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‘Ted Lasso’ Season 2, Episode 8 Recap: Fathers and Sons

Season 2, Episode 8, ‘Man City’ “Fathers and sons, so tricky,” Higgins tells Jamie, before continuing on with an irony the latter doesn’t catch …

‘Ted Lasso’ Season 2, Episode 8 Recap: Fathers and Sons

Season 2, Episode 8, ‘Man City’

“Fathers and sons, so tricky,” Higgins tells Jamie, before continuing on with an irony the latter doesn’t catch: “They should really write songs about it.”

Indeed! Also, perhaps, television shows?

Here we are, at last, with the revelation about Ted that we have been waiting for: His father killed himself when Ted was 16 years old. We don’t yet know much beyond that.

We’ve been building toward this moment all season. Episode 2 had so many references to fathers and sons (remember “The Prince of Tides”?) that some astute readers guessed this was where the show was headed all the way back then.

Sure, we’ve had our distractions along the way, some of them marvelous — Roy doing his “Sleepless in Seattle” crosstown sprint; Roy and Phoebe doing their “Love Actually” door-to-door search for a dentist; Roy doing pretty much anything else.

But the theme of fathers has been lurking beneath the show’s typical good cheer for a while now: Jamie’s dad. Nate’s dad. Sam’s dad (though in a quite different way). Even Rebecca’s dad, whom we did not actually meet, but who sounds like no Prince Charming.

But let’s start from the beginning. On the phone with her own therapist, Sharon is offended at the idea that she’s behaving like Ted: “Me and Ted Lasso are nothing alike,” she complains. This feels like a deliberate inversion of last week, when Sharon was explaining to a reluctant Ted that their two jobs are actually quite similar.

And then: blammo. Riding her bike to work as usual, Sharon is hit by a car. As the actress who plays Sharon, Sarah Niles, explained to me in an interview at the beginning of the season, one of her challenges was that when she got the role she didn’t yet know how to ride a bike. So, with the help of friends, she learned. And how do the writers reward her? They have her character run over by a car! Cruel? Ironic? You be the judge.

Fortunately, the damage is not too extreme: a concussion, some stitches, and a brief period of confusion during which Sharon sent Ted some 32 voice messages, including one in which she sang the first act of “West Side Story.”

But later on the phone, Sharon is serious: “I was scared today. Really scared.” Brushing away Ted’s usual chirpy banter, she tells him, “I don’t need a pep talk. Ted, I just wanted to tell you how I was feeling … And I’m glad I did.” Sharon can’t know it yet, but this is the moment of total honesty that Ted will later reciprocate.

Stuck somewhere in there — fathers and sons! — is another call to Sam from his lovely father. Cerithium Oil (a fictionalized stand-in for Shell) is being forced to stop work in Nigeria, thanks to Sam’s taking a stand in Episode 3! Sam’s father congratulates Sam; Sam congratulates his father for inspiring him; Sam’s father congratulates Sam for rightly giving him credit.

It honestly seems as though the two men might keep lobbing congratulations back and forth indefinitely. It’s an international call, though, so eventually they stop. But if Sam’s dad is supposed to be the show’s standard for good male parenting, well of course everyone else is going to come up short.

Everyone, that is, except Roy Kent, who is effectively the surrogate dad to his niece, Phoebe. (Her biological father, like so many others on the show, is evidently not a good one.) Roy is called in for a meeting with Phoebe’s teacher, at which she informs him that Phoebe “has been swearing, a lot,” followed by an example too extravagantly obscene ever to be printed in this newspaper.

The ensuing pantomime between the teacher and Roy — in which she tries to convey that Roy’s fondness for language as salty as the Dead Sea could be contributing to Phoebe’s overdeveloped vocabulary, and Roy only gradually comprehends the accusation — was one of my favorite moments of the episode.

Roy and Phoebe’s later conversation in the car is a good one as well, with him explaining that people expect pro athletes like himself to curse all the time, but it is unacceptable in anyone who seeks to be a “veterinarian for wild animals.” I loved the closing of the scene, too, in which Roy agrees to play one game of “Princess and Dragon” with Phoebe, and then asks, a perfect beat later, “Can I be the dragon this time?”

Sarah Niles learned how to ride a bicycle for “Ted Lasso.” And this is how the show repays her?Credit…Apple TV+

And then, we go from good parenting to bad parenting, possibly the worst parenting. James Tartt, the execrable father of Jamie, is back on the scene for the two things he seems to do best: cadging free tickets to a big game, and berating/bullying/humiliating his son for — well, it hardly seems to matter what.

The game in question is a semifinal of the FA Cup to be held in revered Wembley Stadium. (I enjoyed Ted’s confusion about the fact that professional soccer fields are not all the same size, and that the Wembley where he long ago saw Queen perform on TV was the “old Wembley,” not “this” Wembley.)

The game is against the powerhouse Manchester City, the same team that knocked AFC Richmond into relegation 11 months ago. The outcome is a brutal, 5-0 blowout by Man City (even if, because of some error, we still see the scoreboard registering “4-0”).

Cue Tartt the Elder, a rabid Man City fan, who barges into the AFC Richmond locker room to gloat and belittle as only a thug with too much drink in him can. This leads to two extraordinary moments.

First, Jamie’s dad receives one of the most well-earned punches in television history, courtesy of his son, before Coach Beard escorts him out roughly.

And then, after a stretch of silence so long and painful it feels like it may never end, Roy hugs Jamie, gently at first but with growing ferocity. In spite of himself, and in spite of their long history of enmity, Roy, in this one moment, is being precisely the father figure Jamie needs. It’s one of the most powerful moments the show has ever had, and the direct impetus for Ted’s own confession.

