ted lasso season 3 episode 7 hero

Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 7 Recap: Hearts and Minds and Dicks

John Brown Spiers
John Brown Spiers is a former academic and lifelong overthinker. He’s written many short things and abandoned many long ones. He grew up in the Midwest, currently lives in the South, and would get lost in a different forest every day if he could. He is trying very hard.

Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 7, “The Strings That Bind Us,” is a lot! It’s really lovely and heartwarming, for starters. It’s got plenty of delicious comedy, comedic set pieces, and throwaway lines. It’s got whozits and whatzits galore. It’s also Ted Lasso’s second-consecutive hour-long episode (it’s 57 minutes if you want to get technical on me but I’m rounding up nonetheless), and it’s one that makes increasingly clear the upsides and downsides of the show’s inability to stop overstuffing itself. In addition to all the goodies, there are several scenes with questionable motivation, and a bunch of plot that continues to kinda just go nowhere in particular. (One unfortunate example: Season 3 really does not seem to know what to do with Keeley, whose self-made PR girlboss storyline appears to be nothing more than wheel-spinning before her inevitable reunion with Roy. Juno Temple deserves better.)

Last week’s “Sunflowers” was an ambitious episode that managed to be both high-stakes and zero-stakes. “The Strings That Bind Us” is likewise all of that. And it was also-also originally called “Boxes,” before J-Suds decided to switch the title up about 48 hours to launch. The change is sort of emblematic of the mess within: is this a bad episode? Definitely not. Nor is the longer title a bad title. But “Boxes” is just as thematically relevant to this episode, and it’s a hell of a lot less clunky, and it would have been the third plural noun title in a row, after 3.5, “Signs,” and 3.6, “Sunflowers”. These are the episodes where Ted Lasso’s third season has really started to indulge in expansiveness, so granting their titles a similar uniformity would have been fitting. (I would also have accepted the simplified “Strings.”)

But this recap is long as hell, so I’m going to dispense with any further preamble and just dive right on in. Come on and dive with me! Just first make sure we’re not tied together at the dick. Or anywhere else. But especially not the dick.

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OK but we still haven’t gotten a proper balls-to-the-wall 80’s style training montage from these two

We open with a delightful little montage of Richmond opening up for the day. Shopkeeps raise their gates and bring out their sandwich boards; they sweep the front steps; they put the macarons in the front window where the light catches them best. The soundtrack is the Cranberries’ “Dreams,” so, sorry to all the Tedbecca shippers who had that on their “song for when two become one” bingo card. But we *do* get to witness Nate drop by Taste of Athens for a look in on Jade. Consolation prize? (Cue nervous laughter.) I definitely thought these two would maybe somehow become friends? which is why now I’m definitely convinced that they will be lovers by season’s end. Maybe well before season’s end, given the rate they’re going. And by “they” I mean “the show,” and by “rate” I mean “the glacial pace,” it was obvious the episodes would be longer this season but we’re already at an hour Jason Sudeikis, you’re killing me Smalls.

Another budding relationship that this song is the soundtrack for: Roy and Jamie, who are already balls-deep in training on this fine spring morning. Roy rides a bike attached by rope to Jamie, who runs and pulls while Roy kicks back. Excellent balance there, Roy; you’ve improved tremendously since “Sunflowers.” Also, oh hey look there’s a literal rope tethering them, and if you look closer still you’ll notice that written on this rope is the word “FORESHADOWING.”

And then of course there’s the boss-employee good time known as Keeley and Jack (or “JacKeeley,” if you’re like me and want to make it dumb). These two lovebirds are enjoying a nice quiet postcoital café breakfast together. But, as will soon become very very clear, nothing with Jack can be just “nice” and “quiet.” She busts out a present for Keeley: a copy of Sense & Sensibility. A first-edition copy of Sense & Sensibility. A signed first-edition copy of Sense & Sensibility. The spine is damaged, so we know it can’t be worth, like, millions of pounds. (Also, first editions were not published in a single volume.) But it’s technically still a signed first-edition copy of a Jane Austen novel? The signature does indeed read “Jane Austen,” but the dedication – written in curiously anachronistic fat purple marker – says “Keeley, You go girl!” Keeley notes, in a voice that does not condemn but appreciates, that Jack defaced a priceless literary artifact for her. Jack points out that the book actually isn’t priceless, because she just paid a ton of money for it. Jack also insists that Jane Austen wrote the dedication. She and Keeley laugh and kiss. They’re a really sweet couple, no doubt, but I’m already getting hair standing on the back of my neck from this.

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Lives were lost

Over at Ola’s, there’s not the merest whiff of neck-hair-standing activity. (Yet!) Sam is his usual happy self. He greets everyone on staff by name before asking Faridah, who I assume is the head hostess, if there’s a chance he can snag an open table for Friday night. Faridah laughs at him good-naturedly, exactly the same way Ted laughed at Nate when Nate offered to be the big dog to talk to Isaac in “Rainbow” (Season 2 Episode 5). And she follows it up with the exact same line of dialogue, too: “Oh, you’re being serious?” (Faridah doesn’t say “bein’” the way Ted does, but it still counts.) It turns out that Sam is expecting an anonymous VIP that night, so, yes, he really is being serious.

Then, from the kitchen: “Fuck you!” It’s Sam’s head chef, Simi, whose name we only knew from IMDB before but who now gets the full-on character treatment. Simi (and, by extension, her supremely well-trained kitchen staff) is incensed by the exhaustingly textbook bigotry of Home Secretary Brinda Barot. Simi, reading a copy of the Everyday Independent, explains that there’s a refugee boat headed to England – the show specifically does not tell us from where – and Barot has some just delightfully inclusive thoughts about where the people on board that boat should head instead.

Sam, whose unflappable optimism is in this context somewhat naïve, tells Simi “It’s way too early to be this angry.” More important for Sam is the state of the cutlery, which he feels is rather less-than-perfect. And not in a fussy, The Bear-type of way – it’s more like anxiety over the possibility nay inexorability that his restaurant will not be VIP-ready by Friday. Gee, I wonder who this Very Important Person could possibly be? “Samuel,” Simi says. “If the food is good – which it is – no one cares about the spoons.” She’s right, Sam. And that’s when Sam drops that the visitor will be none other than Ola himself, Mr. Obisanya! We finally get to meet Sam’s papa! (Simi: “If this bitch lets him in.”) Well categorize me as a Rydberg atom, because I am in a highly excited state. And yes, I know that Sam had a bunch of phone calls with his father last season, but hearing the man’s voice doesn’t count.

