Beautifully written by Brett Goldstein and directed by Erica Dunton, Ted Lasso 2×06, “The Signal” ushers us into the dark forest of the season but not without the light of hope to guide us along the way. This season does a great job of planting the seeds of what’s to come. “Rainbow” does so explicitly, so there is no confusion when it comes to “The Signal.” Now that we’re here and not even in the thick of it yet, those moments of levity are all the more critical.
Just because Richmond is heading into the FA Cup Quarter Final on a winning streak doesn’t mean that everyone is winning. Ted Lasso is a comedy about a group of characters battling their own demons, but they’re doing it together. Some of them do so begrudgingly. Some of them are still fighting the team that goes well beyond co-workers. But that’s what makes Ted Lasso so comforting to watch. These characters are coming up against feelings and fights that are somewhat familiar to us. We can relate to them because their lives are complicated and messy, just like ours.
Nate and the Fear of Inadequacy
Nate’s scenes in “The Signal” are like a bright, flashing light pointing to precisely what Nate is grappling with and has been for quite some time. His anecdote about his father sabotaging one of his first loves is an excellent example. Nate’s father told his son and his son’s girlfriend at a very young and impressionable age that they could both do better than their current romantic relationship. By doing this, Nate’s father insinuates that his girlfriend can do better because Nate isn’t the best. That’s a terrible sentiment to pass on to your child at any age. Words matter. They stick with you.
Nate’s father’s words have stuck with him this long and continue to impact his everyday life. Nate’s been carrying around this feeling of inadequacy for such a long time. Now it’s colliding with the imposter syndrome he’s dealing with as he’s finally achieving his dreams. Beard and Ted do double-takes when Nate coaches because he rarely offers constructive criticism after calling the players names. Roy does the latter, but he also does the former. Tough love is sometimes necessary, but it doesn’t excuse the behavior that can seriously hurt someone’s feelings.
Nate knows this firsthand, and that continues to make this arc of his so interesting. He’s so keen for support and validation that he never got from his father that he’s willing to turn a blind eye to the way he’s treating other people and himself. Through it all, Nate is actively treating himself the same way that his father did and the same way that Ted and Beard do without even realizing it. Ted physically moves Nate out of the way to congratulate Roy on making the right call with Jamie. He’s there, but no one is seeing him.
Again, Nate makes himself big by looking down on himself (signaled by Nate spitting before he calls the play). Finally, Nate makes himself seen and heard, and it wins Richmond the game. It gets him the validation he’s seeking through strangers on social media, but what comes next? If this is our introduction to the dark forest, how much darker will Nate go? And if or when that darkness grows, will there be someone there to help him? Essentially, what I’m saying is everyone on Ted Lasso should sit down with Dr. Sharon.
Higgins and the Power of Friendship
One of the best parts of “The Signal” is the depth it gives Higgins and Beard’s friendship. This episode pairs them up in one of the best ways by addressing Beard and Jane’s toxic relationship. Higgins is correct to believe a Diamond Dogs meeting is the best place to raise the topic. The Diamond Dogs are “a group of people who care,” but it’s equally as vital that it’s a group of guys calling themselves out on their backward thinking. They do this for Ted after he sleeps with Sassy and again with Roy when he judges Keeley’s relationship history.
That’s why it’s weird that Higgins catches Ted off guard by saying, “And I’m a little bit disappointed that neither of you backed me up when I just said so.” Diamond Dogs meetings are meant to be a safe space to speak freely with friends, and Ted shuts down Higgins’ concerns by stating a singular incident from his best as precedent. Of course, Ted’s worries about getting into other people’s business are far more personal than he lets on, but it’s still absurd to tell Higgins not to reach out when he feels there’s something wrong. This comes from the same man who told Sam, “Doing the right thing is never the wrong thing.”
Higgins didn’t overhear those words like he does Beard’s concerning call with Jane, yet he still chooses to do the right thing. It’s one of my favorite moments from “The Signal.” Because of Higgins’ personal experiences, he wants to do things differently. Because of Higgins’ past with Rupert and Rebecca, he wants to do things differently with Beard and Jane. This is all the more wonderful knowing that Higgins does this after speaking with Rebecca. Their chat is an organic way to show how their relationship has evolved after everything. Despite how odd it is that Rebecca advises Higgins not to act on his intuition, it matters that Rebecca notices Higgins’ noises (his signal) returned and that something is wrong.
