masthead_37.jpg
Local NPR for the Cape, Coast & Islands 90.1 91.1 94.3
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Ted Lasso' Recap, Season 2, Episode 9: It's A Beard, Beard, Beard, Beard World

Beard (Brendan Hunt) spends a long night out after the Manchester City loss.
Beard (Brendan Hunt) spends a long night out after the Manchester City loss.

Game Highlights

Beard goes out on the town after the team's big loss to Manchester City, and he finds adventure, danger, magic, new friends and a return to old patterns.

Play-By-Play

We begin at the end of "Man City," where Beard is telling Ted he's not going to come out with the team; he wants to "shake this off" on his own. But this time, instead of following Ted as we usually would, we follow Beard.

Beard gets on the Tube (to a lovely acoustic rendition of the theme song performed by Jeff Tweedy that replaces the usual credits) and makes his way home. But, haunted by a vision where the football announcers — Thierry Henry in particular haunts him throughout the episode — are all talking about him being bad at his job, he has to bolt.

The pub

Beard heads to the pub, where he reveals to Mae that he and Jane have broken up because she didn't say "I love you" after he said it to her. He's waffling over whether to continue a text exchange with her when the pub guys — Baz, Jeremy and Paul — spot him and start chatting him up. Several beers in, Beard still isn't ready to go home when the pub is closing. The boys know of a private club called Bones & Honey, but even Cher couldn't get in there. ("Would you be-liiieve they did such a thing?" Paul sings.) Beard is immediately intrigued, and when the boys fret about the dress code, Mae produces a box of cast-offs from the pub's lost and found.

The club

And so, in borrowed blazers, caps and scarves, Beard and the boys set off for the club. Once there, they manage to con their way past the front desk and upstairs. At the pool table, the pub guys meet their Bizarro World Bones & Honey drink-elgangers, three snobs who immediately suspect they don't belong. Just in the nick of time, Beard shows up and introduces himself as an Irish professor (an extremely Irish professor). He manages to convince the snobs that he and the boys are all Oxford men. In perhaps the most telling comment of the whole episode, Baz asks Beard how he knew so much about Oxford, and Beard says, "I dated a professor at Oxford. And I listen more than I talk."

Beard goes in search of a beautiful woman in a red dress whom he saw across the bar, but he winds up ripping his pants and attracting the attention of a security guy. When Beard can't present a membership card, the security guy turfs him out.

The lady in red

Outside, he finds the woman in the red dress, and after some very intense flirtation, she invites him back to her place, promising she can mend his pants for him. (Is that what they're calling it these days?, etc.) Once they're there, she really does start working on the pants, though — in the meantime, she loans him a pair of sequined bell-bottoms that she says belonged to an old lover of hers who's now dead. Beard lies on her couch, shrink-style, and begins to unburden himself about his confused feelings for Jane.

But just as Beard and Red Dress get into this discussion, her boyfriend bursts in and Beard has to flee, eventually leaping off the roof into a dumpster. He escapes on a bus, only to realize he doesn't have his wallet or his phone. He drops into a hotel hoping for some help, but the clerk rebuffs him.

James Tartt

Dejected and desperate, Beard wanders out of the hotel, down the street and into a dark tunnel, where he is delighted to see three guys ambling toward him — people he can ask for help! Buuuuuut as it turns out, these are not the guys he's looking for. This is Jamie Tartt's father, James, with his two buddies. You'll recall that the last time Beard saw James Tartt, he was escorting him forcefully from the locker room. James, of course, is a bully and a coward, so now that Beard is outnumbered and isolated, James and his friends begin to beat Beard up. Again, during the beating, Beard's visions of the announcers return, as one of them announces that he thinks the real issue is that "Coach Beard hates himself."

This beating is getting pretty scary, and James has picked up a pipe, when all of a sudden, Beard is rescued. By whom? By Red Dress' boyfriend, who's been in pursuit this entire time. It turns out that he wasn't chasing Beard in order to hurt him in a jealous rage, at least not entirely. He was chasing Beard in order to return his wallet and his phone. And, for at least the third time in the episode, Beard dropped his keys, so RD's boyfriend is returning those, too.

The boys

When Beard emerges from the tunnel, he discovers a whole host of missed calls and texts from Jane, a bunch of which consist of her telling him she loves him and then, when she doesn't hear back, swearing at him and berating him because he's not responding. Other men are after her, she wants him to know. Beard shrieks miserably. (A lot.)