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The spoon is a metaphor for forks

Over at the Rebecca Welton Training Facility, the Greyhounds have assembled in the media room for a little history lesson. Following Ted’s “barbecue-sauce-related hallucination” in Amsterdam, Coach Beard has put together a fun little video explainer on Total Football, which is indeed a very real Football Thing but which for the purpose of this recap I choose to think of as “The Triangle Offense Made Exponentially More Difficult.” Seriously – it took the Chicago Bulls the better part of four seasons to figure out how to make it work with just five players, and it was two more seasons after that before they won their first championship. A football side has eleven players. And Ted is, to put it as mildly as possible, not the coach that Tex Winter was. (Nor is he the coach that Phil Jackson was, but it’s hard anymore to see past Phil Jackson’s general dickishness, so I’ll give Ted that one.)

Beard runs down the list of Total Football’s accomplishments: under its creator, Dutch footballer-turned-coach Johan Cruyff, Ajax won three titles and Barcelona won the Spanish Championship four times. Then, from Barcelona, there came a young prodigy by the name of Pep Guardiola, who went on to have tremendous success with his version of Total Football at Barcelona, Bayern…and Manchester City. (Cue the chorus of boos.)

And the thing that makes Total Football so beautiful, according to Beard, is its fluidity: “Defenders are free to attack. Attackers are trusted to defend. It’s about taking risks and supporting each other’s choices.” Gee, does that sound like any scrappy recently promoted Premier League team to you? But wait: Total Football is *also* “about letting go of your baggage and trusting your intuition.” Alright, therapy session; we get it. And this being Ted Lasso, Beard concludes with an optimistic mic drop: “We all know football is life. But a beautiful life…is Total Football.”

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Beard said “football is life” and Dani could not be happier or prouder

One notable thing missing from Beard’s presentation: exactly how this is supposed to work. How do you avoid chaos when you’ve got eleven players all trusting their own intuition? Aah, but I shouldn’t worry about that – as Roy puts it, to quell the team’s fears after Ted tells them that Total Football is going to be their style going forward, all Richmond needs is to drill and train for a couple of months and then voila! The Greyhounds will be ready to dominate! Except that, no, sorry, Roy; Ted announces that they’ll be debuting this hot and completely new scheme this Saturday. Against Arsenal. Not exactly a lightweight. Yeah, it is fucking mental. The team tries to lodge a general protest, but Ted won’t hear it, telling them “Hush your ‘but’s.” Yeah, I know it sounds like he says “butts.” And I know that that’s what the closed-captioning says, too. But I don’t believe Ted is really telling them that they’re talking out of their asses. I think Ted is talking to the team the way a parent talks to a protesting child, one who won’t stop saying “But! But! But!” Some of you may disagree with me, and that’s fine; it’s OK to be wrong.

Over at KJPR, Barbara comes into Keeley’s office to tell her that something’s wrong. Except, no, actually nothing’s wrong; that was just a force of habit. It’s a fun little device by which Barbara can notice the first-edition Sense and Sensibility sitting on Keeley’s desk. And to tell her “I never would’ve, uh, thought that you liked books.” Smooth, Barb. She tries to cross off “liked books” and replace it with “collect first-editions.” Which is when Keeley lets it slip that she doesn’t collect them; this particular first-edition was a gift from Jack. Then she stumbles over her words for what feels like several hours but is in truth about thirty agonizing seconds trying to make it seem like she and Jack were on anything other than a date and are anything other than secret lovers. We also find out that Barbara sometimes eats a breakfast of yogurt on the early train to beat the rush. So these two have rather different mornings. Total Awkwardness achieved!

Over at West Ham, Nate gets a series of work-interrupting texts from his mother, reminding him not to miss his sister’s birthday dinner. It’s at seven, so Nate asks Siri to send him a reminder not to be late, as his mother has just reminded him of how his father gets when people are late. (As if Nate needed any reminders about his delightful father.) Then Nate hesitates. I thought he was going to then ask Siri to set the reminder for a later time, so he could arrive late in obvious defiance of his father and so we could get some heat going under Nate’s storyline. But no – what he wants to know is “How can you tell if a girl likes you or is just being nice to you?” You just can, Jade-brain. Go ask her out already.

Things at the Crown & Anchor are also uncertain, although with a decidedly melancholic bent. Mae is bummed about Richmond’s run of misfortune, since miserable fans mean business is slow. Sure, on match day, maybe, but wouldn’t you be more inclined to go to the pub if your team is playing like shit? Beard tells Ted that Jane’s been dropping all kinds of hints lately, including leaving a bunch of magazines sitting open around the house like Ralphie trying to get his mother to buy him a BB gun in A Christmas Story. It’s not BBs that Jane wants to shoot, though. Ted assumes marriage – Ted, have you met Jane? – but nope, it’s pegging. (Oh, right – Phoebe Walsh wrote this episode.) So it actually is somewhat closer to a BB gun in many respects.

On cue, Baz, Jeremy, and Paul approach Ted and Beard’s table, to apologize. They’ve been so successful at humanizing Ted that they don’t insult him anymore. How does Ted respond? Why, he invites them to training the next day, of course: “We ain’t runnin’ a chocolate factory, or Deutsche Bank. We got nothin’ to hide.” You kind of do, though? I mean, Ted, you FaceTime with Henry at least once a day, so you definitely know that cell phone cameras exist. And could, like, maybe be used to film practice for all sorts of nefarious purposes: sharing with a rival club; posting on social media to make Richmond look bad; adding fart and poop sound effects to for your own personal amusement; and so on. The works, in other words. Beard wonders whether this is a good idea; Ted tells him “It’s their team. We’re just borrowin’ it for a little while.” That is a great line! But I worry that Ted is perhaps too concerned with charitability and not concerned enough with practicality in this specific instance. And lots of other instances. But hey – as he and Beard observe, marriage and pegging, like their situation with these fans, aren’t that dissimilar. It’s all about compromise.

