It’s telling about how special Ted Lasso is that when an episode of it reminds me of Parks & Recreation — one of the premier half-hour comedies of the 21st Century, it almost feels like it’s slumming. As it is in Pawnee, Richmond’s residents always blend outright hilarity with a warm heart and a love for humanity’s foibles. Both shows are adept at balancing satisfying standalone episodes, while forwarding overall narrative and various arcs. However, Parks & Rec would occasionally fall prey to shamelessly telegraphing its themes and triumphs. Often its plots could take plot turns that were a lot of fun, but ultimately did not ring true.
This episode features a bunch of TV tropes periscoped to front and center. There’s a new charismatic character that everyone is drawn to — a mercurial, egotistic football legend named Zava (think Ronaldo) — who Richmond hopes to, against all odds, snag. We’ve got the breakup of major characters that neither fans nor anyone on the show wants. Figure it out, Keeley Jones and Roy Kent. And then there’s a classic fish out of water as Keeley clashes with her Stepford employees. Two of these elements are neatly resolved to the level you can almost project a literal bow on top of the screen. There’s a certain basicness to this episode. It’s also one of the funniest episodes in a long while, with two of the greatest scenes in the show’s run.
There’s something I like to call the Silverado principle. In the 1980s western, Kevin Costner’s character Jake is a goof-em-up of a cowboy, but he’s a master at riding a horse. When his brother Emmett (Scott Glenn) is told Jake is dead, having fallen off his horse, Emmett immediately knows Jake is fine. Jake is too talented to have died of something that simple. He must be alive (and within a minute he pops into frame). So it is with well-written TV shows. If Ted Lasso is aggressively acting like it’s about to launch into a cliche sitcom, there’s probably something more going on.
Rebecca’s a mess! And that’s the point. Most of our “heroes” are, to the outside world, at the pinnacle of their game (pun gleefully intended). Ted successfully led his team back to the Premier League against all expectations. Roy Kent has found his niche as a coach. Coach Beard is always cool, but seems to have figured out his relationship with Jane Payne. Nate, heel that he has become, has risen from towel boy to the coach of a top-level team. Even Jamie Tartt shows remarkable growth both on and off the field. And Rebecca leads a successful franchise and is surrounded by great human beings.
Let’s dust off our photographs of fancy tricks, so as to get our kicks at sixty-six.
Elvis Costello is certainly a fitting choice from which a show like Ted Lasso would crib its episode title. His music qualifies as edgy and off-the-beaten path, but just accessible enough that all the cast would range from somewhat to acutely familiar with it. Moreover, his career spans decades and would have likely been ubiquitous in the youth of most of the main cast. Well, not the players perhaps — Maas likely would know it, and Sam seems the sort whose sweet feels would lead him to search out Mr. McManus.
Ted Lasso would probably know a couple songs, maybe “Veronica” and “Alison,” but still would have a Lasso-ism up his sleeve referencing Costello. He’d probably hear the titular song at a club and say “I love this one.” Or, given his deep reference reservoir, I could be totally wrong and he knows every B-side. For all his cartoonish charm and goofy facade, Lasso’s depth of hidden character paces most of those in TV history. Even Screamin’ Coach Beard has nothing on him.
He would definitely know Lizzo’s music keenly. Perhaps he was even an early adaptor (“Ted Lizzo”). Lizzo’s rapturous ode to self-confidence “Good as Hell” (mashed perfectly with Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day”) stands in sharp contrast to the opening scene featuring Keeley’s team of introverts. So far the third season cold open motif is one of our Richmond-ites showing how exhausted they are. Fishes out of water abound. Last week, it was a close shot on an out-of-sorts Lasso.
This week, we get more insight into Keeley’s weird, tense office. In perfect Ted Lasso fashion, it’s not as simple as they are jerks and/or don’t care for Keeley. It would appear they are more of a hivemind of stoic awkwardness. Even the oft-oblivious Keeley figures out question quickly her initial instinct to throw her team a party. Yeah, about as bad as calling her uptight employee Barbara, Barb. But you know she’s going to do both anyway. Cue Mumford & Not Son.
So many of the Richmond crew have been through the ringer this off-season. In addition to Keeley’s frazzled state helming her first business, Rebecca finds herself an easy mark of her duplicitous ex-husband Rupert’s machinations with his West Ham at the top of the table. Also, Roy Kent is still adjusting to his newish role as main Richmond tactician. Former strategian Nate, of course, is now Rupert’s apprentice in evil, managing West Ham. And, of course, our title character is wondering why he is still “here” which will be one of the main themes of this final season.
Speaking of Nate, a lot of this episode is marked by what isn’t there. Our third season heel Nate does not spend a second on screen. It’s telling that when Rupert tries to recruit Zava, Nate is not present as a selling point. Probably because Rupert knows the idea of Nate is more relatable than the actuality. Ted Lasso’s patience is at its end and as a semi-spoiler-free zone, we don’t want to tell you where it boils over, but While Keely and Roy Kent’s split hovers over everything, they have only one scene together, and it’s in the background where we can only read lips.
Trent Crimm is back — now independent from The Independent — just in time for the show to announce its entering into a classic TV premise. And they do it with exposition so obvious, they might as well be the Monty Python gumbies. We’re introducing a new player. Zava is an Italian striker with, as Crimm puts it, “a mercurial nature,” who wants to live in England after his wife binged The Office. Once Rebecca reminds Lasso the Scranton version is a remake (or the UK version is, as Lasso calls it, a “premake”), he’s game. Rebecca thinks it’s a questionable move until she hears he’s being recruited by Rupert’s West Ham. Oh Rebecca. And she admits it to the visiting sleazy(-ish) newsman even.
