Wait, Was Ted Lasso on Shrooms When He Cooked Up His Winning Strategy?
Triangles! Van Gogh! Barbecue Sauce! Oh My!
Things haven’t been going all that well lately for Ted Lasso. The eponymous coach/lovable midwesterner has spent season three of Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso in a bona-fide funk: homesick and missing his young son Henry, betrayed by the fact that his ex-wife is now dating their marriage counselor (ouch), and to add insult to injury, his team’s record has been worse than ever.
Though it looked the arrival of football superstar Zava might turn things around for the team, he left almost as quickly as he arrived, leaving Ted still struggling to find a strategy that could take the Greyhounds to a win. So, when this week’s episode took Richmond & Co. to Amsterdam for a friendly football match and the promise of one wild night out, it seemed like Ted would be the only one staying home to lick his wounds—that was, of course, until Beard and his suspicious tea entered the picture.
If we learned anything from last season’s standout episode “Beard After Hours.” it’s that Ted’s assistant coach Beard is a certified professional when it comes to wild antics, so it should come as no surprise to anybody that he’d have nabbed some … ahem … special herbal tea to make his one night in Amsterdam all the more exciting. Of course, Beard got up to his own devices, but not before leaving Ted with a glass of tea for himself, which Ted eventually ended up drinking after some deliberation. What ensued? A bizarre, trippy, seemingly drug-fueled trip/dream sequence where Ted ventures out to an American-themed restaurant and has a triangle-centric breakthrough about Richmond’s new winning strategy.
I’ll be honest: When we first saw Ted drink the tea, I was a little wary of what might go down. He hasn’t exactly been in a healthy or stable mental space lately, and taking any kind of psychedelic drug is hardly what the doctor ordered if you’re already unstable. Ted indicates as much to Beard (and besides, he’s a homegrown Kansas boy, and not really the shroom type) but eventually ends up taking the plunge anyways, unable to get out of his own head. Once the effects of the tea start to kick in, Ted wanders around a Van Gogh museum and ponders the sunflowers before making his way to the key setpiece of the evening: an American-themed restaurant.
All season long, we’ve watched Ted fall further and further into a longing to return home. Whether it’s to Henry, his ex-wife, the familiarity of the States, or a combination of the three, it’s no secret that Ted is one bad day from hopping on a plane and high-tailing it back to Kansas. So, what better (or worse) place could a homesick American on psychedelic tea find to hole up for the evening than an American-themed bar, complete with faux accents, regional decor, and barbecue sauce? At first, the mood is almost eerie— Ted (already a little woozy and out of it) seems mesmerized and longing for the familiar food and faces (especially after he hallucinates Nate as one of the boot-scootin’ waiters), and it looks as if things could go very bad very quickly.
But, lo and behold, once he’s had a mountain of fried food to remind him of home, we’s treated to what’s without question one of the most memorable, unexpected sequences of the season: a bizarre, abstract, drug-trip dream sequence where Ted finally cracks the code on how to coach Richmond to victory. The scene is a testament to the work of the Ted Lasso production design and visual effects teams, an impressive visual for a sitcom as the world around Ted fades away and his chair seems to be pulled back into a black expansive nothingness, where a stiff upper-lipped voice runs Ted through the history of triangles.
Ted, having been seated in the “Windy City” section (shoutout to my hometown!) catches a glimpse of an old Bulls game rerun on the TV, which sparks his subconscious into investigating the triangle offense strategy, which Michael Jordan and the Bulls used to win multiple rings in the ’90s. Granted, most of what ensues is just pure wild, bizarre fun—bisexual-colored fibonacci spirals (a hint to Ted’s arc down the line, perhaps?), illuminati pyramids, and inspirational Jordan footage—but there is a method to the madness. It’s like we’re finally, finally getting a look inside the bizarre, magical place that is Ted’s head. We’ve seen his coaching in action, but never really gotten to watch him come up with a strategy—until now.
Though it’s easy to get distracted by the fourth wall breaks, the vintage instructional video-type visuals, and the sheer outlandishness of it all, there’s a logic behind the unexpectedly delightful and out-of-the-box dream sequence that makes it feel earned and integral to the story, not just the writers having a good time (though I’m sure that was part of it). It’s all capped off by a playful, string-based score from Tom Howe, working in tandem with the already top-notch visual elements to create a truly memorable and unexpected sequence … but the truly unexpected thing about Ted’s tea-fueled trip? He was stone cold sober the entire time.
Of course, in typical Ted Lasso fashion, we got a curveball at the end of the episode when Beard reveals to Ted that the batch of drugs he’d put in the tea turned out to be bad, and had no psychedelic effects whatsoever. It’s a sweet, silly stinger to a sweet, silly episode, and perhaps the most effective testament yet to the Ted Lasso writers’ capacity for the delightfully unexpected.
(featured image: Apple TV+)
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