DISCLAIMER: This recap of Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 1, “Smells Like Mean Spirit,” contains spoilers. Proceed at your peril.
Welcome, Diamond Dogs! Our comfort show is back to mercilessly rip our hearts out and tenderly heal them in one fell swoop. Season 3 holds even more weight because it’s — very likely — the last season. Well, at least the final installment of this particular story. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll get a Ted Lasso cinematic universe (TLCU). I digress.
“Smells Like Mean Spirit” is a strong season opener, brimming with clever one-liners, seamless comedic timing, Easter eggs and brilliant performances. It’s a serotonin boost. One thing I love about this show is the meticulousness of its storytelling and the careful handling of its overarching narrative. Based on this episode, we’re in for a delightful final trip.
Ready to delve into “Smells Like Mean Spirit”? Let’s get to it.
We open with Ted (Jason Sudeikis) sitting at the airport with Henry (Gus Turner). I’m getting déjà vu since Ted’s journey in the pilot starts with him in the airport/on a plane. However, he looks less happy here. That might not bode well for the season.
Ted peers down at his phone when Michelle sends a text, saying, “I love you.” As it turns out, the phone belongs to Henry. Ted bids farewell to Henry as he boards a plane bound for the US after spending six weeks in London. Henry’s such a mini Ted. It’s especially evident after he tells his father, “Amen, Big Ben.” The rhyming. Ted advises Henry to steer clear of movies about creepy clowns in sewers (sound advice) and claims he loaded the latter’s iPad with more upbeat content.
On the ride back to his flat, Ted chats with Dr. Sharon (Sarah Niles). Sharon asks how he’s feeling post-Henry dropoff. We watch Ted clean up his flat while his phone therapy session plays out. The camera pans on a LEGO set of Nelson Road, complete with our main characters in LEGO form. Each one is easily identifiable — Ted, Rebecca, Keeley, Higgins, Roy, Coach Beard, and, surprisingly, Nate. However, Nate’s standing behind them. Aw. Ted still wanted to include him. Side note: Ted’s brief shower scene is reminiscent of the one from the pilot. Gotta love this full-circle moment.
Ted ends his session with Sharon by asking her personal questions, namely about the team in Australia she’s therapizing. Sharon keeps mum. Once she ends the call, we see Sharon in a silky robe. She opens the doors to a beautiful naked man in bed. He asks, “You finally got off?” To which she responds, “Not yet, I didn’t.” Sharon, you cheeky, cheeky lady!
Next, Ted barges into Rebecca’s (Hannah Waddingham) office, wherein she and Higgins (Jeremy Swift) are bemoaning all the pundits and media outlets predicting Richmond will finish dead last in the upcoming season. Ted hands over his daily biscuits (with the boss) as Rebecca makes him promise to fight back this season. They don’t want to face relegation by the season’s end after just getting promoted. Plus, Rupert’s going to rub it all in Rebecca’s face. It doesn’t help that West Ham United is in third/fourth place, while Richmond’s in 20th.
Rebecca wonders whether they should change the lineup. Ted reassures her Beard and Roy are hard at work re: brainstorming tactics, so their lineup is peachy keen. He also vows to ensure the team gives it their all this season. In the locker room, Sam (Toheeb Jimoh), Isaac (Kola Bokinni), Dani (Cristo Fernández), Colin (Billy Harris) and the team lament the media’s “prognostications,” as Rupert later puts it. Jamie (Phil Dunster) tries to comfort the guys. At least they have him. And he used to be a sexy little bab-eh!
Roy (Brett Goldstein) and Beard (Brendan Hunt) map out a 4-4-2 football formation on the dry-erase board. Roy insists this will allow the team to stay afloat in the season. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, but dependable all the same. Side note: I sorely missed Roy’s growling. Meanwhile, Nate (Nick Mohammed) pulls into his plush new parking space outside of West Ham. He enters his equally plus new office. The first thing he does he open Twitter and read all the posts about him. Some things never change.
