So, recapping this episode, I had to admit to myself that Ted Lasso is maybe, just maybe, having a wee bit of a sophomore slump. It may surprise regular readers of this blog that I would be loath to criticize a beloved show. But the first season was just SO PERFECT that I’ve been in denial that this season is maybe not so perfect. It’s still really good! They’re trying some new things which is admirable! But some of the things they’re trying are maybe not working out. And two of the things that do not work as well are in this episode, namely: Sam’s protest, and Nora.
Sassy’s daughter Nora–Rebecca’s estranged goddaughter, whom she has been out of touch with for six years–comes to stay with Rebecca for a few days. Rebecca’s attempts to make it up to her are totally embarrassing, such as taking Nora to a high tea that she wanted to go to at the age of six. Eventually they run into Roy and Phoebe at a doll store, and Roy explains the secret to being a beloved adult: kids just want to follow you around. So Rebecca invites Nora to come to work with her the next day, which turns out to be the bonding activity they needed.
Meanwhile, Ted is still trying to help Jamie become a better man, and it’s an uphill battle. Jamie’s trying–he lets the team gang up on him to talk about all the shitty stuff he’s done to them, and even lets them more-or-less bully him on the field without much protest. But when he tries to buy their love with PS5s (“What better thing to spend money on than love?”) Ted realizes that he needs a little help.
Nate sensibly suggests calling in Dr. Fieldstone, but rather than rely on the woman whose job it literally is to deal with situations like this, Ted decides to do something TERRIBLE. He becomes “Led Tasso,” a cartoonishly mean coach who’s supposed to unite the team in opposition to him. It’s basically something Michael Scott would do and it’s SO CRINGE. Dr. Fieldstone immediately sees what he’s doing and asks the reasonable question, “Has that ever worked?” No. No it hasn’t. It takes Keeley to save the day–when Jamie tries to use her as a free therapist (which he probably did every day when they were dating), she just walks him straight to Dr. Fieldstone’s office and sits him down there.
These threads come together when Sam decides to pull out of an ad campaign Keeley arranged for him with Dubai Air. Sam’s totally into it until his dad–the wonderful dad that Jamie never had, and that motivated Ted to take him back–tells him that the company that owns Dubai Air, Cerithium Oil, has ruined Nigeria’s environment. Sam becomes convinced he can’t “shill” for Dubai Air, so Rebecca and Keeley immediately agree to let him out of it.
Unfortunately, Rebecca now faces a choice: the CEO of Cerithium Oil wants Rebecca to fire Sam. He’s also Richmond’s biggest sponsor, and Richmond is already in financial trouble. Nora advises Rebecca to do the right thing, even if she loses. Rebecca emails him to refuse to fire Sam, and signs it–at Nora’s behest–“Boss-Ass Bitch.” Then Sam pushes his resistance further by blacking out the “Dubai Air” logo on his uniform. The other two Nigerians on the team join him, but it’s Jamie who gets the climactic moment when he blacks out the logo on his own chest too. The whole team then follows suit, and they break their streak of draws… by losing. Still, they all celebrate in the locker room afterwards, including Rebecca and Nora.
It’s very sweet! And hey, it’s so topical, right? Black players protesting injustice, a woman in a male-dominated profession standing up to a creepy old man, etc. Ted even gives a nice little speech about how he never has to be courageous because when bad things happen to white people, people don’t ignore it. But of course, the episode isn’t actually about racial injustice, or even about Sam at all really. Sam’s main problem up till this week was that an authority figure he trusted–Ted–had let him down by bringing back a bully after promising not to. Ted does stand up for Sam with regard to the protests, but I don’t think this really addresses the issue between them.
As for Sam’s protest, he never had any attachment to being in an ad campaign nor did he even know about Cerithium Oil, so his “choice” is fairly low-stakes as written. Not in real life, just in terms of how the story is told. The fact is this whole plotline is just a vehicle to explore two white characters’ arcs: Rebecca redeeming herself as a godmother, and Jamie redeeming himself as a teammate. Jamie stepping in to join Sam’s protest is basically a White Savior narrative, right? Same with Rebecca standing up to the Cerithium CEO, which might be a satisfying girl-power moment if it had been about some other conflict.
Honestly I don’t think it’s bad that this show isn’t about whiteness or trying to fix racial injustice or whatever. This show is about being warm and fuzzy, and racial justice is not warm and fuzzy. But because of that, they’re probably better off staying in their lane and not using Black characters’ political protests as window dressing. And I admit I noticed all of this mostly on my second viewing. On my first viewing I mostly just enjoyed the sight of nice characters playing nice with each other… once I was done cringing over Led Tasso, of course!
- Aside from Dubai Air, Keeley is also promoting a new dating app named Bantr. Pretty much everyone signs up, except Beard, who’s back with Jane, which I still really don’t care about. But the thing to know is that there are no pictures. So, you could be talking to anyone. This will be important later.
- Ted asks if Sassy’s daughter is his. I don’t get it. Is he joking? Or is the joke that he’s really bad at science? So confused! But it doesn’t really matter because it leads to a very funny exchange where Sassy starts to describe exactly where he “finished” and Ted squeals like a horse to try to get Sassy not to talk about his sex life in front of his boss. Hee.
- It’s also very funny when Sassy and Ted hug just like adults who are totally capable of handling a one-night stand with grace, but Sassy makes an “OMG I slept with him this is so awkward” face to Rebecca over his shoulder.
- When he leaves, Rebecca asked if Ted talked like that “the whole time.” Sassy: “The whole time. So eager to please. –It was fabulous.” Rebecca: pretends to be grossed out and spits her biscuits back into the box. COME ON, REBECCA. You’re not fooling anyone! You know you asked because some tiny part of you is already thinking about making out with Ted.
- While the team is basically hazing Jamie on the field, Ted looks nervously back to see Dr. Fieldstone scribbling in her notebook. Hee! I love how nervous she makes him.
- “No, that’s stupid,” Roy says when Phoebe asks to have ice cream for dinner. Heh.
- It’s always a delight to see Phoebe, though it just heightens the contrast between her and the Nora character, who’s not really a particularly entertaining guest character.
- Nate tells the Diamond Dogs that he’s very picky when it comes to women. The men are gonna let this slide, though they’re clearly aching to laugh, but Nate mumbles, “Of course, women are pretty picky too.” Hee!
- Ohhh, this Led Tasso thing is so cringey to watch, even the second time. I think I’m glad that Ted finally does something that is just terrible and stupid? Like, he can’t be awesome all the time. But it’s just soooooo embarrassing. I didn’t sign on for this! That’s what The Office reruns are for!
- Led Tasso threatens the team that they’re going to be so dehydrated that they’re going to look like trees from a Tim Burton movie. Heh.
- The CEO of Cerithium Oil agrees to let Sam out of his campaign with Dubai Air–then says, “I just need a favor from you.” Gee, sound familiar?
- Roy’s thoughts on Jamie: “Jamie Tartt is a little muppet, and I hope he dies of the incurable condition of being a little bitch.” I love him.