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It’s called Look magazine, Ted; Ralphie stuck the Red Ryder ad into it and left it on his mother’s pillow. Next to the bedside table with her dildo displayed proudly (I think I just talked myself into a crossover)

And just like that, it’s Tuesday. How do we know? For starters, we get another shops-opening-up montage. The city coming alive! It’s a lovely thing to witness. (One reason why: there are hardly any cars in any of these sequences.) Also because Nate drops by Taste of Athens again to see Jade. Before he can, Derek sneaks up behind him on the sidewalk and greets him with a great big enthusiastic Derek hello. Not exactly what Nate was hoping for! And Derek tells him that Jade doesn’t work Tuesdays. Is it just me, or is Ted Lasso doing a fair few episodes this season where we go through the days of the week with our motley crue of delightful broken people?

So now it’s really time to get into the nitty-gritty of Total Football training. Out on the practice pitch, Ted tells the team that there are four things they need to focus on: Conditioning, Versatility, Awareness. And, uh…well, he can’t remember the fourth thing, but that’s no big deal since they’re only on day one anyway. Conditioning it is! Drill Sergeant Roy steps up to announce that the team will be running “from end to end to end to end.” For “the whole fucking practice.” He really says that last part with an all-caps level of emphasis, but I can’t bring myself to render it that way because the show is turning Roy into a sadist this season and it’s weird and a little bit painful to see. And is it really wise to run the team until they drop at the beginning of yet another big week? I mean, they’re already in really good shape. Ted, Beard, maybe you guys could ask Roy to dial it back juuuust a touch for the good of the Greyhounds as a whole? Kind of the way Ted did when he took Roy aside and more or less ordered him to fix whatever Trent did to bother him so much that he forbid the rest of the team talk to him on penalty of implied death?

We do get to hear Roy scream “WHISTLE” again, though, so that part is pretty good.

Back at KJPR, Jack arrives, learns that daisies are Keeley’s favorite flower – GEE I WONDER IF THAT FACT WILL COME UP LATER – and leans in for a kiss. Keeley reaches for her window-opaquing remote like a teenager changing the channel away from something inappropriate when a parent walks in. Then she realizes that this might be ridiculous of her, so she de-opaques the window. Then she goes back and forth like this for about as long as she tried to come up with a plausible story about Sense & Sensibility for Barbara. Keeley apologizes and tells Jack that she’s “just not built for a secret office romance.” Jack’s response: “We…can’t get into trouble, ’cause we are two consenting adults.” Also, because she is “get-away-with-murder rich.” Like “everyone connected to Epstein.” I guess Keeley means who would Jack murder? and not who else is Jack-level rich. Which is what I thought the first few times I watched this scene and was completely baffled as to why Jack would brag about being as rich as the people connected to that fucking asshole.

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Dangerous fun

But on the topic of asshole behavior, I have a number of issues with Jack’s argument that I would like to present for your consideration. For one thing, bragging that you can get away with anything simply because you’re rich is a huge red flag. (Even if what you would get away with is murdering child traffickers.) For another, Jack has conflated an inability to get into trouble with the question of whether you should go ahead and do the thing that can’t get you into trouble. In other words, just because there’s no literal law against a boss dating what amounts to her employee – and maybe there is one? – doesn’t mean that she should. Because you’re still effectively Keeley’s boss, Jack. You literally staked her PR firm? While we don’t know the specifics of your financial arrangement, you are in a more than metaphorical sense ensuring Keeley’s salary to some extent? And Keeley, this should be setting off one or two alarms for you, too. Jack already told you she’s a very jealous person and marked her Keeley-territory by defacing a literary artifact without an ounce of compunction. It is not far-fetched to presume that she might cut off your funding if you broke up with her. Come on, Keeley! Get your head in the game!

Anyway, Jack strides into the office common space and announces their romance to everyone present. She adds that “if anybody has any issues or concerns about this at all,” they should “please come and speak to me or Keeley or Barbara.” Lol sure Jack. I’m sure the meekest employees this side of Waystar Royco HQ will speak up the instant they feel like something’s not right. That is totally how power dynamics work. Jack’s declaration is a really nice little thing in a vacuum where misuse of power doesn’t exist and where Rebecca never fucked one of her employees on the DL for a big chunk of Season 2. I’m willing to suspend a lot of disbelief when Ted Lasso wants to play by the rom-com rule book; I just wish they would give us a tacit acknowledgment of how fundamentally inappropriate some of this shit is.

Back at training. The soundtrack is “Rocks” by Primal Scream. Richmond is still running. Everyone looks about ready to die. Jamie looks…marginally better than the rest of the team. I guess all those 4 AM training sessions with Roy are coming in handy right now. Because Jamie doesn’t vomit, but pretty much everyone else does. Then they all collapse. Then Ted announces, “Now we scrimmage.” Hmmm.

At dinner, Rebecca catches Keeley up on her sexy houseboat adventures. She says, “What we shared, it just…it transcended sex.” I have no idea whether the writers included this line as a wink at all of the people opposed to Rebecca and Ted getting together, because this is basically the #1 reason they give. But I am giggling at the thought nonetheless. Keeley calls what they shared “Magic.” Rebecca calls it “Gezellig.” Then Keeley describes the kind of attentions she’s been getting from Jack, and Rebecca calls that “love-bombing.” Somehow, Keeley, who has surely had more than her share of whirlwind romances, has never heard this term and is unable to fathom that it’s exactly what it sounds like. So Rebecca expounds: it’s when you’re “Bombarded with…grand gestures of love.” For example, Rupert took Rebecca to a car show on their second date so he could buy her the car of her choice (“a bloody lovely Jaguar”). Rebecca is quick to say that she’s not calling Jack a Rupert-type. But she does advise caution, given the number of red flags she ignored in her own past: “Sometimes…shiny things can tarnish.”

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The penis is a metaphor for biscuit recipes

And now it’s Keeley’s turn to turn a phrase that Rebecca should understand instantly but does not. She suggests that she and Rebecca might be love blind, by which she means they have the kind of love-induced color blindness that leads a person to see red flags as green. Then Rebecca asks for the check and the waitress informs them that Jack has already taken care of it. Keeley is surprised, but Rebecca is delighted. She orders tiramisu. And “two bottles of the ’34 Chateau Cheval Blanc Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru to go.” Plus one for the waitress. What was that about urging caution and seeing red flags as green?  

