DISCLAIMER: This recap of Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 7, “The Strings That Bind Us,” contains spoilers. Proceed at your peril.
Welcome back, Diamond Dogs! “The Strings That Bind Us” is ebullient — Ted Lasso at its most joyful and endearing. It buzzes with vim and vigor and pulsates with earnestness. Thematically, it encapsulates much of what Ted Lasso stands for: community. We see the Greyhounds come together to work as one, from helping Sam clean up his restaurant after that blatant hate crime to being bound by their penises, with only red string between them. Note: Ted and Rebecca, our soulmates, wear red in this episode. I’ll let you do with that info what you will. The episode is chock full of hilarious gags, fun callbacks, nuanced performances and beautiful character moments.
Ready to delve into “The Strings That Bind Us”? Let’s get to it.
We open with the London shops preparing to greet the workday. Jamie (Phil Dunster) trains hard by pulling Roy (Brett Goldstein), a newly christened biker, on his bike. Nate (Nick Mohammed) stands outside Taste of Athens and waves at Jade (Edyta Budnik), and the two share a cute moment. Jack (Jodi Balfour) and Keeley (Juno Temple) meet for coffee before work. Jack gives Keeley a first-edition copy of Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Jack even signs it as Jane, writing, “You go, girl!” I’m torn — the intention is pure, but writing in a first edition is sacrilege.
Meanwhile, Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) sets aside a special table at Ola’s for a VIP guest that weekend. He finds Simi (Precious Mustapha) fretting over an article in the newspaper about the home secretary, Brinda Barot. Simi reveals Barot refuses to allow refugees into the UK. Sam confesses his nervousness regarding his upcoming VIP guest — his father. Simi hopes he can get into the country.
Next, Ted (Jason Sudeikis), Roy and Beard (Brendan Hunt) gather the Greyhounds for a PowerPoint presentation. Beard takes the team through the slideshow with his inherent flair and charisma. The guys learn about the history of Total Football and that they’ll be implementing it into their strategy on the pitch. Of course, there are protests aplenty, but Ted urges them all to hush their butts. He has faith it’ll work out. Hush all the butts!
Barbara (Katy Wix) notices the Sense and Sensibility first edition on Keeley’s desk. Keeley lets slip that Jack gave it to her on a date. She attempts to backtrack but methinks Barbara knows the truth. Nate gets a text from his mom about his sister Nicole’s birthday party. Side note: I love the text exchange preceding this one, where his mother tells Nate, “the internet is out,” complete with a photo. However, Nate replies it is merely “unplugged.” That is peak Mom Texting. Nate volunteers to make a reservation at Taste of Athens, but his mom reveals she’s cooking. Nate asks Siri how he’s supposed to know if a woman likes him. Siri blatantly replies that you can’t know. Damn. She’s brutal.
Then, Ted and Beard drink some pints at The Crown & Anchor. Beard tells Ted about Jane’s desire to incorporate pegging into their sexual repertoire, although he initially frames the bit as Jane wanting them to get married. Ted goes along with it. Baz (Adam Colborne), Paul (Kevin “KG” Garry) and Jeremy (Bronson Webb) approach the coaches. They believe they’ve gone too soft on Ted, and that’s why the Greyhounds are firmly enmeshed in a losing streak. Ted invites them to attend practice the following day so they can watch the team bring Total Football to the pitch. Is this a good idea? We’ll find out.
Meanwhile, Nate notices Jade isn’t at Taste of Athens and has a comical exchange with her boss. Ted, Roy and Beard head onto the pitch to train the boys in Total Football. Paul, Baz and Jeremy are already in the stands, where they eagerly wave to Ted. Drill Sergeant Roy busts out the “Whistle” callback to his early coaching days. If you recall, he’s allergic to certain metals, so he opts for yelling “Whistle!” whenever he wants the team’s attention. Roy demands the guys do a lot of running. A lot. They need to be in shape. Ted presents his four principles for TF: Conditioning, Awareness, Versatility and … whatever number four happens to be.
Later, Jack visits Keeley at work. Keeley tries to dim the windows in her office so that her employees can’t see her with Jack. When Jack addresses what Keeley did, the latter restores the visibility and is shocked when her employees are watching them. What transpires next is a humorous back-and-forth between Keeley and Jack as our fave PR boss turns the dimmer on and off in quick succession. Finally, Jack gives them privacy. Keeley reveals she doesn’t like keeping secrets from people. She wanted to conceal their relationship because she wasn’t sure if they’d get in trouble. Jack reminds her they’re two consenting adults. Oh, and she’s get-away-with-murder rich. Not sure that’s a good thing… Anyway, Jack informs the office that they’re dating, which undoubtedly sweeps Keeley off her feet.
