A show as savvy about music as Ted Lasso doesn’t open with Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” without considering its past or implications. The 1965 hit has turned up in plenty of movies, but none so famously as Groundhog Day. When the familiar strains kick off the episode — accompanying images of characters waking up, no less — it feels for a moment as if Ted Lasso might be launching into a tribute episode, one in which the same events keep repeating. “Headspace” isn’t that, at least not exactly. But that doesn’t mean repetition doesn’t have a role to play.
Witness Roy and Keeley, who are stuck in a frustrating pattern, even if only one of them knows it as the episode begins. Keeley loves Roy, but she’s come to realize she doesn’t need to see him all the time: in bed, in the bathroom, at work, at the café at work, in the kit room at work, on the floor when she’s just trying to watch Sex and the City. It’s a lot. (“He’s here, he’s there, he’s every-fucking-where: Roy Kent.”) It’s understandable, as she consults an ever-widening circle of friends — who occasionally cover their conversation with impromptu scat singing — everyone else seems to understand it, too.
Everyone except Roy, that is, who’s deeply hurt by Keeley’s revelation that he’s just way too up in her business too often. They fight, and it plays like a real fight, the kind where those on both sides of the argument don’t really want to be fighting, but neither will back down. Their rift doesn’t last that long, however. The next day it’s Jamie Tartt, of all people, who accidentally makes Roy realize what he’s doing wrong. Roy’s not giving Keeley enough space. (Which she essentially told him, but he couldn’t hear it for some reason.) One candlelight bubble bath and the promise of alone time later, all is well.
On Ted Lasso, some problems have simple resolutions. Roy’s and Keeley’s tiff didn’t suggest deeper problems in their relationship and seemed destined to be just a blip. Roy got stuck in a pattern that was detrimental to his relationship, recognized it, and changed his behavior. He wasn’t trapped in a time loop, à la Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, but sometimes you don’t need to have a run-in with the supernatural to get stuck in a rut. He saw what he was doing and got out.
For others, it’s not as easy. Ted makes three visits to Doc Sharon’s office over the course of the episode but only manages to stick around on the final try. During the first, he nervously engages in banter and bits as he tries to get comfortable, rejecting all possible positions, even the classic flat-on-the-couch “like you see in The New Yorker” pose. When Sharon asks him point-blank what happened when he fled the game, he flees again. The second visit goes even worse. Ted, in an uncharacteristically hostile mood, insults Sharon. But not just Sharon. He insults the occupation of therapy itself, accusing her of not really caring because she gets paid to listen to others’ problems. It’s harsh, and she rightly takes offense.
The third visit, however, seems to mark a turning point. We don’t get to see what Sharon and Ted talk about, and, at this point, it doesn’t really matter. Last episode’s watershed moment came when Ted walked through the door of Sharon’s office and admitted he needed help. In some ways, this is bigger. He’s committed to sticking around and seeing therapy through, knowing the loneliness and anger he’s feeling as a divorcé miles away from the life he used to know will not go away. Like Roy, he saw himself engaging in destructive behavior and repeating the same mistakes, and he pulled out of it. But for Ted, the stakes are even higher, and this is just the beginning of the process.
At least the episode leaves Ted in a better place than Nate, who’s spiraling into darkness. While it’s kind of shocking to see Nate end an episode berating the sweet Will (Charlie Hiscock), who’s replaced him as the team’s kit man, Nate’s been heading in this direction most of the season. His insecurity goes much deeper than his inability to secure a reservation at Taste of Athens, and he has a need for validation that his “Wonder Kid” success has seemingly only deepened.
In some ways, it’s a remarkably sharp heel turn from the meek kid we met in season one. But, in retrospect, it now looks like he’s been headed in this direction all along. Season two has fleshed out Nate’s backstory and home life, and it’s not hard to see the source of his deep need for approval, something his father refuses to give him in even meager amounts. As the episode opens, Nate has made the papers for being an awesome coach and even that doesn’t move the needle. “They say humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking about yourself less,” he tells Nate. That may be true, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy success even a little bit.
So Nate looks elsewhere: to the press, which is now talking about how he deserves his own team, and to social media, which is echoing some of those same suggestions (except when it’s offering up crushing insults). As harsh as Nate’s father’s approach is, he’s not wrong about Nate’s need for a little bit of humility. Nate’s jump in status has made him cocky and callous on the field and cruel when dressing down Colin in his office. To be fair, Colin was the ringleader of Nate’s tormentors, and it’s hard to let that go. So he lets Colin have it, likening him to a painting at a Holiday Inn.
Coach Beard overhears this and gives Nate a dressing down of his own, which he seems to take to heart. He apologizes to Colin in front of the whole team — who know all about the incident even though it took place behind closed doors because that’s how tight they’ve become — and Colin accepts the apology. Hugs. All is well.
Except it’s not. There’s no sincerity to Nate’s apology, even if it seems to fly (even with Coach Beard). Now driven by a combination of narcissism (he can’t even admit he said “Wonder Kid” instead of “wunderkind”), he takes it out on Will, who went to the trouble of having a custom “Wonder Kid” jersey made in his honor, though Nate sees that as an attempt to humiliate him. It’s ugly. Where is this going? That’s unclear. But right now, it’s going nowhere good.
Largely away from all this mess, Rebecca contemplates her future with her Bantr match, still not realizing it’s Sam. The episode features a cute scene in which they bump into each other while glued to their phones. When Sam tells her the moment reminds him phones make it so that people have “never been so connected but never further apart,” Rebecca realizes she was thinking the same thing. They do have nice chemistry together, but Sam’s friendly politeness alone suggests the boss/team-member relationship would be a hurdle to any relationship. (That and Rebecca not being sure how she feels about Ratatouille being her match’s favorite film.) Regardless, both Sam and Rebecca have cheering sections encouraging the blind relationship. The whole team is pushing Sam to make the connection while Rebecca turns to a small council of Keeley and Higgins.
What will become of it remains a big TBD. In fact, much of “Headspace” leaves viewers hanging about the fate of its plot strands. Will Ted be able to confront what’s going on inside him? Will Nate continue his descent into prickdom? Is there a future to this Bantr match? All that, and the Greyhounds’ season remains on the line, even if the episode largely ignores that. Football is life, sure, but there’s more to life than just football.
• Roy reading Dan Brown and being shocked by plot twists most readers knew about a decade ago is the episode’s best running gag. In his defense, he has been busy.
• That said, the season’s best subtle running gag might be Dutch newcomer Jan Maas’s (David Elsendoorn) inability to speak without absolute frankness, which pops up a couple of times this episode: once when Nate insists he said “wunderkind,” and once when Jamie is trying to explain his moves on the field to Roy.
• Per the credits, Will the kit man’s full name is “Will Kitman.”
• Ted Lasso is lucky to have Nick Mohammed, who has the acting chops to steer Nate through some potentially choppy waters and play his recent turn as part of his personality all along, and not as a Mr. Hyde emerging unexpectedly from Dr. Jekyll.