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‘Ted Lasso’ Looks for Hope On and Off the Pitch


(This story contains spoilers for “The Strings That Bind Us,” episode seven of ted lasso’the third season.)

Ted Lasso is, of course, a comedy and the occasional tearjerker, but it’s also a bit of a fantasy – a world in which not only an American football coach who was initially hired to get revenge has spent three seasons at the top of English football can stay, but also someone whose characters almost always try to become better people.

That’s part of what makes the show so compelling, and also what makes for such a shock in the time when the real world works its way into the story. “The Strings That Bind Us” had a big dose of that, but the episode (which came in nearly an hour after last week’s 62-minute performance) still left room to bring out the core belief that people working together make the best way is forward, on or next to a playing field.

The on- and off-field stories for AFC Richmond converged through Sam (Toheeb Jimoh), who is eager to put forward the best possible presentation at Ola’s for when his Nigerian dad visits – until he wonders if they’ve got better need spoons. Chef Simi (Precious Mustapha) assures him that everything will be fine, although she also makes a gallows humor about Sam’s father being allowed into the country due to a tough stance on immigration from the British Home Secretary.

Sam tweets a rather innocent message to her, saying that he hopes the country’s leaders will get better. The secretary responds by saying, “Football players should leave the politics to us and just shut up and dribble” — shades of Fox News host Laura Ingraham insulting LeBron James several years ago — and that “(Sam) should be less concerned should worry about the security of our nation and worry more about a mediocre player on a mediocre team.

Sam replies that he would “rather be a mediocre footballer than a world-class bigot” and goes about his business – until he arrives at the diner to find it trashed and “Shut up and dribble” spray-painted on a wall. It’s a devastating moment for Sam, who is usually unfailingly cheerful, ranting against the world that builds him up to play well, only to tear it down when he doesn’t, or when he dares to have an opinion on something other than football. It’s a powerful moment for Jimoh, made no less when he collapses into the arms of his father (Nonso Anozie, who made his first screen appearance last season after a voice-only role) when he arrives.

(Even here, though, there’s an element of the Ted Lasso fantasy at play. Sam is nowhere near as famous as LeBron James in the world of the show, but a Premier League player of any status going back and forth with a government official would probably dominate several news cycles in the UK. For example, see what happened earlier this year when loved Match of the day presenter Gary Lineker was suspended by the BBC for expressing his views on Britain’s refugee policy. That doesn’t happen in the episode, and Richmond trains for the game of the week without being hounded by the media.)

After that game, Sam agrees to show his dad the diner, apologizing in advance for the state it’s in – but when they arrive, the whole team is there working to patch up the diner and recover, and Sam’s father, the restaurant’s namesake, cooks for everyone. That is the kind of story that is better than the real world Ted Lasso performs extremely well, and it plays wonderfully.

The theme of the bonds that bind plays out more literally on the pitch, where Ted (Jason Sudeikis) chooses to implement the free-flowing but intricate Total Football tactics in a week rather than gradually over the course of a few months . How to emphasize the interconnectedness that is essential for the functioning of the system? By attaching lengths of red rope to the team’s penises, of course. Roy’s (Brett Goldstein) brainstorming session is by far the episode’s best comedic set piece, but his rethinking of the idea afterwards – “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time: Next time we do this exercise, we’ll tie several guys’ dicks to a man’s cock, yes?” – is even better.

The early result of the hasty change of tactics is predictably bad: Richmond players literally run into each other during a game against Arsenal and go down 3-0 at half time. Jamie (Phil Dunster) – who was particularly stunned when he couldn’t switch positions with anyone during practice – points out at half-time that instead of everyone trying to serve the ball to him, he should fall back to the midfield and should serve as a facilitator and distributor: “Don’t play for me, play through me.”

Richmond still loses 3-1 in the end, but that one goal comes after a stunning run that suggests something has clicked and all hope isn’t lost for the Greyhounds’ season. The normally cool Trent Crimm (James Lance) is so excited that he gushes like a fan: “It’s going to work!” (although he might as well be talking about possibly a hook for the book he’s writing). Although they are still mired in a poor run of losses, the wins Richmond piled up with Zava probably mean the club are still a little above the relegation zone in the Premier League standings. There are five episodes to save the season (or not, honestly, depending on how the writers choose to play it out).

Opportunities and goals

* Jack (Jodi Balfour) is all in with her relationship with Keeley (Juno Temple) and buys her a first edition of Sensation and sensitivity, arranging a dinner party for Keeley and Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham), filling Keeley’s office with daisies, and hiding jewelry in baked goods. Rebecca warns Keeley about Jack’s “love-bombing” and notes that Rupert did the same to her early on. Keeley also feels a bit uncomfortable and says so to Jack, who admits her Real wants Keeley to like her. They seem to balance the scales a bit towards the end of the episode, but for the first time (and not just because of Barbara’s (Katy Wix) obvious jealousy over Keeley and Jack’s relationship), it feels like a signal of potential trouble that lie ahead.

* The show continues Nate — Nate! – another more likeable character, and if it doesn’t work, thanks in large part to how likeable Nick Mohammed is as an actor. His basic insecurity about who he is fueled his split with Ted and Richmond last season, but while he’s proven himself on the pitch with West Ham, he’s still a ball of nerve for the rest of his life. Example: He asks several women in his life – his mother, his sister, and Siri (who incidentally correctly calls him “Wonder Kid” instead of “Wonder Kid”) – how he can tell if a woman likes him or is just nice, regarding A Taste of Athens hostess Jade (Edyta Budnik). You can’t unless you ask directly, is the correct answer they all give him.

After seeing the elaborate card his dad made to ask his mom out for the first time, Nate A) discovers he doesn’t look much like his dad after all and B) gets inspired to make a pop-up box to ask Jade out. That box is promptly squashed when Nate trips and drops it in the street, but Jade says yes to his simple question anyway. Nate’s growth in this part of his life must lead to some kind of moment with Ted, right?

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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