Recap: Ted Lasso – 3×07 – “The Strings That Bind Us”

Written by Phoebe Walsh Directed by Matt Lipsey

Well, that is not where I expected that episode title to go. Many people had speculated it would be about soulmates, specifically, Ted and Rebecca. While I still don‘t have particularly strong feelings about that, I cackled a lot at the fact that we do get Ted describing the Japanese folklore of invisible strings only for it to turn out to be about Roy tying the dicks of players together. (Not personally, presumably, but we didn‘t actually see that bit happening). Anyway, the episode is also about connection in a larger sense, as well as about boxes and stepping outside of them – a previous title was simply “Boxes”, and Phoebe Walsh, a story editor from day one, wrote this one (and previously also had sole credit on “All Apologies” and “Headspace”, and can occasionally be seen on-screen as Jane, Beard’s much-maligned toxic girlfriend).

Let’s start with Nate, who is working up the courage to ask Jade out on a proper date. He admits to misreading women’s signals before (like kissing Keeley, a fact he never actually apologized to her for, only to Roy) and asks his mother and sister for advice on how to figure out if a woman likes you or is just being nice. The answer is simple: ask her. And so he does. He first builds a fancy box, a thing we last saw him do in season 1 to collect money for Sam‘s birthday, and he also helps his niece with hers (off-screen) for his sister‘s birthday. But he stumbles, and the box is crushed by a car, and yet he still manages to ask Jade out anyway. Of course she says yes. He has come a long way.

We also see it in his scene in the bathroom at a Taste of Athens that uses the exact same shot from the scene in Season 2: then, he spit at his own image to pump himself up; now, he just looks at himself, takes a breath, builds confidence. Nate hasn’t forgotten what Ted taught him. He‘s still tied to his old team and former mentor and will always be. By becoming a successful football coach, he already broke out of the box society wanted to put him in as a man of colour with a working class background, a postcolonial subject in 21st century Britain. But he‘s now also beginning to sidestep the traps of toxic masculinity he first fell into despite the better angels of his nature (Sorkin, not Pinker).

Sam meanwhile is still trying to listen to his, but equally struggles to do, in another overdue plot for a show set in the world of Premier League football: the racism directed at players of colour, and especially Black players. The double standard of them being loved for their football skills representing their teams or their countries, until the second they make a mistake. Sam’s heartbreaking outburst echoes the experience of so many: there’s Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho, who faced racist abuse after they missed their penalties for England at the Euro 2020 finals, or Turkish-German player Mezut Özil who said “They see me as a German when I win, but as an immigrant when I lose.” Sam’s, and consequently, Richmond’s boycott of Dubai Air in Season 2’s “Do The Rightest Thing” would have realistically led to insane amounts of vitriol heaped on him and the other young Black players of the team. Of course Ted Lasso is a show that often deals with football in a way that needs a healthy amount of suspension of disbelief as much as it also gets things right about it (and that’s good actually). But given it also deals so well with abuse, mental illness, and now, homophobia, it still is important that it doesn’t shy away from this completely. Especially as it calls out the very real, very hateful post-Brexit refugee politics of the UK’s home secretary.

It’s also the perfect moment for us to meet Ola Obisanya (Nonso Anozie), Sam’s father, who he named his restaurant after, and who we have only heard on his phone so far. Sam breaking down crying in his arms, surrounded by his teammates in the locker room, also draws a painful parallel to Jamie’s moment in “Man City”, where his breakdown was however caused by his own father, only for Roy to step in. Jamie meanwhile continues to evolve, solving the puzzle of total football for the Greyhounds by suggesting making himself the center of the team rather than singling him out like Zava. Maybe “shite in nine-ing armour” wasn’t about him, but it was always him that was going to save them, and he‘s well on his way to, not least of all because Roy‘s one-on-one coaching, that now also involves a bike.

Total football, as Trent explains ecstatically, more to us than to Ted, is of course, the natural consequence of “the Lasso way”: for almost three seasons (football and TV), Ted has taught everyone to step outside of their boxes, outside of their comfort zones, to build community and trust among his team. They come together, figuring out what the situation needs, like they do when they rebuild Sam’s restaurant after it’s destroyed by racist fucks. It’s now time for them to use that more than anything to finally make good on the promise Ted gave Rebecca: they’re gonna win the whole fucking thing. I for one, can’t wait.

WTF of the week: Not really one, but I somehow needed so many other words for all this that I am discussing it here – I really hope the fact Keeley addresses the “love bombing” Jack does head-on means it’s not actually a case of her trying to mislead her. It doesn’t feel like it, but if they would mess with this wlw relationship, I would be mad.

Line of the week: “I‘m starting to get all these subtle hints from Jane. Certain magazines left on the coffee table, always hearing about her friends who are doing it.” – “Well, marriage is a big commitment, you know.” – “No, I‘m talking about pegging.”  I can’t personally believe that Beard has never been pegged before, but this exchange between two straight (?) white middle-aged men? Gold in every way.

Trivia of the week: We see the restaurant owners of Richmond open up in the morning, beautifully set to The Cranberries’ “Dreams”. That’s a nod to Nora Ephron’s “You‘ve Got Mail”. Ted Lasso‘s a romcom as much as it‘s a sports film. And a half hour comedy. And a one hour drama. And a swimmer. Wait.

Oh also, I think this storyline may have been one of the late rewrites, cause I can‘t help but think Simi‘s team shouting “Yes, Chef!” in unisono is a The Menu reference, which was only released late last year? Someone correct me, I have for instance not seen The Bear.