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'Ted Lasso' Recap, Season 2, Episode 8: Father Figures

Higgins (Jeremy Swift), Roy (Brett Goldstein), Ted (Jason Sudeikis), Beard (Brendan Hunt) and Nate (Nick Mohammed) are all-in for the game against Man City.
Higgins (Jeremy Swift), Roy (Brett Goldstein), Ted (Jason Sudeikis), Beard (Brendan Hunt) and Nate (Nick Mohammed) are all-in for the game against Man City.

Game Highlights

Rebecca finally meets her mystery correspondent, and nervous laughter ensues. Dr. Sharon gets a concussion, and she reaches out to Ted. The jerk store called and they're all out of Jamie Tartt's father, but fortunately, Jamie's got plenty of good dads in his corner.

Play-By-Play

Sharon and Ted

Dr. Sharon starts her day on a call with her own therapist, Bridget, who tells her that her frustration with Ted might have something to do with the fact that she deflects just like he does: He uses humor, and she uses her intelligence. She might have to be more open herself, says Bridget, in order to make progress with him. Sharon isn't fully convinced, but she heads off to the office on her bike (the folding one we admired in a previous episode). She's enjoying the ride, until she gets hit by a car.

Fortunately, Sharon is OK despite a concussion, and it turns out that while she was woozy, she left a bunch of messages for Ted, which get him to the hospital in time to take her home. She's uncomfortable having him in her personal life, but after he calls to check on her regularly, she eventually at least tells him that she was scared when she got hurt. We also get a peek at Sharon's depressing apartment (corporate housing during her assignment to Richmond), and we find that while it doesn't have a lot in it, it has a lot of ... bottles.

Later, after a very difficult loss to Manchester City and an even more difficult scene involving Jamie's father, Ted feels another panic attack coming on. He calls Dr. Sharon and tells her something: His father died by suicide when Ted was 16. It's a beginning and not an ending, but at least he's begun.

Jamie and Roy

Roy's story this week starts out as pure comedy: He's called in to Phoebe's school, because she's been swearing. After talking to her teacher, he begins to worry that as Phoebe's surrogate father, as much as he adores her, he's been a bad influence on her, and he makes her promise that she'll stop swearing, even as he admits he can't quit himself.

Elsewhere, Jamie is reluctantly getting game tickets for his father and his two buddies, who will be rooting for Man City in their game against Richmond. (So yes, Jamie's father forces his son to get him tickets so he can root against him.) When the game against Man City is a slaughter with Richmond on the losing side, Jamie's gleeful dad makes his way down to the locker room to taunt and harass Jamie and his stung teammates. Having endured all he can, and after giving his father a number of chances to retreat peacefully, Jamie punches him in the face. Coach Beard efficiently removes Jamie's dad. As everyone stands around in the awkward silence, wondering what to do, an introspective Roy, fresh off spending a lot of time thinking about how he influences others, goes over and hugs Jamie.

Rebecca and Sam

We learned last week that Sam is Rebecca's secret Bantr correspondent, and that he was waiting on pins and needles to hear from her after suggesting that they meet. This week, he decides to just suggest a place and time, and she agrees. Sam cashes in his once-per-season haircut from team captain Isaac, but when he arrives at the designated spot, he and Rebecca realize that they have been talking online to each other.

His initial reaction is amusement and delight; hers is horror, both because she's his boss and because he's 21 (!). But he persuades her to at least hang around and have dinner, and a montage illustrates that they have a tremendous amount of fun together and are well suited to each other, in spite of the obvious impediments. At her door, they share a quick kiss, but she then demurs and says that it's just not a good idea, and they part. Buuuuuuut later, after the Man City loss and an interview she sees in which Sam talks about the importance of at least trying your hardest, she reaches out via text, and he sends her his address. But when she opens the door to go see him, he's at her door. Why did he send her his address? she wonders. "For next time," he says. Smooching ensues as he comes inside.

Game Analysis

Sometimes I think in the broader conversation about prestige dramas and peak television, and about streaming and multiplying platforms and binge-watching, we don't talk enough about how serialization has affected comedy.

It's a long story

When I was growing up, television comedies were mostly episodic, meaning aside from the broadest arcs (romances like Sam and Diane or Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky falling in love, for instance), each 23-ish-minute segment was self-contained. This made sense in a world in which the ultimate payoff for comedy was syndication, where people might happen upon any episode from anywhere in the run on any given day. It also made sense in a world where summer reruns were shown as a matter of course, but not every episode in order.

