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Jamie Tartt Has Not-So-Quietly Become Ted Lasso’s Most Lovable Character

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With nearly three seasons under our belt, some fans may have found themselves growing a little cynical on the premise of Ted Lasso—that remarkable optimism and straight-laced midwestern kindness that made the show such a revelatory success in its first season has now somewhat soured some viewers. But while the series may admittedly have had some growing pains in its transition to hour-long episodes after spending its first two seasons as a half-hour comedy, it’s still a remarkably charming, well-written comedy, and it’s easy to take for granted its miraculous ability to reform or reshape virtually any character through the power of Ted and his “Lasso effect.” Back in season one, Jamie Tartt was one of the first true cases of Ted’s miracle methodology in action— after being introduced as a brash, shallow, self-obsessed young prodigy with no regard for the people around him, Jamie was slowly but surely reformed into virtually the complete opposite.

He’s spent the past two seasons not as the whiny, archetypical idea of a young buck football player, but a thoroughly charming, thoughtful character whose struggles to reconcile with his father center his more minor but no less effective role in the narrative. What’s so amazing about Jamie is that despite how much he’s changed, he’s still that brash, often cocky and bitchy player we all know and love. Now, though, that persona is layered with a genuine kindness and self-awareness that’s been instilled into him through love and support from Ted, Roy, and the rest of AFC Richmond. True, he may not be one of Ted Lasso‘s most prominent characters anymore, but even when he’s playing in the ensemble, Jamie Tartt is still a scene-stealer, just in a different way.

This week’s Ted Lasso felt (in many respects) like a return to form—an emulation of a season 1 episode, balancing actual football strategy with personal narratives in a way that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The theme of the week is versatility, as outlined by Ted, who is attempting to teach the Greyhounds a style of play called “Total Football” that he cooked up in a barbecue-filled drug trip in Amsterdam. The key, Ted says, is being able to adapt and be a jack of all trades, so the Richmond players spend the week running drills that test their ability to play in abnormal positions and be hyper-aware of each others’ needs.

Perhaps most memorably, this new strategy results in a comically sadistic drill from Roy Kent in which the players were tied together by their … ahem … genitals, as a way of making each other hyper-aware of proximity and positioning. But Ted, Roy, and Coach Beard’s Total Football drills also yielded another interesting scene, in which the players are given cards and told they’re swapping positions with each other. It’s played for comedy (like Beard and kit man Will swapping spots) but it also gives us a wonderful character moment for Jamie. While everyone else gets a name to swap with, Jamie’s card simply reads “Jamie”.

When he asks the coaching staff why he doesn’t have a partner to swap with, they reply that Jamie doesn’t need to learn from this drill and that he should just keep doing what he does best, and that’s scoring goals. Now, this would’ve been music to Jamie’s ears back in season one—while everyone else is shuffling to get used to a new position, Jamie gets preferential treatment because of his immense talent. But in the episode, Jamie is confused, and appears almost upset about not being included as a part of the team in this role-swapping drill—a hurt that eventually manifests itself in a breakthrough at the end of the episode.

When game time comes and Richmond faces off against Arsenal, the Total Football strategy doesn’t quite work out; everyone is confused and disoriented, as opposed to working as a unit. But, at halftime, Jamie makes a revelation, saying they need to be playing through him, not to him. Before even making the suggestion, Jamie initially demurs, saying he doesn’t want everyone to think he’s trying to insult the rest of the team. Yes, Jamie Tartt is worried about alienating others by telling them how to play the game. But with Ted’s (and the rest of the team’s) support that his ideas are welcome (a parallel to the harsh, icy treatment Jamie got from his father), he makes the breakthrough that his best purpose on the field is as a hub for communication, not as a simple striker.

As they take the field for the second half, Richmond still can’t quite pull out a win, but they do score a beautiful goal with Jamie playing middle man for pass after pass between Richmond. As an elated Trent Crimm observes in a particularly memorable scene post-game, Jamie’s suggestion is the final piece of the Total Football puzzle. At long last, Richmond has cracked the code, and it’s all thanks to Jamie Tartt and his willingness to not be the center of attention all the time. It’s certainly a sacrifice of ego that would’ve been impossible in earlier seasons, but even with how far he’s come, the episode still finds time to give Jamie little moments of snark and spirit (like exclaiming he was robbed when the team made a joke about his tenure as a contestant on Love Island) that help us never lose sight of the character at his core.

From his eclectic style to his unexpected sense of humor and his penchant for cartwheels, Jamie still has that spark that had us loving to hate him in season 1, and if anything, it’s more present than ever. Though Jamie may not be the knee-jerk MVP of Ted Lasso season 3 (unfortunately, he just doesn’t have that much screen time these days), it’s impossible not to fall head over heels for the ray of light that is Phil Dunster’s Jamie. A relentlessly lovable scene stealer, Jamie Tartt is the unexpected (or perhaps inevitable) heart of Ted Lasso.

(featured image: Apple TV+)

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Lauren Coates (she/her)is a freelance film/tv critic and entertainment journalist, who has been working in digital media since 2019. In addition to her writing at The Mary Sue, her other bylines include Nerdist, Paste, The A.V. Club, and The Playlist. In addition to all things sci-fi and horror, she has particular interest in queer and female-led stories. When she's not writing, she's exploring Chicago, binge-watching Star Trek, or planning her next trip to the Disney parks. You can follow her on twitter @laurenjcoates.