It’s only August, and still, Ted Lasso gives us the biggest and coziest dose of holiday cheer with Season 2 Episode 4, “Carol of the Bells.” This episode is an instant classic in that Lasso Heads and casual viewers alike will add it to their must-watch list to put them in the holiday spirit. While this episode works well as a standalone in that sense, it advances each of the character’s stories in reasonable ways. It could even work as a reintroduction to the show and its characters if people watch it with their families when the holiday season commences.
This episode does a fine job of ringing in the holiday season a few months early. It’ll be hard to shake the immense joy that “Carol of the Bells” leaves with you, so we might as well lean into it. Of course, there is a sense of heightened reality that comes with the rush of the holiday season, but Ted Lasso never loses the power of its heart in all the tinsel. Instead, it proves Christmas and Ted Lasso are a match made in heaven because the real heart of that celebration is the uplifting combination of belief, love, and family. “Carol of the Bells” relishes in all holiday staples while adding its own unique twist to the classics.
Ted Is Not Home Alone
The episode starts with a lot of cheer as Ted initiated a Secret Santa tradition for the Greyhounds, but Rebecca catches the crack in Ted’s facade. The camera catches her knowing glance, and, boy, does that take them both to some pretty extraordinary places — both figuratively and literally. “Carol of the Bells” spotlights all of the tiny moments of bliss that come from spending the holidays with the ones you love. That translates even more now after people are only now starting to see their loved ones again and in moderation.
But, Ted Lasso doesn’t ignore that the holidays aren’t a cheerful time for everyone. Often they can be pretty isolating and lonely for various reasons. For that reason (and as a Jamie fan), it hurts my heart a little bit to imagine that Jamie may be spending the holiday alone. This Christmas is the first one Ted’s celebrating alone since his move and subsequent divorce are his reasons. It’s equally heartwarming and heartbreaking to watch Ted try to make the holiday work through Zoom. As far as Henry is concerned, it’s all aces; he has a drone now!
Ted’s feelings, though, can be summed up by the singular dart Ted misses after throwing it with his left hand at a magnetized board. He’s off his game. Missing your people will do that to anyone, but Ted isn’t alone. It speaks to my theory that Ted and Rebecca are platonic soulmates when she returns his spelling out “Hi Boss” using footballers gesture with “Hi Ted” in Christmas-colored tinsel. She shows up just as Jimmy Stewart starts screaming for help in It’s A Wonderful Life, signaling Ted could use a little help from someone who gets it.
Even though Rebecca’s relationship with Rupert was entirely different from Ted and Michelle’s, Rebecca paints the picture of Ted’s afternoon perfectly. After Rebecca shares some of her dark truths during that difficult time in her life, Ted opens up and admits that he thought his day would’ve only gotten darker had Rebecca not shown up when she did. Though played off as a joke, that admission is a lot for Ted because he does something he doesn’t usually do — admitting he needed help.
Sometimes all it takes is one person to pull you out of the darkness and remind you of everything else, of anything else, while validating your feelings. Rebecca is Ted’s person.
Rebecca Is a Secret Santa
Rebecca Welton has gone on a genuinely tremendous journey of personal development since we met her. Watching her make amends for her mistakes and transgressions with such genuine care is already one of the best parts of this season. We see her start to do this with Nora during Ted Lasso Season 2 Episode 3, “Do the Right-est Thing,” and she does it in other aspects of her life during “Carol of the Bells.”
Rebecca is the only person who saw Ted in one of his most vulnerable states during his panic attack. Now, completely free of her plots to ruin him, Rebecca stands by him in a vulnerable moment she couldn’t see but anticipated. She, someone who fears vulnerability as much as she does loneliness, could spot the warning signs in someone Rebecca cared about, and she showed up for her person.
In this episode, Rebecca acknowledges what she did in the past, works to be better in the present, and makes lasting connections for her future. It does the character a great disservice to view her actions this week as solely a continuation of her time with Nora. It’s bizarre to believe there is no progression in her character, and her experiment as a Christmas elf is just that. There is a lot of joy in that anonymous gift-giving that chimes in harmony with the episode’s themes, but the story behind it aligns so beautifully with the themes at the core of Ted Lasso.
Rebecca takes accountability for not continuing her tradition last year. There’s a brief second where the name “Rupert” is on the tip of her tongue, but Rebecca stops it in its tracks to set the record straight. She knows that she should’ve done it last year, just like Rebecca knows she could’ve reached out to Nora. Rebecca is making up for lost time, and she’s not losing her role in all of it in the process. Instead, she’s doing the hard work of naming her part in things.
That’s both inspirational and a believable way to move this character forward. By the episode’s end, Rebecca doesn’t step away from the group of people who loves her like she did last season. Instead, she meets them halfway and serenades them in a way that only Hannah Waddingham (feat. Jason Sudeikis) can.
Roy Believes in Love, Actually
Brett Goldstein and Juno Temple are undeniably captivating on screen together. Keeley deeming their Christmas as “Sexy Christmas” is redundant when it features Roy and Keeley. Adding Elodie Blomfield as Roy’s niece Phoebe to their already iconic duo elevates the material and performances in surprisingly beautiful ways. Their storyline starts quite silly and immediately takes a sharp turn towards the heartwarming nature we all know Roy Kent hides underneath the black clothes and growls.