This is part of what led to the rebellion against sentimentality in comedy: whatever was to have emotional impact or take on a serious subject, it would go from introduction to conclusion in under a half-hour. That's what "very special episodes" are. That's part of why "no hugging, no learning" was Seinfeld's rule.

The genuine comedy-drama that unapologetically mixes genuine dramatic elements with silliness, a show like Barry or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or Fleabag or GLOW or Insecure, while it isn't entirely new, has found a home in the present streaming landscape that didn't necessarily exist 20 years ago except in rare cases. And that brings us to this week's episode of Ted Lasso.

Isaac (Kola Bokinni) gives a haircut to an excited Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) as he prepares for his date.
/ Apple TV+
Isaac (Kola Bokinni) gives a haircut to an excited Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) as he prepares for his date.

It's complicated

I have mixed feelings about some of these stories.

I love Rebecca and I love Sam, and I want them to make out because they seem to enjoy it so much. But Rebecca really shouldn't sleep with a player on her team; especially one who is this young. That really is an inappropriate power differential for a romantic relationship. If the genders were reversed and this were a man Rebecca's age who was going to date a college-aged woman whose career was in his hands, the peril in it would be obvious.

On the other hand! Serialization has meant that over a stretch of a good many episodes, they've been able to lay a foundation for this to be the rare case of a relationship that is a bad idea structurally, but an understandable impulse personally. Sam is obviously a very mature 21, they have a lot in common, they're both hot, and they spent quite a while conversing over text and building their fondness for each other without that power differential in play. They've had opportunities to build some trust in each other, particularly during his protest over the sponsor, which we now know might have helped nudge this one oil company out of Nigeria for now (a satisfying short-term outcome is not an uncommon outcome of high-profile protests). And the show focuses the montage (set to Rex Orange County's pleasantly chill "Loving Is Easy") on how happy they are and how much fun they're having — it looks like a great conversation.

But his career is in her hands. This is a thing we ask people with power not to do. It's hard to root for.

Roy (Brett Goldstein) has a heart-to-heart with Phoebe (Elodie Blomfield).
/ Apple TV+
Roy (Brett Goldstein) has a heart-to-heart with Phoebe (Elodie Blomfield).

Believe it or not

I think the single biggest question coming out of this episode for a lot of people is going to be: Do you buy that hug? Do you buy the fact that Roy Kent, established originally as the gruffest man alive, would walk across the locker room and embrace Jamie Tartt? The question isn't really whether Roy could be supportive of Jamie; Roy's growth has certainly justified that. The question is maybe more like ... is that how Roy would choose to be supportive? And do you want that from this show? After all, they are literally hugging and learning.

Again, I think because it's serialized, that scene works better than it ever could have in an episodic show. Jamie's stuff with his father goes back to last season, when we learned that his father was (at the very least) verbally abusive and probably always had been. And as hard as it was for Jamie to come back to Richmond after tanking his relationship with his father's team out of spite, the hardest nut for him to crack has been Roy. He wanted Roy's help, and he wanted Roy's approval.

As for Roy, he spent a good chunk of this episode specifically thinking about his role as a surrogate parent. What parts of himself does he want to pass on? What is his obligation to Phoebe to be himself but also give her what she needs? If you tilt your head to the side, Roy doesn't want to pass along his demeanor to the guys he coaches just like he doesn't want to pass along his swearing to Phoebe. It doesn't come naturally to him not to swear, or not to shout "Oi!" instead of giving a guy a hug. But he's trying to be the best possible version of himself when he's responsible for other people. So this isn't just Roy having grown as a person generally; this is Roy reevaluating his approach to mentoring and parenting specifically, especially when he deals with people whose own fathers come up short. And given that backdrop, I do buy that hug.

The great and good Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles).
/ Apple TV+
The great and good Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles).

It's therapy, Ted

I love Sarah Niles' work as Dr. Sharon this season so much. I consider her one of the best second-season additions to any show, ever. I think Sharon rebalanced Ted Lasso by providing a counterweight to Ted, and Niles provided a counterweight to Sudeikis and his comedic energy — which can be subdued, but which on this show tends to be ... zany.

