The question at the heart of “Big Week,” the fourth episode of Ted Lasso’s third season: Is Ted a mess? Ted wants to know. But, honestly, it’s one of those questions that, if you have to ask, you should already know the answer to. Sassy (or “Sassy Smurf,” as Ted has now dubbed her) applies that label to him after spending the night following the party at Sam’s new restaurant, and Ted acts as if it had never occurred to him he might be a mess. But, when he turns to others, no one contradicts Sassy’s judgment. Yes, Ted’s a mess and everyone can see it.
There’s a contradiction at the heart of Ted’s character, but it’s one that rings true. Most people are filled with contradictions, and Ted is no exception. In some respects, he’s operating on a higher plane than everyone else. He spreads optimism wherever he goes and he’s disarmingly sincere. He wants to bring out the best in people and often does. But he’s also prone to panic attacks and wallowing in his misery after drinking too much.
Sassy’s quick dismissal when Ted asks her out on an “actual date” (“God no”) might seem cruel, but it’s also honest. He is a mess, and he’s a less-advanced mess than she is. She wants to keep it 2011, a golden age for rom-coms about friends with benefits (ignoring that said friends had a habit of ending up together in the end). And Sassy might not even know the full story. She tells him good luck against West Ham (complete with a surprisingly detailed description of Rupert’s scrotum), but does she know just how upset he is that Michelle is seeing Dr. Jacob? Before he tells her about this at the end of the episode, does he know?
A lot is going on before that moment, however. As he promised, Roy is taking Jamie under his wing, coaching him in his attempt to be an even better player than Zava. It raises questions for both of them. Jamie’s not sure that getting up at 4 a.m. is really necessary, but he goes along and by the end of this episode he’s up and ready when Roy arrives. Roy is mostly puzzled why Jamie sleeps with a shirt and no pants. “Because I get cold upstairs and hot downstairs,” is his reply, which gets a grunt and a nod from Roy. This partnership, as impossible to imagine as it might have been just last season, might have a future.
Another team-up hits some bumps in this episode. Keeley’s thrilled with Shandy’s idea to use the single players on the team to promote Bantr (but not Sam, of course), and filming the players’ promos goes smoothly, thanks to Shandy’s efficiency behind the camera. (Though it does stir some mixed feelings in Keeley when Shandy points out how hot Jamie is and Keeley has to agree before listing flaws she’s not sure Jamie even has anymore.) Keeley relaxes and happily delegates this project to a new hire she’s happy to have made, at least for now.
Besides, Keeley’s got other matters to worry about. While at first she’s thrilled and titillated that Barbara wants two tickets to the game for herself and someone named “Jack,” she’s chastened to learn that Jack is Jack Danvers, who runs the VC firm that’s footing the bill for KGPR. Suddenly, the pressure around the big game extends beyond the field of play.
Of course, there’s drama on the field too. In the build-up to the big game, Beard and Roy run strategies by Higgins. Ted’s conspicuously absent, but how necessary is he in this process anyway? What Ted is good at is finding compromises. Sure, Zava might not go around with Beard and Roy’s plan to run Nate’s False Nine, but Ted’s confident an answer will arrive. He’s less confident, however, that he’s not a mess, as Sassy has suggested. One emergency Diamond Dogs meeting later, he has his answer: yes. But he really ought to focus on the game.
Focusing on the game is less of a problem for the players, who remain (sans Jamie) magnetized by Zava, who’s become part superstar, part philosopher king. Like Ted, he has trouble pronouncing Zoreaux’s (Moe Jeudy-Lamour) name. But does that really have to be his name, anyway? Zava lets his kids name themselves. Shouldn’t Zoreaux have the freedom to do the same? Why can’t he be Van Damme? There’s a scandal in the locker room, too. Isaac discovers that the “Believe” sign, though restored to its original position, has been ripped in half, a discovery that will have a butterfly effect later in the episode.
Meanwhile, the man most likely to be blown away by the gust that butterfly flap creates is trying, again, to impress Jade (Edyta Budnik), the hostess at his favorite Greek restaurant. She remains decidedly unimpressed, even after the restaurant’s owner recognizes Nate and gushes that such a big celebrity would visit his establishment. But is she as indifferent as she first appears? Nothing about her actions suggests otherwise, but it seems unlikely the series brought her back just for this semi-humiliating moment.
