Written by Jane Becker Directed by Matt Lipsey
I usually put this at the end of my recap, but the line of the week clearly is “I’m sorry”. Nate’s father says it to him, Nate says it to Will, Keeley texts it to Rebecca, and Roy says it to Keeley. And what a seismic shift this means. And moreover, without wanting to get too therapy-speak about it, this episode is about everyone’s inner child – or how our childhood, and what happened to us when we were children, is always with us, no matter what we do, and how that informs the choices we make as adults.
Plotwise, this week is about the international break in the football season, so there’s no Premier League match as some of Richmond’s players get called up to their respective national teams: Jamie for England (long on the wishlist of many a fan), Colin for Wales, Bumbercatch for Switzerland (obviously), van Damme for Canada and Dani for Mexico, with the latter two hilariously facing off against each other, bringing out the dark side of Dani. Sam is not playing for Nigeria, but only because Edwin Akufo has donated $20 million to the government – a fact he openly discloses, which makes me wonder if that little detail will find its way to the press in the future, and right some wrongs. But for now, it further cements Akufo as perhaps the one true villain of the show. I don’t want to say Rupert has been redeemed, far from it, but at least we see a more human side of him this week, and some inkling as to why Rebecca ever fell for him.
Akufo, however, is a different story: he is in town to pitch a Super League of the world’s best teams to some of the English club owners (minus the Russian oligarch, because that’s “a bad look right now”). In case you don’t know, the Super League is real (ballsy move to not even change the name), and it got heavily criticized for the reasons the episode spells out: it’s a grift intended to make the rich richer, and a potential threat to smaller clubs who can’t afford to play in the league, further widening rifts within the national leagues. And it would shut out many fans at a time when regular tickets for weekly matches are already skyrocketing (I live in Munich, Germany, and my club is FC Bayern, so I have an inkling of what they are talking about). It’s more than satisfying to see Rebecca tear the other billionaires and millionaires a new one, and shut down the idea – unfortunately, in real life, the last word has not yet been spoken. Rebecca’s speech however nails it on the head, and echoes Ted’s “it’s not our club, we’re just borrowing it for a while” line earlier this season – the clubs belong to the fans.
Football is a sport that makes “heroes and villains out of ordinary men” – and so do money and power, the other obvious throughline of this episode, and the show at large. Many of the protagonists have a working-class background and got rich later in life, most through football. Rupert, as it turns out, is one of them. Keeley’s reminder that they were all just little boys once, and the shot of the rich white old men (and the rich middle-aged Black man) is perfection. Every one of them had a choice about what to do with their wealth and influence, and the fact that they’re sitting on this table right now means that every single one of them failed. Which brings us to Nate, who was always hungry for power and success, and the approval of father figures, or really, just his own father. He finally gets it, and it may be too late, but it’s still a potential step towards healing. Especially as it comes after he quits West Ham – we don’t really know why yet, but it’s probably a final realization that Rupert’s treatment of women and his overall workplace culture is not the path he wants to take. Even if it means giving up his own position of power. He falls into depression (paralleling Keeley, who learns her company has been defunded, only to be picked up by Rebecca). Finally, he ends up at his parents’ house, reminiscing about his childhood, and doted on by his Mom – but he also gets his crucial moment with his Dad. He admits that he didn’t know “how to parent a genius”, that he struggled with the fact that his son was given all the opportunities he never had and that he thus pushed him too hard. It’s the classic second-generation immigrant narrative, but it’s also one of “gifted” children more broadly, especially when their parents are from working-class backgrounds. “I just liked playing”, Nate says about his violin, but that’s likely what Roy and Jamie would have said about football, too, before one father shipped his son off to Sunderland at five, and the other one exploited him for his own gain.
Ted Lasso has always been about fathers and sons, or in Rebecca’s case fathers and daughters (she invokes him in her speech and we see her own mirror image as a little girl; Jane Becker, who wrote this episode, is also responsible for “No Weddings and a Funeral”). So it’s also no surprise that this episode’s most delightful scene is Phoebe celebrating “Uncle’s Day” with Roy in lieu of her absentee father. We finally meet Roy’s still-nameless sister (actually we had before, she worked in the ER when Doc Sharon had her concussion, something fans had also noted in the past); and Phoebe invites Roy’s best friend – Jamie. Of course they refuse to be that, but nobody is fooling anyone here, and it’s long been foreshadowed. Back in 1×04, Jamie asks about Roy’s former teammate and enemy: “You and that Doug bloke, you ever become friends?” to which Roy of course says no. But he’s a different man. And so is Jamie, who even wears Sam’s number on his England kit as a gesture of solidarity.
Roy also continues to undo more his own damage, and owns up to hurting Keeley because of being stuck in his own shit. He needs one of his signature moments of revelation to do so, and it comes via talking to Ms Bowen, who continues to be very relatable (I mean, who wouldn’t be tempted to clean up the mess that is Roy Kent?). Roy needs a push sometimes, just like Phoebe may literally force some lightness on him by way of tie-dye shirt, but crucially, he also chooses to wear it – much like he chooses to wear Keeley’s pink bathrobe after they have make-up sex. And by the end, he even puts on something else lightly colorful to work, to the delighted surprise of Trent and Beard. “Not yet”, Ted had said to him eight episodes ago; and he’s slowly becoming the man he always could be, and thus one step closer to being Ted’s successor.
Really everyone is lighter now, including Beard – he’s the so far least changed character, who holds onto his anger towards Nate and his toxic relationship with Jane. But then he tells Trent he is from Peoria, so there’s s hope yet. Rebecca meanwhile wears a pink dress and her hair down, much like she did in “Sunflowers” when she tells Ted that she still wants to win it all, but no longer as an act of revenge towards Rupert, as she finally is over him. He’s no longer the Devil, he’s just a man. Just a man, who once used to be boy.
WTF of the week: Akufo just generally, really. But props to Sam Richardson for his scenery-chewing performance, especially when he nails five different accents in about a minute.
Line of the week: As I said, it’s “I’m sorry” in all its variations, but it’s also “football isn’t just a game” and everything that follows. That’s always been the one big thing Ted Lasso definitely got so very right about the sport, even when creative license was taken elsewhere.
Trivia of the week: As you could probably tell, Nick Mohammed actually does play the violin, and even was part of his university’s orchestra.
P.S. The Writer’s Strike is still ongoing. Please donate to the Entertainment Community Fund, or stand in solidarity with the WGA via #wgastrong, #dothewritething, #fans4WGA, or my attempt at making fetch happen, #Scholars4WGA.