Higgins stands true to his belief that “if you care about someone, you have to keep trying, and maybe one day you’ll get through.” It stops Rebecca in her tracks to hear Higgins ask Beard, “You’re a great man. Does Jane make you greater?” In that same parking lot where deals were hatched and schemes solidified a mere season ago, Higgins breaks the pattern in favor of honesty. Beard doesn’t answer Higgins’ question, but he doesn’t have to because Beard saying “I hear you” is enough. Beard going in for the hug (Brendan Hunt bats Jeremy Swift’s hand away to do so) is an excellent move. Words matter even more when they come from a friend who cares.
Rebecca and the Disillusion of Love
As much as Ted Lasso examines the relationships between fathers and sons (and coaches and players), it’s a welcome shift for the show to examine Rebecca’s relationship with her mother. Not to mention, it’s an absolute joy to watch the esteemed Harriet Walter and Hannah Waddingham work together. While Keeley and Ted hang on to every word Deborah says, Rebecca cannot fall for the tale Deborah weaves. Rebecca is acutely aware of her mother’s pattern of leaving Paul. It’s only logical that growing up around a representation like that impacts Rebecca’s views on love. It ripples throughout her time with Rupert and well into the present.
So it’s no wonder Rebecca has such a difficult time giving love a chance, giving herself a chance. This disillusionment with love creates a general cynicism that leads her to call Luca instead of messaging LND152. It’s Rebecca’s way of settling with the safer bet. It doesn’t give her an option of falling too hard, and then it falls apart. This is even more of a possibility knowing Sam is on the other side of that chat. It’s unlikely this match can work for a few significant factors the show will likely explore in upcoming episodes. For now, it’s a twist I did not see coming.
Ted tries and fails to get Rebecca to see that Deborah can change. He saw that change in Rebecca once and look at them now. Unfortunately, Rebecca is right; some people won’t change. Sometimes it’s a waste of energy and time to try and get someone to change. Sometimes it’s better to accept them as they are. Rebecca reveals this when she shares that her mother didn’t speak to her for nine months when Rebecca intervened once. Believing Deborah can’t change isn’t the most optimistic route, but it’s the option that keeps her mother in Rebecca’s life.
In an episode all about signals, it’s no misstep to discuss guardian angels who watch over us and send us signs when we need them the most. Deborah should appear as this topic of conversation does. What if Rebecca’s guardian angel sent her mom as a reminder not of what love is but what it could be. It could be something more than what Deborah and Paul have and what Rebecca experienced with Rupert. Who’s to say that Rebecca’s guardian angel guided her to that parking lot at the same time as Higgins to see the good that can come from trying? This isn’t to say that Rebecca should have tried again with Deborah but with herself. Rebecca has to give herself a chance to fall again, but it becomes all the more complicated when that chance is Sam Obisanya.
Jamie and Learning from One’s Hero
Brett Goldstein and Phil Dunster have as much chemistry as Goldstein and Juno Temple do. The two men bounce off of each other so well. Dunster’s delivery of “I’m an ugly, ugly boy” is as perfect as the way he immediately slumps his shoulders when Roy tells Jamie that he can’t go back to being a prick. It’s great to have these two together again. It’s only right that they have such great chemistry since Roy and Jamie’s relationship is one of the greatest love stories on Ted Lasso. No one can convince me otherwise.
Jamie admits in “For the Children” that Roy Kent is one of his heroes in so many words. Now he is the opportunity to learn from Roy in a whole new way. Jamie wants to be better and do better, and he respects Roy’s opinion on that. It’s sort of groundbreaking to see Jamie ask for help not once but twice. The character development is indisputable. Both characters’ growth is evident through their ability actually to talk to each other. They break the ice with the same jokes they always make at each other’s expense, but they move on from that quite quickly.
There’s a brief moment where Jamie doesn’t mask his fear that his hero may only see him as a prick at his core. Phil Dunster is so good. Roy was in that treatment room when Jamie let himself be vulnerable enough to open up about how his father treats him. Roy knows why Jamie is a prick on the pitch. He loves the game, but he needs to dominate. Roy doesn’t use that domination as a weapon against his vulnerability. Instead, he uses it as a skill and a strength that helps the team and Jamie. It doesn’t isolate Jamie but leads him to a supportive huddle with his teammates.
