You might have thought that, at this point, Ted Lasso had introduced all of the second season’s major characters. But apparently not. “Do the Right-est Thing” sees the arrival of “Led Tasso,” Ted’s evil alter ego. Led’s everything Ted is not: callous, demanding, insulting, and unreasonable. He’s also a persona Ted turns to only as a last resort. The return of Jamie Tartt has, to put it mildly, not gone over well with the team, and understandably so. However much he might have been humbled since leaving the team, and however many locker-room apologies he might offer, he was a jerk to everyone while he was there and burned bridges aplenty on his way out. Now his teammates are jerks in return. So what’s to be done?
How about bringing in a bigger jerk? By transforming into Led, Ted figures he can serve as a lightning rod for the team’s anger and frustration. Does it work? Sort of. The members of AFC Richmond seem more baffled than intimidated by the routine — particularly since it involves a request to “touch each other’s toes” and a weird digression about taking a ball out on a date — but at least it gives them something to talk about that’s not how much they hate Jamie. A few even give Jamie a friendly pat after he “forces” Led to cancel practice. But not Sam. Sam just keeps walking.
There might be some logic to Ted/Led’s madness. It’s essentially the same approach employed by Herb Brooks to deal with rivalries within the U.S. Olympic hockey team in the movie Miracle (and presumably by the real-life Brooks, too). But it has its limitations. Sam’s a sensitive and principled man working in a field where sensitivity and principles aren’t necessarily professional advantages. And while Led’s appearance provides the episode with its comedic highpoint, “Do the Right-est Thing” is ultimately about more than that.
Specifically, it’s about how Sam’s conscience won’t allow him to continue serving as a spokesperson for Dubai Air, AFC Richmond’s biggest sponsor. While he’s initially thrilled at this first touch with real stardom and excited that he can now fly his parents up from Nigeria to watch him play, his happiness doesn’t last long. Dubai Air, it turns out, is owned by an oil company responsible for polluting the Niger Delta. Sam didn’t know this before his father informed him, but he can’t let it go once he learns about it. Staying the course would mean disappointing his father, naturally, but also betraying his own ethics.
Sam’s refusal sends ripples through AFC Richmond — ripples that threaten to become tidal waves. Not only is Dubai Air the team’s biggest sponsor, the company’s CEO Richard is friends with Rebecca’s ex-husband Rupert (still unseen this season). Rebecca thinks a phone call can prepare him for Sam’s refusal to endorse the company. And she’s right, with one catch: She has to drop Sam from the team.
That’s a nonstarter for Rebecca, but she probably doesn’t anticipate what happens next. Sam uses black tape to cover the name of Dubai Air on his uniform. Then his teammates join him, first his fellow Nigerians, then, with Jamie leading the way, everyone else. It’s a big moment, and it’s all anyone wants to talk about during the postgame press conference. Ted, as usual, puts things in perspective, saying, “I’ve never needed to have that kind of courage. Because, well, honestly, when bad things happen to people like me, y’all have a tendency to write about it without being asked. Sam had to get y’all’s attention.” Then he cedes the floor to Sam to discuss the issue before joining the team’s celebration for breaking the tie streak, where Sam gets a hero’s welcome. Sure, they broke it with a loss, but it’s still something.
It’s probably not necessary to note that Ted Lasso is not real life. In real life, these issues have ways of getting tangled even when dealing with an unmistakable evil. It’s impossible to imagine that, in a scenario closer to the real-world intersection of sports and politics, everyone from the team through the ownership would feel like they really had no choice but the moral one. There’s always an argument for taking the easy route. Money provides a reason to compromise and it’s almost always simpler to go along with a corrupt system than take a stand. But Ted Lasso not being real life is also part of its appeal. Ted has flaws, but he brings out the best in everyone. “Doing the right thing is never the wrong thing,” he tells Sam, and if that’s an oversimplification, it’s also an oversimplification he lives by.
