Ted Lasso: That Troubling Storyline (No, Not Nate’s)
This is all spoilers, it’s been long enough
I too was under the spell. When I watched the first season, despite the fact that I knew what I was looking at was typical American myth-making, despite the fact that it was an insult to the sport that I love, despite all of that, I was under the spell.
Season 1 gave off real Rocky vibes. Losing, but still winning. AFC Richmond got relegated — a very traumatic experience for any team that’s really experienced it. Managers get shit-canned as a result. But not so at the end of Season 1. It was almost celebratory.
Even the American football play ain’t turn me off.
The second season really threw me for a loop. I wanted to like it. I did. But the story was all over the place. Again, this was a team that just got relegated. They’re losing money. $67m a season type losing. And the first episode starts with the team drawing seven matches in a row (that’s seven points).
That’s an almost impossible obstacle to surmount — especially after they lose the next match. And yet Showrunner Bill Lawrence saw it fit to have the writers focus on everything BUT the matches. Then there was that heel turn by Nate.
Yet none of that was the real problem.
My problem and the topic of this writing is the troubling story with Rebecca. She has too much time on her hands. She’s walking the halls. Hanging out with Keeley. Rebecca even has time to date. But those prospects aren’t satisfactory. So she takes to an app that Keeley is promoting, bantr — a social media app where users learn each other via text alone.
And this is where the Troubling Storyline begins. Although it was addressed in the media — kinda — it wouldn’t have even been shot in the current environment. The world has come to address abuse and how it plays out by powerful figures with their subordinates. Even when it’s consensual, we’ve grown to see how it’s problematic.
But not here. Why? It’s because the roles are reversed. It’s a woman in power and the man as the subordinate. And as I wrote about before, when it’s men that are being abused folks turn a blind eye.
There’s Rebecca. Just standing in the hallway, grinning at her phone, when suddenly, she giggles.
— Did you just giggle, asks Keeley.
— I don’t know, did I, Rebecca coyly responds.
It’s Episode 5 (Rainbow) and Rebecca is leaning into finding someone. bantr’s an option and, while she has more than one option, only one of them is quoting Austrian poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke (which makes Rebecca gasp).
— Look at you, so excited. That’s so bantr, a place where minds can come to invest, Keeley posits.
Later, Rebecca’s kicked back, eating Lasso cookies, reading yet another bantr message:
— I think the best thing about being anonymous: No need for small talk. Only Big Talk. Agreed?
— Yes, she types.
— So, what are you looking for on here?
After a talk with Higgins where he says your best brand is being yourself, Rebecca answers that message with:
— Love, I suppose.
Shocked with her own openness, Rebecca tosses the phone aside.
Anyone that’s been alive over the past few decades can relate to these feelings. An exciting text exchange can seem extremely intimate. Even better when the messages are volleying back and forth — it can feel like Vicki Nelson-Dunbar vs Jean Hepner — exhilarating, fanciful — each message raising the stakes.
Because I understand that feeling, I allowed it. Rebecca not showing any emotion or effort or anything about the dismal situation that the team she OWNED was in, I allowed it. I allowed Rebecca’s uncanny proximity to the athletes. And I allowed the giddyness.
Director Erica Dunton attempts to redirect our focus on a possible Rebecca/Lasso hook up by showing her smiling at her phone then quickly cutting to Ted smiling at his (phone).
Skip over the importance of the FA Cup. Skip over the importance of the FA Cup. Skip over the importance of the FA mothafuckin’ Cup. I had to type that because this episode takes place around the time of what would be one of AFC Richmond’s most exciting matches — a Quarter-final in the FA Cup worth $482,000 — much needed swag for a recently relegated team.
But if Bill Lawrence don’t care, we don’t either…for this writing.
The bantr back and forth continues:
— Hey, Bossgirl. just a quick thanks for being one of the best parts of my day. It’s you and breakfast tied neck and neck.
— Okay LDN152, enough sparkling reportee. just tell me who you are.
— What kind of a spy would I be if I told you that — oops!
Everyone can relate to this moment as well. When you both are tired of words. When the typing is not enough. When you’ve been worked into a frenzy and desire close contact.
Because of that…I’ll allow everything else in this episode (S2E06 — The Signal). Rebecca and her mom. Beard and Jane. Blah and Blah. The big deals here are they beat Shit (Tottenham) and Rebecca’s bantr is revealed.
We learn that after he types:
— Crazy day at work today, but I can’t stop thinking about you. Maybe we should meet…
Rebecca doesn’t respond.
For two days (or all of Episode 7-Headspace).
Here we go. Why I’m writing. Or at least, the beginning of it.
Rebecca agrees to meet her bantr crush: 8pm, Le Tucci. Sam gets a special haircut. Rebecca is, well, Rebecca. She and Sam bump into each other and assume that they are waiting for someone else. But when Sam types into his bantr, it becomes clear — they’re their for each other.