As he walks along a dark street wallowing, a limo pulls up. It's the pub boys, who explain that they made a lot of money playing pool against the Oxford boys — and even after they confessed to who they really were, the Oxford boys still invited them to "their country estate for Easter." Beard just wants to go home by now, but when the boys drop him off, he slips them a piece of paper with an address on it. He tells them that they should go to that address, and they should "tell Renee that Beard said it was OK." The boys take off.

Bronson Webb, Brendan Hunt, Adam Colborne and Kevin Garry manage to do what Cher could not.
/ Apple TV+
Bronson Webb, Brendan Hunt, Adam Colborne and Kevin Garry manage to do what Cher could not.

Churches

But when Beard tries to get inside his own home, his key breaks off in the lock. And, of course, it starts to rain. Searching for shelter, he finds the same purple neon cross that was in a selfie Jane sent him earlier, so he goes inside. In the church, Beard has a conversation with God in which he says that while he doesn't have any illusions that Jane is the answer to all his problems, he does feel like when he's with her, "the world just feels more interesting." Beard begins to hear a thumping in the church, but where is it coming from?

Before we find out, we return to the pub boys, who have found the address Beard gave them. A man comes to the door. They give him Beard's note. They follow him down a dark, dark tunnel, and at the end of it is a bright light. "Is that heaven?" Jeremy asks.

"No," Renee says. "It's Nelson Road." And he smiles. Because Beard has sent the boys to have private playtime on the pitch of their beloved home team. As "We Are The Champions" plays, the boys take shots on goal, slide in the grass, run, shout and embrace each other. Coach Beard, who has spent this entire night trying to escape his own misery and failing, has done what some people do best in those circumstances: He has succeeded by giving joy to someone else.

Jane

When we return to Beard, he's making his way through the church to what turns out to be a hidden nightclub. And not just any nightclub: one with music and a DJ and costumes and acrobats hanging from the ceiling. Beard makes his way through the crowd, looking a bit stunned, and then slowly, you see him begin to bounce to the music. And you can see all that he's carrying in his body, in his slumped shoulders, in the way he looks around at the people dancing. The music suspends everyone in anticipation of the drop, and then: the drop.

The way Beard dances, especially at first, is beautiful because it's unstructured: he's twisting, letting his arms hang, like he's forcing the misery of his evening out of the ends of his fingers. And then suddenly, Jane is there, and she gives him a hula hoop and says, "Try this on." And he does, and he hula hoops his way up onto a platform, and the people cheer for him. And then he is with Jane, and they are dancing together, and the world is, presumably, more interesting again.

The Diamond Dogs

And then, for the only time in the entire episode, we are at the Diamond Dogs' offices, where it's the next morning. Ted reassures Roy and Nathan that Beard will be there, because he's like the mailman: "He always delivers, and he looks great in shorts." Sure enough, Beard does show up, bringing coffee and dismissing questions about his rather rough appearance. Ted has an agenda this morning, and it's to watch the terrible Man City game. Nobody wants to, but it turns out Ted has a special plan. And that special plan is to watch the game at 10 times its original speed while the music from Benny Hill plays.

Beard, still in his sequined pants, puts his feet up on his desk, pulls his cap down over his eyes, and resumes his position as a man who listens more than he talks.

Game Analysis

When the Christmas episode aired, we learned that the writers of Season 2 originally wrote the season with 10 episodes, and then Apple expanded it to 12. That put them in the position of adding two episodes that wouldn't interfere with the — as we discussed last week — carefully serialized season they had been assembling. This is the second of those two "added" episodes, and I expect that it, too, will be polarizing. Like the Christmas episode, it doesn't advance any of the plots that were bubbling at the end of "Man City" — Roy and Jamie, Ted and Sharon, Rebecca and Sam. And yes, that interrupts the narrative momentum that's been building. But the flip side is that it's a chance to play around with tone (if Christmas was sweeter than most Ted episodes, "Beard After Hours" is more experimental, magical, dreamlike) and to see characters step out of their usual narrative functions. That would probably never have happened absent this scheduling quirk.

Beard, the vast majority of the time, reacts to Ted. That's what his job is, and aside from a couple of big scenes — like the time when he pointed out to Ted that prioritizing Roy's feelings over the team's interests was not as kind as Ted was pretending it was — he doesn't drive the story.

