Ted Lasso: Season 2, Episode 12 “Inverting the Pyramid of Success”

So, this is the end of season 2. I know that a lot of people have felt that this season was a letdown after last season, which was a sort of perfectly formed pearl of excellent TV that came at the exact right moment to be maximally appreciated by everyone. As countless people have written, last year our lives were taken over by tragedy and darkness, and we had suffered through years of TV producers apparently believing that tragedy and darkness and antiheroes were the only signifiers of auteur TV. Ted Lasso provided an unexpected and badly-needed antidote: a high-quality TV show that was actually sweet and uplifting.

This season, I’ll admit, was neither perfectly formed nor particularly well-timed to fill a massive psychic hole in the American consciousness. (I mean, how often do you get that latter thing? I certainly hope there’s never another global pandemic in my lifetime.) But I still think it was excellent, and in some ways improved upon season 1. In particular, I enjoyed Jamie’s baby steps towards adult manhood, and Ted’s bravery as he confronted his mental health struggles which he had almost successfully masked last year from both himself and the audience. Both storylines took seemingly “flat” traits from season 1 — Jamie’s assholery and Ted’s relentlessly sunshiny disposition — and deepened, explored and changed them.

As I’ve written, the two experimental episodes were, in my opinion, not entirely successful (the Christmas episode was sometimes delightful but suffered from a too-much-ness that even I, who have seen While You Were Sleeping at least thirty-five times, couldn’t quite stomach; and the Beard episode, well, it suffered from being a pointless interlude about a character who belongs in the background). But they were interesting, and I look forward to seeing any more experiments in the next season. And the other thing that majorly disappointed me this season was mostly a personal problem (I never warmed up to Sam and Rebecca or really saw any chemistry between them).

I guess my stance is that the show reached farther this season–both for higher artistic aims and for deeper emotional waters–and so the perfection of last season was missing, in exchange for a greater ambition. Great art, especially lengthy art like serial TV and novels, tends to be messy. And after this season I’d definitely still call Ted Lasso great art.

Anyway, onto the recap!

So Nate the Great has been traveling a very dark path towards being a complete jerk this season, and in the finale he arrives at his destination in a big way.

So as you’ll recall, Ted’s panic attacks have recently been publicly leaked–and Trent Crimm told Ted it was Nate who leaked. Ted is now the subject of public gossip, much of it malicious, and he seems absolutely wrecked. Dr. Sharon leaves an encouraging message, as does Michelle. And sweetly, the players are all on his side, even before he apologizes (unnecessarily, in my opinion) for not telling them the truth about what happened during the game when he had a panic attack. He also “shares his struggles with anxiety” to the press room after the final game and asks to talk about how sports talk about mental health. But Trent Crimm’s seat is empty. 

Ted, always kind, wants to protect Nate from anyone finding out, and when Beard (who sussed it out immediately), encourages him to confront Nate he declines. He also tells Beard, who sussed it out immediately Somehow, though, that makes it worse. When Roy temporarily joins the Diamond Dogs to get advice on Keeley’s photo shoot (more on that below), Nate basically rolls his eyes, because he’s determined to be a jerk. It doesn’t help, though, when Roy complains about wanting to kill Jamie for confessing his love, but then refuses to be even a little perturbed when Nate confesses to kissing Keeley. That has to be a little emasculating. I mean, Nate sucks and I don’t believe masculinity is some awesome goal, but like, Roy refusing to be mad about Nate definitely does say something about how much of a sexual threat Roy perceives Nate to be (zero).

Then the move Nate suggested, the False Nine, which Ted continues to refer to as “Nate’s False Nine,” which is exactly what Nate claimed to want (to get credit for his great ideas), seems not to be working out. Still, the players vote to continue with the maneuver at halftime. But Nate is still mad! Ted finds him moping in the coach’s room, and asks him what he did wrong, so Nate lets loose. “You made me feel like I was the most important person in the whole world and then you abandoned me. Like you switched out a light just like that. And I worked my ass off trying to get your attention back, to prove myself to you, to make you like me again.” (Interesting. That’s sort of the dark side of Ted’s charisma–he turns the attention on but it doesn’t actually mean what it would mean from others. But on the other hand, I’m not sure he pays less attention to Nate this season. I think Nate has just become less content to gobble up the crumbs from the social banquet.) Anyway, Nate continues to get uglier: he complains about the photo he gave Ted not being up in his office, not realizing that it’s actually up at his house. And then he calls Ted a joke and says he belongs back in America with his son. He concludes with, “Fuck you, Ted,” and bangs out. But it is still a shock where he ends up: as a coach for Rupert’s new team. AHHH!! Nate has finally, fully broken bad!

