'Ted Lasso' Recap, Season 2: Let's Go To The Tape
This is a recap of the third episode of season 2 of Ted Lasso. You absolutely should not read it if you don't want to be spoiled. You've been warned!
In a great episode touching on athletes and activism, Sam Obisanya stands up (and Jamie Tartt stands with him) as A.F.C. Richmond continues its battle to end the streak of ties. Meanwhile, Sassy's daughter, Nora, visits Rebecca and inspires her to be her best and bravest self.
We begin with the return of an old favorite, as Rebecca's friend Sassy — with whom Ted experienced a hot rebound night last season on the heels of his divorce — is in town for a conference. Her 13-year-old daughter Nora, Rebecca's goddaughter, is going to stay with Rebecca. And Nora, who's essentially a bone-dry Carrie Fisher type trapped in the body of a British tween, has been feeling a bit neglected by "Aunt Stinky," and she's ready for some togetherness. But Rebecca can't figure out how to show Nora a fun time until she runs into, of all people, Roy, who's leaving a doll shop with Phoebe, his niece.
A great little scene follows, in which Roy tells Rebecca that doll or no doll, kids don't want special activities as much as they want to be included, which Roy demonstrates when Phoebe is enchanted by the idea of tagging along to the podiatrist with him. And when Rebecca later asks Nora if she wants to just tag along to the office, Roy is right again: Nora is ecstatic. One of the things Ted Lasso does so well is to build characters richly enough that non-obvious traits, like adoring individual children while grumping about the idea of children, can bond two of them to each other, as happens here with Rebecca and Roy.
But Sassy isn't the only old favorite we're following this week. Jamie Tartt is bothered — hurt, really — to be rebuffed at every turn by his former team, even though ... he knows he deserves it. While Ted is preparing the team for the next game, Jamie stands up to explicitly apologize for his behavior, but nobody is interested. This is for good reason: the team reminds Jamie that he's been rude, crude, and mean. There's a great rhythm to the writing in this scene, where Jamie is confronted with simple wrongs he's done that turn out to have twists. Colin says that Jamie called him a "jaundiced worm," Jamie apologizes, and Colin adds, "in a profile for my hometown paper." From there, it continues, and families get involved: "You hit on my mom — in front of my dad." And from Jan, who's new, there's a simple, "I don't know you — but I don't like you."
Sam is quiet during most of this, but he looks at Ted with a meaningful dose of "I told you so" in his eyes as the effort to bring Jamie back continues to founder. Out on the pitch, Sam takes Jamie down in a tough tackle and tells him explicitly that things have changed in the time he was gone. And who's watching all this? Dr. Sharon, who quietly takes notes as Ted squirms, certain as always that he's somehow losing his grip on the team.
Perhaps it's the insecurity Sharon provokes in him, perhaps it's just the fact that he hasn't been really weird in a while, but Ted has decided it's time to introduce the team to ... Led Tasso. Led Tasso is Ted's alter ego, whom he cooked up with Coach Beard back in their American football days in Kansas. He's the mean version of Ted who kicks balls around in anger and directs warmups thusly: "Touch your toes! Those are your feet-fingers! Let's go, dummies!" In a rather bizarre sequence that mostly serves as an opportunity for Jason Sudeikis to show off (which, let's face it, is always going to be one of the delights of the show), Led Tasso yells at the team about making the ball their girlfriend, makes them touch each other's toes, and makes everybody run laps. A lot of laps.
The idea of Led Tasso, of course, is to give the team a common enemy to unite against so that they don't stand quite so strong against Jamie. And it works, to some degree: Jamie is the first one to tell Ted he's being weird, and when that leads to Led Tasso angrily canceling practice, the team is happy with Jamie at last. Well — most of the team. Sam is still giving Jamie the cold shoulder. And Dr. Sharon, for her part, is not convinced this is a good plan, since there's no indication that it's anything but a cosmetic change to the relationship between Jamie and the team. And what will become of it when Led Tasso disappears back into Ted's subconscious, once again becoming a relic and a memory of long-gone days at Chuck E. Cheese?
