Written by Bill Wrubel and directed by Destiny Ekaragha, Ted Lasso 3×03, “4-5-1,” challenges AFC Richmond’s ability to believe in believe as unexpected challenges impact the team’s personal and professional spheres. In many ways, this episode directly and self-referentially responds to what could be deemed a throwaway line from Jamie Tartt in Ted Lasso 3×02, “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea.” Jamie says, “Fans are not gonna like this,” in response to AFC Richmond gaining Zava. However, because Zava’s addition overjoys the team’s fans, Ted Lasso reframes Jamie’s comment to refer to the show’s fans.
“4-5-1” confronts why fans may be frustrated with Zava’s arrival through delightful self-awareness and profound confidence in this show’s story. As always, this episode utilizes the sport to elevate the narratives by reflecting on Roy’s assertion that 4-4-2 is “the best way for us to play this season” in Ted Lasso 3×01, “Smells Like Mean Spirit.” Zava challenges that belief in seconds, pushing back against how the team has played “every since they were kids” that will help them “know what they’re supposed to do and where they’re supposed to be.” Consequently, “4-5-1” sets Zava up as the ideal — albeit frustrating, at times — device for Ted Lasso‘s final season.
Zava Is Not the Savior of This Story
It’s hilarious that “4-5-1” follows up on the season’s references to Jesus Christ Superstar and frames Zava as “an angel” or “a god” who repeatedly eclipses Ted — the person who teaches AFC Richmond to believe in themselves by believing in believe. It’s fantastic that Jamie Tartt is the only player who can see through Zava’s facade because of his newly unlocked self-awareness. Moreover, it’s narratively fulfilling that Zava’s presence challenges Jamie’s growth and leads the latter to Roy Kent. Ted Lasso knows it has something special in the dynamic pairing of Phil Dunster and Brett Goldstein.
Their aside at the end of “4-5-1” is good. It’s funny (Roy knocking Jamie’s food into the wall, only to apologize and tell Jamie to clean it up!), layered, and propulsive. It builds on Jamie’s deep admiration and respect for Roy, especially when Roy knows Jamie used to be the best. Roy has always meant so much to Jamie. So, it’s evident that it profoundly resonates with Jamie that Roy is dedicated to helping Jamie not only keep up but be better.
It’s a joy to see Ted Lasso optimize Roy and Jamie’s dynamic in its final season — even if it takes Zava to push Roy and Jamie closer together. Although, it is frustrating that Ted Lasso is now three episodes into its 12-episode season, and Nate is only in a single shot of “4-5-1” because of how this episode prioritizes Zava. However, even that lands like one part of the show’s direct response to Jamie’s quote from “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea.” Fans may not like the Zava of it all, but there is a reason for it.
Colin Is a Strong and Capable Man
Zava’s star power creates organic tension with one of AFC Richmond’s aces, but “4-5-1” approaches the story from a more unexpected perspective — Colin Hughes. Season 3 has yet to explore many of the characters that build AFC Richmond, so it’s engaging that this episode elevates Colin’s role. Plus, it gives Billy Harris more of a meaty story to perform. For example, the scene where Isaac checks in with Colin after being benched is short, but Harris subtly taps into a vulnerable side of Colin that translates so well on-screen.
While unfortunate that it takes Ted Lasso until its final season to give Colin more narrative prominence, “4-5-1” calls back to the show’s long-standing intention to do so. In the same way that the debut season sets up Roy Kent’s dynamic with Trent Crimm, a glimpse at Colin’s identity appears in Season 2 when he mentions Grindr after Keeley spells Bantr. This episode expands on that comment by introducing Colin’s endearing relationship with Michael, which includes quiet morning routines and sweet text messages.
The insight into Colin’s personal life contributes to a well-rounded perception of him, emphasizing that these players are much more than how they perform on the pitch. In tandem, “4-5-1” emphasizes that Colin’s personal life isn’t something the public — let alone his team — is required to know. However, the team’s banter in the locker room and Colin’s casual introduction of Michael instill hope that the AFC Richmond family will know and love Michael when Colin is ready to share this part of his life. Still, Ted Lasso pulls a bit of dread to the surface with Trent Crimm’s involvement in the episode’s bookend.
