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[This story contains spoilers for “Sunflowers,” the sixth episode of Ted Lasso’s third season.]
AFC Richmond has been in a funk since losing to West Ham two episodes back on Ted Lasso, with only a couple of draws to show for their work and a dispiriting slide down to the middle of the Premier League table.
Will a trip to the continent get things back on track? On the pitch, decidedly not — the team loses a friendly by the frightening score of 5-0 to Dutch power Ajax (one of Zava’s many former clubs, apparently; a photo in the stadium commemorates his tenure there, “2013-2013”). Afterward, though? Ted (Jason Sudeikis) declares a curfew-free night in Amsterdam for everyone, and what follows is reminiscent of season two’s (very good, no arguments considered) “Beard After Hours,” but following most of the principals (save Keeley, who jets off to see the Northern Lights with Jack early on and isn’t seen again).
It’s the show’s longest episode to date, clocking in with a running time of a full hour, and at least one of its stories — looking at you, Higgins and Will — doesn’t add much of anything to the ongoing story. But “Sunflowers” offers up big leaps for several characters as they make their way through the night.
Like the team he coaches, Ted is stuck, wondering about his purpose with Richmond and aching for his son Henry in the States. He’s so out of sorts that he asks Beard (Brendan Hunt, who also wrote the episode) if he’s got anything to open his mind. Elated, Beard mixes them each something he scored from the Richmond bus driver — but it’s dissolved in Ted’s mortal enemy, tea. After telling Beard he can have the night and a few unanswered texts to Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham), Ted finally drinks the tea and, after a stop at the Van Gogh Museum (hence the episode title “Sunflowers”), finds himself at the kitschy “American” restaurant he suggested earlier.
There, while watching old Michael Jordan highlights and contemplating a pyramid of onion rings accompanied by his beloved Bryant’s barbecue sauce — “It’s the best one,” his server says — the drug seems to start working. Ted hallucinates Nate (Nick Mohammed) as one of the waiters, then starts seeing triangles everywhere (along with a short film about former Chicago Bulls assistant coach Tex Winter). Inspiration strikes, and Ted … (re)invents total football, the system that allowed Ajax, the Dutch national team and their iconic forward Johan Cruyff to thrive in the 1970s. Still, it’s the biggest step Ted has taken toward getting into the hands-on, tactical aspect of coaching since he arrived in London. With the subject of his continued employment already having come up and his team unable to do much, it’s frankly about time for him to get in the game. Oh: And it turns out the bus driver gave Beard a bum sample of the mind-expanding drug, so whatever happened with Ted was all him, an effect of his very low tolerance or a very powerful placebo effect.
Richmond’s owner opts for a little me time after the friendly, setting out with just her phone for a walk — and somehow not notice the very well-marked and differently colored bike lanes in the famously bike-centric city. When a handsome local (Matteo van der Grijn) starts a conversation with her, a cyclist knocks her off a bridge and into a canal (score another one for her mom’s psychic, who saw her “upside down and drenched”).
He turns out, however, to be the dream guy someone meets on a night in an unfamiliar city. He invites her onto his extremely tastefully appointed houseboat, dries her clothes and offers to make her dinner. He even leaves while she showers. Rebecca is wary at first but eventually lets down her guard and spends maybe the most carefree, blissful night she’s had since the series began, including a world-class foot massage. She falls asleep on his couch, and he covers her up.
BUT: As she’s leaving the next morning, she inquires whether “did we … ?” He assures her they did not, but after Rebecca leaves, he says to himself, “Yes, we did.” Ted Lasso being the kind of show it is, one would hope that he’s answering the question “Did we fall for one another?” and not “Did I have nonconsensual sex with you?” Given that the show has also spent time on Rebecca potentially becoming a mother (one that seemed to be precluded a week ago), it’s not out of the question, which would recast this entire encounter as something gross. The show has yet to sell out a character like that, however, so let’s hope this isn’t the start.
As the rest of the team decides between seeing a live sex show or traveling two hours for a party Jann’s cousin is DJ-ing, Colin (Billy Harris) slips out and finds a gay bar. Trent (James Lance) follows Colin, freaking the player out — until Trent tells him he’s known Colin is gay for some time, and so is he.
The two have a heartfelt conversation where Colin explains that he lives two lives, one with the club and one with the men he dates. Dr. Sharon, however, made him realize that he has “an ache for both my lives to be my only life.”
“I don’t want to be a spokesperson,” he tells Trent. “I don’t want a bunch of apologies. All I want is for when we win a match, to be able to kiss my fella the same way the guys get to kiss their girls.” It’s not a big, dramatic scene, but it’s a really nice piece of writing for Colin to find some more footing to possibly merge his two lives. (Read THR‘s interview for much more from Harris.)
Roy and Jamie
Roy (Brett Goldstein) is thrown after the match when he asks where Keeley is headed, and Rebecca replies “Somewhere that believes they deserves her.” So he takes it out on Jamie (Phil Dunster), pulling him away from the team’s curfew-free night to train on the streets of Amsterdam.
And Jamie is … totally cool with that. Turns out he loves Amsterdam and takes Roy on a tour of several famous sights as he and his knee become increasingly cranky. Roy eventually gripes that Amsterdam looks like a Disney version of a city and decries windmills as “fake.” Jamie proposes a bike ride to see a windmill, and Roy finally admits he doesn’t know how to ride, explaining that his grandfather was going to teach him but died before they got the chance.
“And now saying that out loud I realize it’s a great disrespect to his memory and I don’t want to talk about it and can we go back to me just taking out my negative emotions on you whether you deserve it or not?” Roy blurts in one breath, revealing more to a member of the club (or anyone, save Keeley) than he ever has.
Jamie then reveals that he’s been there twice: Once when he was 14 with his dad when, who took Jamie to lose his virginity in the red light district (eww) and then a few years later with his mom, where they saw the sights and got closer to one another (aww). The budding friendship between Roy and Jamie (and the great chemistry between Goldstein and Dunster) has been a consistent delight this season
The Team, Higgins et al
The rest of the guys are pushed into minor plots, with the team spending hours deciding first how to spend their free night, then arguing over what to eat. As tempers flare and two hotel waitresses look on with bemusement, Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) finally comes up with a solution: a team-wide, pressure-releasing pillow fight. Everyone gathers on the bus the next morning much more relaxed, even if Zoreaux/Van Damme (Moe Jeudy-Lamour) slightly rues not having seen a sex show.
Higgins (Jeremy Swift), meanwhile, tells everyone who asks that he’s headed to the red-light district — and, as everyone quickly concludes, it’s not for anything weird, it being Higgins and all. Instead he takes Will (Charlie Hiscock) on a pilgrimage to see where Chet Baker died and then listen to some jazz. Will’s choice of a table right in front of the stage leads to Higgins sitting in for a bit, and as Will cheerfully relates to his mother the next morning, “I met this nice couple and they invited me for a threesome.” Beard, who apparently speaks Dutch (“Don’t tell Jann”), found some fellow travelers for the night and returns to the bus as Piggy Stardust (a glam-era David Bowie costume with a pig nose).
Ted Lasso has hit the midway point of its (final?) season with what appears to be a series of breakthroughs for its characters. If this was the big halftime motivation, we’ll see how Richmond responds when they get back on the pitch.
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