The trio’s search for a dentist to give Phoebe the Christmas miracle she so desperately needs is a direct representation of Roy’s love for his niece. He is more than willing to walk around his posh neighborhood to the extent that he has to slam his bad knee back in place. He does all of that if it means that Phoebe is happier and healthier because of it. The great Roy Kent doesn’t stop there, though. Roy extends the message not to feel ashamed about what others deem embarrassing to a little boy he doesn’t even know. He makes that little boy the role model by telling him, “If you can do it, I can do it.”
This interaction is all the more meaningful after Roy’s steps in his personal life, where he’s learning that his vulnerability isn’t a weakness but a superpower. Keeley reminds him of that every day. So now Roy passes those reassuring sentiments to Phoebe and anyone who needs it, including Bernard. “Carol of the Bells” is packed with references to all the classic Christmas movies, but my favorite comes with the fresh twist on the unforgettable posterboard scene from Love Actually. It’s all the sweeter because it is Roy’s idea. Roy Kent is awful at hiding that he’s a hopeless romantic, and I love every time he slips up and lets us in.
It’s no secret that this scene from Love Actually is problematic. It’s a highly debated moment for a host of reasons. But, Roy Kent’s gesture starring Phoebe is the furthest thing from problematic. It is honestly more wholesome and romantic than the original version. The entire episode lets us see Roy, Keeley, and Phoebe as a family with matching tinsel on their persons to prove it. This gesture comes from Keeley telling Roy that it’s better to solve his problems than fight them as if he’d fight a young kid anyway. Ted Lasso presents a version that serves as a healthy alternative to both Love Actually and Roy’s original, misguided plan.
It values those familiar themes of accountability and kindness in the face of forces like bullying. With the help of the people who love her, Phoebe tells Bernard, “I forgive you, but please do better.” To know that this plan originated from Roy Kent proves how much he’s grown since we met him last season. It proves there’s no shame in believing one can do better. It’s not naive to give people second chances when deserved. It’s hopeful in a time when that is running short. All of that contributes to why we keep coming back to Ted Lasso. It’s aspirational; Roy Kent is aspirational.
An AFC Richmond Christmas
The thread that ties “Carol of the Bells” together is nearly the entire AFC Richmond team gathering at Higgins’ home to celebrate Christmas together. There is no sweeter way to bind these stories together than this found family choosing to unite when times get hard. This portion of the episode is super special to me because it has hints of one of my favorite Christmas movies: The Polar Express. Higgins’ son’s belief in Santa is falling apart at the seams when Sam Obisanya enters his home.
Leave it to the kindest person to ever live to remind Higgins’ son that “Santa’s true power is not his speed but his endurance.” While that works to reassure a child that Santa Claus is real, it’s equally reassuring to anyone for basically anything. Our endurance to live through all the trials and tribulations is one of our greatest strengths. It’s meaningful that Sam voices that, considering the pushback he will likely face after standing up to Dubai Air and the Nigerian government.
It’s spectacular that Santa’s sleigh shows up just when AFC Richmond takes their celebration to the street. Finally, Higgins’ son gets the proof he needs after an epic display of love between a group of people who actively choose to believe in each other. It’s cheesy in all the best ways because it celebrates the vast differences that weave together the fictional football team we know and adore.
Higgins names all of the players’ homes they can’t return to for Christmas, making an already touching moment all the more personal. The players (except Jan) bring dishes unique to their homes to tie together the two places. Higgins puts it best when he toasts, “To the family we’re born with and to the family we make along the way. And most importantly, to Richmond.” Richmond created the ability for this group of humans to come together over a hilariously long and makeshift dinner table.
Richmond gave the players and us a home away from home, a safe place to fall, and a found family to turn to when everything gets to be a little too much. “Carol of the Bells” is an instant holiday classic for all of its homages and themes, but it’ll hold a lasting place in a lot of our hearts for a different reason. It’ll stay with us because somehow, along the way, Richmond became our family, too.
Other Winning Moments:
- Bumbercatch loves to knit
- Someone must’ve told Isaac about “Sexy Christmas” because his Santa suit is very sexy.
- Keeley’s necklace and earrings having her name on them
- “Here comes a little magic pixie dust.” – Ted about Keeley adding her touch to Jamie’s present
- I freaking love that the show circled back to Keeley hating olive pits because they remind her of a clitoris.
- Roy’s tie
- The photo of Cindy Clawford
- The whole bit of Keeley and Roy gagging after smelling Phoebe’s breath is comedy gold.
- “I think you might be dying.” – Roy to Phoebe
- The buskers reacting to Rebecca giving them a stack of cash
- The dentist, Dr. Rogers, being the Ussie kid Tommy’s mom is brilliant.
- “And science is real.” – Keeley Jones
- The soundtrack for this episode is so great.
What did you think of Ted Lasso 2×04, “Carol of the Bells?” Let us know in the comments below!
New episodes of Ted Lasso stream Fridays on Apple TV+!