Jamie does the one thing he's learned to do when he needs support: He goes to Keeley. (It's really sweet how even though he's a goober, Jamie's affection for her was very real and remains very real, even though they're just friends now.) Keeley, in turn, marches him straight to Dr. Sharon's office and plunks him down in a chair saying, "She's a brilliant therapist, and unlike me, she actually gets paid to listen to you complain." When Keeley is gone, Jamie asks the doctor: "So, what, do I just sit here and blabber on and on about me-self?" Yes, Dr. Sharon, confirms, that's about the size of it. Jamie considers it, and then just says, "Nice."
But this is where both Jamie's story and Rebecca's story dovetail with the most important thing on this week's agenda. The big action this week is with Sam, who is thrilled when Keeley shows him his new ad for Richmond kit sponsor Dubai Air. Unfortunately, when Sam shares the ad with his father via text, he learns that Dubai Air is owned by a company called Cerithium Oil. And Cerithium has refused to clean up oil spills in Sam's native Nigeria. Sam is devastated when his father says it "breaks [his] heart" to see Sam become "a shill" for such a company. Not only that, but the company has reportedly been bribing officials to ignore the problem.
Sam tells Rebecca and Keeley that he needs to exit the Dubai Air campaign, and while it would have been the easier and more cliched story for them to be frustrated and only later come around to supporting him, both of the women instantly recognize the problem and tell him it's fine. "Of course you don't have to do it, Sam," Rebecca says. "I'll take care of it." When Sam is gone, Rebecca tells Higgins and Keeley that the CEO of Cerithium is an old friend of her dirtbag husband, and she might be able to smooth it over. She doesn't quite say "Dirtbags love me!", but she could.
On the phone, said CEO (whose name, ominously for comedic purposes, is Richard) takes it in stride when Rebecca says she needs to pull Sam from the Dubai Air campaign. But just as it looks like he's not going to be a complete Richard about it, he says that he has one condition: Rebecca needs to get rid of Sam. A distraught Rebecca, worried about losing the team's biggest sponsor but unwilling to mistreat her player, has a heart-to-heart with Nora, who is rapidly becoming a treasured colleague, 13 years old or not. Nora tells her a story about being caught "chewing gum" with a friend in the bathroom at school (she was actually smoking, but says "I don't want a lecture"). The story ends with the moral: "Sometimes, you have to do the right thing, even if you lose."
And so, later that evening, Nora dictates an extravagantly profane email telling Richard to take a very long walk off a very short pier — which letter I cannot meaningfully even quote for you in a family-friendly part of the internet — and Rebecca translates it into polite business-speak that reaches exactly the same result: She will not be getting rid of Sam. Do your worst, Richard. And Richard's response echoes so many weak people whose efforts at bullying are unsuccessful: "Fine."
But this story is not over. It's not enough for Sam to step away from the Dubai Air advertising campaign; he realizes that he shouldn't be playing with the company's name blaring from the front of his jersey, either. Thus, Sam takes a piece of black tape and covers the words "DUBAI AIR." He explains why to the team, and Isaac McAdoo and Tommy Winchester, who are both from Nigerian families as well, quickly join him. Sam tells the rest of A.F.C. Richmond that he doesn't expect them all to take part in this protest; only to understand why the Nigerian players need to do it.
But then, just as a beautiful sunrise will often crest to mark the end of a long night of drinking and throwing up, a Goofus becomes a Gallant: "Throw me the tape." That voice comes from Jamie across the locker room, and when Sam, understandably suspecting this is pandering without much behind it, says "What do you think you're doing?", Jamie has — for once in his life — a good answer. "We're a team, ain't we? Gotta wear the same kit." And he tapes up.