Rebecca waltzes into KJPR, Keeley’s (Juno Temple) new PR firm. Our fave besties scream at each other before embracing. It’s now a comfort noise for me, that friendship screech. Keeley introduces Rebecca to her team. I love that Keeley was telling off Joe Rogan before Rebecca arrived. While showing Rebecca the amenities in her office, Keeley starts sobbing uncontrollably. She reveals she doesn’t have time for anything anymore. Rebecca allows Keeley to weep into her bosom. I bet it feels so safe and warm there. Not to sound like a creep.
Next, our coach trio watches while the team trains. Ted orders them to board the bus, where Kenneth the Bus Driver will take them on the road for practice. Last one there has to eat a small bug! Rebecca and Keeley eat lunch together and chat. Rebecca worries about her team, especially given their standing as they enter the season. Keeley urges her to let Ted be Ted, even though he isn’t stressing as much as he should. We see two giant mascara/eye makeup stains on Rebecca’s blouse from Keeley’s tears. Badges of honor. Just ask Higgins (and his permanently stained button-down shirt).
Barbara (Katy Wix, who you might recognize from the brilliant Stath Lets Flats), Keeley’s CFO, asks why Keeley is spending 200 pounds a week on flowers. Naturally, Keeley wants to brighten up the office, even though flowers are usually for dead people and dead marriages. Oof. Harsh, Barbs. Keeley reveals she’s meeting with Roy later to give Phoebe “The Talk.” Of course, my mind went to sex, which seems strange given her age.
Later, we see Nate in coaching action. He’s the night to Ted’s day. He belittles and demeans them, putting one of the players on “The Dumb-Dumb Line.” Rupert’s assistant, Ms. Kakes (Rosie Lou), calls Nate into the Big Boss’s office. Nate unites with Rupert (Anthony Head) in his office. I love the contrast between Rebecca’s and Rupert’s offices: Rebecca’s boasts a white/cream color palette, while Rupert’s space is black like Darth Vader. Good versus evil. Ms. Kakes reveals security is towing a shabby vehicle parked in a premium parking space.
As it turns out, said vehicle belongs to Nate. This scene unveils some of Nate’s inherent awkward tendencies that not even the Dark Side can wipe clean. Mohammed harbors excellent comedic instincts. Meanwhile, Kenneth the Bus Driver (Mark Kempner) takes the guys to a manhole in the city. He informs Ted and Beard he’s got a date with toad venom (a psychedelic) while the team hops down a manhole. The crew meets with Ivor (Edward Judge), who will give them a tour of the sewers. Two construction workers snap a photo of the Greyhounds climbing into the sewers of London. You know, normal football stuff.
Then, Rebecca and Higgins brace themselves for West Ham’s press conference, which they watch on Rebecca’s laptop. Ivor shows the guys the sweet-smelling, brightly lit sewers. Naturally, everyone wonders why Ted, Beard and Roy have brought them here. Nate sits in front of the press for the conference while Rupert watches from the sidelines. It’s abundantly clear Nate’s nervous.
Becoming overwhelmed, he ducks beneath the desk to collect himself. We see a flashback of scenes including Ted (and the framed photo Ted gave Nate) and Nate’s father. Suddenly, Nate spits — his go-to move. Usually, he spits on his reflection. This newly tweaked version of the spit is a subtle, nice detail on the writers’ part. Once Nate re-emerges, his excessive confidence (a façade, of course) takes root. He issues condescending remarks to the journalists there and insults Ted. Ew.
Next, Ted tells the Greyhounds why they’re in the sewers. Their minds are chock full of everyone else’s “dookie.” Ted launches into one of his signature inspirational monologues, encouraging the men to rely on each other when the going gets tough. Connect their sewer tunnels and take from each other what they need. Above ground, a photo of the team clambering down the manhole circulates the web. Nate openly mocks it at the press conference.
