Ted Lasso 3×06, “Sunflowers,” taps into the show’s origin story with a trip to Amsterdam that ties together the mid-season finale with a few engaging pairings and intentional callbacks to both previous seasons. However, the episode’s near feature-length run-time brings Ted Lasso Season 3’s bloated, disjointed nature to the forefront. Like AFC Richmond’s discussions about how to spend their night in Amsterdam, “Sunflowers” finds this series at a crossroads with a need to compromise.
Responsively, this episode’s dedication to Rebecca and Ted’s storylines meeting a turning point bodes well for the remaining episodes to shift their focus to the broader AFC Richmond community. For instance, Sam Obisanya carries such a formative role in Ted Lasso Season 2, yet strangely his presence has yet to emerge beyond ensemble scenes this season. Nevertheless, the ensemble scenes in “Sunflowers” stand out because of how isolated most of the characters have been from each other thus far.
The spark of Ted Lasso‘s first season burns within those team-centered scenes, increasing that desire to see the characters interact more — even if it’s a low-stakes conversation.
Season 2 concentrates on these characters turning to each other for game-changing advice and merely interpersonal connection. Season 3 overwhelmingly lacks that — until “Sunflowers.” Sure, the team deciding on a pillow fight harks back to a choice posited in Ted Lasso 1×07, “Make Rebecca Great Again,” but it also sees the team turn to each other to make a choice. It sees Isaac step up as the team’s captain, creating space for these characters to talk to each other more than they have since Zava arrived.
Higgins Makes AFC Richmond a Home
Therefore, Higgins and Will’s trip to the red-light district may fall short in the relevant details taken away from “Sunflowers.” But in many ways, it’s an extension of Ted Lasso 2×04, “Carol of the Bells.” Like the ones in that holiday-themed outing, their interactions may land as “filler” in a final season that doesn’t have room for it.
However, low-stakes character interactions aren’t without purpose; they strengthen bonds and deepen characterization. For example, Higgins taking Will under his wing favors the former’s mission (since before Ted came to Richmond) to make the club feel inclusive. Plus, “Sunflowers” uses Jamie as a lens to relay how impactful a positive trip to Amsterdam can be, and Higgins gives that experience to Will.
Regardless, Ted Lasso still ties their jazz-inspired trip to the larger plot. The script connects Higgins’ knowledge of Chet Baker to Ted’s newly-acquired understanding of Vincent Van Gogh through similar phrases. This verbal pattern coincides and culminates in Ted’s quest for inspiration by the end of “Sunflowers.” That thematic heartbeat persists throughout the episode — with varying degrees of success.
Colin Hughes, Independent
Fortunately, “Sunflowers” strikes gold with Billy Harris and James Lance‘s team-up as Colin Hughes and Trent Crimm. Harris delivers Colin’s ache with an authentic vulnerability that actualizes the internal conflict in an externally visible way. Colin’s exhale after opening up to Trent leaves an indelible and profound mark. Their conversation is another example of “Sunflowers” finding those beats that made Ted Lasso such a success in its first season — those meaningful interactions between the characters.
Not to mention, just as Ted Lasso Season 2 examines the conversations — or lack thereof — surrounding mental health in sports, this open and supportive dialogue between Colin and Trent speaks to the hurdles Colin faces in his unique position as a professional athlete. He faces the possibility of the sport pushing him to become a spokesperson and receiving apologies he doesn’t want. Colin says, “All I want is for when we win a match to be able to kiss my fella the same way the guys get to kiss their girls.”
That equity is vital and still doesn’t exist within the sport — but it should.
Just as the characters find inspiration in Amsterdam, Ted Lasso fans do the same within the show’s content. While this show is unlikely to change all hearts and minds, perhaps a few football fans will watch “Sunflowers” and walk away with a better understanding of Colin’s experience and empathize with any professional footballers — or people in general — who walk in similar boots as him. Perhaps they’ll walk away from “Sunflowers” to create and strive for change, making the sport — and the world — more accepting and safer.
Keeley and Rebecca After Hours — Or Not
Colin and Trent’s scenes also deliver a reminder that months have passed since Ted Lasso 3×03, “4-5-1.” This final season is chock-full of little time jumps that add up to significant time lost with these characters, and few feel the impact of them more than Keeley Jones. She is only present for the opening minutes of “Sunflowers,” instilling hope that maybe the show plans to deliver this season’s iteration of Ted Lasso 2×09, “Beard After Hours,” with Keeley next week. However, until that is confirmed or denied, Keeley’s presence in “Sunflowers” tees up Roy’s jealousy that fuels his interactions with Jamie.
Logically, “Sunflowers” wouldn’t follow Keeley (and Jack) to Norway because the plot takes place in Amsterdam. However, that further isolation of Keeley’s story lengthens the distance between her and the larger ensemble — visually represented by the space between her and Roy at the episode’s start. Assuming Ted Lasso builds to an eventual reunion between Roy and Keeley, it doesn’t bode well that the last time the characters speak to each other on-screen is a work-related conversation months ago during “4-5-1.”
Even as Ted Lasso often opts for subtlety, it has yet to budge on any overt developments for Roy or Keeley since. For instance, one must assume that Keeley tells Rebecca about Jack within the time jumps. Still, Rebecca shows no hesitance towards the imbalanced workplace dynamic in Jack and Keeley’s relationship. That lack of confrontation, however gentle, begs whether Rebecca still sees no wrongdoing in her relationship with Sam. It’s hard to gauge since Keeley and Rebecca’s last character-motivated conversation was in Ted Lasso 3×02, “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea,” aka months ago in the show’s timeline.
