Season 2, Episode 10: ‘No Weddings and a Funeral’
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.
Last week, “Ted Lasso” gave us a moderately interesting but extremely bizarre bottle episode that temporarily abandoned all of the existing story lines in favor of an “After Hours”-themed night out with Coach Beard.
This week, the sun rises on a new day of narrative momentum.
“No Weddings and a Funeral” — I won’t lie, I think my headline is a better title — is, at 46 minutes, another lengthy episode. (The last three episodes have been the longest three of the entire series.) It is also the most intense and emotionally revealing episode to date, and perhaps the best of the season.
Tonally, it’s all over the map, alternating between hilarity and grief and fury. But the writing is superb and the acting even better. In particular, Jason Sudeikis (as Ted) and Hannah Waddingham (as Rebecca) are both asked to go places they haven’t gone before on the show, and both rise to the occasion more powerfully than one could have hoped.
A quick aside: Unlike the “Love Actually” episode, the rom-com episode, and the “After Hours” episode, this one has no interest in toying with its source material. There are few if any clear references to “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”
I watched the 1994 film again to check, and I felt about it more or less how I did when I last saw it 20-plus years ago: It’s remarkable the degree to which a bit of Richard Curtis treacle, a Pottery Barn soundtrack, and Hugh Grant’s sheepish grin can convince viewers that anything is a “romantic comedy.”
Because by any reasonable interpretation, “Four Weddings and a Funeral” is a film about two amoral sexual predators circling one another while casually leaving chaos and heartbreak in their wakes. They’re like Tom and Daisy Buchanan, but substantially more promiscuous.
In any case, back to the main event. There’s a lot of ground to cover here, so I’m going to try something a little different and break it down by story line.
Ted and Sharon
Coach Lasso’s scene with Sharon is the one we’ve essentially been waiting for all season. We watched the panic attacks and increasingly manic behavior for a while. And then two episodes ago we had the big reveal: Ted’s father killed himself when Ted was 16. That was the headline. This week, we get the story.
Ted, dressing to go to the funeral of Rebecca’s father, gets the shakes and is paralyzed with anxiety. (There are some who might say this is the appropriate response to his choice of getting-dressed music, “Easy Lover” by Philip Bailey and Phil Collins.) So Ted calls Sharon, who immediately comes over.
Ted tells her what is essentially his origin story, the reason he always tries to have a kind word for everyone around him: On Friday the 13th of September 1991, teenage Ted came home from school to get ready for a Jason Voorhees marathon with friends. He arrived in time to hear the gunshot. He was the one who called 911, then called his mother to tell her she had to come home from work.
Ted’s father had been a good dad. (The Johnny Tremain story is lovely.) But he was focused on other things — work, friends — and Ted fears he didn’t really know he was a good dad. And of course Ted thinks it’s because he didn’t tell him often enough. Perhaps if he had, things would have turned out differently.
It’s an admission that subtly but meaningfully alters almost every word we’ve ever heard from Ted Lasso’s mouth. Amid all his goofy banter, the closest thing Ted has ever had to a catchphrase is “I appreciate you.” And now we know why. On some level, Ted believes that if he’d said it more often as a child, his father might still be alive.
Sudeikis’s work here is among the best I’ve seen from him on the show or anywhere else: raw and heartbreaking, the precise opposite of his customary chirpy persona. This is the real “Led Tasso,” not that ridiculously contrived on-field bully. (Sarah Niles, who plays Sharon, is excellent, too. But it’s Sudeikis’s scene.)
The scene ends, as it should, with a hug between Ted and Sharon. I’d grade it the third-most-significant hug of the series so far, behind Ted and Rebecca’s after her confession last season and Roy and Jamie’s back in Episode 8.
Rebecca and Deborah
Like Sudeikis, Waddingham gives her most impressive performance of the series. In the first season, she mostly played an icy schemer. This season, to my disappointment, she’s spent most of her time checking her phone, looking for love. In this episode, all the masks come off.
Attending her father’s funeral, Rebecca confronts her mother, Deborah. As a teenager Rebecca, like Ted, stumbled upon something she was not meant to stumble upon. In this case, however, it was not her father’s suicide but his extramarital coupling. (And, unlike Ted’s experience with his father, Rebecca was cursed with being an eyewitness.) The next day, he acted as if nothing had happened. She has despised him, and to some degree her mother, ever since.
