What will the signing of a world-class striker mean for AFC Richmond?
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By Christopher Orr
Season 3, Episode 2: ‘4-5-1’
Welcome to the Zava era. For those who skipped the first two episodes of this third season of “Ted Lasso” — and honestly, shame on you; go back, do the homework and rejoin us — Ted’s team has signed one of the greatest players of the age, a mercurial striker named Zava. (He is based closely on the real-life star Zlatan Ibrahimovic.) This was accomplished by Rebecca rudely accosting him while he was using a urinal last episode. Whatever works, right?
Zava is immediately weird — showing up hours late with his cellphone on another continent, ostentatiously meditating while the rest of the team prepares for games, and so on. But so far he seems reasonably friendly, even if his preferred alignment is everyone in the midfield or on defense except him. This is the meaning of the episode’s title, “4-5-1”: He’s the “1.” As the coaches explain, all free kicks will be taken by Zava. All penalty kicks will be taken by Zava. And all corner kicks must be intended to set up Zava. Jamie, who was the team’s best player before Zava’s arrival, is visibly nonplused. But everyone else seems fine with the arrangement.
And why not? The first time he touches the ball for Richmond, after Jamie passes it to him at the opening of his first game, he scores a goal from midfield, an insane feat. He follows up with scores off headers, off bicycle kicks, and even off something I’d never heard of called a “scorpion kick.”
Again: What’s not to like? Richmond, universally picked to finish at the bottom of the Premier League — which would entail them being once again “relegated” to an inferior league — is now near the top of the standings.
That said, I’m guessing the relationship between Zava and his teammates will sour before long, because a) the show has made a big deal about how he changes teams almost every season; and b) his real-life doppelgänger, Ibrahimovic, has a history of violent altercations with teammates. So stay tuned.
There is another delightful musical choice for the montage where we see Zava dominating the Premier League and taking Richmond toward its peak: “Prisencolinensinainciusol,” a classic 1972 song by Adriano Celentano, performed with his wife Claudia Mori. It is a song written in nonsense-language that was meant to sound like English to a non-English-speaking audience. There have been various versions, but the original video is, in my modest opinion, one of the greatest of all time. (Again: 1972!)
Having already apologized last week for missing a reference to “Jesus Christ Superstar” in the season premiere, I also need to cite the use of its titular song, “Superstar,” with regard to Zava this episode. Although I will confess it is, for me at least, one of the weakest songs of the musical, an unwisely adorned version of the brilliant “Heaven on Their Minds” that opens the show. (And again, that’s Anthony Head’s older brother, Murray, singing as Judas in a genuinely brilliant vocal performance.)
‘Ted Lasso’ Is Back
Even Roy — Roy! — suggests that Crimm’s book about Richmond’s season might be a “fairy tale.” I offer as a semi-deep cut the idea that his niece, Phoebe, may be letting him play the dragon role more often in their ongoing “Princess and Dragon” game, the casting of which was clearly an issue of contention last season. As Roy requested in Episode 8, “Can I be the dragon this time?” I speak from experience: The male ego is a ridiculously fragile thing.
In other news …
Sam and Rebecca
We haven’t seen a lot of Sam so far this season, perhaps in part because the show seems reluctant to dive back into the Sam-Rebecca romance it ignited last season. I don’t think there was any mention of it at all in the first two episodes of the season, and it was still very much a live question at the end of Season 2. (I went back and checked!) Readers from last year will recall I was not much of a fan of this story line. Sam is 21 years old, Rebecca is roughly twice that age, and she’s the owner of the club that will make decisions about his salary, his career and all the rest.
Last season she gave him the choice of staying with the team or leaving for another, which is something no responsible boss could ever do. However delightful Sam and Rebecca were together, this was a massive lawsuit — from Sam, from his teammates — waiting to happen.
This episode, both Sassy (the return of Sassy, played by Ellie Taylor, is always a delight) and Keeley suggest that Rebecca is missing out on a good thing. Seriously, does AFC Richmond have an HR department? Does anyone comprehend employment law? And please don’t think that I’m expressing a double standard here: If she were a fabulously wealthy older man having a relationship with a much-younger female employee — Rebecca’s “grooming” line from last season hit all too close to the mark — the obvious moral, professional and possibly legal quandary would be only clearer. Situations like this are exactly why we rightly revile Rupert. (Remember: “I got bored with the same old, same old,” from last episode.)
Rebecca is a beautiful, incredibly successful woman. John Wingsnight notwithstanding (remember him from the Season 2 premiere?), she can certainly find a perfectly kind, decent, loving man who is not her borderline-underage employee.
But enough of my re-litigating a relationship that may already be over. Let’s look at Rebecca and Sam separately.
So here’s the payoff (or at least early payoff) of Rebecca’s brief call last week with her mother, played by the tremendous Harriet Walter. Now, under pressure, Rebecca visits her mom’s psychic, Tish (Emma Davies). The opening is lovely: Rebecca asks for a White Russian, and Tish responds with a “Big Lebowski” reference. “I was literally just making a joke,” Rebecca allows. And Tish responds, “I know, that’s why I made two.” A psychic with a sense of humor? Sign me up.
