How quickly can a story line end? Very quickly.
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By Christopher Orr
Season 3, Episode 10: ‘International Break’
Do you remember when you were young and — at least if you were like me — you frequently misjudged how much space you had on a line to write what you intended, resulting in smaller and smaller, tightly squeezed letters as you approached the edge of the page? I feel as though that is where we find ourselves now in “Ted Lasso,” with just two episodes left in what is still theoretically the show’s last season.
This week’s episode answered two of the show’s principal remaining questions — regarding Nate’s fate with West Ham and the future of Roy and Keeley — but so abruptly you could almost imagine you’d missed a scene or two along the way. This level of concision may have been necessary in part because the episode spent much of its hour-plus running time on two new and completely unnecessary story lines, two redemption arcs for tertiary characters, a fair amount of moping and a genuinely bizarre conception of how rich business owners make decisions. Even as we near the page’s edge, to put it another way, we’re still adding more words. The remaining ones will almost certainly have to be scrawled very small.
First off, the story lines that did not move forward meaningfully: After focusing on Ted’s relationship with his son, Henry, and ex-wife, Michelle, two episodes ago, we have a second consecutive episode that has no interest in that subplot. Likewise, no news on Rebecca’s presumably upcoming familial developments — at least, unless a plastic Army man is saying more than I hope he is. But more on that later. Let’s start with the least important developments and work our way up.
International break and Edwin Akufo’s proposal
Both of this week’s new subplots felt less like continuations of the season’s arc than like clogs that we needed to work through before getting to the real story.
International breaks, as the name suggests, are weekends when national soccer leagues skip their matches in order for their top players to participate in FIFA-sponsored, nation versus nation competition. There have presumably been several of these in the three seasons of AFC Richmond play we have watched, although I can’t remember any mention of them before this episode.
But now it is, for an episode at least, a Big Deal. Who will be selected to represent their native countries? Jamie for England, Van Damme (formerly Zoreaux) for Canada, Dani for Mexico, Bumbercatch for Switzerland and Colin for Wales. But no Sam for Nigeria? Not even after an episode-opening commentary singling him out as crucial to the team’s current 10-game winning streak?
There appear to be two purposes to this subplot. The first is to set up the idea that joyous, loving Dani Rojas becomes a cruel competitor the moment he is on an opposing team. This entails some of the broad humor that has never been the show’s forte. (Remember Led Tasso? This is basically the same gag, with Dani substituted for Ted.) And it’s another idea that comes out of nowhere: I can’t recall Dani rejoicing in his efforts to injure the goalies for, say, West Ham, Manchester United, or any of his other Premier League opponents.
The second purpose of the international break subplot is to help set up the Edwin Akufo subplot: The reason Sam wasn’t chosen to play is that Akufo, the unpleasant billionaire introduced back in Episode 11 of Season 2, bribed the Nigerian government $20 million not to select him. But that’s not all! He also plans to open another Nigerian-cuisine restaurant 20 meters away from Sam’s! And to deny Sam customers by personally calling and making reservations he doesn’t intend to keep using a variety of silly accents! I feel confident in saying this is not how billionaires — not even thin-skinned ones — spend their time.
I’d like to stop there, but alas there’s more. Akufo is also planning to create a “super league” of exceptional teams that will compete only against each other and thus can charge more for tickets than typical matches. The details are unimportant, apart from the fact that this would theoretically make the team owners vastly more money while pricing average fans out of attendance. Color me cynical, but I’m confident that if it were this easy for rich team owners to make themselves richer it would already have happened.
It’s a complicated setup to enable Rebecca, at a meeting of team owners, to stand up for everyday fans. Which is a setup for her to remind Rupert why he loved her and cause him to try to kiss her. Which is a setup for her to get over her longstanding obsession with beating Rupert on the pitch. Have I wasted your time with this lengthy explanation? Apologies, but that’s pretty much how I felt by the time this subplot was over.
Depending on whom you ask, Nate has either been fired from managing Rupert’s West Ham squad or has quit. Either way, you’ll notice the past tense. We don’t actually see Nate quitting or getting fired, which would have been, I suspect, a very interesting scene had they bothered to film it. Instead, we go from the beginning (Nate belatedly realizing that Rupert is a bad man at the club last week) to the end (Nate being mopily unemployed) without any of the actual drama of a confrontation. It won’t be the only time this episode that “Ted Lasso” skips from start to finish without bothering with the messy “how did this happen?” part.
Instead, we get Nate moping in his own bed, and then moping in his childhood bed at his parent’s place and then playing a violin (has this been mentioned before?) so that his dad can hear him and have a scene in which he shows that he’s not quite as crummy a father as he had appeared to be. We don’t even have any nice scenes with Jade this week, because she’s headed off to Poland to help her family screw in light bulbs, a joke that sadly may be the high point of this dreary story line. I’d like to say more, but I’m not sure what else there is to say.