I confess that back in Episode 6, when Harriet Walter showed up to play Deborah for a fairly halfhearted subplot, I wondered why the show had cast such a gifted actress in the role. This episode is why. Although less well known than many of her British contemporaries, Walter (that’s Dame Harriet Walter to you and me) has been a titan of stage and screen for decades.
It is of course Waddingham’s scene. But Walter plays off her magnificently, giving her all the space she needs while never receding as a presence. Walter excels at this kind of quiet intensity, and was a brilliant casting choice.
It’s an extraordinary scene — in some ways, more memorable than Ted’s — but I did have a couple of small questions/quibbles. In Episode 6, when Deborah “left” her husband for the umpteenth time, I simply assumed infidelity was involved. If Rebecca didn’t think that was it, what form did she believe her father’s mistreatment of her mother was taking? As “revelations” go, it seemed as though this one was already something everyone already knew or strongly suspected.
Another quibble applies to the highly choreographed stretch in which the show cuts back and forth, aggressively and often midsentence, between Ted and Rebecca’s stories. As moving as those stories were, the crosscutting felt too clever by half. If anything, it blunted (if only at the margins) the power of both Sudeikis and Waddingham’s performances. But perhaps that was the point? When “Ted Lasso” pours out naked grief and fury, it prefers to do so only a few words at a time?
And is there any sensible reason to imply (as the scene does) that Ted and Rebecca discovered their fathers’ actions on precisely the same day in 1991? It’s a strange and unnecessary flourish that does little but throw the viewer out of the moment — both moments, in fact.
Thankfully, it would take a lot more than this to ruin two of the best scenes the show has ever had. But it still feels like a failure of nerve, a worry that the show might get too dark or emotional or heartbreaking.
AFC Richmond’s most insecure coach has had something of a break from his story line for a few episodes now. It was way back in Episode 7 that he threatened to make kit manager Will’s life a misery.
But for anyone who thinks Nate is back on track, I recommend this interview with Nick Mohammed (who plays Nate). Things will almost certainly get worse, even if there are only two episodes(!) left in the season for them to do so.
And while this episode did not engage directly with Nate’s narrative path — there are, after all, only so many things you can do in 46 minutes — it did nod at it a couple of times.
The first was in a discussion of the afterlife. Higgins envisions an exceptionally Higgins-y heaven in which he role-reverses with his dead cat Cindy Clawford (she passed away in Season 1), and curls up at her feet in front of a fire.
Nate, perhaps inspired by the feline theme, announces that he’d like to be reincarnated as a tiger so that he could “ravage anyone who looked at me wrong.” Yes, Nate still has trouble reading the room. More important, he again conveys that he is disturbingly close to becoming Travis Bickle.
The other nod to Nate is more subtle. As Ted is dressing, right before his panic attack, we see two pictures on his dresser. One is of his son, Henry, whom he misses terribly and about whom he feels enormous guilt. (Remember that he said he “hated” his own father for “quitting.”)
The other photograph is one of Nate leaping into Ted’s arms after being named a coach, with the handwritten note, “Ted, Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.” It’s the reminder of a Nate we haven’t seen in a long while.
Side note: On his way out of the church, Rupert stops to whisper something to Nate. I have my guesses about what this means — is Rupert buying a new football club? — but surely it means something.
Rebecca and Sam
Anyone who read my Episode 8 recap will recall that I was not a huge fan of its closing implication that Rebecca and Sam would be jumping into bed together. Well, the very opening of this episode confirms that they did indeed jump, and have continued jumping for at least a couple of weeks.
My principal concern with this story line is that it is in some ways a replay of the Dubai Air plot from Episode 3: A decision is presented as bold and daring in part because the consequences could be disastrous; and then the show completely ignores any possibility of consequences.
Right or wrong, the owner of a sports franchise having a relationship with a 21-year-old player for the team would be a big scandal. Yet the show conspicuously avoids even acknowledging this.
Rebecca’s stated reason for not going public is “I’m enjoying the secrecy.” But here are a couple of other things she could have said (and in real life, almost certainly would have said): “I don’t want to be dragged through the mud by the tabloids again” or “I don’t want to create huge organizational — and quite possibly legal — issues for AFC Richmond.”
Likewise, none of the women to whom the relationship is revealed (Deborah, Keeley, Sassy, Nora) seem to have even a moment of “Are you sure this is a good idea?” when they learn the news.
Are Rebecca and Sam charming together? Of course they are. But there seems to be more than a whiff of fan service in hooking them up without paying any heed at all to the risks involved.
That said, Sam’s closing line in the closet almost makes it all worth it: “Rebecca, there’s something I should warn you of: I’m only going to get more wonderful.” Is that even possible?