What else is happening in Richmond tonight? (Camelot voice: “I wonder what the Ted is doing tonight.”) Oh, right – it’s Nate’s sister’s birthday dinner. Which means we finally get to meet Nate’s NIECE! She’s adorable! And she presents her mum with a custom birthday box that Nate helped her with! He still needs to atone for his sins (and there are a lot of them!), but this is just wonderful Season 1 vibes all over the place. Then Nate’s sister asks him if being West Ham’s coach means he’s “hooking up with girls left and right.” Needle scratch? Nate’s father thinks so; he announces he’s going to take his niece to the corner shop for some ice cream and “let them have their girl talk.” Charming fucking guy innit.

Alone with his mum and his sister, Nate uses them as his backup Siri. They tell Nate to ask the girl out. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? We know exactly what: she says no and Nate “scurr[ies] away, humiliated, never to eat in [his] favorite restaurant again,” forced to munch takeaway morosely from the curb while his family celebrates inside the next time there’s a special occasion. This…is a lot! So Nate’s sister urges their mom to show him “the map.” And evidently Nate’s father is going to get something of a redemption arc this season as well, because here comes the first sweet or even decent thing we’ve ever seen or heard about him.

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The sweetheart who made this for Nate’s mom, I wonder where that guy went

Despite Nate’s mother’s protest that he’ll “kill me” (!?!) if he finds out she did this, she unrolls a giant, perfectly weathered world map with three bisecting (so technically sexsecting) lines running across it in different colors. It’s something that Nate’s father made for his mother when they started dating. Atop the map is a key: one of the lines is for the 4,125 miles that separate their birthplaces; one of them is for the 4,230 miles that separate where they were raised; and one is for the 1.3 miles between their campus dorms. Beneath all that is an illustration of two people sitting at a table together: it’ll be only one foot between them if she goes to dinner with him on Friday night. So, Lloyd used to be nice. Even Nate’s mom sounds happy. She tells her son that he needs to ask Jade out on a date because while she might say no, the two of them might also “get married, have two wonderful children, and live happily ever after.” Then Nate’s father returns and they all scurry to put the map away. I tell you what, this episode has more scenes that end by undercutting their own sweetness than a whole horror trilogy.

We open the next day at Ola’s. Sam arrives to find the kitchen staff gathered around a screen watching the aforementioned refugee boat approach Portsmouth Harbor. The news program broadcasting the boat then cuts to Brinda “Bitch” Barot making a bold, declarative statement from the safety of her office: “To anyone attempting to enter our country illegally, I say this: Go home. Britain is closed.” Simi wants to send her back to her mother’s butthole. (Heh.) Sam references Abraham Lincoln in his contrasting desire to appeal to “the better angels of this clearly misguided person.” BOY Sam you are a better person than me. By a whole bunch of fucking miles. Unfortunately, the medium Sam chooses for this appeal is…Twitter. So we know it’s going to be a disaster no matter what he says. And what he says is that he’s “profoundly disturbed” by the situation at Portsmouth and hopes that the Home Secretary will “help make Britain better than this.” Simi wants him to add “Bitch.” Sam…does not. (Sam, you really should have. This person is going to hear “bitch” in it no matter what you tweet at her.)

Across Richmond: Jade might not work on Tuesdays, but she sure does on Wednesdays! Nate arrives at Taste of Athens specifically to ask her on a date. My god, he’s really doing the damn thing right there at the damn hostess stand and everything. Except then he gets a light case of the Nate Jitters and scurries off to the bathroom to compose himself. By which I of course mean “spit on his own reflection in a further reinforcement of the spiral of self-loathing into which the poor bastard has been locked his whole life.” Except except! Nate stares at his reflection and then…doesn’t spit on it. What’s this? Growth? Progress? Well slap me on the cheek and call it foreplay. Nate then scurries back out of the bathroom, only this time he’s all sunshiny instead of all cloudy, and he tells Jade “Actually, there’s one thing I need to do first” and flees, the sunshiny wind at his back.

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Growth holy shit

A new day means new training means all-new, all-fresh vomit. Bumbercatch vomits whole cheerios. He explains that he eats without chewing “to conserve [his] energy in case an impending class war breaks out.” But Bumbercatch, if you don’t chew then your digestive system has to do more work to break down your food and you actually gain less energy from the food you only kinda ate. My son eats gigantic bites without chewing at every goddamn meal and if I had a nickel for every time I’ve told him this I would have the same number of worries about his college tuition that I do about his soccer team winning games. (He’s seven; they don’t keep score.) (Also, let me just double-parenthetical-aside-up real quick here to say how much I love Bumbercatch getting more and better jokes this season. His line last week about going to The Hague and asking some questions will make me giggle for years.)

But back to the matter at hand. With even more fans in the stands today, Ted announces that this is the Versatility Practice. Richmond is going to do a role-playing scrimmage: every player will switch roles with someone else. Roy hands out the new assignments. Dani and Isaac become each other. Bumbercatch and Van Damme switch. Sam and Jaan. In the stands, Baz switches to Paul’s “unwavering positivity” and Paul shouts “YOU FUCKIN’ TWAT” and then immediately says “I don’t like it – I actually prefer to be me.” Even Beard (who fumbles a water bottle catch and looks Charlie Brown-dejected) gets into it, switching up with Will (who rocks sunglasses and packing tape facial hair and is likewise EATING this season, hell yeah Will Kitman).

And Jamie swaps roles with…Jamie. Which leaves Jamie rather confused. Ted tells him that “We just figured you’d want to keep on doin’ what you do best for us: playing striker and scoring goals. Yeah?” In truth, Jamie is confused and fairly openly bummed to not get the same treatment as everybody else. For real – what the fuck? You can’t treat him like your All-World All-Star Prick-Switch-Flipping Striker Extraordinaire one minute and then accept all the genuinely kind, supportive, team-building shit he does for Richmond and then exclude him from the team-building and literal scheme-building exercise like this. It doesn’t make any sense. You don’t build a zoo and then put the lions across the street.