In the second half, while Nate sulks, Jamie gets some kind of big kick to do and then he lets Dani do it instead, even though the last time, Dani killed a dog. So Jamie is a bigger person who can give up the spotlight, and Dani has gotten over his traumatic dogicide. Yay! Oh, and then AFC gets promoted again, because of Dani’s kick or whatever. Sports! Everyone storms the field in joy. But when Ted returns to his office, he finds the “BELIEVE” sign torn in half and left on his desk. Wow.

Sam hasn’t yet made a decision about Edwin Akufu’s offer. Or at least, he hasn’t yet revealed one. But he’s keeping it close to the vest. His dad advises him to wait for the universe to send him a sign. As soon as he hangs up, he sees a kid playing soccer in an Obisanya jersey. But what is that a sign for? Well, just after winning the game, Sam goes to see Edwin and declined his offer politely. Edwin’s charm and sweetness disappears immediately, and he throws a tantrum like a toddler on the way out. Sam shows up in Rebecca’s office, where she’s sharing a celebratory champagne with Ted, and tells her that he’s decided to stay. But not because of his feelings for “Ted,” he says, but because it’s what’s best for him and his personal journey. And what is his personal journey? As it turns out, it’s buying a property and turning it into a Nigerian restaurant.

Keeley has a huge professional success, while Rebecca has a professional disappointment–or at least, an alarm. Keeley gets great news that a venture capitalist wants to fund her opening her own public relations firm. She’s terrified to tell Rebecca and seem ungrateful, but of course once she works up the courage Rebecca is totally proud and they have a good cry together. As for Rebecca, though, she finds out that Rupert–who donated his shares of AFC Richmond to her at her dad’s funeral, in a seemingly nice gesture–bought a rival team. Rebecca is pissed, but glad Rupert’s still a conniving cock. So that’s an upside.

OK, so remember how Keeley told Roy that Jamie confessed his love for her? Roy is about to beat him up, but is disarmed when Jamie apologizes first. (His apology is hilariously in character: “I shouldn’ta done it, but… I ain’t used to being around dead people.” The corpse defense.) Anyway, the problem isn’t Jamie, as I’m sure Roy knows. It’s Roy and Keeley, who just can’t quite shake the weirdness between them. Roy is nothing but congratulatory and proud and opens up the special champagne and everything, and they’re still clearly both in love, but their rhythm is just off. None of Roy’s photos got into the Vanity Fair article. And he’s nice about that too–by the time she looks at him, he’s shaken off his disappointment and tells her she looks powerful and gorgeous, but he obviously is disappointed.

When it comes time for her to leave AFC Richmond, he gives her a surprise gift–six weeks in a villa by the sea–which she can’t take, even though the villa has wi-fi, because she has to get her business off the ground. She urges him to go by himself for six weeks. He obviously doesn’t want to go (I mean who would want to stay alone at a romantic villa for six weeks when they have a partner they’ll miss? Not that many people!) but seems to feel that he should agree to give her her space. Keeley promises that they’re not breaking up, but there’s definitely an implied “yet.” Certainly, she’s pushing him away. It seems like she doesn’t want him around, demanding her time and attention, while she pursues her ambitions at this crucial moment. Is it fair? Maybe not quite, but I do have to say, that was a terrible gift. Who tries to whisk their girlfriend away for six weeks just as she’s making a huge career transition, without talking to her about it first? Roy showed that as much as he’s saying the right, supportive stuff, he still doesn’t totally get it. And remember when he was so upset that she looked so great on her own in that photo shoot?? I mean, realistically, you guys, this was a photo shoot about Keeley’s career. It’s not exactly surprising that Roy turned out not to be necessary to complete the picture. It’s not that he’s not important to her–it’s that that part of her life isn’t his story and he is still wrapping his head around it.

Anyway, as Roy, left alone in Keeley’s half-packed office, stares at her ceramic leopard in disbelief, it’s impossible not to feel the same disbelief myself. How did it go from what seemed like such a solid relationship with any relationship’s normal squabbles (Keeley wanting more alone time, differing views of death and the afterlife) to a relationship that’s facing this long, six-week abyss? It’s incredibly painful in how it’s both sudden and not that sudden, the way so many breakups are in real life. I wonder where they’ll be when we start season 3.

