying incident at school.
The immediate assumption is that Henry was the one bullied, leading to a hilarious scene in which Coach Beard suggests that they fly to Kansas and burn the bully’s house down, before Roy offers the sensible advice that the “best thing you can do with bullies is ignore them.” This advice is not quite what it seems, however, as Roy goes on to paint a late-at-night vengeance scenario, involving a heavy rope soaked in red paint, worthy of a Bond villain. (I can’t be the only one who was reminded of a particular scene in “Casino Royale.”)
But it turns out that Henry was not the bullied but the bully. And as much as Ted is upset at this news, it’s clear that he is equally upset that he is not there, in Kansas, to be a father to his son. Despite Ted’s absence, though, Henry is still a Lasso, and he corrects his error in the most Lasso manner imaginable: “I let him know I was sorry by doing an apology rap in front of the whole class.”
Ted, too, is gaining firmer control of himself. He begins to have a panic attack before his call with Henry, and it becomes full blown after he gets off the phone. He envisions the last time he saw Henry in person, as he vanished down an escalator at Heathrow on his way back to Kansas. But he gains control of himself, whispering, “He’s OK, he’s OK,” and to his own apparent surprise, the panic attack is over.
I don’t know whether Ted will reunite with Michelle, or whether he should. But I have a very difficult time believing he will not wind up back in Kansas to be a father to Henry. This is a show, after all, supremely concerned with the failures of fathers: Ted’s, Nate’s, Jamie’s, Rebecca’s. (Sam’s is the exception that proves the rule.) Ted is surely not eager to join that list.
Later, after the brutal loss to Man City — Beard’s joke that it has the same name as the strip club he worked at in college is priceless — Ted addresses the team about the things we let bring us down: “Crap like envy or fear or shame. I don’t want to mess around with any of that [expletive] anymore.” It’s an admission of something we’ve already seen: Ted has been suffering from all three of those feelings. But there’s hope. Ted is committed to “believing that things can get better, that I can get better.” This, again, appears to be Ted’s trajectory for the season: Becoming a better man and a better father. This doesn’t mean being a less generous person. But it may mean stashing away at least a little of his perpetually chirpy, upbeat facade.
Please tell me we have seen the last of Shandy. Her character arc was evident from the moment Keeley hired her, and the decision to play it for broad laughs (“condoms for balls”!) just made it feel like a weekly dose of last season’s “Led Tasso” misfire. She seemed to have walked in from another, much worse sitcom. Her over-the-top tirade on the way out the door — and subsequent experiment in animal husbandry — served only as a reminder of what a feeble character she has been from the start.
Jack, on the other hand, is kind of awesome, at least from what we’ve seen so far. “Compliment sandwich,” “talent dysmorphia,” sex with a birthday clown in a car with 30 of his clown buddies? Sign me up. Essentially trading Shandy for Jack could improve the Keeley story line by an order of magnitude. I’m not sure I fully buy the sudden romantic attraction. But I’m not sure I care.
Even the dour chief financial officer Barbara gets in a worthy zinger upon Shandy’s departure.
Barbara: “Well, I’m not going to say it.”
Keeley: “But you’re going to think it.”
Barbara: “Yes. Often and forever.”
There may be hope for this subplot yet.
He was in only three episodes meaningfully, but Zava was a pleasant surprise. The obvious way to present him was as an astonishing egomaniac and horrible teammate — indeed that seemed to be how they were setting him back in Episode 2. (It also captures the real-life superstar he is based on, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is famous for his many verbal and violent physical altercations, many of them with teammates.) But the show went with something weirder and at least a bit more interesting. Egoist? Sure. Messianic? Definitely. But not the living nightmare we were led to expect. And his retiring, as opposed to being kicked off the team or demanding a trade, was a pleasantly unexpected exit as well.
I confess I found his description of his love for his wife modestly adorable. And even though it doubled as a semi-dirty joke (more on this category later), his line at the end of the video he posted captured the Ted Lasso ethos about as well as anyone has: “If you put your energy into the things you truly love, the universe puts its thing back into you.” Yet another hint that Ted will return home to Henry?
Odds and ends
I loved it when Colin noted that “She’s All That” was based on “My Fair Lady,” and Sam one-upped him by noting that the latter was itself based on “Pygmalion.” Now that’s a locker room where I could feel at home.
I enjoy watching Jamie’s progression, which I’m sure we’ll see on the field as well now that Zava is gone. “Hey, enough of that negativity,” he scolds his teammates. “Stop acting like a bunch of little bunny rabbits and let’s [expletive] do this.”
Poor Coach Beard, whom Gina Gershon evidently left to meet her soul mate.
Anyone else notice that when, in his big speech, Ted mentions, “Maybe we’ve hurt someone else,” the camera immediately fixes on Roy? Of course you did. We still don’t know precisely why he broke up with Keeley. But I’m quite certain it goes well beyond “we’re both too busy.”
Was Higgins’s early reading of a cellphone note about the team’s poor play — I’ll omit the setup for obvious reasons, and cite only the punchline — “This is a text from my father” the dirtiest joke that has yet appeared on Ted Lasso? I say yes, but anyone who wants to offer an alternative candidate should go right ahead. Although watch your language if you want to get it past the moderators.