If there’s a problem here, it’s the sense that, within this episode at least, the consequences for doing the right thing aren’t that bad. Rebecca can tell Dubai Air to go fly a kite and that seems to be the end of it. Whether or not there are more consequences down the road remains to be seen. For now, the question remains: Does “Do the Right-est Thing” bring its pleasant, well-meaning characters a little too close to real-world issues to not invite comparisons between how Rebecca and the others handle the potential loss of a sponsor and an outbreak of controversy against real-world team owners and players? Maybe. But maybe it’s also content to leave nuanced untangling of such knotty issues to another sort of show.
Sam isn’t the only character forced to do some reflecting this episode. When Rebecca’s best friend Sassy (Ellie Taylor) shows up with her daughter (and Rebecca’s goddaughter) Nora (Kiki May), Rebecca’s reminded of the years she spent away from Nora. She soon discovers she can’t make up for lost time simply by doing what they used to do, like going to a fancy tea service for children. They can, however, exchange some witty observations outside the (not real) British Girls shop, which differs significantly from the (very real) American Girl doll line, particularly in its emphasis on “tragically orphaned” girls. (Rebecca: “The Americans really do the historical-doll concept better, don’t they? Must be their innate sense of triumph, however misguided.” Nora: “Yeah, but no one does orphans better than us Brits.”)
Rebecca and Nora are obviously a simpatico pair, but the time away has made them awkward around each other. Fortunately, sage advice arrives after the arrival of Roy Kent, who’s exiting the shop with his niece. “Truth is they just want to feel like they’re a part of our lives,” he tells Rebecca before adding, “the little idiots.” Rebecca takes this to heart and asks Nora to join her at work, a suggestion Nora greets with great enthusiasm.
Not only does Nora fit right into the AFC Richmond world, she proves helpful to Keeley, who’s doing some freelance marketing work for Bantr, a dating app that’s trying to offer a less superficial alternative to other dating apps by barring photos and focusing on text. Whatever its prospects in the wider world, Bantr’s a hit in the AFC Richmond clubhouse. Nick downloads it (then deletes it), and while Ted doesn’t have any plans to use Bantr, he can at least imagine meeting his soul mate online, a prospect he describes as “neat-o.” Higgins, of course, has no use for it. (His ringtone for his wife is “She’s a Rainbow,” so why would he?) And Coach Beard fears what might happen if Jane found out he’d downloaded such an app. Beard seems to fear Jane a lot these days. Rebecca, on the other hand, is willing to give it a go, even after making fun of it because, as she puts it, “I’m a good friend.”
Elsewhere, both Jamie and Roy are trying to move on. Keeley helps the former by introducing him to Sharon and the world of therapy, where he quickly discovers he’s well-equipped to spend a lot of time talking about himself. The latter is sticking with his Sky Sports gig where he offers a frank assessment of both Jamie (“a Muppet and I hope he dies of the incurable condition of being a little bitch”) and a co-host. Each, in their own way, is also trying to do the right thing. If they stray, maybe Led Tasso can scare them straight.
• Ted and Sassy’s good-natured banter is a delight, as is Sassy’s description of Ted’s bedroom technique. But there’s a near-complete absence of sexual tension between them. Their hookup seems to have been a one-and-done happening.
• Sometimes the lines fly so fast, Ted Lasso demands a repeat viewing. Did you catch, “Make like Dunst and Union and bring it on, baby!” That’s a much-used joke structure on the show, so much used the writers have started to play with the format a bit, as when Ted prompts a reporter to “make like Pat Benatar,” then lets the reporter fill in the blank.
• The song playing over the credits is “Khala My Friend,” from the Zambian band Amanaz. The band didn’t last much longer than the time it took to release a single album, Africa, in 1975, but that album’s well worth seeking out. (Where this track sounds more than a little like Nick Drake, the band is elsewhere heavily influenced by British psychedelic and blues music.) If you want a wider offering of Zambian rock music, it also appears on the 2017 compilation Welcome to Zamrock!
• Ted describing Chuck E. Cheese is a delight.
• Ted Lasso’s influence is spilling out into the real world: Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto adopted the Jamie Tartt-points-to-his-own-jersey gesture during his recent home-run-hitting streak. He explained that this is a kind of in-joke between himself and the team’s manager David Bell, who started referring to Votto — not the youngest player on the team at 37 — as “Roy Kent.” Joke or not, the two have also started exchanging the word “Believe” as a word of inspiration.