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[This story contains spoilers for season three, episode two of Ted Lasso.]
The second episode of Ted Lasso’s third season puts the title character on the sidelines for much of its running time, focusing instead on Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham), Roy (Brett Goldstein) and a couple new additions to the AFC Richmond locker room.
One of those newcomers is someone the show has previously introduced: Trent Crimm (James Lance), no longer of The Independent. Trent pitches writing a book about Richmond’s return to the Premier League for the season, which Ted agrees to over the strenuously mimed objections of Rebecca, Higgins (Jeremy Swift) and Keeley (Juno Temple).
Most of “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea” — taking its title from the Elvis Costello and the Attractions song — takes place, however, not at Richmond’s home base but at Stamford Bridge, the home of top-flight club (in the Lasso-verse, if not the current real-life Premier League table) Chelsea. Richmond, sporting a new, orange away kit, has its first match of the season there, and former Chelsea captain Roy is returning there for the first time since his retirement.
It’s also where a world-class player, Zava (Maximilian Osinski), is apparently settling after leaving Italian club Juventus — his 14th team in 15 years, we’re told. Rupert’s (Anthony Head) West Ham is also pursuing him, which activates Rebecca’s competitive/vengeful side.
“Even Keeley says to her [in episode one], dude, let it go,” Waddiingham told THR about Rebecca’s near-obsession with besting her ex-husband. “And she says, no, I am planning on doing that — just after I’ve done all this. Which is how we all are, isn’t it? Sometimes we’re not the best version of ourselves. I love playing her raggedy edges.”
Raggedy — or just fed up — ends up winning the day, even after Rebecca tells Keeley a story about how Rupert’s charm won her over when they first got together. After being told she can’t see Zava, and listening to Rupert twist the knife about his purchase of West Ham/the end of their marriage, Rebecca tracks Zava to the men’s room and berates him, calling him overrated and scared to see if he’s really still got it, which is why he’s joining a wealthy club. She returns to her seat, and Higgins asked if she sweet-talked Zava. “What’s the opposite of that?” she asks. “Sour yell,” Keeley replies.
Would something like that work for real? Nah. But Ted Lasso has a bit of the fantastical in it, and so Zava not only spurns Chelsea on live TV in a post-match press conference (after Richmond pulls out a 1-1 draw), he tells the world he’s signing with Richmond. Everyone save for Jamie (Phil Dunster) is ecstatic; the cut between him muttering “The fans aren’t gonna like this” and the pub, where Mae and her regulars are literally dancing with joy is a great piece of joke construction.
Zava, whose characterization (down to the man-bun) draws heavily on the great Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is the B-story here, though. The heart of the episode rests with Roy, who is very displeased that A) everyone finds out he and Keeley are no longer together, and B) no one can understand why he was the one who initiated the breakup.
When Roy takes the field at Stamford Bridge, he’s greeted warmly by fans who start up the “He’s here! He’s there!” chant for him. It’s a moment that seems to genuinely touch him, even if he won’t let on that it did.
Roy’s long-standing animosity toward Trent, it turns out, isn’t just part of his overall grouchiness or a generalized disdain for reporters, but is specifically tied to a nasty story Trent wrote about the 17-year-old Roy’s professional debut — a clipping of which Roy still carries in his wallet. The two make peace during halftime, allowing the team to relax around Trent and sort out its strategy for the second half, leading to the tie.
Afterward, Roy actually — gasp! — shares with Ted and Trent how he felt going back to Chelsea: bittersweet, to over-simplify. He says he left the club when he realized he was losing a step to younger players and “didn’t want to be one of those broken-down footballers who’s taking up space till they’re dropped, years after they should’ve been.” Part of him, though, wishes he could have “just fucking enjoyed myself. But that’s now who I am, I guess.”
Odds and ends:
* It becomes clear why the employees at Keeley’s PR firm seem like such duds: They work for the firm backing her financially, as does CFO Barbara (Katy Wix). The latter humiliates Keeley’s old friend Shandy (Ambreen Razia), whom Keeley wants to hire after they meet at a commercial shoot. Astute reader of people that she is, though, Keeley finds a place of common ground with Barbara while also making clear that she won’t let Barbara talk down to her or her friend. It’s a nice reminder that Keeley has gotten where she is for a reason beyond being social media-famous.
* Coach Beard’s yelps, both at the possibility of landing Zava and upon learning about the breakup, are brilliantly timed.
* Ted says “football” instead of “soccer” without thinking, and he even picks up Beard’s current book, the well-regarded history of football tactics Inverting the Pyramid. This a week after he shocked Roy and Beard by knowing what a 4-4-2 formation is. He’s not going to suddenly become an expert tactician, however: “When you’ve been living the sport day in and day out for the year and a half that seasons one and two encompass, eventually you’re gonna learn what a 4-4-2 is,” Coach Beard portrayer, writer and executive producer Brendan Hunt told THR. “He’s not so much flowering intellectually as he is getting a better handle on the glossary.”
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