Written by Brett Goldstein Directed by Destiny Ekaragha
It is a big week indeed, as Richmond faces off against West Ham, and of course, more importantly, Ted against Nate – although surprisingly, neither of them actually want to see it as a confrontation. Dysfunctional relationships are the clear focus of this week’s episode, written by Brett Goldstein, who picks up narrative strands from his own “Tan Lines” in season 1, and “The Signal” in Season 2, much like Bill Wrubel did last week. (Jamie Lee is up next week when Richmond will play Man City, and well, she did write “Man City”, I have a feeling this is all very cleverly divided up in the writer’s room, and I expect nothing less from this talented bunch).
Goldstein writes well about relationships, generally – if you haven’t, watch Shrinking and if you get a chance, catch him do stand-up – and he particularly nails their struggles: unhealthy patterns like co-dependency (Jane & Beard, and that shout-out to CODA that made me laugh too hard), if not downright abuse (Rupert & Rebecca, Rupert & Bex, Rupert & anyone), but also how hard moving on can be, whether you’re the one doing the leaving (Michelle) or you’re the one being left (Ted). “Tan Lines” was the episode we first meet Michelle in and Ted realizes he has to let her go, and it nicely set up parallels to Roy and Keeley, foreshadowing their break-up (go back and watch Ted saying goodbye to Michelle cutting to that parking lot scene). I doubt Roy and Keeley will stay apart, but I never doubted Michelle and Ted would – until now. I said before that I think the only way this can play out is for Ted to go back to Kansas, but I never thought this would mean reconciliation between the two. We hear Thierry Henry cite Lao-Tzu in a barely audible voice-over before Ted calls Michelle: ““When the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready… The teacher will disappear” – maybe Nate will come back to Richmond, replacing Ted?
Nate is the other big focus this episode, as we see him soften, regretting how he left Ted and Richmond behind. He even tries to apologize to him several times, but always misses his moment. Besides Rebecca, who now sympathizes with Bex, as Rupert continues his abusive bullshit, he is also the only one who notices with disdain that his new mentor is sleeping with his assistant. If anyone ever doubted he would get redeemed, I don’t think we watched the same show. (Also shame on some fans out there who hated on actor Nick Mohammed; please learn to distinguish actors from characters. Never mind that some of the criticism of Nate was quite racially charged, too. I honestly worry sometimes, especially about the Reddit part of the internet, and some corners of Twitter).
Speaking of corners of Twitter, Phil Dunster said in an interview this week that the Roy/Jamie training storyline would probably benefit those fans the most that, and I quote “are obsessed with the idea Roy and Jamie will fuck at some point”, and with all due respect, Sir, neither you nor the writer of this episode are really good at making that seem completely out of the question. Or why did we need Jamie opening the door, dick out? (Or bum out, for the audience, not that you will hear any complaints about that from me or probably anyone). Keeley meanwhile seems to reconsider Jamie herself, and there’s other corners of the internet who think that love triangle should perhaps be resolved by well, other shapes that fit three people; sorry if you’re not in the mood for shaped-based jokes.
Ted meanwhile is trying his best to move on from Michelle. He hooks up with Sassy again (this episode picks up the night after Sam’s restaurant opening that ended last week’s) and now suggests they might go on an actual date, which she declines, because he’s “a mess”. She’s right, of course, as Beard also confirms in their Diamond Dogs meeting. And as long as Ted’s a mess, he’s still not really focusing on his job, leaving Roy and Beard to fuck up the big game. More importantly, however, he just refuses to deal with his anger – he must have it, somewhere deep down, and as Beard points out, keeping that pain inside is like “carbon monoxide”; it poisons you. Letting the team’s anger at Nate poison their play similarly blows up big time: Roy and Beard’s genius plan to show them footage of Nate tearing up the Believe sign to rile them up, is anything but. Anger is not the emotion the team should ever be guided by, we leave that to the dark side of the Force. The fact Ted just patched the sign up without telling anyone it happened, is of course a wonderful metaphor for how he deals with his feelings about Nate generally. But at least he finally does address, if not resolve, his issues with Michelle, acknowledging that they have a family no matter what has or will happen, and that he wants to honor that.
Sidenote: queer vibes are all over this episode, following Colin actually coming out to the audience (and unwillingly, to Trent) last week. Keeley’s boss Jack, is actually a woman (Jodi Balfour), the anecdote Higgins tells about gender assumptions misfires, and Zoreaux changes his name to Van Damme which, if briefly questioned, is quickly accepted by all (it’s also nice to see more of Moe Jeudy-Lamour). Oh and while not queer, it’s great to have a woman casually address getting her period early from stress and actually needing normal-fucking-sized tampons, thank you very much. That and a woman going to “re-apply their lip liner” a.ka. taking a shit.
WTF of the week: Shandy changing the byline for Bantr. I mean I knew she was bad news, but I don’t like where this is going at all.
Line of the week: “Passion is a word we use when we talk about love. It is also a word we use to describe a crime. Sometimes it is also a fruit.” It’s this episode’s mission statement, but also hilarious. Close second is “well fuck Nate, fuck thinking, and fuck fucking Socrates”, because Roy/Beard is pure joy and pure chaos.
Trivia of the week: Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” (originally Bob Dylan) plays over the end credits; shout out to music supervisor Christa Miller, whose work I discussed more often in my Shrinking recaps than I have here so far (that should change). Deep cut about this one: I spent several hours last week reading all the Ted Lasso shooting scripts at the WGA library in LA, and there’s a cut line in “The Signal” about how there aren’t a lot of songs for those “doing the leaving” in break-ups, something I once also lamented when I ended a long-term relationship. The song mentioned as an exception in the script? You take an educated guess.