— Oh shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!, Rebecca panics.
— Wha, wha, what, what?,
— Oh God, this can’t be happening!
— But it is.
— I just knew I shouldn’t have come here.
— But you did.
She tells Sam that they can’t go through with it. She’s his boss and he’s in his 20s.
— Oh my God, I’m a pedophile. I groomed you. All these messages, I was grooming you.
Sam reasons (correctly) that they didn’t know who each other were so it was impossible for Rebecca to be grooming him. And she (correctly) retorts that now that they did know, then it was completely inappropriate to go any further.
Sam insists that they just have dinner. And they do.
Note: This episode is titled Man City. Man City because that’s their competition in the FA Cup SEMI-FINAL! This dinner is taking place before the FA Cup Semi. A win would secure $1.2m. But I digress.
They have a montage dinner date, eating, drinking, and being merry. He walks her home.
— So, can we not do this again sometime, Sam asks, longingly
— I’m…going in alone, Rebecca answers to the unasked but implied question
— Ok, Sam relents
Then Rebecca goes in for the kiss.
She screams in excitement afterwards and insists, “never again.”
After AFC Richmond get curbed stomped by Man City (as they surely would), Rebecca jumps out of the app and personally texts Sam:
— Just saw your interview. Are you around?
— I live at 152 Wargrave Square SW11, he quickly responds
She rushes to go to his place as Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know” builds. And Sam is there.
— Why did you send me your address? She asks.
— For next time.
He walks in and kisses her. The door closes. Roll credits. Keane takes us out.
(I can’t unsee Episode 9. I won’t even relive it here).
No Weddings and a Funeral (S2E10) opens with Sam and Rebecca in bed. Him kissing her hand. He wonders if they can go public. Rebecca tells him that she’s enjoyed the secrecy. Apparently, it’s been two weeks.
The secret is let out of the bag at the funeral of Rebecca’s father.
When Keeley, Rebecca’s Mom, best friend, Sassy, and goddaughter, Nora, find out that it’s Sam, they celebrate — screaming, yelling. Nora proclaims Rebecca’s a “boss ass bitch.”
Later, Rebecca confides in Sassy and Keeley that she may have to break it off with Sam. When trying to figure out, Sassy jokes that Sam’s penis is too big for Rebecca’s small vagina.
All of this is me building a case.
I’m pointing out how the relationship is handled, how it’s perceived, etc. for a reason.
In fact, I won’t go into much more detail about the back and forth of their relationship but I will illustrate a storyline involving Sam being courted to go play for a Ghanaian billionaire who wants to buy and build up Raja Casablanca. Part of why Sam was torn was because he not only considered his career at Richmond BUT he also considered his relationship with Rebecca. Ok, stop right there.
Let’s play make believe.
Here’s Leah Williamson. She’s a Center Back for Arsenal WFC. A fan favorite, she’s just signed a new contract and has played an instrumental role in the rise of Arsenal (they’re now in first place) She’s also captained the National team. She’s 24.
That thur is Josh Kroenke. Silent Sam’s son, Director of Arsenal. He might as well be the owner of Arsenal his damn self. He’s the one that speaks on behalf of ownership. He’s 41.
You already know what I’m about to ask.
And I already know that it would be unthinkable. I know that the scandal would topple the Kroenkes and that Daniel Ehk would swoop in and pick the carcass.
I know that if anyone even pitched a show with an affair between Josh and Leah in 2021 that they would be branded a toxic monster. That the thought alone is a-alike the crime.
You might recommend I check out (Mis)Understanding Our Influence Over Others: A Review of the Underestimation-of-Compliance Effect by Vanessa K. Bohns. You would tell me that consent is not enough. That the power dynamic skews that decision.
The person that’s in power, recognizing this — should step back and not allow anything to go further because of all the said above. They are the one that is responsible. And they are the one that will always be held accountable.
This is not the case with the Rebecca/Sam relationship…and no one holds Rebecca accountable. Greater, no one holds the producers, writers, and directors of the show accountable.
Her grooming him is played as a joke, his penis size — a joke (2pts for racial tropes), and she’s celebrated for her relationship with the younger, subordinate, Sam. And Sam choosing to turn down the Ghanian money for Richmond — we can’t say how much of a role Rebecca plays in that. She’s still his boss.
“Yet people in positions of power tend to be oblivious to the influence they wield over others because they are less likely to take the other party’s perspective. This makes it difficult for powerful people to recognize when another person feels compelled to go along with their requests,” is how Vanessa K. Bohns explains it.
One of the most important things when it comes to teaching lessons is consistency. If older, power figures dating employeees is off limits for men. Then it’s off limits for women. It’s off limits for everyone. Or it’s not.
That’s why this season was so problematic — outside of them miraculously recovering from seven points to automatic qualification (they would have had to win 90% of their matches) — I’m being sold something that is wrong and I’m supposed to feel good about it.
I’on’t like that.