Meanwhile, the boys are vomiting on the pitch due to Roy’s running boot camp. That evening, Keeley and Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) have dinner. Rebecca tells Keeley about the mysterious Dutchman she spent the night with in Amsterdam. And, no, they didn’t have sex (although I was sure they did). Rebecca feels Jack might be “love bombing” Keeley. That’s how Rupert treated Rebecca in the beginning. Unfortunately, Rebecca ignored the red flags. She urges Keeley to exercise caution. The waitress reveals Jack paid for their meal — behavior that lends itself to said love bombing. Keeley introduces a new term to Rebecca: “love blind.” She and Rebecca see all red flags as green ones. I’d like to note that Keeley didn’t look too thrilled after learning Jack paid for their food.
Next, Nate is at his parents’ house for Nicole’s (Karen Johal) birthday. I love that he and his niece made a decorated box as Nicole’s gift. That’s a nice throwback to Nate’s suggestion box days. After Lloyd (Peter Landi), Nate’s dad, takes his niece to the corner shop for ice cream, Nicole and Maria (Neelam Bakshi), Nate’s mom, ask Nate about his dating life. Nate reveals he likes the hostess at Taste of Athens but is afraid to ask her out. Maria shows him the intricate map his father made for her when asking her to dinner for their first date. It’s adorable and gets the creative juices flowing for Nate.
Then, Sam and Simi watch a news segment featuring Brinda Barot ordering a refugee boat to “go home.” Sam posts a tweet, politely asking the home secretary to change her mind. Nate waltzes into Taste of Athens with every intention of asking Jade on a date. However, his anxiety kicks into high gear, so he excuses himself to the bathroom. While staring at his reflection, Nate changes tactics. I thought he would spit at his reflection like he usually does. I was pleasantly surprised to see the opposite — Nate smiled. That’s growth. Meanwhile, Ted reveals the team is switching positions for that day’s practice. Even Beard is taking Will’s place as kitman. By the by, Charlie Hiscock, who plays Will, does a pretty decent Beard impression.
Roy hands out pieces of paper to each player that reveals with whom they’re switching. Jamie notices he’s by himself. Ted assumes he’d want to keep working solo and scoring goals for them. Isaac (Kola Bokinni) gets to do a corner kick for the first time. Ted urges him to give it hell. We see Isaac kick the ball so far that it cracks the glass window outside Rebecca’s office, scaring Higgins (Jeremy Swift) and causing him to spill his tea. Comedy, folks. After practice, Sam reads Brinda’s response to his post, which is less than kind. Essentially, she tells him to keep his mouth shut and focus on football. What a nice person.
The following morning, Jade steps outside and looks for Nate when she notices he doesn’t visit her. Aw. After telling Jack they’re her favorite flower, Keeley finds daisies covering every inch of her office. More love bombing. Meanwhile, Roy implements a new exercise: he gives the guys red string so that they can tie their dicks together. Well, each pairing, that is. While the team puts the exercise into practice, we hear Roy laugh. It’s jarring. It sounds like a snake hissing. Of course, comedic hijinks ensue as the men veer off in different directions despite their stringy tethers, culminating in lots of painful groaning and clutching of the cucumbers. Roy continues hiss-laughing. Unsettling.
Suddenly, Jamie’s partner moves too far, yanking the string off Jamie’s little Jamie. The pitch goes quiet after some collective gasps. Everyone looks shocked, save Roy, who looks like a giddy child. Our grumpy sadist. Dani (Cristo Fernández) comforts Jamie in his moment of need. Thankfully, Jamie confirms all is well. Sam notices Brinda sent another tweet, calling him a mediocre footballer who should focus on playing for a mediocre team. Ouch. Sam fires back, claiming he’d rather be a mediocre player than a world-class bigot. Get her!
Nate creates his own gift box for Jade, leaning into the romantic gesture idea his father carried out for his mom. Keeley meets with Jack for coffee. She asks Jack to take her foot off the gas regarding the love bombing. Let Keeley do some nice things for her every once in a while. While delivering his gift to Jade, Nate trips and falls into the road. A car runs over said gift in true sitcom fashion. Nate forgoes the box route and asks Jade, point blank, if she’ll go on a date with him. She says yes! Sam enters Ola’s and finds it vandalized. The space is wrecked, with the phrase, “Shut up and dribble,” emblazoned on the side of the wall. Brinda’s bigoted followers are acting on her behalf, no doubt. An utter hate crime. My poor Sam is heartbroken.