At any rate, the session seems to go…OK? Or just better than the constant run-‘n’-vomit session. Then there’s a corner kick and out of habit Dani is going to take it but Ted reminds him that that’s Isaac’s role today. Isaac is a little intimidated; he’s never had to kick a corner before. He asks Ted for advice. “I dunno,” Ted tells him. “Just kick the hell out of it.” Ted. (Sigh.) So Isaac does just that, nailing the ball so hard that it sails way out over the pitch and crashes into the window to Higgins’ office. Higgins had been sitting on his comfy little office couch, drinking tea and grooving out to some jazz. Upon the ball’s impact, he spills hot tea all over himself.

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Will’s “LET’S GOOOOOOOOOO” sounds like a bird’s cry and I, for one, find it haunting and beautiful

After training, Sam returns to the locker room to find that Brinda has responded to his tweet. “Footballers,” she wrote, “should leave the politics to us and just shut up and dribble.” I don’t know whether that refrain has been used against footballers and/or basketball players in other parts of the world, but “shut up and dribble” has been an ignorant-ass right-wing response to American basketball players protesting in the name of social justice for quite some time. Its most high-profile & also most ignorant use came against LeBron James and NBA players in general in the summer of 2020. (Also against Megan Rapinoe and the US Women’s National Team.) All of which is to say that while we got an intriguing, insightful, and delightful comparison between basketball and soccer last week, in the form of Ted’s Triangle Football hallucination, this comparison is just as intriguing…but far more sinister. And, thus, effective.

(Also, this is not the point at all but I can’t help noticing that there’s no blue checkmark next to Brinda’s handle. There is no way on fucking earth that a bigot like her *wouldn’t* subscribe to Elon’s dumb little service.)

Let’s not forget, though, that at this particular moment the dribbling isn’t as easy as it used to be. Trent drives that point home when he enters Ted’s office and asks a question that mirrors his debut scene. “Ted,” he says, “I just want to make sure I have this right. You’re going to change tactics at this point in the season and replace it with a totally new method that the boys are clearly struggling to understand.” Only this time, instead of saying “Is this a fucking joke?”, Trent finishes with “And you think this is a good idea.” Ted replies that the way he sees it, it’s like taking a hike with Robert Frost: “Could go either way.” (Me, slapping my forehead and shouting in the living room to no one: “That is a poor reading of Frost!”)

Then Trent turns to Coach Beard, only it’s Will sitting in Beard’s chair reading a murder mystery. Trent leaves. The actual Coach Beard enters. He says, very quickly and very simply, “Get the fuck out of my chair.” I can’t convey it in a recap, but Brendan Hunt’s delivery of this line is fucking hysterical. As is Will’s speedy, bumbling apology and self-removal. It has taken you far longer to read this paragraph than it would take you to watch the scene. Just go watch it again and then come back. (I’ll still be laughing.)

OK – break time! Gonna pivot real quick from a remedial reading of Frost to a close reading of Melville in musical form. Wiggle your waggles away:

Another morning. Another montage of shops opening + the city awakening. This episode really could have been called “Big Week 2.” Jade steps outside and looks around looks around. Keeley enters her office with a giggle. Then she shouts a strangled cry. Her entire office is filled, essentially to the brim, with daisies. Which Keeley has already told Jack are her favorite flower. They’re in vases; they’re all over every surface; they’re in her pink cheetah’s mouth. (“Daisies in the pink cheetah’s mouth” somehow sounds like an extremely sexual euphemism.) Depending on whether you count the dinner bill and Rebecca’s wine order as one item or two, the daisies make either three or four love bombs in this episode alone. And potentially either four or five if you count Jack’s office-wide declaration of love. Keep in mind that we’ve only covered three days so far. That is a fuckload of love bombs for three days. I suppose I can’t blame Keeley for not thinking super straight; my head would be spinning if all of this happened across the same 72 hours.

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The daisies are a metaphor for red flags

We have arrived at one of those Iconic Ted Lasso Scenes. Our third training of this particular week is the Awareness Training. Ted explains that “When you play Total Football, you gotta know what your teammates are doin’ at all times.” (Which, it should be pointed out, is not dissimilar from any other style of play; it’s just more important with Total Triangle Ball.) It is for this reason that Roy has had every member of the team tie the same super-long interconnected red rope around their dicks. Nobody can move without being keenly, yes keenly, yes keenly-as-fuck aware of exactly what their dick-partner is doing. Move too little and you’re just standing there neither helping nor playing at all. Move too much by yourself and you’re gonna have some dick problems. It’s really a pretty nasty little scenario. Like if Ted Lasso were Saw.

I can’t help but point out that there are now even more fans in the stands. They’re not packed-packed, but there are a few dozen people watching where normally training has an audience of zero. And I can’t help but further point out that this little red-dicked setup would have gone viral as fuuuuck. It would have made the sewer descent from the season premiere look like a slide show of 1960s vacation photos. Maybe Beard made the fans turn in their cell phones as a condition of entry? Otherwise, yeesh.

Ted tells the team that they got the idea to tie everyone together thanks to a Japanese myth that says soulmates are connected by an invisible red string. Tied around their little fingers. It was Roy’s idea to use dicks instead. Roy, my friend, I am now officially worried about you. This will be a “full scrimmage at half-speed.” Beard: “’Dicks’ on three – one, two, three!” The rest of the team: “Dicks” (halfheartedly). Henceforth I will refer to this as “Dicks (Richmond’s Version).” The team fumbles and shuffles around the pitch with more uncertainty than an Alzheimer’s cat at a lead feather convention. Roy snickers like Muttley the cartoon dog. The soundtrack is perhaps the most sadistic use of John Fogerty’s, “Centerfield” ever put to film. In short, the scrimmage is…not ideal. Then Jamie almost gets his dick ripped off.

ted lasso season 3 episode 7 12

With a particularly wet ripping sound effect. With trembling hands, he stretches out his waistband for a look. He’s OK. Next to him, an overwhelmingly relieved Dani spreads the good word: “It’s okay! His penis is okay!”

In the locker room, Will cleans up the strands of dick rope with a grabber arm. (No gloves, though.) Sam checks his phone and is greeted by Brinda’s latest assault: he “should worry less about the safety of our nation and worry more about being a mediocre player on a mediocre team.” So, basically a remixed version of “shut up and dribble.” Sam thinks about it for a moment before writing “I’d rather be a mediocre footballer than a world-class bigot.” He does not add “bitch.” I repeat: Sam, you’re a better person than me. (Also: lol.)