Keeley and Roy (and Jamie?!)
Keeley and Roy’s banter before the funeral is some of the best writing in an episode brimming with good writing. The bit about her wanting to nourish a tree with her corpse and his being modestly disgusted at the thought of eating fruit from that tree is excellent dialogue, perfectly delivered.
But nothing’s going to beat Roy’s response when Keeley asks him whether, if he were run over by a bus, he would prefer her to have him buried or cremated: “Go after the bus driver and make him pay for what he did to me! Avenge me, Keeley. Avenge me!” And her subsequent response about the (theoretical) bus driver swerving to avoid a child? And his response to that response about not knowing of the existence of the (theoretical) child? Shoot it straight into my veins.
Unexpectedly, Keeley is rather angry at Roy for the tree-fruit jokes. But the real potential complication is unrelated.
Jamie has been pretty much in the background this season. But his evolution has been quite clear. Of late, he’s been consistently kind and supportive to teammates. But the question of why has lingered.
Now we know, and the show couldn’t possibly have offered a more persuasive explanation. At the funeral, Jamie confesses to Keeley that he came back to AFC Richmond in large part because he loves her. And he tells her this, like the better man he is trying to become — and whom he thanks her for recognizing he might one day become — with the appropriate good-guy apologies: I know you’re with Roy. I know you’re happy. I don’t want to complicate things. I just felt I needed to say this out loud.
This was a potent scene, maybe — I know I keep saying this about various cast members — the best work Phil Dunster (who plays Jamie) has done on the show so far. I’m pleased that they haven’t overplayed his evolution. I wish Jamie well, and I hope he finds true love.
But I am confident I speak for millions when I say: If Jamie breaks up Roy and Keeley, I will spend every waking moment rooting for Nate to turn into that tiger so that he can slowly tear Jamie apart, tendon by tendon. I couldn’t take a Keeley-Roy split. The world couldn’t take it. Don’t undo all the good you’ve done for the global psyche, “Ted Lasso.”
Is it cute when Deborah tells Rebecca that she plays Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” throughout the house every morning? Sure.
And the bit at the end, when Deborah discovers 30-odd years late that Astley is a dorky white guy (“That’s Rick Astley?”), is fairly delightful.
But to Rickroll Rebecca’s eulogy in between? Even if you leave aside the (rather obvious) fact that people at funerals — even daughters! — are not called up without warning to provide eulogies they never volunteered, everything about this scene is cringe-inducing.
It’s as if the writers challenged themselves to outdo the most saccharine-yet-vaguely-creepy moments in “Love Actually.” (“The Beatles at a wedding? The Bay City Rollers at a funeral? We’ll see your bet and raise you a Rick Astley…”)
Needless to say, I hated this scene. Thank goodness the rest of the episode was as great as it was.
There’s a lot more to say, but I feel a recap shouldn’t take longer to read than the episode itself took to watch — especially when it was such a long episode. So let’s close things out.
Odds and Ends
Sassy is always great, but this episode may represent her peak to date. The over-the-balcony entrance? Terrific. And who could fail to love her manic new friendship with Keeley? (I want to join that pod.) But Sassy’s best moment this week comes when she tells Rupert something that needed to be said: “I think of your death every single day. Ooh, I can’t wait.”
Coach Beard’s invocation of “21 Grams” (the theoretical weight of the soul) was excellent. But Roy’s reply was better: “Whoever figured that out clearly weighed someone, murdered them, then weighed them again.”
Once again Jan Maas demonstrates his complete lack of filter, telling Nate, “Another man buying you clothes is infantilizing, yes?” I would say that there is a 100 percent chance he would not have said this if Nate were a bloodthirsty tiger. But it’s Jan Maas, so … 70 percent?
One more great line, referencing Sir Mix-a-Lot: “I hate big ‘buts’ and I can’t lie.” Brilliant. But to have it come out of Sam’s mouth? Absurd. There is only one person on the show — and on the Earth — who would make that pun, and his name is Ted Lasso.
In addition to the many already noted, this episode contained references to Tracy Anderson workouts, Obi-Wan Kenobi and “Singin’ in the Rain.” And I think Ted’s “I wish you doctor would” reply when Sharon asks if she can sit down is a reference to Robert Wood, a physicist and pioneer in optics.
Let me know what others I missed. And thanks to those who pointed out painful omissions from last week from “A Clockwork Orange,” “Fight Club” and Elvis Costello.