It’s frustrating that Ted Lasso can’t find a balance with Keeley or explore her character outside of romantic connections since “Sunflowers” showcases consistency with Rebecca’s story. The episode delivers the final portion of Tish’s message through a romance-trope-filled plot that teaches Rebecca that she can “be brave enough to let someone wonderful love” her “without fear of being hurt, without fear of being safe,” as she mentions in Ted Lasso 2×01, “Goodbye Earl.” It’s exciting to envision where that realization will take Rebecca post-Amsterdam. If only the same were as undoubtedly true for Keeley.
Roy and Jamie Heal Together — with Bikes
Ted Lasso rarely narratively missteps with Roy and Jamie’s dynamic, and “Sunflowers” does not ruin that winning streak. Instead, the script refers to their revelations in Ted Lasso 1×06, “Two Aces,” when Roy shares a story about his grandad’s death after he left for Sunderland at the age of 9 and Jamie reveals some hard truths about his father’s abuse. Like then and Ted Lasso 2×08, “Man City,” it resonates to see Jamie and Roy heal together — even through a montage of Jamie teaching Roy how to ride a bike.
Furthermore, it’s a testament to their development that Roy and Jamie admit their faults to one another and apologize. After all, neither of them would even dare to do so in Season 1. So it’s refreshing that they have vulnerable conversations with one another without Ted spurring them to do so. They’re starting to lean on each other, or Roy would have never told Jamie that he thinks Keeley has a girlfriend. While it’s unclear how Roy would assume Keeley has a girlfriend, it’s evident that Roy is starting to trust Jamie.
That connection opens Roy — and Ted Lasso — up to that interpersonal communication that Keeley lacks. So, even though this season has yet to explore Keeley’s reaction to the break-up (or anything beyond it), “Sunflowers” signals that Roy could find the space to reflect with Jamie. The latter even does so with Roy about his two previous trips to Amsterdam with his parents. Unsurprisingly, Ted Lasso finds new ways to make Jamie’s father the worst, but it’s refreshing to hear Jamie speak about his mother more.
It speaks volumes of her character — and her love for her son — that Jamie bounces, cartwheels, and races around Amsterdam’s streets, bursting at the seams to share the knowledge he acquired about the place during their visit. Though Jamie’s visit at 14 with his father is traumatizing, Jamie remembers more about his positive trip with his mom. Jamie even says, “I’ll never forget that time.” Likewise, it’s hard to imagine Roy Kent forgetting to learn how to ride a bike in his grandad’s honor and seeing a windmill in person for the first time. For someone who often wonders if he makes his mom proud, “Sunflowers” is an evergreen reminder that Jamie Tartt is more than capable of doing so.
Ted (Finally!) Finds Inspiration
While Jamie brings a bit of home to Amsterdam, Ted finds a bit of home in Amsterdam at the Yankee Doodle Burger Barn. It’s perfect that Beard’s drug-infused tea is a dud and that Arthur Bryant’s original Barbecue Sauce is the key to Ted finding his spark of inspiration. Ted says in Ted Lasso 1×02, “Biscuits,” that the sauce “can teleport” him “right back home, make” him “feel all warm and fuzzy,” coinciding with Ted Lasso‘s exploration of gezellig.
From the Los Angeles Times‘s recollection of Ted Lasso‘s Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt‘s football-loving origin story in Amsterdam to USA Today‘s report that Hunt learned about the Dutch concept of gezelligheid while in Amsterdam and retrospectively says the titular character lives with that mindset, “Sunflowers” is as meta as it is propulsive for Ted.
So, of course, “Sunflowers” uses the background of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888 and 1889) to push Ted since sunflowers are also Kansas’ state flower. What’s more poignant is how the episode’s close-up on Ted, as he admires the artist’s work, draws a stark comparison to a similar shot of Ted that kicks off Ted Lasso 3×01, “Smells Like Mean Spirit.” There’s a light in Ted’s eyes again, and that’s both energizing and a relief at the season’s mid-point.
The charm of Ted’s inability to learn or retain anything about football to aid him in the career he’s getting paid to pursue started to run thin. The existential approach to Ted’s breakthrough is a bit of a letdown because it subverts any confrontation between Ted and his staff about his coaching shortcomings. However, Ted and Beard’s final exchange posits that Beard has always known that the spark exists within Ted. The latter just needs to find and foster it for himself, even if it takes way longer than anticipated. So, “Sunflowers” proves that home can be anywhere and inspiration can come from everywhere.
Other Winning Moments:
- Beard’s extensive GRWM routine
- Every time Ted texts Rebecca
- Jamie shouting out the bench from The Fault in Our Stars — the movie
- Higgins saying “Drugs are bad” and cutting to Beard putting drugs in tea
- Roy knowing about Disney scenery because of Phoebe, probably
- Higgins’ face when he notices that Will likes the music
- Every word Colin says to Trent
- The mention of Trent’s daughter
- Beard speaking Dutch
- Beard and Rebecca being best friends
What did you think of Ted Lasso 3×06, “Sunflowers?” Let us know in the comments below!
New episodes of Ted Lasso stream on Wednesdays on Apple TV+.
I think Toheeb was filming The Power at the same time as Ted Lasso. That’s the impression I got from an interview with him, indicating he was flipping between the two.