Then, Trent Crimm (James Lance) tries to figure out Ted’s fourth principle. Ted claims he doesn’t know yet. It could be God, but it might not be. Who knows? Suddenly, Sam storms into the locker room. Isaac notes he’s late. Sam explodes, rightfully so, and claims that perhaps he should “shut up and dribble” instead of getting involved in politics, even though one day, the UK might try to send him back to Nigeria. Next, Sam’s father (Nonso Anozie) enters. Sam sees him and runs into his arms, sobbing. Give Toheeb Jimoh all the awards. What a vulnerable gut punch of a performance.
Sam’s dad takes him aside and comforts his son. He encourages Sam to consider reopening the restaurant and not to let Brinda and her racism deter him from living his life. “Fight forward,” he says instead of fighting back. I like Sam’s father. He also urges Sam to play, and he meets Ted. Later, we see everyone present for Richmond’s match against Arsenal. Higgins introduces Sam’s father to Rebecca. Mr. Obisanya claims Sam has told him quite a bit about Rebecca. This scene is hilariously awkward. Anozie and Waddingham’s reactions are golden. Keeley breaks up the awkwardness by letting out a Greyhound cheer.
Then, Ted and the team meet mid-match to regroup and discuss their game plan. So far, Arsenal is beating them three to nil. Ted delves into an anecdote about how he strove to be an “individual” during his early coaching days. We learn Jeff Foxworthy inspired him to don his signature mustache. We love a good mustache origin story. All this to say, sometimes a good idea hides behind a couple of bad ones. Jamie speaks his mind and diverts the guys’ attention to how they should play on the pitch. Instead of going to him, they should go through him.
Jamie maps it out for everyone. This is Total Football — going through, not to. Dani believes Ted’s fourth principle is “Sacrifice.” Jamie is sacrificing his usual mode of playing in favor of the team. Ted reveals it’s not it, but an excellent effort nonetheless. Everyone is on board with Jamie’s idea. That’s my boy. Side note: I love that, after Jamie voiced concern regarding giving his honest opinion, everyone flipped him the bird. Another fun callback.
Meanwhile, Nate waits for Jade to arrive for their date. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it looks like Nate is sitting outside near where we saw Roy and Keeley on their first date. Hmm. Nate texts his mom and asks how he’ll know if Jade stands him up. That’s when Jade makes her grand entrance. The pair sit down and start chatting. Speaking of Keeley, she sits at Nate’s favorite window table at the Taste of Athens with Jack. It’s her turn to treat Jack now.
The Greyhounds finally score a goal against Arsenal by employing Jamie’s method. The commentators describe him as a “conductor” during this play. While they don’t win, it’s a step in the right direction. Later, Sam takes his father to Ola’s. They’re both bewildered to find our Greyhounds cleaning the restaurant. Simi reveals they came of their own volition. Sam is incredibly touched by this gesture. His team came together to help him out. He introduces his dad to Simi. Papa Obisanya insists that Simi call him “Ola.” A-ha! Sam named his restaurant after his father. Excuse me; I’ve been cutting onions.
Ola offers to cook for the team, and Sam and Simi assist him in the kitchen. Later, we see the restaurant is clean, for the most part, with one giant table situated in the middle of the space. The Greyhounds eat, drink and are generally merry while Sam and Ola dance in the kitchen. Gah. This show is an instant serotonin boost.
I love the growth Sam, Nate and Keeley exhibited in this episode. Nate working up the courage to ask Jade out on a date and not spitting on his reflection. Sam standing against hate and doing the right thing. Keeley communicating her concerns in a burgeoning relationship. I still believe Roy and Keeley are endgame, though. I love that the show gives us bi Keeley, but Jack’s “love bombing” comes with red flags.
Giddy Trent is utterly adorable. I’ve enjoyed watching his growth over the past three seasons. He’s officially Richmond’s dork. He also mentions “The Lasso Way,” which is a nice callback to Rebecca’s referring to Ted’s methods as such in the pilot. He knows it’s all going to work out.
For those folks complaining this season “isn’t going anywhere,” or it’s too slow narratively, does it have to go anywhere? This show is character-driven to its core. These characters have evolved significantly since the first season. Jamie’s development is a prime example of this. I think we only need to see them living and growing together. That’s it.
“The Strings That Bind Us” reminds us that Ted Lasso is an authentic ensemble piece that wouldn’t work without its players. Every person matters. It feels like a warm hug on a chilly day — a nice midweek pick-me-up. I’ll miss it when it ends.
Ted Lasso drops new episodes every Wednesday on Apple TV+.
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