Other thoughts:

  • At first I wondered if it really rang true that people would say such ignorant stuff about mental health issues in the mainstream media. But then I remembered that this is sports. In the US, sports fans are still arguing about whether it’s OK for Black players to kneel during the pledge, while the media that I consume is busy arguing about whether it’s OK for a newspaper to publish an editorial against kneeling for the anthem in the name of free speech (it being indisputably unacceptable to actually be against it). The Overton window is totally different in sports.
  • Higgins has adopted a cool-guy nod specifically to use on Sam in order not to pressure him on his decision. Everyone is, understandably, surprised that Higgins can pull off “cool guy” in even this limited scenario. He goes back to the usual by being a terrible confidante for Keeley’s exciting secret. But he rescues it at the end: “A good mentor hopes you will move on. A great mentor knows you will.” He just made that up himself! Keeley is very impressed.
  • Today Rebecca is wearing a skintight, slightly sheer, gold sparkly tank-top-and-skirt set. It has a very 1999 Michael Kors vibe to it. And it’s pleated. I’m really not sure I can approve, even though Hannah Waddingham looks regal in everything. On the other hand, Keeley is pairing a puff-sleeved black going-out top with loose, ripped jeans and it is surprising but amazing.
  • Ted used salt instead of sugar in his cookies due to his upset stomach. Rebecca actually likes it. Hee! I bet I would too. Or at least I’d take it over no cookies.
  • Keets had to explain to me that the number Edwin Akufu picked for Sam’s jersey is the “MVP” number. I asked why and was not enlightened.
  • The title of the episode comes from the book Beard is reading.
  • While Ted is trying to apologize for not telling everyone about his panic attacks, Dani Rojas hears the word fridge and says, “My refrigerator has a television.” Then all the other players get excited because theirs do, too. Heh.
  • Even though Jason Sudeikis and Ed Helms have both been stars in my favorite TV shows, I have a hard time telling them apart. I just have a thing about white men… they all look the same!! So when Ted says to Beard, “I’ll look like that fellow from the Hangover,” I literally turned to Keets and said, “Is that a joke? Wasn’t he in The Hangover?” He was not. But I guess the joke is that I’m right that they do look alike. (I tried “Jason Sudeikis looks like…” on Google auto-complete and got “Jason Sudeikis looks like Kiefer Sutherland”… wtf? And “Jason Sudeikis looks like Ben Affleck” … double wtf!)
  • It’s hilarious how Ted and Beard perk up when Nate starts to make a big confession, and then it turns out to be just about how he kissed Keeley. Also, though, if I’m Ted, I’m like, “What? Nate not only betrayed me, he also inappropriately kissed Keeley?” That’s a lot to learn about Nate in one episode!
  • Nate claims he deserves a head butt for kissing Keeley, and Beard stares at him and offers in a dire tone, “I’ll head-butt you.” Hee! I turned to Keets and said, “That was the first time I ever liked Beard.”
  • The players all touch the “Believe” sign like it’s Friday Night Lights or something. Or do all sports teams touch signs? I actually don’t know. I’ve only watched two TV shows about team sports.
  • During all the excitement over being promoted, Jamie jumps around the field with his tongue hanging out, it’s so cute. And then he and Roy make up with a punch and a hug and jump around holding each other’s elbows. Aww!
  • I love Sam’s “Whoa,” when Edwin throws his tantrum. And the amused smile he gives when Edwin calls him a pinky-dick. And the “Um, OK” look he gives Edwin’s assistant when the latter pretends to offer a handshake and then snubs him. Sam is so relatable at this moment. Toheeb Jimoh is hilarious.
  • When Sam shows up in Rebecca’s office, Ted tries to leave to avoid being a third wheel, but they both insist he stays… and he does a hilariously awkward, “Oh. Okay.” It only gets more awkward from there. I laughed! 
  • Hannah Waddingham is pretty visibly just drinking water out of this champagne glass.
  • It’s so in character that Roy has a travel agent and uses paper tickets.
  • Realistically, do you think Rupert even would want Nate as a coach or did he just hire him away to fuck with Rebecca, and maybe Ted a little? I think the latter. Otherwise he’d be the kind of guy to hire a shiny celebrity coach, don’t you think? Although maybe he just wants someone who will put up with him whispering creepily into their ear at all times. And Nate, of course, will put up with anything as long as you make him feel like you love him even a little.

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