And yet, here we are. Beard has a lot going on. He's troubled by the possibility that he's failing as a coach because he won't stand up to Ted, but he's also haunted by voices that accuse him of hating himself, of thinking himself unworthy, of having no self-esteem. Despite all the time he spends with the upbeat Ted, this is not a happy guy.

This episode is kind of a talker, one of those that it's fun to break down with your friends after the fact, and my interpretations of it are no better than anyone else's. (I also secretly suspect someone will eventually reveal a grand theory that will make me go, "That's what it is!" and I salute that person in advance.) One of the things I find interesting about it is that the surface signifiers are at odds with the emotional story. For instance, this episode uses the classic romantic structure of a long night of searching that finally ends in a joyful reunion, but it's in service of a relationship that still seems quite toxic.

Because ... Beard should break up with Jane. Higgins is still right. For one thing, as soon as Jane doesn't get the response she wants from Beard, she turns nasty and spiteful. Again, the surface story, which is about her finally declaring that she loves him and then about them finding each other, is in conflict with the real story, which is that Jane is ... not very nice. The power of the scene where Beard dances in the club isn't that it's a beautiful romantic climax. It's that it's an explanation of why he cannot seem to extricate himself from this bad relationship. What makes the worst relationships so dangerous is that they have elements that feel good that are very hard to get elsewhere. Beard knows that; he tells it to God. What's concerning isn't that Jane makes the world seem more interesting; what's concerning is she's the only thing that does. That doesn't take away from the joy of the dancing; it just tells you that even happiness is complicated.

On the one hand, this episode is in a great tradition of out-all-night adventure movies — not the least of which is After Hours, as I was reminded by one of my pals during a discussion of this episode. (Always cool when you remember Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and forget the movie that's referenced in the episode title, but look: we're all tired.)

But on the other hand, it's more opaque than most; you can spend a lot of time turning over in your mind all the little things that invite interpretation. For instance, in a story that's kind of mysterious and magical, why is there this repeated bit about Beard's keys? Jeremy returns them at the pub, Red Dress returns them in her apartment, and her boyfriend returns them after he rescues Beard from James. Eventually, Beard even breaks his key off in the lock. You could read all this as meaning that he doesn't really want to go home, or that he can't really go home, or that home isn't the right place for him. It may well have a neat answer in the minds of the writers that I'm completely missing; I don't know, and honestly, that's not my business. To me, it underscores how lost he feels. He keeps literally losing his way home.

This episode gives the great and good Brendan Hunt (one of the show's creators/writers) a welcome showcase, obviously, but it also underlines the fact that all the people who make up the show's world, including the players and the fans and Mae and the referees, exist outside of Ted's story and outside of his view. The Christmas episode did that, too: It stressed that Ted is not the source of everything for his team, not even all the warmth or all the positivity.

It also gives the pub boys, who are so nicely played by Adam Colborne (Baz), Bronson Webb (Jeremy) and Kevin Garry (Paul), a chance to do something besides stand at the end of the bar and yell, and that's a beautiful thing, too. They really know how to flex the apparently enormous music budget of this show, and just as they used a couple of epic songs at the end of "Man City," they go all-in with "We Are The Champions" here. This was the moment in the episode that brought me to tears (!), because as we've discussed, this show is a knot of love stories, and the boys' love of Richmond is pure and constant, even as the team has been through relegation, even on the heels of a humiliating loss. Where Jane's love collapses when she doesn't get her way, this love is genuinely unconditional, and that's one of the things that makes fans vexing and fascinating.

The Week In Beard

Peak Beard

"Thank you for helping me relive that."

Analytical Beard

"I've been to Vegas many times. One night is good, two nights is perfect, three ... is too many."

Coach Beard Noise of the Week

If you didn't know it was the long shrieks after he realizes he missed all those messages from Jane, then we have learned nothing together.

Stealth MVP of the Week

I love all the pub guys, I really do. But I must single out Kevin Garry as Paul, who manages to be so funny as the guy who constantly surprises you by asking about the infinite universe but also is a ball of delight on the pitch. Just the physical comedy between him and Hunt when they're outside trying to avoid the front-desk clerk is so, so silly. Love that guy.

Assist of the Week

I mean, it's obviously whoever designed the pants.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.