At his home, Nate makes a gift box for Jade. It’s festooned with pretty crinkled paper and hand-curled ribbon and little red stick-on flowers. He opens it to check the insides, revealing that it’s a pop-up box. What pops up are little Jade and Nate paper figurines at a little pop-up paper dinner table. Beneath this tableau, in a style startlingly similar to the one Nate’s father used on his mother all those years (and insults) ago, Nate presents a simple question: “Would you like to have dinner?”

Fourth morning; fourth shops opening montage. I’ve never seen You’ve Got Mail and after this episode I simultaneously feel like I really should and like I really don’t need to. Keeley arrives for breakfast with Jack and apologizes for being late. Jack says it’s all right and adds “I got you something.” It seemed clear based on this context that what Jack meant was she ordered something for Keeley so she wouldn’t have to wait as long to eat. But Keeley’s head is still spinning and her ears are no doubt still ringing from all the love bombs that have exploded around her all week, so she replies, “I don’t want it.” Keeley apologizes again, but explains that she wants to have one date where she and Jack just hang out and there are no grand romantic gestures. It’s a perfectly reasonable request!

Jack apologizes for coming on “too fast or too strong.” She says it like a woman who knows it’s a bad trait of hers. Then, the waiter brings Keeley’s croissant. Because that’s the something that Jack “got” Keeley. A croissant! It’s a perfectly reasonable thing! Oh – and then Keeley bites into it and discovers the ring inside. Jesus, Jack. A ring? Really? That’s a bit strong, isn’t it? Keeley, keeping her polite, unflappable Keeley face on, gives the ring back to Jack. Their smiles and their laughter seem unaffected, but I can’t help wonder if something has finally shifted for Keeley. (It’s been four days, but I feel “finally” is appropriate, here.)

Over at Taste of Athens, Nate tries to deliver his sweet little gift box to Jade. She sees him coming and smiles at him. But Nate trips crossing the street and the box goes flying. But it lands right in front of him! And upright! So everything is OK. Except that then a car speeds by – really too close to Nate’s sprawled body to be going that fast! – and runs right over the box. Pancakes it beautifully.

ted lasso season 3 episode 7 13
It’s the hope that kills you

And Nate, showing real growth yet again, does not get deflated or self-defeating but just straight-up asks Jade out to dinner with just his plain old words. And she says yes! Everything’s comin’ up Milhouse! I really hope that Nate appreciates all of these good things happening to him and that they don’t simply inflate his ego and make him believe that the universe owes him good shit the way Rupert clearly does.  

Sam arrives at Ola’s with a box of piping hot fresh new cutlery, because of course he can’t stop fretting about the spoons. His father is en route! But as soon as he opens the front door, all of that is forgotten in an instant. Ola’s is all smashed up. Someone’s taken hammers to the mirrors and the décor and even the beloved interior “OLA’S” sign itself. And presumably the same charming well-mannered person responsible for that destruction has spray-painted “SHUT UP AND DRIBBLE” in huge black letters all along the right wall. I guess this means footballers aren’t allowed to own restaurants or explore other business ventures, either, then? I also wonder if Sam has security cameras, but we’ll revisit that point shortly.

At Richmond, it’s the calm before the storm. Trent sits in his (& Roy’s, haha) office, jotting down notes and trying to figure out what #4 is. The team is in the locker room gearing up for training and doing nifty tricks passing water bottles across the room as Will gathers them up in his little water bottle basket. It’s a cool, fun little sequence and further underscores that the Greyhounds are already super-duper in sync and coordinated with each other, ergo the power of Total Football is already inside of them, waiting to be unlocked.

Oh – and in Ted and Beard’s office, Roy is playing with the magnet board with a madman’s preoccupation. He’s pulled together a circle of magnets around one central figure, then drawn lines connecting everyone in the circle to the figure in the middle via red dry-erase marker. “Next time we do this drill,” Roy announces, “we tie multiple guys’ dicks to one guy’s dick.” Seriously, at this point I would trust Sadist Roy alone on a houseboat with Rebecca far less than I did Sexy Dutch Ted. Fortunately, Beard and Ted both tell Roy that the dick drill was kind of a one-night-only headline event. Then Trent comes in wanting to know Item #4 on Ted’s List of Total Football Requirements. Ted being Ted, he has no idea. At this other point, I can’t tell if Ted genuinely has no idea, has an idea and is being coy about it, or had the idea and really did forget what it was and is just waiting for it to come back to him. I doubt the fourth thing is the third thing, because if he forgot it would drive him nuts and he’d be talking about how he forgot and it’s driving him nuts.

But then here’s the storm: Sam bursts into the locker room, shoulders his way though Isaac, and slams his gear into his locker. This is literally and far and away the angriest we have ever seem Sam Obisanya. Isaac wants to know what the fuck is wrong with him, and Sam replies with this:

I’ll tell you what’s wrong. The world is full of evil people who do shitty things. But I can’t worry about that right now, because I have to go and kick a little ball around. Which those same people love me for! That is, until I fuck up, or – or I miss a penalty, or, or – or I decide to fight back. And then they’re just going to want to ship me back wherever I fucking came from!

His voice is breaking all over the place. Sam has never, ever expressed this much frustration or rage. The team is shocked. Everybody listens; nobody moves. Off-camera, we hear a single word: “Samuel.” It’s Ola (Nonso Anozie). It’s Sam’s papa. He is a big, broad man with a kind voice and a kind face. Sam just crumbles into his arms.

ted lasso season 3 episode 7 14
Never more connected, yet never further apart

The two of them sit alone in the weight room. Sam is unsure about reopening the restaurant at all. Ola reminds Sam why he did it in the first place: “You do it for yourself. For your friend, Simi. For all those people who want a taste of home when they are away.” Ted Lasso already has too much to do, but I think the idea that Sam chose Richmond and London over Edwin Okufo and Casablanca (and thus a return to Africa) precisely because he wanted to do something for the city’s Nigerian community is a deliriously good idea for a storyline and I would gladly spend a lot more time in Ola’s. Spinoff, please and thank you.