One of the things I think has been so great about Sharon is that she functions like a therapist: She refuses Ted's efforts to charm her, to befriend her — she's there to work. But inevitably, there's a personal relationship between these people too (Ted is her colleague as well as her patient, which seems ... complicated?), and I'm apprehensive about the show sort of sentimentalizing the blurring of those lines. A therapeutic relationship has boundaries, and therapy isn't friendship, and so forth.

At the same time, what Sharon tells Ted is very limited and not overly personal, not much more than the acknowledgement that she, too, has feelings. But the bottles in Sharon's apartment seem to suggest possible future directions that make me nervous about the execution of the story. If it turns out Dr. Sharon needs more help, it shouldn't be from her patients.

It's also a short story

The irony of the influence of serialization on a show like Ted Lasso is that I also think of this show as being very good at using the structure of each episode to draw dotted thematic lines. It's not obvious at the outset that Sharon's bike accident and Jamie's awful father and Phoebe's swearing have to all be in the same episode, but it snaps into place at the end: Jamie's father, Ted's father, Roy as Phoebe's father. The writing staff is good at drawing long arcs, but they're also good at structuring individual episodes so that they hang together and don't feel like they're just A-plot/B-plot/C-runner kinds of setups.

Furthermore, formally speaking, to shape an episode so that it has everything that should be in it and nothing else, you sometimes need a bit of flexibility on the running time, which was practically never available on networks and very limited on cable. This episode is 45 minutes long, about half again as long as most episodes of Ted. A lot of extra-long episodes are just muddled and not edited enough, but some episodes use that flexibility sparingly to let stories unspool as they should, and I think Ted produces the latter more often than the former.

Nice touches

  • Love the barber scene. It feels real that getting a haircut from Isaac would mean a lot.
  • It's interesting not to see Ted until six and a half minutes into this episode, when we find him at the hospital having the NHS explained to him. 
  • I'm glad the show has not backed away from the fact that Ted is fundamentally unqualified for his job. For him not to know that pitches are different sizes is genuinely appalling, but now that he has three other guys on the coaching staff who do know the basics of the game, it seems less terrible? But let's face it: Ted is unqualified for his job. 
  • It's good that Ted decides to share the fact that he's been having panic attacks with his fellow coaches, and because of that discussion, you get Beard coming out after the confrontation with Jamie's dad to check on Ted. I am curious about Beard's mood after the game when he wants to go be by himself. What's up with this man of few words and many noises?
  • It's rare on a sports show for a big game to be as anticlimactic as the game against Man City turns out to be. The last time these teams met, the game was fabulously suspenseful, but not this time. Richmond comes in as underdogs who one would think would get a thorough thumping from this Man City team, and that's ... exactly what happens. And yet, the episode ends on a note of hope, because of what's happening with the individuals: Ted, Roy, Jamie, Rebecca, Sam ... they all just took a huge loss, but they don't seem defeated. People will try to tell you sports-set shows aren't about sports, but decoupling the mood of the show from the fate of the team is the only way to make that actually true. 
  • I know I don't catch everything on this show that's drawn from real football, but note that Mike Dean, who gives Nate his yellow card, is a real referee. 
  • I gotta say, when Jamie hits his dad, that looks like it hurts. That's not your basic big swing where all the sense that there's even any impact comes from the sound effects. That's a solid stage punch right to the face.
  • Another shout to the terrific music department. I don't think it's a coincidence that while Ted often uses offbeat and unfamiliar music to fabulous effect, this episode ends with two sort of epic and beloved songs: Oasis' "Don't Look Back In Anger" and Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know." They know how to signal that things are building.
  • This Week In Ted

    Peak Ted

    "I want you to close your eyes. Look around."

    Referential Ted

    Winnie the Pooh, Grey's Anatomy, Coolio, Ronnie Fouch, Stephen Sondheim, Kyrie Irving, Sling Blade

    Coach Beard Noise of the Week

    "Oops."

    Stealth MVP of the Week

    Ruth Bradley as Ms. Bowen (Phoebe's teacher) gets a great funny scene this week, in which she has to explain to Roy that Phoebe is swearing. That little coda about the glitter is wonderful.

    Assist of the Week

    Given how hateful Jamie's father is, it would be easy to overlook Kieran O'Brien playing him, but to get somebody that purely hateful right isn't as easy as it looks.

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