Roy gives Jamie permission to be a prick when necessary in a scene similar to Nate permitting Roy to let his anger out on the pitch. Roy doesn’t want Jamie to keep all that toxicity built up at his core to stay there, not when he can let it out on the pitch in a safe way for the common good. Jamie agreeing and asking for a signal is proof he’s willing to keep his attitude in check. Suddenly a gesture used to convey anger has a lot of care behind it when Jamie returns the middle finger to Roy. Even when the other coaches doubt Jamie’s ability, Roy believes Jamie is more than capable of succeeding.
Jamie Tartt’s hero believes in him, and that’s a bright light in the dark forest.
Ted and Unexpected Breakthroughs
“The Signal” is a continuation of Ted’s introspective journey. One of Ted Lasso’s most prominent themes is the relationships between fathers and sons and how those correlate to coaches and players. Some people look to Ted as Richmond’s guardian angel. He’s the one guiding this team to greatness and protecting them along the way. Sam expresses his father’s gratitude for Ted in 2×02, “Lavender.” Rightfully so, Jamie would rather spend time with Ted than be with his father. Ted may be their figurative guardian, but he can’t be their angel. That’s too much for one person to bear.
This builds to another incredible performance by Jason Sudeikis, where Ted experiences another panic attack. All the voices get farther away, everything slows down, breathing gets more challenging, and his hands cramp up. It’s a testament to Ted and Rebecca’s friendship that she can see those signals from the owner’s box and knows she has to go to him. The show expertly weaves in the signs of his anxiety flaring up with the commentators saying, “Richmond could pull off an incredible upset, but they need to hold their nerve.”
It’s even more gut-wrenching to watch when Jamie’s father’s words and Ted’s son’s words echo through Ted’s mind. This show pays off jokes about British owls; it has to matter that Ted hears what he does. Ted could be feeling the pressure of being Jamie’s “guardian angel.” If Jamie’s an average team player, then all the pressure isn’t on him to dominate. He doesn’t become the person he must be to keep his defenses up and his dad away. But Ted can’t shoulder the burden of protecting Jamie (and the rest of the players) from everything. There has to be a healthy separation. There have to be boundaries.
Ted leaving the pitch may look like a breakdown or a retreat, but it’s the opposite. It’s Ted realizing something has to give; something has to change. It’s a breakthrough moment where Ted is willing to give himself a second chance (all while giving therapists a second chance). It’s incredible to watch the show deconstruct how Ted Lasso can be our comfort show, but Ted Lasso can’t exist solely to be our comfort character. There’s more depth to him than that perception allows, and there’s only so much pressure one person can take. Ted Lasso is only human, just like the rest of us.
Other Winning Moments:
- Bantr being the sponsor on the team’s kits now is a nice touch.
- Rebecca’s house is gorgeous, as to be expected!
- “I’ve left your father. He doesn’t listen to me. He doesn’t respect me. And Esther Perel says it takes two people to create a pattern but only to change it. I am that change.” – Deborah
- Collin’s new mantra! “I am a strong and capable man. I am not a piece of shit.”
- Keeley and Roy being all cute and casual at work is something so personal to me.
- Higgins and his floating desk never gets old. Jeremy Swift pretending he’s going to run and leap through the window only stop is excellent.
- Roy knew the barking signals the end of a Diamond Dogs meeting.
- Rebecca hollering down from her office window takes me right back to “For the Children.”
- The whole team shouting “Hi, Rebecca’s mom” made me very happy. My babies!
- Beard being so happy about his secret sandwich.
- “Philistines, I’m asking for help here!” is yet another example of Phil Dunster‘s incredible line delivery skills.
- I genuinely admire that the Crown & Anchor regulars watch GBBO with the same enthusiasm that they do football.
- Mae dancing to “Poor little cake. Soggy bottom.”
- Why does Rebecca have the silliest nicknames? I snickered when her mom called her “sausage.”
- The Brené Brown mention was nice! You all should listen to the episode of her podcast “Unlocking Us” with Brendan Hunt and Jason Sudeikis!
- “I will channel my raging enthusiasm in ways to help my community.” – Baz
- Jamie is right about old people being tall Yodas.
- Ted hiding his middle finger behind his coat
- Jamie’s short socks are very Grealish (along with the rest of his look this season), and I am very obsessed.
- The players asking Sharon to come out for drinks with them is such a sweet gesture. They want her to feel like a part of the team!
What did you think of Ted Lasso 2×05, “The Signal?” Let us know in the comments below!
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