Ted Lasso began its second season by killing off a dog, and it looks like “Man City,” this season’s eighth episode, might offer a similar shock. It opens, unusually, in Doc Sharon’s apartment, a location we’ve never seen before and one that doesn’t seem particularly imbued with her personality. That’s fitting for an apartment that has been provided by AFC Richmond, as we’ll learn later. It’s not home. This is just a temporary arrangement for Sharon, a gig that will lead to the next gig. But it’s one that, as evidenced by Sharon’s conversation with her own therapist, is challenging her in ways she had not expected. And, at least for a moment between the final seconds before the opening credits and the episode’s first few scenes, it seems like it could be her final assignment.
“Ted Lasso is driving me fucking crazy,” Sharon tells her therapist. She continues, “He refuses to open up, and when he gets anywhere close to being vulnerable, he fires off a zinger of some obscure reference to something very specific to a 40-year-old white man from Middle America.” Sharon has Ted’s number (and, to some extent, Ted Lasso’s writers’ numbers, too), but Sharon’s therapist sees a connection. Ted deflects intimacy and vulnerability with humor and amiability; Sharon does the same with her formidable intellect. But Sharon does have joy in her life. She loves riding her bike, listening to Roots Manuva, and giving what-for to those in her way. But when she meets an oncoming car head-on, her mobile reverie comes to an end.
Fortunately, that’s not the end of Sharon. That would be a cheap shock on the part of the show, and, honestly, drawing out the suspense of whether or not Sharon has been killed or seriously injured seems cheap enough already. She’s fine, apart from a minor concussion. But the injury also reveals how frustrated she is with Ted’s resistance to therapy and Ted in general. Her head-injury-induced voice-mails to him can’t hide her feelings about him (or her lovely singing voice), and she seems more annoyed than grateful when he’s the one who shows up at the hospital, where he’s mistaken for her husband and milks the misunderstanding for all the comedy he can.
Still, he is there for her, frequently calling to check in on her and being annoyingly entertaining in the process. (Or is it entertainingly annoying?) He’s also discreet in not commenting on all the empty bottles he sees around her apartment. (And Ted’s been known to knock back a few too many by himself as well.) In a weird way, they get each other, which opens the door for him to tell her something he’s never told her before as the episode draws to an end.
But that’s later. First, there’s the matter of preparing for the big match against Manchester City at Wembley Stadium, the place where Queen and others played Live Aid. (Or at least that’s Ted’s frame of reference, not realizing that this Wembley replaced that Wembley.) But there’s drama surrounding the lead-up to the match. First, Roy has to deal with Phoebe’s swearing habit. (And where could she have picked that up?) It’s a funny bit of business, though, and it’s always fun to see those two together, but the cutesy scenes don’t really contribute much to a supersize 45-minute episode.
They also delay getting to more pressing matters, like the culmination of Sam and Rebecca’s Bantr flirtation, which Sam approaches with a great deal of optimism before realizing the identity of his match. And why shouldn’t he? His protests have helped drive the polluting oil company out of Nigeria, and he has — thanks to Isaac, who brings a great deal of ceremony to the occasion — a sharp new haircut that attracts compliments everywhere he goes. That it’s Rebecca who shows up when he asks to meet “Bossgirl” in person doesn’t cause that optimism to fade.
Rebecca, on the other hand, takes some persuading. She’s his boss, after all, and he’s just 21. But Sam’s a mature 21, and he believes in the connection they’ve formed online, or at least doesn’t want to give up on it without one proper date: a nice meal, a pleasant conversation — it doesn’t have to go any further than that.
And yet, it does go further. Rebecca remains cautious — if nothing else, there’s an ethical issue here — but she sticks around, and they have a lovely time together. When Sam asks for a second date at the end of the night, she rejects him, but only sort of. There’s a kiss and some hesitation, and they agree it can’t happen again. But, again, only sort of. There’s just too much chemistry there — and Hannah Waddingham and Toheeb Jimoh play it so well together — to let go entirely.
Before all that, Sam shares a nice moment with his father, who couldn’t be prouder of his son for his activism and accomplishments. All that stands in stark contrast to Jamie’s father, James (Kieran O’Brien), a demanding, abusive man who’s been offscreen all season until now but whose presence has, as always, loomed over Jamie. While requesting some tickets for his dad from Higgins, whose latest “office” has to be his worst yet, Jamie receives some advice about accepting his dad for who he is and forgiving him for not being the father Jamie wants him to be.
But that’s easier said than done when your father is as big a jerk as Jamie’s, who shows up to the match wearing a Man City uniform and, with a group of friends that includes somebody named “Bug,” behaves abominably throughout. After the Greyhounds lose the match, James doubles down, showing up in the locker room and chewing out his son in front of the whole team. It’s awful, so awful that Roy is moved to hug his onetime enemy as everyone else looks on in shock and pity.
This loss will have consequences. It’s going to take Jamie a long time to recover from a double dose of humiliation (and it’s unclear how he’ll respond), and Beard — who’s so frustrated that at one point he removes his hat for the first time in the whole series — heads off to do God knows what in the London night. The team’s spirit appears to be broken, and though Ted makes it through the night without surrendering to a panic attack, it breaks him down enough that he knows he has to level with Sharon about one source of his troubles: his father’s death by suicide. Ted has alluded to his father before, speaking of him in tones that suggested there was something he wasn’t saying about his loss. Just walking through Sharon’s door was a huge step. Talking about this, even briefly, seems bigger still.
The night does end well for Rebecca and Sam, however. Rather than giving up, he gently persists, showing up on her doorstep but letting her take the first step outside to meet him. Where is this going? Neither of them knows, and there are obvious stumbling blocks to the relationship. But, as the episode ends, none of that seems to matter.
• The most immediate stumbling block: Both of them have been playing out the lead-up to this relationship for an audience. Rebecca has her crew, and Sam has the whole team rooting for him. They’re going to expect a report.
• Nice bit of Sudeikis acting: the moment when he forces himself to stop crying and put on the Ted Lasso affect when talking to Beard.
• Ted Lasso has been offering indirect book recommendations in several episodes this season. We saw Beard reading Simon Kuper’s Football Against the Enemy, a study of the intersection between football and politics. This week Ted takes a long look at The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Midlife, Jungian psychologist James Hollis’s 1993 guide to navigating midlife crises.
• Keeley has some nice moments with Rebecca this week, but she still feels a little sidelined from the action this season, doesn’t she?
• After his dark turn last week, we only get a few glimpses of Nate this week, and he mostly seems chipper and eager to participate in team life. We’re probably not done with his heel turn yet, though.
• The big question: Everyone loves Ted, but can the team justify keeping him on if it keeps losing?
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