Unbeknownst to him, Nate’s humiliation continues elsewhere. In Ted’s office, Beard, Roy, and Trent watch a security video of Nate clumsily trying to tear down the “Believe” sign before finally succeeding. Ted’s not that impressed. It’s not like he didn’t essentially know who the culprit was anyway, and when Roy and Beard suggest weaponizing the clip to motivate the team, Ted doesn’t sign on. But he doesn’t shut it down, which comes back to haunt everyone. Would a more focused Ted have been more explicit? Maybe, but that version of Ted isn’t in the room. Later, Ted’s still a little distracted. He trades friendly texts with Michelle but shakes his head at his text history with Dr. Jacob. As she exits, Rebecca confirms that, yes, he is a mess. But so is she, and that’s why they get along. Ted clarifies. He’s a “work in progmess.”
At the game, a string of potentially catastrophic events for Keeley begins with realizing she’s been caught off guard and without any feminine products. No worries: The woman with the cool sneakers in the stall next to her has it covered, and with a “super” not a “skinny,” no less. (“It’s not like my vagina is on a diet!”) Moments later, they meet again, at which point Keeley realizes that her Good Samaritan is Jack (Jodi Balfour) and this is an embarrassing way to meet the boss (or at least Keeley feels it’s embarrassing).
Ted’s problems mount, too. After coming this close to having a warm interaction with Nate (and maybe even an apology) after they share an elevator ride together, the moment ends prematurely when Rupert arrives to whisk the Wonder Kid away. On the field, all the warmth has melted away from Nate, who’s all business. And business is good.
After the half, Richmond, jazzed up and angry after seeing the tape of Nate ripping the sign, emerges shooting death glares at their former assistant coach. They’re ready to kill! Instead, they die, playing ugly, squabbling with their opponents on the field, and losing player after player to penalties. Not even Zava can save the day. “We overcorrected and played with hate,” Beard admits in a postgame meeting he shares with Roy. Ted doesn’t disagree. But he also tells them to shake it off. Ted might not know much about football strategy, but he does know the difference between a situation when yelling can get things done and when it’s just yelling.
Not every confrontation involves raising your voice. Outside the stadium, Rebecca tells Rupert she’s seen him canoodling with his assistant, Ms. Kakes (Rosie Lou). “Your daughter deserves better, and so does Bex,” she tells him, sealing it with, “Stop fucking around.” For the first time this season, maybe ever, Rupert appears truly beaten. That’s not evident by the evening, however, when Rupert brings Nate into an exclusive club and puts a “huge fan,” a beautiful famous woman (though famous for what remains unclear), on his arm. This is how winners celebrate, but Nate can’t quite swallow it. (Literally. He spits out his martini when no one is looking.)
Rupert’s not the only one staring down disaster. Interrupting a warm moment between Jack and Keeley after the game, Shandy arrives with the good news that Bantr is trending. But when Keeley sees why it’s trending, the crass promise that users might get a chance to “fuck a rich celebrity,” Keeley’s mortified, demanding she change it back immediately. But this isn’t the kind of damage that can just be control-Z’d away.
Neither is the damage in Ted’s marriage. Chatting with Michelle, he lets loose everything he’s been holding inside: He respects that they’re not together anymore, but the Dr. Jacob business hurt him. And they need to be on the same page. After all, they’re going to be sharing grandkids. “I love our family, no matter what it looks like,” he tells her, though exactly what form that love will take in the future remains unclear as he closes his laptop, folds his hands, and sits in the dark.
• Ted is a mess, right? That’s not an open question after this episode. But he might be right about being a work in progmess.
• That neologism could also be hung on Jamie, who ends the episode eager to follow Roy’s instruction and, as Keeley observes, does not seem to have fallen back into his old ways.
• Jack’s not the only one with notable sneakers (or, sorry, trainers) this week. Zava’s sporting a pair of yellow Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66s. If they look familiar, there’s a reason: They’re the shoes Bruce Lee wore in Game of Death and that Uma Thurman wore in Kill Bill. That makes this an homage on top of homage and aligns Zava with a history of badasses that spans several decades.
• Barbara doesn’t like anyone. Except Rebecca. Keeley’s right about that.