But of course Ola is a father the way Ted is a coach and so he isn’t done yet. “If you really want to piss off the people that did this,” he tells his son, “forgive them.” Sam is incredulous. “Forgive them,” Ola repeats. He does a little whistle-splat sound that is exactly the kind of sound you would make to make a little kid giggle BUT that is also silly enough to make a grown-ass adult giggle as well. “Big whoop.” Sam: “Big whoop?” Ola: “Big whoop. [whistle splat].” I tell you what, Ola is a big man in every sense of the term. “My son,” Ola says. “Listen to me. Don’t fight back. Fight forward.” Yeah this is Nigerian Ted just as much as Ted is Kansas Ola. (And also, yes, Sam, please invest in security cameras and gates.)

Ted comes in very gently to tell Sam that the team is starting training but he totally understands if Sam wants to sit out today. Ola whistle-splats right on that idea and Sam leaves to get dressed. Ted shakes Ola’s hand, tells him how nice it is to finally meet him, jokes that he was almost going to wear the same Nigerian clothes that Ola has on – and then cements the bond by offering Ola some American candy, with that good “bad sugar” in it. If you can’t bond over food, you’re doing it wrong.

And just like that it’s Match Day! The soundtrack is Supergrass’ “Alright”; raise your hand if you’re getting bubbly Clueless vibes. We’re at Arsenal; we’re at Emirates Stadium. Everybody’s setting up; all the fans are filing in. If nothing else Ted Lasso is giving us a lovely tour of places to play football this season. Inside, Rebecca and Keeley are having their usual pre-game VIP lounge chat. Keeley says she wants to take Jack out for dinner for a change, and if Jack tries to pay, Keeley “will give her…just the tip.” OK, I did snort at that. Then Higgins comes over with Ola and introduces him and Rebecca is all “Oh how lovely to finally meet you” and Ola is like “Yeah I kinda feel like I already know you because my son told me all about how you guys were fucking more often than a December 1964 Lennon-McCartney hit.” Rebecca’s face freezes. Hahahaha you beautiful idiot, Higgins would have told you that Sam’s father would be visiting this weekend, did you not prepare for this encounter? All Rebecca can come up with is “…Cool.”

ted lasso season 3 episode 7 15

One thing that isn’t cool: how the match is going for Richmond. They’re down 3-0 at the half and look so disorganized Ted might as well have been teaching them ballet. When was the last time Richmond was, like, way ahead and playing with confidence and ease? And not playing with Zava? Oh, that’s right: a full season ago. Arlo: “What’s the word I’m looking for, Chris?” Chris: “’Sucks,’ Arlo. The word is ‘sucks.’”

Across town, Richmond fans are leaving the Crown & Anchor in droves. Basically it’s down to just Mae and Baz and Jeremy and Paul and a few scrubs. Mae laments: “We’re gonna get relegated again, and I’m gonna have to go back to filling the sausages with cardboard.” OK, but homemade sausage? Count me in.

And if you were looking for a metaphor for how Richmond is feeling right now, sausage-casing-but-filled-with-cardboard will do just fine. Their halftime locker room is a dejected scene indeed. Everyone is frustrated with Jamie for not attacking, since doing so would force Arsenal to stretch its defense. Isaac’s assessment is especially blunt and brutal: “What the fuck’s wrong with you.” It’s just clear that no one has any idea how this whole new Total Football world is supposed to work. Beard (and Roy) tell Ted that there’s “no shame” in reverting to the old standby of a 4-4-2 formation for the second half.

In response to all of this, Ted tells the team a story about “the early days of [his] coaching career,” when he wanted to “express [his] individuality” with a hot new Ted-defining appearance. He wound up deciding to emulate the look of Jeff Foxworthy, of “You Might Be A Redneck” and Blue Collar Comedy Tour fame. But Foxworthy was not Ted’s first choice: before he landed on his now-signature mustache, he went with a Larry the Cable Guy-inspired goatee. Until Beard told him that it “makes it look like you ate out Bigfoot’s butthole.” (Lot of butt-based activities in this episode. Way more than usual. It’s curious! Anyway.) Ted’s point? “Lot of times, the right idea is just sittin’ behind a couple of the wrong ones.”

This leads to Jamie announcing that he has something he wants to say, but he hesitates to say it because he doesn’t want to sound like a prick. Jamie Tartt is the best-written and most-developed character on Ted Lasso so far and with just five episodes to go until the end of the series this particular race isn’t even a little bit close. There’s plenty of proof everywhere you look, but his ability to say just this line is also about as strong an exhibit of evidence as you’ll find. In response, the rest of the Greyhounds give him the finger.

ted lasso season 3 episode 7 16
The middle finger is a metaphor for acceptance

Prickishness allowed, Jamie lets the team have it: “I ain’t doin’ it wrong – you’re doin’ it wrong.” What he means is that Total Football doesn’t allow for a traditional striker. Richmond needs to play not to Jamie, but through him. He goes over to the dry erase board to make his point clear: “I should be haeaer, in the center.” He diagrams the whole thing out.

And apparently that’s all the team needed, because the clouds part and the music picks up and everyone sees with perfect clarity. Dani’s response sums it up: “And there it is: numero cuatro. Sacrifice. Putting aside personal glory on behalf of the team.” Ted says that that ain’t it, but they all get hyped and go back out there. It’s basically the opposite of what happened when Beard and Roy showed the team the footage of Nate ripping up the “Believe” sign in “Big Week.”

Finally, finally, this shared locker room epiphany translates to a moment of genuine football brilliance and a persistent little glimmer of hope for the club. They do a masterful job passing the ball up the pitch, with Jamie as the sort of striker-slash-false-nine-decoy-slash-point-guard. When he gets within easy striking distance, Jamie shocks everybody except his teammates by backheeling the ball and then Richard “Midnight Train To Amsterdam” Montlaur gives it the boot and finds the back of the net. Even Arlo is impressed, exclaiming “That was bloody gorgeous! A majestic, sweeping symphony of a goal, with Tartt in the role of conductor.” (Shoutout to Catie McCarthy for coming up with that joke in a since–and unfortunately–deleted tweet.) If Arlo’s words aren’t the ultimate stamp of approval, there is no such thing to be had on this entire show.

