Ted Lasso, Apple TV+’s most popular show, is winding down, with just two episodes left before it closes up shop (likely for good). The fish-out-of-water football coach is trying to keep his struggling soccer team from the bottom of the rankings — and himself from the bottom of his feelings.
To complicate things, Jamie Tartt goes on an existential bender this week as he prepares for a big hometown gig, and Ted and his tough-guy coach Roy Kent need to figure out how to fix their star player. The episode, entitled “Mom City,” is about as good as this show gets.
Ted Lasso recap: ‘Mom City’
Season 3, episode 11: Ted (played by Jason Sudeikis) is walking on air, or at least as much as he allows himself, when he happens upon his mother (Becky Ann Baker) on the street near his London apartment. Turns out she’s been in town for a week — and she’s living in a hostel, which upsets Ted. He insists that she stay with him (and come to work with him, t0o).
Naturally, she charms everyone with her folksy manner and stories of Ted’s youth, which of course embarrasses him. She even gets on with the Richmond fan barflies. Ted feels small in her presence, which is a difficult thing when you’re supposed to be in charge. She’s still weird about his public panic attacks, too. And when he suggests that therapy is working for him, and might work for her, too, she ignores it.
Before he quit, Nate snuck into the Richmond dressing rooms, tidied up and left a nice note for Will the kit boy (Charlie Hiscock). In response, Will told players Colin Hughes (Billy Harris) and Isaac McAdoo (Kola Bokinni), and the three of them went down to the shop to see if it was true. They say hi, then ask Nate to come back to Richmond. Turns out the whole team wants him back, but they didn’t ask Ted, which makes Nate quite obviously less interested. Jade hears all this and doesn’t like it.
What’s wrong with Jamie Tartt?
Meanwhile, Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) has noticed something about Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster). He’s stopped bragging about his wins, and started crediting his goals to teamwork. Plus, he won’t take the piss out of his teammates anymore.
Roy’s concerned. They’ve got important games this week against Manchester (Jamie’s hometown). And if Jamie isn’t his usual P.O.S. self, Richmond doesn’t stand a chance. When Roy pulls Jamie aside to lecture him, Jamie starts crying. He feels like he doesn’t have the fire he once had, and he’s scared and tired.
Roy can only think of one person for the job: Keeley Jones (Juno Temple). Roy and Keeley just made nice after their disastrous breakup (and Roy’s skeevy behavior after Keeley’s nude video scandal), and she’s very heartened to hear he wants her help.
However, Keeley’s attempts to psychoanalyze Jamie’s faltering only get him more in his head. She has to report to Roy she blew it. (“Yeah, I fucked it,” she whispers when she finds Roy at team movie night. “Made it worse.” It’s the best Keeley joke of the season.)
Suddenly, they’re back at square one. Jamie abandons the team that night, and Keeley and Roy follow him as he walks into the village. When they visit with Jamie’s mom Georgie (Leanne Best) and stepdad Denbo (Trevor Laird). Roy is shocked by how close Jamie and his mom are. (Can’t imagine why, actually. There’s no one who screams mama’s boy like Jamie.)
Roy’s not complaining, though. Jamie’s mom gives her son the pep talk of a lifetime (also the most Freudian pep talk ever). She gets him out of his head once and for all. While they’re waiting, Roy finally tells Keeley he wants to get back together.
Jamie takes his A game to Manchester
Jamie walks onto the field to a chorus of boos the next day, which Nate sees on TV. Jade tells Nate he should go back to Richmond. He demures, but the more he watches the Manchester game, the more he realizes he misses soccer. Which is handy, because Jade makes the restaurant fire him so he can get on with his life.
Jamie gets fouled aggressively by Manchester — the team knows they must break him to break Richmond. A bad injury incurred stopping a goal takes Jamie off the field at a crucial moment, with Richmond leading by a single point. Ted won’t replace him, though. He knows how important this match is for him mentally.
As Jamie looks around the stands for his father, who he hates and who hates him, Ted suggests forgiving his father. Evidently, this is what he needed to hear. He goes out and scores one more goal before Ted pulls him. Richmond wins.
They could win the whole effing thing
I was very charmed by Jamie’s breakdown. Phil Dunster handled it very well (his performance is too infrequently in the one register his directors and writers ask of him, but he can clearly handle more). And he gets a laugh out of running his fingers across Roy’s face as he’s weeping. It’s a pretty marvelous little scene that runs the gamut.
Jamie’s arc also makes the Manchester game actually suspenseful — it’s the first time I’ve cared about the gameplay on Ted Lasso. The creative team even does something a hair risky by keeping the camera on Jamie’s face as he makes the climactic winning goal.
Couple that with Jade encouraging Nate to follow his dreams, and Roy being not overbearingly himself (him hitting on Jamie’s mom for a minute is a nice touch), and this is frankly the first time I’ve ever considered giving Ted Lasso more than an average grade. Better late than never. But…..
Ted’s egregious foul
Then Ted goes home and tells his mom to go fuck herself many times, something the writers really ought to have known was going to make this character seem like a self-righteous prick who thinks he has a monopoly on emotional truth. Worse still? It works. He and his mom have a heart-to-heart talk. Bad, bad stuff and, like Jamie’s goal, in the home stretch of the show’s (probably) final season. It’s bad. Very bad. How this got past the table read I’ll ponder forever.
Also unsuccessful (for no particular reason) are the jokes about Nate now working at a kebab shop. Everyone assumes he lost everything to drugs or blew through his money, but he just genuinely likes working with Jade. A little more underlining would have made it work. (For an example of how this type of thing can go, and how funny it can be, look at the Colin Robinson jokes on What We Do in the Shadows.)
There’s some labored nonsense about the whole team crying during the screening of You’ve Got Mailwhich can’t be funny because this whole show is one long “men crying at You’ve Got Mail” joke. I also give the Ted Lasso writers a red card for illegal use of The Buzzcocks’ song. “Why Can’t I Touch It?” It’s manipulative and — for a 20-second montage? — inexcusable.
Watch Ted Lasso on Apple TV+
New episodes of Ted Lasso season three arrive every Friday on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.