A fundamental tension at the heart of Ted Lasso has been threatening to become a problem all season. This is the episode when that problem becomes tough to ignore. The show has evolved, often in compelling ways, as its cast has expanded and it has become interested in telling more ambitious, dramatic stories. At the same time, the show has become increasingly committed to making all of its characters nice and lovable 100 percent of the time (at least by the end of each episode). That can work when dealing with small conflicts. But with bigger issues, it can feel phony, particularly when it sells short its characters’ complexities.
It’s one thing to have the whole team take a stand against racism, which makes sense. But it’s another when an episode suggests two characters have a fundamental difference they’ll never be able to resolve tied to one of the character’s prejudices only to, oops, reveal it as a mere instance of hurt feelings all along. “La Locker Room aux Folles” takes on some not-nice-at-all real-world problems only to wave them away while confirming the Greyhounds as a bubble where niceness smothers out any bursts of unpleasantness. It’s, as usual, well played with plenty of witty moments. But it ultimately feels mushy as oatmeal.
As the episode opens, the Greyhounds have locked in to their new playing style. And what’s more, they’re having fun with it. In what won’t be the episode’s final rock reference, Beard likens it to watching the Grateful Dead jam with the Black Crowes and Phish. “Oh, it was a mess,” he says. “But they had fun.” What’s more, the Greyhounds are having fun and winning.
All is not entirely well, however, when Colin approaches Isaac about getting a beer and, it goes without saying, talking over Isaac’s discovery that Colin is gay, he’s rudely rebuffed. “Give him a minute,” Trent (now sporting a rainbow-flag Peanuts mug) advises. But Isaac isn’t behaving like a man who’s about to get over learning that his friend and teammate is gay. He ignores Colin’s “Go get ’em, captain” before the game and refuses to touch him in a pregame team ritual.
He behaves, in other words, like a homophobe. And maybe it’s to the episode’s credit that it doesn’t try to cure his homophobia over the course of 45 minutes, but what follows doesn’t really work either. Enraged, Isaac heads into the stands after a fan shouts the F-slur, an uncharacteristic eruption that puzzles the rest of the team. They first assume that Isaac’s gay, then Colin corrects them, coming out to the others (who are unbothered by the revelation). “We don’t care,” Dani suggests. “Big whoop.” This leads to a borderline incomprehensible, maybe intentionally self-parodic Ted Lasso talk likening the situation to a buddy of his who supported the Broncos when everybody else supported the Chiefs and how he regretted not being there for him. It baffles the team — and understandably so. But there is a point. “We don’t not care,” Ted tells Colin.
It’s a sweet moment but a simple one. Colin goes on to have an exceptional game, and later, Isaac comes over to reconcile. He’s no homophobe. He was just mad that Colin had lied to him “for years.” They talk it out over video games. And all is well.
Colin and Isaac’s story line takes up most of the episode, but they’re not the only ones going through some drama in “La Locker Room aux Folles.” Apparently second-guessing her split with Jack, Keeley seeks counsel and comfort from Rebecca, revealing that she has been texting Jack at length, even though Jack has stopped writing back, giving her what Ted calls “the digital Irish good-bye.” This raises an important question: Why? Jack treated Keeley awfully and in ways that suggested she’d continue to be a condescending and controlling partner as long as they were together. Still, when Jack all but confirms their breakup is of the off-permanent kind, Keeley seems disappointed.
At least one relationship is going well. Nate and Jade have settled into a comfortable routine, and Nate doesn’t even hesitate before introducing Jade as his girlfriend. Rupert is charming — sort of. He correctly susses out from Jade’s accent that she’s from the south of Poland and suggests she ordinarily would be out of Nate’s league. But Rupert’s a snob at heart. And though he doesn’t say it, he clearly regards Jade as too common for his team’s coach. In an attempt to show him what he’s been missing — or bring Nate down to his level — Rupert arranges for a boys’ night out that’s not just for boys, as evidenced by the women with whom he has arranged dates. Nate excuses himself and goes home to Jade, because he’s a Nice Guy. (Except he wasn’t so nice not so long ago, and the show still hasn’t really dealt with his reverse heel turn. But good for him anyway.)
With Ted busy with parent-teacher conferences, Rebecca asks Roy to fill in at the press conference. In return, she’s given a reflexive “Fuck no” followed by a more considered (if less sincere) “I’d love to.” This creates chaos. Roy pawns the task off on Coach Beard, leading to an explosive debate about the comparative virtues of Joe Walsh and Jimmy Page. It only calms down after Rebecca intervenes, but Rebecca clearly feels she shouldn’t have to intervene.
Later, Rebecca gives Roy a piece of her mind and suggests he change his glum attitude. Although this doesn’t seem to have been a problem for Roy (or Rebecca) before this episode, it gives Roy something to think about. Later, Roy does lead a press conference that dances around Isaac’s ejection and essentially tells the press they should mind their own business. It’s a curious approach, but it apparently works, keeping the bubble of niceness surrounding the team intact against anything threatening to break it.
• The episode’s comedic highlight belongs to Will Kitman, who sagely tells Roy and Isaac, “The little things we get mad about are snowflakes on a mountain. And if we wait too long, then we’re just one sneeze away from an avalanche that will kill us all,” after appearing seemingly out of nowhere, then sticks around one beat too long.
• Another highlight: the glimpse we get of Ted charming a teacher over Zoom as an unseen, clearly exasperated Michelle urges him to wind it down.
• Joe Walsh versus Jimmy Page? Has Coach Beard ever been more wrong?