Then we come back to Keeley. This episode quickly makes it clear that it’s about to put Keeley through the ringer. After Ted blindly agrees she should throw a party, Isaac jump scares her with a relatively benign question. Then, she crashes into Jamie Tartt (yes, he gets the Roy Kent, always full name treatment) and the ghosts of his confession are still there. You know the ante is about to be upped when Isaac clues Jamie Tartt into the break-up of “Keelent.” And yes, I’m going to keep trying to make “Keelent” happen. Even if the pair themselves are talking themselves out of one of the most healthy couplings on television.
Perhaps the coolest moment of the episode comes when Jamie Tartt genuinely tries to console Roy Kent. It does not go well. But it does show how even Keeley’s former boy toy hasn’t got the heart to hate on Keelent. The whole team is invested and a fight breaks out which leads to a brilliant “Who’s on First”-esque routine where Lasso reveals a whole bunch of secrets. Coach Beard and Ted Lasso also are floored and Roy Kent’s entrance draws an “awww” which incurs Roy Kent’s ire. The whole thing is an insane five minutes of farce. You might have to watch ten times to catch every morsel of comedy.
Conflict resolution is another key element of an episode that is haunted by the inability of two obviously aligned souls to work out a relationship everyone in the world has shipped for three years (damn it, Keelant). Keeley bashes with her consultant Barb… “that felt wrong as I said it”… Barbara which reaches a climax when she hires her friend Shandy. Barbara was not privy to viewing Shandy’s talent — her wisdom on display during a photoshoot where she’s a model — and only sees a vanity hire with zero experience or education.
Meanwhile, in perhaps the most unlikely pairing, Ted Crimm and Roy Kent share an office per Ted Lasso (because, of course). Roy Kent clearly despises Crimm, and given his prior slitheriness, can you blame him? However, it’s deeper than mere dislike — there’s history! When Roy Kent reveals why, it leads to Crimm’s eloquent soliloquy about edginess. Essentially, he answers why he’s like this. It also leads to an exchange between Lasso and Roy Kent and Hallmark Movies and why all three of those things are… like they are. It may be the most important moment in the show.
It’s a true testament to why we love great television like Parks & Recreation and Ted Lasso, to why they are different, to why they are they are. It also, like all great art — and in these days of Peak TV, television certainly qualifies as art — points the mirror back at us and asks us to reflect on why we are what we are. Beneath a bunch of sitcom tropes, something happened!
Oh, also this…
- “Oh, it does not move me, even though I’ve seen the movie.”
- If you are a Costello fan, check out the excellent blog Recliner Notes, penned by friend of the Subject, Scott Bunn.
- So how does the Keeley Jones PR Firm staffing work exactly? Did she go to Grim Clockwatchers, Inc., and ask for the full set? How were they all working together before?
- Keeley: “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” Confused employee: “What wouldn’t she do?”
- Crimm loves Rebecca’s potential revenge story after he calls her out on it. CHAOS!
- The Office exists in the Richmond-iverse. Both versions!
- Roy Kent and Jamie Tartt quickly shut William down when he tries to be this year’s model of Nate: “Hey maybe we should all go out sometime, us 3, get a couple drinks, a couple pints, a couple shots, FISHBOWLS! Single guys cluuuub!” William, we know where this road leads. Coaching Fulham!
- It’s likely no coincidence that Jamie Tartt’s heavily brogued “I’m trying to comfort you” sounds like “I’m trying to come for ya.” It surely sounds that way to Roy Kent. But good on Jamie Tartt for trying. It’s funny how for all of Roy Kent’s growth, there’s still some sore spots and a former tosser like Jamie Tartt can somehow get the upper hand maturity-wise.
- Speaking of growth, Trent Crimm has come so far from bratty soccer edgelord to Richmond fan. His elegy about being “edgy” and what it gets you is a beautiful thing.
- “Why would Zava write a book about Trent Crimm?”
- “She gave a little flirt, gave herself a little cuddle/But there’s no place here for the mini-skirt waddle.”
- Ted Lasso loves handfuls of salt peanuts, but not handfuls of Skittles.
- Coach Beard screams twice, revealing he has the same scream for both bad and good shocks.
- Ted Lasso, Movie Reviewer: “Hallmark Christmas movies are films that feature women from the big city falling in love with their childhood crushes. It’s usually some fella that owns a Christmas tree farm. Sometimes he’s a prince or Santa Claus. They kinda suck, but they’re also kinda great. But they also suck. They’re good with the sound off.”
- “It bounced off my face, but my face almost scored.” Dani with the Head of God?
- “Clamato, Clamato, right?”
- Isaac wants to promote shoes… not as a brand, but in general!
- “They call her Natasha when she looks like Elsie”
- “There’s a fine line between stalking and romance” Keeley with a universal truth as Rebecca explains how her heart was won and why she’s sure Zava will feel the same.
- I said it last week and will again this week. The soundtrack to Ted Lasso is hella underrated. In addition to Lizzo, we hear Republica’s “Ready to Go” and the Kinks’ “A Well Respected Man.” As a theme for Crimm’s walk of… less shame, it’s perfect irony.
- As is so often the case, Ted’s Lasso-ism pointing out the irony of the name of the newspaper Crimm left for his solo career from last season’s finale was much funner than my own. That’s why I’m here, and they’re the comedy-talking guys. And so it goes!
- “I don’t want to check your pulse/I don’t want nobody else”