What makes this a good move for Jamie and a good story dramatically is that Jamie understands that this is not about him; it is about being with his teammates in a situation where he could easily be silent. Whatever Dr. Sharon said to him, it seems to have helped him realize that in order to persuade his team to trust him, he must be worthy of their trust and willing to take risks when they need his support. It's not only that Jamie is the first white player to support this protest; it's that he's the first player who isn't Nigerian — the first who doesn't feel the personal stakes Sam does. The stakes for Jamie aren't just the social and environmental costs; the stakes for Jamie are also Sam and Isaac and Tommy. That helps the protest spread to the rest of the team, which, of course, lowers the risk. They can't fire everybody.
The team takes the field, and when they reveal their taped kits, a ripple of shock goes through the crowd — and the coaching staff, and the managers' box. But when Rebecca's phone rings with a call from what's undoubtedly a freshly incensed Richard, she shows Nora that she's emphatically ignoring him. And then we return to Sam's face, which is a marvelously rendered combination of pride, nerves, gratitude, and resolve as his teammates embrace him.
The post-show press conference reveals, almost in passing, that the team's streak of ties is over; they lost this game. But Ted, after succinctly pointing out that white people often don't need to protest to have their issues addressed, throws all his support behind his team, and he directs the press to Sam to hear straight from him about what happened.
And then, in the kind of final scene that this show earns far better than most, Sam rejoins the team in the locker room and is congratulated, toasted, teased, and hugged. And now — now, Jamie can be part of the team, now he can tease Sam, now he can throw his arm around Sam's shoulders, because rather than simply saying he wanted to make up for his many mistakes, he has taken a step toward atoning by being good to his word. And, not for nothing, he did it on a night when a lot of the press wanted the story to be Jamie himself and his return to Richmond.
Not satisfied to end on that already very satisfying note, they give you one more bit of goodness, as Nora — who has done so much to help the team, without their even knowing it — gets to cozy up to her crush, Sam Obisanya, and the rest of the boys she so admires.
Side note: As you might imagine, this is a story that very much has roots in real life. Nigerian farmers have fought for years to get compensation from Shell for damage done by oil spills, and they were victorious at the Hague in January of 2021. Lest you wonder whether this is really the specific reference, note that "Cerithium Oil" is not just a company name they made up. A "Cerithium" is a real marine animal. Specifically ... a snail. And companies do indeed pay millions of dollars a year — in some cases, tens of millions — to be "kit sponsors" to big European football clubs.
Without spoiling anything, I think it's okay to add that one of the good things about this episode is that this is not a one-off expansion of Sam's character that will immediately recede when the activism storyline resolves. This is instead part of a bigger arc for this character that places him much closer to the heart of the action, and you'll see that as the season progresses. Great, great work by Toheeb Jimoh is all over this entire season.
Recall, as the team finds itself joyfully on the outs with its sponsor, that this episode opened with the sounds of Alanis Morissette singing, "I'm broke, but I'm happy." And it ends with a song that has a similar vibe to TV and film soundtrack staple Nick Drake, but is in fact the Zamrock band Amanaz, from their one album: Africa. Very little in Ted Lasso has not been thought through.
Other stories to keep an eye on:
"Make like Dunst and Union and Bring It On, baby!"
"When bad things happen to people like me, y'all tend to write about it without even being asked."
"I still can't believe y'all don't have pads in this sport, it's amazing."
The Smurfs, The Wizard of Oz, Bring It On, The Karate Kid, Larry Bird, Tim Burton movies (even Dumbo), John Wooden, Pat Benatar
Line Reading of the Week
There's something about the way Roy says "Oi!" to Phoebe that makes me laugh every single time, so I'm choosing the pre-podiatrist "Oi!"
Assist of the Week
Let's go with Ellie Taylor as Sassy, giving her roundup of what sex with Ted is like. "So eager to please! It was fabulous," followed by Rebecca spitting out her biscuit.
I'm not sure it even counts as stealth, but the performance this week from Kiki May as Nora is the kind of work from a young actor that ought to cause somebody, somewhere to immediately be thinking about what the next move for her might be. Because she's outstanding.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.