My prediction last episode that Keeley’s breakup with her girlfriend/financier Jack would be forgotten without consequences proved incorrect. In fact, Jack has abruptly pulled all of the funding for Keeley’s firm, KJPR, and Keeley needs to be out of the office within 48 hours.
For those keeping track, this is the third apparent instance in this episode in which a fabulously rich person has made a business decision based entirely on personal pique: Akufo spending a fortune to keep Sam off the Nigerian team (and opening a competing restaurant!); Rupert firing (or at least quickly accepting his resignation of) Nate, his by all accounts exceptionally talented and successful manager; and now Jack pulling the plug on KJPR. It’s a peculiar imagining of the way rich people typically make business decisions.
But at least the show takes pains to show that rich people also make dubious business decisions based on sheer generosity. Following the owners’ meeting in which Rebecca decides against profit based on an appreciation of the fans — and persuades the other owners to do the same! — she decides to save Keeley’s firm by financing it herself.
A couple of quick thoughts: First, if Keeley is in fact the P.R. whiz we keep hearing her to be — without ever seeing any evidence of this — couldn’t she, you know, find financing from someone who wasn’t a friend taking pity on her? Or has the fact that she takes many vacations, hires completely unqualified friends and never seems to do any work finally caught up with her? And second, has Keeley learned anything about mixing business and intimacy from her experience with Jack? If there is a Season 4 of the show, I half-expect Rebecca to pull her funding the next time Keeley fails to answer her texts.
But at least we get to see Barbara redeemed after Keeley buys her a snow globe.
Keeley and Roy
Well, that was easy. Roy runs into Phoebe’s teacher — yay, Phoebe, genuinely and always — and she says he seemed “stuck” the last time they spoke, which evidently serves to immediately unstick him. Really? This wisp of a scene rather than, say, the powerful and spot-on lecture that Rebecca offered last week?
But evidently that five-letter word is all it takes to make Roy want to get back together with Keeley, and his subsequent letter is all it takes to make Keeley want to get back together with Roy. There’s no conversation or negotiation, no working through what went wrong last time.
Actually, I’m being unfair. There may have been such interactions. “Ted Lasso” just made the borderline unconscionable decision not to show them. We go from the two of them awkwardly standing in the doorway to a semi-clad Roy comfortably re-ensconced at Keeley’s.
It’s precisely the same jump from the beginning to the end that we saw with Nate and Rupert, without any of that tricky middle part where people actually speak to one another. For that matter it’s the same nonchalance with which we moved from early signs of trouble between Roy and Keeley at the end of last season to the two of them already split up this season. If the show didn’t bother to show us the actual breakup, why should it show us the actual reconciliation? As someone who was rooting as hard for Keeley and Roy as anyone, I was astonished at how little emotional weight their reunion had.
I know I’m quite down on this episode, and I know that many readers will like it more than I did — as was the case the last time I was substantially disappointed. Which is fine! The world don’t move to the beat of just one drum. But to be clear, especially for new readers: My disappointment is not because I dislike the show or any such nonsense. It’s because I like it enough to hold it to a high standard.
Here’s hoping that there are better things to come in the final two episodes, no matter how small the handwriting needs to be.
Odd and ends
I have always been in the camp that presumes Rebecca and her Dutch fella will get together by season’s end. (Why else show us the little girl’s room on the houseboat?) I now fear that, given the whole rush-to-the-end quality of this episode, their next meeting will also be abrupt — him showing up in London or her showing up at the houseboat with “happy ending” all but written on the screen. I for one was hoping to see them spend some time together again. But we’ll always have Amsterdam.
Unless, of course, those predicting a Rebecca-Ted romance are right, which I dearly hope they are not. But Rebecca playing with the green matchbook and the green Army man together has me appropriately worried.
Don’t even get me started on the odd and awkward hallway meeting between Rebecca and Sam.
Wait, Rupert has already split up with Ms. Kakes before Rebecca got a chance to expose his affair? Boo! And did I hear correctly that her replacement is a Ms. Bread? I guess this makes Rupert a reverse Marie Antoinette.
It’s a bizarre idea that Akufo, no matter how rich, could throw food on a variety of other very-rich folks without facing their rage, lawsuits and possible assault charges.
I love Higgins’s delightfully dark take on Willy Wonka.
Jamie’s evolution into the best guy ever continues. He’s the first to commiserate with Sam when the latter isn’t chosen for Nigeria and then he wears Sam’s number on the pitch. And his Uncle’s Day gift to newly minted best friend Roy — thank you, Phoebe! — is perfect.
Speaking of: Roy wearing Phoebe’s tie-dye shirt to work was fine. But it would have been funnier if he’d worn the shirt Jamie gave him, even if it entailed a meeting with H.R.
Sixty quid for a snow globe? That’s $75! Keeley may be the worst bargain-shopper ever.
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