Rebecca then hears a lot of what sounds like nonsense, including the importance of a “green matchbook.” (Rebecca even checks her kitchen drawer to see if she has any.) And then: “You will have a family … you’re going to be a mother.” This is the cruelest thing one could say to Rebecca, whom you’ll recall Rupert didn’t want to have a child with, before immediately having one with his new, very-young wife, Bex (Keeley Hazell — and yes, she is the real-life Page 3 model whom Juno Temple’s character is named after). As Rebecca notes to Tish, explicitly: “You’re [expletive] cruel.”
Wow. This is what we call a major plot twist, one that will continue to bear fruit if the green matchbox from Sam’s restaurant is to be believed. But if this plotline is fulfilled, who will be the father or partner? Sam? He’s the obvious choice: It is, after all, his matchbook. But having a child with someone 20-plus years younger does seem a little Rupert-y, no? And Sam and Rebecca no longer seem to be an item. I welcome alternative theories. (No! Not John Wingsnight!)
It’s so nice to see a bit more of Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) this episode. He was arguably the breakout star of last season. (As he told Rebecca in the closet, “I’m only going to get more wonderful.” If only I could have honestly spoken that line … ever.)
It’s the test run for Sam’s new restaurant and obviously a huge night for him. But perhaps not only for him. The moment in which Rebecca, next to Keeley, looks at Sam and obviously wonders what could have been — what might still be — is followed instantly by Keeley giving an all-but-identical look at Roy. What could still happen with Roy and Keeley? What has to still happen with Roy and Keeley? Don’t let me down, “Ted Lasso.” You broke one of the best things you had going, and I’m waiting for you to fix it. “There are better things ahead than any we have left behind,” Keeley tells Rebecca. That may be the least true line ever uttered on the show. Can Keeley do better than Roy? Can Roy do better than Keeley?
As noted earlier, a mild gimmick of “Ted Lasso” is that each season opens and closes on the face of the person who follows the clearest evolution. Rebecca, the first season; Nate, the second. This season, it’s Ted, who is long overdue. He came to the U.K. from Kansas and left his 10-ish son behind because he and his wife had split, as we learned in Season 1. His father killed himself when Ted was 16, as we learned in Season 2. This is the season — the presumptive final season — in which we will hopefully witness him healing himself, instead of others.
The signs are not, for the moment, terribly good. He has discovered that his wife is dating and perhaps living with a new man, and that man, “Jake” or “Dr. Jacob,” is their former couples’ therapist. (Am I wrong, or is this the first time we’ve seen Ted’s ex-wife refer to herself as “Michelle Keller”?) Ted’s hands shake so much he scarcely sees Zava’s first goal. He has what is clearly a heavy pour of Scotch as he plows through social media confirming the relationship.
Cardinal rule: Only see doctors who use either their first names or “Dr. [surname].” “Dr. [first name]” is no longer appropriate once you hit age 14. And while I don’t pretend to know the professional guidelines for dating someone you’ve treated in couples therapy, I think 18 months is not enough time passed. The presumptive rule should be “never.” The conflict between being meaningfully attracted to someone and being the person in charge of rehabilitating their current relationship — well, let’s just say that this is about as direct a professional conflict as I can imagine. You are not in Ted Lasso’s cool book, “Dr. Jacob,” and you’re not in mine either.
Odds and Ends
Last week, I suggested that Trent Crimm’s theme song should be the Kinks’ “A Well Respected Man,” but after this episode I think Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” would also be pretty terrific. Trent is just so easy to score. Maybe it’s the hair? If anyone has another song they think would be perfect for him, definitely cite it in comments.
The moment in which Coach Beard suggests Jamie is being accidentally “ironic,” and Jamie retorts that, no, he’s being deliberately “hypocritical” — and then Ted notes that the whole scenario is ironic? Gold.
I liked the moment when Jamie and Roy argued about “prima donna” versus “”pre-Madonna” and Jamie was basically right? He is growing before our eyes.
Zava (who owns an avocado farm) asks Sam where he gets his avocados and, when told that they don’t really feature in West African cuisine, says “not yet”? A definite callback to Ted’s “not yet” response last week when Roy lamented his inability to continue enjoying playing at Chelsea once he felt his powers fading.
The Coach Beard-Jane story line continues to do nothing for me, and I can’t imagine it does much for anyone else. Drop it, “Ted Lasso.”
Perhaps I give myself away too much. But the “favorite Julie Andrews’s movies” scene in which Roy confesses a longstanding crush because of “the way you knew she’d always tell you off if you’d been bad” and Crimm sneaks in with a “Princess Diaries” reference? This is the office I totally want to work in, every day, forever.
The “I think you mean ‘In Zava boots’” question addressed to Dani Rojas? No further comment necessary.
Additional references: Daniel Day-Lewis(!), Public Enemy, “Mrs. Maisel” and no doubt many others I missed. Please let me know in comments.
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