Here’s hoping that every episode title this season refers to a different flavor of tea.
At first it seems like a stretch to name this episode “Lavender,” which is part of a tossed-off line from Nate to his new rival equipment manager Will (Charlie Hiscock) – though I would be as tickled as anyone else if each episode this season was a reference to a different flavor of tea. But lavender evokes an idea at the heart of this episode, a theme of keeping the past alive. For context, Nate scolds Will when the towels in the locker room smell different, and Ted remarks that it reminds him of his grandmother’s house.
It is a little worrisome to see the show doing its best to reset to the status quo of season one so quickly into this new season, but if it means more solid work from Phil Dunster as Jamie Tartt, I can jump onboard. He opens the episode getting kicked off Britain’s newest reality dating show – kudos to the writing team for nailing the stupidly accurate name of the show “Lust Conquers All” – and then being informed that he won’t be welcomed back to Manchester City, all while live on national TV. This leads him to come crawling back to Ted, hoping for a last chance at redemption by rejoining Richmond. Their scene at the pub, getting to the heart of why Jamie left football so suddenly, would be the best of the episode if the rest of the episode around it wasn’t already so good.
For my money, the best scene, or at least the funniest, revolves around Ted and Rebecca and their mutual commiseration on the unnecessary nature of therapy. Both Ted and Rebecca obviously have their guards up when it comes to revealing their deeper feelings, naturally because of recent relationship trauma (it’s certainly no coincidence that they’re the only characters that have been married and subsequently divorced). We don’t see much of Hannah Waddingham in “Lavender,” but she remains a delight whenever she’s on-screen. And it’s always great to see her and Ted platonically bonding together, even if their romance still feels inevitable. Don’t believe me? Just watch the way Rebecca quickly shuts her laptop when Ted walks in the room, after discussing her online dating profile with Keeley.
Ted’s issues with Dr. Sharon (Sarah Niles) and his uneasiness with her presence continue to bubble below the surface, and it’s only a matter of time before they erupt. In the meantime, his back-and-forth with her, and her unwillingness to succumb so easily to his charm, is a fun development for the show. Sudeikis nails Ted’s surprise with genuine uncertainty; it’s as if this is truly the first person he’s met that he couldn’t win over. If Ted Lasso is a show about the infectiousness of an optimistic person, the introduction of someone that said optimistic person is diametrically opposed to presents an interesting creative opportunity.
Speaking of warming an icy heart, Roy Kent’s turn from retired footballer to TV commentator is a promising development, as is his continued relationship with Keeley. Their relationship drama here is small potatoes, as Roy discovers that Keeley literally gets off on his softer side coming out; thankfully the show quickly shut down the potential for a Keeley-Jamie reunion, though the final shot of the episode gives me some pause. The show has always excelled with subverting masculine stereotypes, and Roy’s transformation from grisly player to grisly-but-loveable retiree to grisly-but-honest TV personality is an exciting way to deepen the character without forcing him back into the lives of everyone at Richmond.
I still don’t know how I feel about calling Ted Lasso a great comedy series. I still can’t tell when the endgame is with Nate and Will, besides a mad power trip from someone that’s spent most of his life under someone else’s heels. The set-ups rarely go to wacky or outrageous territory, and that’s ok. The show hums along smoothly when it puts its characters first, above easily telegraphed story beats. Take the scene with Roy and the sports broadcast for example: most shows would use that as an opportunity to take Roy down a peg and show him as a bumbling, nervous mess on live TV. Instead, the writers stayed true to the character and went in an unexpected direction. The laughs may not have been there, but I’ll take a grounded show that genuinely enjoys its characters above one that goes for quick laughs any day.
“Lavender” premieres on Apple TV+ on July 30.
About the Writer: Ben Sears is a life-long Indianapolis resident, husband, and father of two boys, as well as a contributing writer on ObsessiveViewer.com and a recurring co-host on The Obsessive Viewer Podcast, and a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. Aside from watching movies and television, Ben enjoys photography and running marathons, but never at the same time. That would be difficult.