Set to Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows,” Trent sees a part of Colin’s life that could contribute to the interest in Trent’s book about the team. The cliffhanger poises Trent to do “something different. Deeper,” as he hoped for at the end of Season 2. It allows Trent to be better after realizing his words’ impact on Roy at such a formative age. Ultimately, it’s impactful to see Colin preserve his privacy at the start of “4-5-1,” only for it to be potentially threatened by its end. Not to mention, this arc is a timely story to platform as the Premier League continues its efforts to be supportive of the LGBTQ+ community.
KJPR Means More of Keeley Jones in PR
Ted Lasso‘s first two seasons see Keeley Jones dabble in PR work, but it’s never as much of a focus as in Season 3. “4-5-1” utilizes Keeely’s new role in multiple ways, rather than a single passing comment or a fleeting brand deal with a player. Instead of fitting her profession into the episode, Ted Lasso finds a more organic thread — started by Zava — to weave Keeley into the overarching plot. Instead of the character meeting the story, the story meets the character, which works to Keeley’s benefit.
Zava causing chaos through his embarrassingly late arrival and the press wanting to skew the players’ comments to ones about Zava means that Keeley is more active throughout the club in “4-5-1.” She’s putting out fires with Shandy by her side. Before Zava’s arrival, Keeley’s work occurs at KJPR and away from the club. Ted Lasso changes that with an intention for the plot and the characters. Notably, Keeley being at the club more means that the show can intensify the tension between Roy and Keeley — and it does.
“4-5-1” does so while developing Keeley and Shandy’s friendship. Ted Lasso establishes that the friends once ran in the same circle, but it’s up to the writing and the performers to breathe life into that shared history. Juno Temple and Ambreen Razia work well together, and the script fills in the gaps for their characters. The episode establishes Shandy’s off-screen presence in the show’s universe with a strange about Shandy eating her hair, and it gives more depth to their friendship through Shandy’s defense of Keeley.
A Shight in Knining Armor
Ted and Rebecca’s interpersonal relationship develops without any heavy lifting. “4-5-1” draws (more!) distinct connections between the pair as they receive news about their past romantic partners. While Ted learns that Michelle has moved on with the marriage counselor she chose to help them through their problems, Rebecca receives surprising news from her mother’s psychic, Tish, which she later connects to Sam.
Regardless, Hannah Waddingham is so exquisite in that scene. Rebecca’s emotional journey depicted through Waddingham’s facial expressions alone is award-worthy.
Knowing Rebecca’s complex feelings around starting a family (and Rupert’s cruel ability to twist the knife whenever he gets the opportunity), it’s easy to get swept up in Rebecca’s fury with her. So it’s only when Rebecca holds the green matchbook at Sam’s restaurant that “4-5-1” encourages some retrospective thought about Tish’s words. Then, the green matchbook becomes a red herring for the true shight in knining armor — the one who said he was “white knighting” in a pivotal scene in Ted Lasso 1×08, “The Diamond Dogs.”
Tish’s comments about Rebecca being around thunder and lightning, where everything is upside down, but she’s safe, bring another element of Rebecca’s past into clearer focus. In Ted Lasso 2×01, “Goodbye Earl,” Roy tells Rebecca that she deserves “someone who makes” her “feel like” she’s “been struck by lightning.” That person isn’t Sam, and it’s a testament to the work that Rebecca still needs to do that she thinks it may be him. If anything, the fire from the matchbook makes way for thunder and lightning. After all, Keeley has to be right that “there are better things ahead than any” they “leave behind.”
Other Winning Moments:
- Colin still not knowing how to drive his car
- The entire conversation about Dame Julie Andrews
- “Your desk is covered in biscuit crumbs.”
- Ted, Beard, and Roy pushing each other through the door
- Jamie going to the coaches about Zava
- The callback to Jamie’s “Philistines!”
- Everything about Sam’s restaurant
- Ellie Taylor!
- Jamie’s earrings
What did you think of Ted Lasso 3×03, “4-5-1?” Let us know in the comments!
New episodes of Ted Lasso stream on Wednesdays on Apple TV+.