Season 2, Episode 6, ‘The Signal’
So, does this mean we’re back to normal?
After two weeks of neatly curated “theme” episodes that cared less about plot arc than about cunning references — the first time, to “Love Actually”; the second, to romantic comedies more generally — we’ve come back to a more typical rhythm.
If this week’s episode, “The Signal,” seems a bit scattered (and it does), it is in large part because it has returned to the nuts-and-bolts business of moving multiple subplots forward: Roy’s success as a new assistant coach for A.F.C. Richmond; Nate’s efforts to find a balance between external success and internal satisfaction; Rebecca’s continuing explorations of both her mysterious Bantr admirer and her not-remotely-mysterious sex buddy, Hunky Luka; Coach Beard’s latest reunion with his problematic girlfriend, Jane; and … whatever is going on with Ted.
Tossed into the mix is a brief and seemingly unnecessary subplot about Rebecca’s mom, who periodically leaves her dad — only to return within a couple of days after he buys her something expensive and environmentally conscious. (This time, it’s a Tesla.) That’s a lot of exposition to get through!
To jump right in: Roy’s arrival as a coach has proved to be an immediate shot of adrenaline, leading A.F.C. Richmond to a four-game winning streak, a semifinals berth in the F.A. Cup — a bizarre and fascinating midseason tournament involving hundreds of English teams — and the widespread adoption of the phrase “the Roy Kent effect.”
(Side note: It’s remarkable how little time has been spent, relative to last season, on the fairly central question of A.F.C. Richmond’s success — or, put somewhat differently, on the question of whether Ted Lasso is actually a good coach. We know Richmond suffered a Sisyphean series of ties at the beginning of the season and is currently on its win streak, but neither has had any meaningful context: Is the team on track for its explicit goal of overcoming relegation and rejoining the Premier League? Who knows?)
Roy’s singular flaw as a coach is his refusal to coach his on-field nemesis, Jamie Tartt. (See literally any episode from Season 1.) But after forcing Jamie to abjectly self-criticize not only his game but his hair(!), Roy relents and explains that Jamie’s problem is that Ted turned him into a good teammate, when his real superpower is to be selfish, rude and disruptive — at least, on appropriate occasions.
And so we have “the signal,” a one-fingered salute from all four coaches to Jamie giving him permission to be Bad Jamie. It’s good for one goal in the semifinal against the overwhelming favorite, Tottenham Hotspur. But when Tottenham ties the game, Richmond needs another goal.
Enter Nate, who makes an unusual three-player substitution and an even more unusual decision to focus on defense rather than offense. But … it works! Richmond scores and wins its biggest victory in what is clearly a very long time. Nate goes on television and, by denying he’s a “wunderkid,” makes clear that he thinks he is one.
It’s hard to be sure precisely where Nate is on his disturbing seasonal trajectory. He is again pointlessly unpleasant to the players (he calls Colin a “dolt” in practice), and the success of his late-game substitution has clearly swollen his head further. Stay tuned, especially if you’re the hostess of a third-tier Greek eatery.
Rebecca, meanwhile, is juggling deep, meaningful texts from her Bantr buddy and adult time with her boy toy, Luka. As in, almost literally juggling. She checks Bantr while lying in bed waiting for a naked Luka to return. And the show is at pains to show her repeatedly toggling back and forth between texts from her two paramours.
Forgive me, but it seems like a tired replay of the “Sex and the City” cliché (and, no, not only “Sex and the City”) of the beautiful, accomplished woman who can’t choose between her spiritual soul mate and some other guy who is well hung. Moreover, it’s “Ted Lasso.” I think we can say with some assurance that Rebecca is not going to wind up with Luka. So why bother?
Barring further updates, I would say the same about the subplot with Rebecca’s mom (played, though she is, by the great Harriet Walter). It feels halfhearted, crammed in as it is with so many other plot developments. So why bother?
The Jane and Coach Beard story line similarly left me a little cold. It has its moments, but it spends a lot of time on the rather obvious message of “Don’t tell people you don’t like their significant others.” And its ultimate payoff — the hug from Beard to Higgins — is not really much of a payoff. (Or maybe the payoff was the “Oliver Twist” hat that Jane puts on Beard’s head? That’s a little better.)
Which brings us to Ted. As I’ve written before, the plot arc of the first season was apparent immediately: Can Ted win over Rebecca and his various other foils and get them all on Team Lasso? (As you may recall, he did.) This season has been a little harder to get a handle on. Would it be about escaping relegation and making it back to the big league? Not really. Would it be about winning over Dr. Sharon Fieldstone? Again, not really. She was basically on Team Lasso by the end of Episode 2.
But there have been hints, and they hint toward an arc in which Sharon will probably be a crucial player.
The show has not made a big deal about it, but Ted has been more manic than usual, especially around Sharon. In last week’s episode, he almost seemed off his meds, replying to Sharon’s greeting, “Coach,” with a finger-pointing: “Doctor! Floor! Ceiling! Trash can!” His fragility is evident, too, in the call he takes this week from his son’s school about a forgotten lunch for a field trip.
Sharon is clearly concerned, asking Ted repeatedly if he wants to talk. And he repeatedly rebuffs her. “Hey, I talk all the time, Doc,” he tells her this episode. “Just follow me around for 10 minutes. After five, you’ll want me to hush my butt.”
But, as we saw at the episode’s conclusion, Ted does need to talk. Quite badly. Will this be the theme of Season 2? Ted Lasso, who healed his team emotionally last season, now needs the team to heal him in return? It’s too early to say, but the image of Ted curled up on Sharon’s sofa may be the strongest indicator yet of where this season is going.
Speaking of which, I would be remiss not to mention the other Big Reveal this episode offered at the end. After much speculation that Rebecca’s Bantr partner would turn out to be Ted — c’mon folks, is there anyone whose texts would be more identifiable than Ted? — it turns out that he is instead the wonderful Sam. (It is perhaps no coincidence that he had his best and biggest scene of Season 1 with Rebecca, explaining to her that his fascination with hexes derived not from his Nigerian background but rather from his love of Harry Potter.)
What should we make of this awkward potential romance? As with Ted’s (and Nate’s) deteriorating emotional state, let’s wait and see where we are next week.
Odds and Ends
Inevitable though it may have been, it was a little sad to see Roy decline his invitation to join the “diamond dogs.” Throughout the season, he has offered the best advice on pretty much everything. A few recaps ago, I called him “Angry Yoda.” At this point, he’s basically just Yoda. (Although he remains, of course, angry.)
This, too, from Coach Beard. Jamie: “I don’t really know how to talk to you.” Beard: “Then it’s working.”
Ted’s extremely detailed, coming-in-to-work greetings for A.F.C. Richmond staff are almost too on the nose. But the last line, the one that earned such extraordinary guffaws from Liam, made it worthwhile: “Tell your mother happy birthday for me. And whatever gift you ended up getting her, let her know it’s from both of us.”
After the last two weeks of pop-culture-reference overload, this was a pretty sedate episode. We got a trifecta of David Blaine, Sue Grafton and Area 51, followed by “H.R. Pufnstuf.” I’m sure I missed others, so let me know in the comments section. Last week, readers pointed out that next to the photo of Roy in the kebab shop was one of a “Cheers”-era George Wendt — the real-life uncle of Jason Sudeikis.