Television Review: Ted Lasso S3E7 “The Strings That Bind Us”
“But a man does not fight merely to win!
No—no—better to know one fights in vain!”
I remember the words one of my former co-workers once said. No, not the quote above; Edmond Rostand predates me by about 120 years. But said co-worker is huge into sports, and his sons are as well. And when I decided to coach youth baseball, he offered this: “There are no losses here; only wins and lessons.” And I’ve kept that with me long after I stopped coaching, as you can learn more from losing than by winning.
Of course, at the rate the season is going for AFC Richmond, they’ve had plenty of chances to learn in the last couple of episodes. Still sliding down the standings after the drubbing by West Ham, Ted’s revelation in episode 6 has prompted the staff to instill the total football strategy, where rather than having set positions and areas to cover, the team becomes more of an amoeba, adjusting to the situation and changing shape fluidly to adapt. The problem is, it’s a brand new system and one that takes time not only to adjust to, but to train for. As a result, practice becomes a bit…atypical for the team.
Off the pitch, Keeley is still adapting to her new relationship with Jack and everything that comes with not only dating her boss/colleague, but an incredibly wealthy one (“get away with murder rich,” as Jack describes it). So too is Nate navigating through the dating world as he tries to muster the courage to ask Jade out on a proper date. At this point, it seems like all of the arrogance he once held has washed away, as it takes him more than one try, and his insecurities continue to haunt him – to which I can safely say I know that feeling. It seems at this point that a full-blown Nate redemption arc is going to resolve itself by the end of the season, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it.
Moment of the match: “Stop going to me, and start going through me.” When we first met Jamie in season 1, he was the stereotypical star prima donna, demanding all the scoring touches he could get and putting himself above the team. But after being severely humbled in season 2 when he was dropped by Manchester City, he’s slowly come around to realizing football is a team sport.
The beginning of the total football experiment begins rather poorly against Arsenal (BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO [although most of that boo is aimed at Stan Kroenke]) and AFC Richmond falls behind 3-0 at the half. But rather than revert back to the 4-4-2, Ted makes the decision to stick with the new strategy, and Jamie offers an alteration to the plan, which pays off with a beautiful moment in the second half, providing a glimpse of hope for the end of the episode and perhaps the rest of the season.
I feel the need to mention Sam’s experience in the episode as well, as he’s learning to speak out not only for himself but for the lesser privileged. After seeing the fictional Home Secretary Brinda Barot speak out against letting refugees enter the UK, Sam writes up a polite rebuke on Twitter, after which Barot essentially replies that Sam should stay in his lane, prompting her supporters to trash his nascent restaurant and graffiti “Shut up and dribble,” evoking the words of a Fox News host addressing LeBron James a few years ago. Sam is obviously devastated by the damage done, prompting a rare moment of anger from him in front of his teammates. Now, obviously, this core issue is a legitimate issue that’s pervasive in the world today, and it’s not something that can easily be addressed and solved within an hour comedy, but the end of the episode at least gives us a bit of emotional reprieve, and hopefully, it propels Sam to further stand up for his beliefs.
It’s a solid episode, one that builds a bit on the optimism of the last one. Rebecca tells Keeley about the mysterious stranger, perhaps giving hope that episode 6 wasn’t the last we’ll see of him. And while there’s still work to be done on the field, perhaps Jamie’s newly-discovered maturity can prompt him to become the leader he’s so stubbornly refused to be.
“The Strings That Bind Us” gets a B