Of course, that’s not the goal that turns the tide of this particular game. Arsenal were up 3-0 at the half and when the final whistle blows they win 3-1. But the mood and the soundtrack and Arlo’s continued praise tell us that the score doesn’t matter, because this shit is finally fucking clicking. And by “this shit” I don’t mean Total Football, because it’s only been five days since they started practicing it (and really it’s been just four, since Ted and Beard and Roy only showed the team Beard’s Total Football movie on Monday but they didn’t actually practice anything, not even running and vomiting). No, the “shit” in question is Jamie both acting like and being allowed (by the writers) to act like the world-class once-in-a-generation Ace talent he was introduced to us as in Season 1. 29 episodes in, we might at long last get to experience some crazy genius football shit! In the perfect words of Sam Seaborn, let’s overlook how late Ted Lasso is to its own party and just embrace the fact that it showed up at all.  

After the match, Trent runs in all supremely hyper-excited in the way of any writer who’s ever at long goddamn last cracked the recipe of their current project. He says it’s not that Richmond has switched tactics over the span of one measly week – the reason that Total Football will work is because it’s the football culmination of the philosophy under which the club has been operating for almost three full years. They’re (gonna use this word again) finally focusing on football using the Lasso Way, i.e., the “club-wide culture of trust and support” that Ted began building up upon his arrival. So all the personal and emotional development that Ted has engendered since his arrival is now going to translate to football development. And in a big fucking hurry, too, since there’s only like half the season left.

ted lasso season 3 episode 7 17
I think Trent just figured out the title of his book

It’s impossible for me to be truly irritated at this long-ass delay, though, because Trent is as bubbly as wedding reception champagne. “It doesn’t even matter what number four is!” he shouts, scurrying off. Roy: “What a fucking dork.” Ted says “Yeah!” in a way that sounds like an affirmation and a giggle and pure delight all rolled into one. And then he adds, “But he’s our dork.”

Richmond is not the only huge dork whose development is long overdue and has largely happened offscreen, though. We next visit with Nate, waiting for Jade at an outdoor table at a nice quiet restaurant. He’s worried she stood him up, because of course he is. Then she arrives and holy shit, her hair is down! SUBTEXT. Nate says “Thank you for coming” and Jade laughs and is all like “were you worried I was gonna stand you up” and he is like “of course I was, I’m a bundle of raw nerves and I can’t even remember whether to push or pull the goddamn door at your restaurant, LOL JUST KIDDING I WAS TOTALLY NOT WORRIED BECAUSE OF HOW CALM AND COLLECTED I AM.” And also to be fair to the character and to Nick Mohammed, about whose acting enough good things really cannot be said, Nate does seem genuinely happy for one of the very few times ever. And he acts genuinely as a result. (He has a very nice smile; it’s yet to be seen how anyone on this show will keep Roy from smashing it to bits when Richmond and West Ham play again.)

At the same time, Keeley takes Jack to dinner. At Taste of Athens. Why? Other than parallelism? Derek seats them in the front window. They look happy together. I give them two more episodes, max.

It is now officially nighttime. Sam drives his father back from the match. He really does not want his father to see the restaurant in its current state, but he also kinda realizes that his father is very proud of what Sam is trying to do and has actually already done for the city’s Nigerian community. So he asks if he would like to see the restaurant and Ola tells him “I would love to.” And honestly? As they walk through the front doors and Ola (and we) take in the whole scene, it really doesn’t look that bad. Detached from the reason the restaurant looks shabby, you could have told me there had been like a minor tremor or a bar fight or something and I would have believed you. Having said that, it’s impossible to detach the shabbiness from the reason for it, and so I 100% understand why Sam didn’t want to take his father in the first place.

Ola, of course, reassures Sam that “it looks nice” and “it’s not so bad” in spite of the damage, because he is a good papa. But I’m kinda-sorta burying the lede here, because what do Ola and Sam find upon their arrival but the entirety of AFC Richmond all decked out in their coolest work clothes cleaning up and helping repair the windows and the sign and just generally being great supportive folks.

ted lasso season 3 episode 7 18
If this doesn’t warm your heart, seek medical attention

Oh – and painting over that wretched dumbass graffiti. It’s Jamie who offers the explanation: “We just asked ourselves, ‘What does this situation need?’” Which is really just another backheeled kick, this time to Jaan: “We thought your situation needed us.” Isaac says that his cousin replaced the broken window (but that there’s no family discount). And in perhaps the most impressive sacrifice of all, Richard brought some “very, very good” wine from his “personal cellar,” which in Richard terms is almost the highest compliment you can receive.

Next up on the Carousel of Goodwill: Ola meets Simi and teases Sam with the “Sam has told me so much about you” line. It’s true here just like how it was true when he met Rebecca, but of course it’s true differently because this time Sam is Simi’s boss. Got it? (In addition to which everything Ola does is sweet or sweet-adjacent.) Then Bumbercatch fixes the sign because his power grows with each new week and as the big-ass happy yellow “OLA’S” blazes forth in unparalleled glory its namesake is stunned and delighted.

Sam tells Simi not to order the new mirrors, as the smashed ones “serve as a good reminder that everything doesn’t have to be perfect.” Uhhh OK but isn’t that kind of a health hazard? Like bits of cracked glass could very easily fall out of their non-frame and land in food and drinks and stuff? I really want Ola to back me up here, but he’s too busy loving the ride: “And if the food is good, who cares about the mirrors?” Yes again that’s the right sentiment but if the mirrors are bad enough that they could fall into the food then the food stops being food. HOWEVER I will once again not bury the lede and instead point out that Ola just echoed Simi’s line from the beginning of the episode. So, yeah, Simi and Sam aren’t getting together, she’s definitely not joining the Obisanya family at all. Also Ola says he wants to cook for everyone and Simi is cool with it. There is no goddamn way that this chef would be cool with ANY-one cooking a goddamn thing in her kitchen unless it was the so-loving-he-might-as-well-be-Santa-Claus-esque father of the guy with whom she has effortless chemistry. Fuck Train departing Richmond Station CHOO CHOO let’s go y’all.

ted lasso season 3 episode 7 19
Just, 🙂

And so we conclude this great big massive sloppy happy mess of an imbalanced delightful Ted Lasso episode with a great big meal at the biggest dining table in the restaurant with the biggest heart in the whole gosh darn town. I think this setting out-cozies the team meal at the Higgins family house in Carol of the Bells. The final blissful musical accompaniment is Tekno’s “Enjoy.” The final blissful shot is of Sam and Ola in the kitchen, prepping food and dancing and having a grand, impermeable time.

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