First, Phoebe. Now, Jamie. By the start of Season 3, Roy Kent may be a surrogate father to all of us.

And then, Ted’s anguished admission to Sharon about his own father’s suicide. I don’t think there’s a lot more to be said about this yet, though I’m sure there will be plenty to say in the future.

So keeping in mind that this recap is running long — the episode itself was, at 45 minutes, the longest of the season so far — I’ll move on to the other principal story line.

Though we learned about it two episodes ago, Rebecca and Sam have only now discovered that the Bantr flirtations they have been conducting are in fact with one another. Rebecca is understandably perturbed, especially when she learns Sam is just 21. (“All these messages, I was grooming you.”) But Sam takes it in stride.

He pushes forward romantically — though gently, this is Sam we’re talking about — and she pushes back: about dinner (eventually, a yes), about a kiss (they share one), and about whether she will invite him in (a solid no). “I mean it,” she tells Sam. “I have to mean it.”

This seems to me a perfect way to end the story line. An anonymous flirtation, a comic recognition at the restaurant, an enjoyable dinner, and a single kiss — all happy semi-romantic memories, but none that involve launching an improbable-bordering-on-impossible (and some would argue inappropriate) relationship.

But one thing Hollywood has true difficulty comprehending is that a romantic relationship — even a genuine love affair — can go unconsummated, but still be worthwhile and moving. This was, I think, the central insight of “Once.”

Is it wistful and bittersweet that the stars of the film, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, don’t end up together? Of course. But it’s not a tragedy. Just a road not taken, and for very compelling reasons. (The real-life romance between the stars, who by contrast did consummate their relationship, seems sadder to me than their onscreen one.)

I wish this had been how the Rebecca-Sam quasi-romance had played out: in mutual recognition that there was a spark, but also that there were excellent reasons not to pursue it.

But no. As usual in Hollywood — even “Ted Lasso”!—a relationship in which those involved don’t fall into the sack, preferably quickly, is hardly considered a relationship at all.

So Rebecca, changing her mind after watching Sam interviewed on television, sends him a text. He texts back his address. But when she comes out her front door moments later, he’s already standing there!

I mean, isn’t this a tad stalker-y? He didn’t know she was going to text him; in fact she had made exceptionally, repeatedly clear that she didn’t want to date him. So why’s he standing on her doorstep at night, not merely uninvited but specifically told to stay away? All he’s missing are the creepy, “Love Actually” poster boards. But perhaps there were no more left in London after Roy bought them up in Episode 4.

Sam’s line that he gave Rebecca his address for “next time” also seems a bit presumptive/possessive/premature. What if she only wanted to do it once, if at all? And wanted it to be at his place, not hers, as suggested by her note? (She could have invited him over. She didn’t.)

I’m sure there will be a variety of strong opinions about the Rebecca-Sam connection. And I think everyone — myself included! — should wait to see how it proceeds before coming to firm conclusions. But there are ample reasons, for now, to have questions about this story line.

Brett Goldstein and Elodie Blomfield in “Ted Lasso.”Credit…Apple TV+

Odds and Ends

  • Nate’s ongoing decline seems to have slowed, at least for the moment and at least relative to his extraordinary abuse of Colin and Will last week. But it’s clear that space has been developing between him and the other coaches. He repeatedly seems like the odd man out, whether it’s his enthusiasm to be a spokesman (in polar contrast to Roy and Beard) or his having to be lectured that other people’s life emergencies are not necessarily his business. Things aren’t as bad as they’ve been, but I’m pretty sure they will get worse again. (If you haven’t already, read this intriguing interview.)

  • As Isaac gives Sam a haircut, the first act is set to Arturo Sandoval’s “La Virgen de la Macarena,” and the second to Mahalia Jackson’s “Down by the Riverside.” This kind of highly produced musical number, which I can’t recall seeing in the first season, has been a staple this season. (Success has its advantages.) My favorite example remains “She’s a Rainbow” from Episode 5.

  • Doesn’t Colin ever catch a break? For two weeks, he was subjected to a torrent of abuse from Nate. Tonight, he almost asphyxiates. Why? Because Isaac, pondering whether to cut Sam’s hair, forgets to lift the barbell off his throat.

  • “Ain’t no policy like a hospital policy, ’cause a hospital policy don’t stop” — Ted at his best/worst (but mostly best). If, like me, you were trying to remember the original line and where it came from, you’re in luck. This piece, which contains a hilarious number of variations on the theme over the years, will answer all your questions.

  • Pop culture references tonight included Kyrie Irving, Liev Schreiber, and “Sling Blade” — though I strongly suspect there are others that I missed. Let me know in comments. Thanks to the several folks who confirmed that, yes, Holiday Inn does have a big U.K. presence.

  • Thanks, too, to everyone who pointed out an oversight on my part last week that has smitten me to the core: the “Groundhog Day” reference implicit in any use of “I Got You, Babe.” No apology is sufficient, but I can offer in reparation this marvelous piece on the film by my friend James Parker.

  • A quick personal anecdote related to this week’s Roy-Phoebe story line. Years ago, before I had children, I too had a spicy vocabulary. At one point, I was on a profane diatribe about something with my boss, who was a little older and already had kids. His eyes grew wide, and he pointed at me. He said, with a tone of somber revelation, “It’s you. It’s all you.”

    It turned out he had been swearing more in front of his children, and his wife had pointed it out. And he believed — and I have no reason to doubt — he was swearing more because he spent hours a day in the presence of my colorful verbiage. So be forewarned: You should not only be careful with your words around kids but, at least sometimes, around their parents, too. Swearing is apparently infectious, and you never know what vectors your potty-mouth might travel.


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