‘Ted Lasso’ Confronts Parental Issues in ‘Mom City’

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[This story contains spoilers for “Mom City,” the 11th episode of Ted Lassos third season.]

So Ted’s going home, right?

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It’s the story Ted Lasso has been building this whole season. Ted (Jason Sudeikis) began his third go-round with AFC Richmond wondering what he’s still doing in London while his son is 4,000-plus miles away, and he hasn’t shaken that feeling even as his midseason, Arthur Bryant’s sauce- and Tex Winter-induced hallucination/brainstorm to switch the team’s tactics led to an insane win streak that’s put the club in striking distance of the Premier League title.

But after clearing some air with his visiting mother (Becky Ann Baker) and beating powerhouse Manchester City for the first time — thanks in large part to Mancunian Jamie (Phil Dunster), whose own parental issues come to the fore as well — the “truth bomb” Ted is about to drop on Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) as the episode cuts to the end credits could hardly be anything else.

“Mom City,” written by executive producer Joe Kelly from a story by fellow executive producers Brendan “Coach Beard” Hunt and Sudeikis, unpacks a lot leading into the season (series?) finale in a week’s time, with most of it revolving around the coach and his star player.

Ted

The coach is enjoying a pleasant walk to work when he passes his mom, Dottie, sitting on a bench. Dottie is Ted’s mom in every sense, telling him she’s been staying at a hostel because she didn’t want to put him out and putting a happy face on everything even when clearly there’s a reason beyond “I just wanted to see you” for her visit.

Though she correctly (partially) diagnoses her son — he’s so busy making sure everyone else is OK that he doesn’t take time to do the same for himself — Dottie doesn’t seem to have the same insight into herself or her own relationship with Ted. At least not until Ted adopts Jamie’s “Fuck you/thank you” model of parental confrontation and blows up at her about the way she pretended everything was fine after Ted’s father died, which made Ted feel like he had to do the same.

And, it turns out, Dottie does have something to tell Ted: “Your son misses you.” Ted of course knows that, but he’s been keeping it at a remove as much as he could — hearing it from his mom, however, likely leads him to whatever it is he’s about to tell Rebecca (“I resign,” or words to that effect) as the episode ends and Brandi Carlile’s “Home” plays over the credits.

Though they’ve been coy about whether this is actually the end of Ted Lasso (something Apple TV+ probably doesn’t want, as it’s the biggest show on the platform), the people who make the show have said this season does bring some closure to the story. There would be ways to keep the show going (more on that below), but Ted winning the whole effing thing — or very nearly doing so — and then Wizard of Oz-ing back to Kansas would certainly bring things to a close.

Jamie

Richmond’s No. 9 has been much more team-focused since the club switched to Total Football tactics, but he starts the run-up to Man City feeling so unselfish as to want a goal he scored stricken from the record.

Jamie is so turned around — “I feel like the guy in the Red Bull commercial who’s pushing that big rock up the hill, but he’s lost his wings. Where the fuck are me wings?!?” he sobs to Roy (Brett Goldstein) — because he’s about to face the club he spurned for reality TV in front of (he assumes) his terror of a father, even if he can’t articulate it.

Neither Roy nor Keeley (Juno Temple) is able to help, but both tail him as he sneaks out of the team hotel the night before the match — to visit his mom (Leanne Best) and stepdad Simon (Steve Edge), who seems like a British Ted. She tells Jamie that, like him, she hasn’t heard from Jamie’s dad in a while and that regardless, the old man isn’t going to change. “Like it or not, you’ve ended up being who you are so you could prove him wrong, and you are amazing…. You’re not lost, my sexy little baby. You’re just not sure what direction you’re going in — yet.”

(Side note: The awkwardness of Keeley and Roy sitting in Jamie’s childhood bedroom, with posters of a mulleted Roy during his Chelsea days and a topless Keeley posing with two soccer balls in front of her chest on the wall, was a comedic highlight of the episode.)

The visit home works, and Jamie plays out of his mind against Man City, assisting on one goal and scoring a second after coming back on the pitch following an injury. Along with a heroic performance by the masked Zoreaux/Vandam (Moe Jeudy-Lamour) in goal, it gives Richmond its first ever win at City’s home stadium and a chance to grab the league title in the final match. (Richmond’s winning streak, now at 15 games, would be one of the longest ever in the Premier League if, you know, Richmond were a real team.) Even some City fans give him begrudging respect — including the elder Tartt, shown briefly in a rehab facility.

Odds and Ends

* The Nate (Nick Mohammed) redemption arc still feels like it’s missing a few steps, particularly with the appearance of Isaac (Kola Bokinni), Colin (Billy Harris) and Will (Charlie Hiscock) at A Taste of Athens, where Nate is now working while waiting out the end of the season to look for another coaching job. These guys, who seven episodes (and a few months in the show’s timeline) ago blew a match against West Ham because they were murderously angry at Nate, are now telling him the team wants him back? And Roy’s OK with it? It’s nice that he apologized to Will, but that doesn’t seem like a big enough nudge to get the whole locker room on his side.

If there’s a plus, it’s that Beard — initially a hard no on bringing Nate back — takes Ted’s message about second chances and shows up at his flat and explains why he better not blow this opportunity: He and Ted were college football teammates (backup kicker and punter, respectively), but after graduating, Beard ended up in prison for stealing “a loaf of meth.” Ted took him in and gave him a chance to restart his life, even after Beard stole his car and Ted convinced the cops he had let Beard borrow it (“Our story is very similar to Les Mis, yes,” he acknowledges). “So to honor that, I forgive you,” he tells Nate. “I offer you a job. The life part is up to you.” It’s an effective enough speech to patch over some of the missing pieces in Nate’s arc.

* Aside from whatever Ted tells Rebecca (“I’m going back to Kansas”), the other open end here is Bex (Keeley Hazell) and Rupert’s ex-assistant Ms. Kakes (Rosie Lou) coming to Rebecca for “advice.” It’s safe to assume it has something to do with Rupert (Anthony Head) being gross and/or corrupt, but it could also provide a little more insight into why Nate left West Ham.

* Given the sheer size of the pitch and the fact that there’s often a lot of space between players, soccer action is not easy to film. What we see of matches in Ted Lasso pretty plainly involves a good amount of greenscreen. But the on-field scenes in “Mom City” were well done, particularly the choreography of Richmond’s first goal. The emotional tide of the match helped lift the episode as a whole.

* Mae’s (Annette Badland) lines to Ted about parents and children are the poem “This Be the Verse” by Philip Larkin, one of the most famous poets of 20th century Great Britain.

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