Later, when the guys get frustrated over what Nate said at the press conference, Jamie sagely reminds them it’s “just poop-eh” and to “let it flow.” When someone remarks that it’s “like the sewer,” Jamie replies with the perfectly Ted Lasso-an phrase: “Bingo, Ringo.” My heart. Ted’s leaving an indelible mark. Rebecca calls Ted to his office and begs the latter to fight back against Rupert. She scolds him for taking her team into the sewers and making them vulnerable to bad press. Ted’s aware of the nasty things Nate said, but he doesn’t plan on responding to those remarks.
Then, Ted sits down at his press conference, which is the polar opposite of Nate’s. Bright, joyous and lively. Ted compliments the journalists who ask him questions. There’s Marcus (Marcus Onilude), who got a promotion. He’s now of The Independent. Aw, I miss Trent Crimm and his glorious mane. Anyway, Ted’s asked to address Nate’s vitriolic comments. In true Ted fashion, and much to Rebecca’s consternation, Ted refuses to talk smack about Nate the Great. Yes, he still refers to the latter as such. Instead, Ted delivers a self-deprecating stream of jokes, urging the press to participate.
Nate watches the press conference on his laptop in disgust. He scrolls Twitter again and notices there are fewer positive posts about him. Next, his mother texts him and expresses pride regarding his press conference, while his father didn’t like Nate’s swearing. Ms. Kakes hands Nate a gift from Rupert — car keys. He’s got a swanky new vehicle. Nate gleefully drives it out of the parking lot.
Keeley and Roy feed Phoebe (Elodie Blomfield) ice cream before delivering “The Talk.” Plot twist: they’ve broken up. Well, we hear differing answers out of the gate, with Keeley seemingly wanting to hit pause while Roy insists it’s over. However, Roy emphasizes the end of their relationship. Phoebe asks why, and both claim their busy schedules are to blame. Keeley reassures Phoebe that they’ll remain friends. Phoebe delivers an extraordinarily thoughtful and mature response, handling the breakup like a champ. I, however, am not taking it like a champ. I don’t like this!
Once Roy and Phoebe depart Keeley’s place, Phoebe lets loose a swear word. She thinks their breakup is “stupid.” Phoebe asserts that Roy and Keeley are making a mistake. Hear, hear! Meanwhile, Ted and Beard walk to their flats. Ted wonders why they’re in London. What’s it all for? Nate’s remarks have affected him more than he wants to admit. That and everyone predicting AFC Richmond’s relegation and finishing dead last for the season.
Finally, Ted video calls Henry after learning he landed in the US. Henry and Ted talk about Nate and how he and Ted can still be friends despite not working on the same team anymore. Oof. If only Henry knew about Nate’s insults. Henry shows off a new gift from Michelle’s “new friend” — the Infinity Gauntlet as worn by Thanos. Ted reacts to his ex-wife having a new pal. We know what that means…
I love the contrast between Ted and Nate in this episode and how, despite their differences, their stories run parallel to each other. “Smells Like Mean Spirit” delves into Ted’s psyche as AFC Richmond enters the fray in its newly promoted state and the pressure that entails. I think this season will get introspective on us in that regard. Ted will question where he’s at in life, where he wants to go and who he wants to go with him.
I feel Nate has a shot at redemption. Nick Mohammed brilliantly peppers in mannerisms from the Nate we used to know, doling out a nuanced portrayal of a convoluted character. He wants to be loved because he can’t love himself. He craves it. Nate’s a man who’s in so much pain. I hope we see him redeemed by the end. Speaking of the end, Roy and Keeley better reunite by the series finale. These two are meant to be!
Do you think Nate will find redemption? Are Keeley and Roy broken up for good? How many times will I listen to Jamie Tartt say “poop-eh”? (The limit does not exist.) Only time, and more episodes, will tell.
Ted Lasso drops new episodes every Wednesday on Apple TV+.
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