Ted Lasso: 2×5 “Rainbow”

After a couple of somewhat meh episodes, Ted Lasso returns to form in “Rainbow.” The theme of this episode is “rom-communism”: Ted’s belief that everything will work out in the end. And it serves us a solid mix of regular Ted Lasso goodness and special nods to romantic comedies, with a satisfyingly happy ending.

AFC Richmond is still struggling. Isaac is the new captain, and he’s not doing such a great job —  he responds to a replay of their recent game by telling everyone they’re playing like shit. I guess if you learned to captain from Roy Kent you would probably think that was the way to lead. Speaking of whom, in order to avoid sending Isaac to Dr. Fieldstone which would, again, be the obvious choice, Ted brings Roy in to fix the problem. Roy brings Isaac to a field next to the “shit” block of flats where Roy grew up; it’s where he learned to play and he used to come back there when his career was going badly. He wants Isaac to remember that soccer is a “fucking game” that he used to play for fun. Soon enough, Isaac’s crankiness disappears as he begins to enjoy himself playing with the kids on the field. The next thing you know, he’s doing a great job at the next game! Problem solved!

Ted has an ulterior motive here, and not just his deep fear of therapy. He’s trying to get Roy to come back to coach–using lines from the end of When Harry Met Sally, Jerry Maguire, and Notting Hill. Roy tells him to fuck off, but his experience of helping Isaac overcome his problems suddenly makes him yearn to do more than just talk about soccer on TV. The next time he’s filming, on live TV, Roy delivers a heartfelt speech about why being a commentator is meaningless and quits on the spot–exactly like any romcom character who is just realizing who they really want to be with. His reunion with his team hits every mark of the end of a romcom: running through the snow as the music swells, hailing a cab, a cutesy encounter with driver of said cab, a desperate ride on a rickshaw, a brief last-minute holdup at the gates. “You had me at coach,” he tells Ted when he finally joins him on the sidelines.

Nate’s parents are having their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and he just wants to book them the window table at their favorite restaurant, A Taste of Athens. Such is Nate’s lack of social power that the hostess won’t even let him do that–at a neighborhood Greek restaurant! After several more insults to his ego, Keeley and Rebecca band together to teach him to be assertive. (Though at first, Rebecca just offers to buy the restaurant.) After a little practice, Nate achieves his goal. Jade leads them to a back table, but Nate steps aside and tells her, “Here’s what I’d love to see happen.” I love that line! It totally works (although then he overshoots and asks her out and is flatly rejected). He shows up to the game full of a new confidence, in a fancy suit–but then Roy returns, and everyone is thrilled except poor Nate, who knows that he’s about to be shoved even further out of the spotlight.

And let’s not forget the season’s overarching rom-com (at least in my head): Rebecca’s search for love. Rebecca is still texting a mystery man on Bantr, enamored of him because he quotes Rilke. Keeley advises her that branding is important, even in love, but it’s Higgins–who has been in a successful, loving marriage for decades–who tells her that the best brand is being yourself. So she tells her guy that she’s looking for love. Far from scaring him off, it leads to more bant’ring. The only question is: who is he?! The show plays with my heart by showing Rebecca giggling and texting, and then cutting to Ted smiling and texting. But we’ll have to wait till later in the season to find out if that meant what I hoped it meant!

I liked this episode a lot.  Nate’s journey from pathological insecurity to just confident enough to secure a table at a neighborhood restaurant was a delight to watch. And of course it was satisfying as hell to see Roy Kent stride back onto the field as a coach. Does it feel a little unbalanced to follow an episode modeled after a Christmas movie with an episode modeled after a romcom? Perhaps. On the other hand, Ted himself is unbalanced: he’s basically ten genres of sentimental movie rolled into one, with very little horror or thriller mixed in. And to me, the tone felt right. The episode has a happy ending but it’s not without shadows (Nate’s fear of being displaced, Ted’s fear of Dr. Fieldstone). The rom-com references, frequent as they are, were more in keeping with the usual tone of the show than last week’s Christmas-movie references, which veered from sweet to bizarre at the end there.

Other thoughts:

  • Ted’s description of his theory–that if a bunch of fictional, attractive people with creative jobs can go through struggles and be happy in the end, so can we–is so absurd that it reminds us that Ted’s inimitable optimism, while it’s certainly reflected in the show’s slightly less peppy optimism, is also kind of a pathology. It’s a coping mechanism that has worked for him professionally, but the presence of Dr. Fieldstone solemnly watching him this whole season reminds us that there’s something underneath he is desperately afraid to confront.
  • When Ted says that Isaac needs to talk to a “big dog,” Nate volunteers and Ted breaks his heart by laughing. Poor Nate! That’s brutal.
  • For those who haven’t memorized the movie, Rebecca’s Bantr boyfriend’s screen name, LDN152, is a You’ve Got Mail reference: NY152 is the screen name used by Tom Hanks while he and Meg Ryan fall in love by exchanging emails.
  • Keeley gets everyone free Nespresso machines (except poor Nate, naturally), and she asks them to post on Insta about it–and asks Colin to make this post not about Welsh independence. Poor Colin! Sam’s political protest got a lot more love.
  • Keeley’s new slogan for Bantr is “A place where minds can come to undress.” I like it!
  • Dani Rojas doesn’t drink coffee because he was “born caffeinated.” Hee!
  • Poor Higgins has a bunch of teenaged boys so he knows not to look at anyone else’s screen. “I used to,” he says darkly. I laughed!
  • It drives me crazy that when they show Rebecca texting, her fingers are hitting completely different keys than the ones appearing on the screen.
  • When Ted finds Roy at his favorite kebab place, Roy glowers that Keeley told him to expect “a mustachioed surprise that would anger me.” When Ted makes another joke, Roy just literally growls. He’s hilarious.
  • To teach Nate to be assertive, Keeley role-plays a snotty hostess. It’s so fun to watch, like a training montage but for not being a pushover (and technically, not a montage). Nate is SO BAD at being assertive that he actually apologizes when Keeley calls him the wrong name.
  • Ted makes a very cute dad joke in this episode. “What does a British owl say?” “Whom! Whom!”

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