What to Watch Verdict
A tumultuous penultimate episode that leaves a lot of loose threads to tie up next week.
The dance routine is much-needed levity
The continued focus on Sam
Keeley's incredible Vanity Fair photoshoot poses
It is keeping us guessing for the finale
Dr. Sharon Fieldstone and Ted scenes are always a highlight
Some of the Keeley and Roy conflict feels very contrived
Jamie's absence in his own storyline
Nate's arc is glossing over important elements
This post contains spoilers for Ted Lasso "Midnight Train to Royston.” Read our latest review here.
Penultimate episodes can be fraught, and in a season with this many ups and downs it should come as no surprise that the Ted Lasso writers have cranked up the tension to an almost unbearable level, amped by the 45-minute runtime that has become the norm in the back half of the somewhat divisive sophomore year. Well, the events of “Midnight Train to Royston” have put the proverbial cat among the pigeons as Ted’s (Jason Sudeikis) panic attack during the FA Cup quarterfinal becomes headline news, Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) has a big career decision to make and other unearthed secrets threaten the harmony of all at AFC Richmond.
Don’t let the jovial mood of the opening few scenes lull you into a false sense of security, because while Richmond is suddenly in a prime position in the Championship and dance routines are part of a Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles) fond farewell, there are plenty of obstacles to surmount before the end of the year.
Starting with Richmond’s good fortune, the winning streak has a lot to do with how Sam has been playing. This has caught the attention of Edwin (Sam Richardson), a billionaire from Ghana who offers Sam a rather tempting — and at first unspecified — role at a different club. At first, Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) assumes that Edwin is stopping by the club to make a bid because purchasing a sports team is what billionaires do. When she flatly refuses to sell, he explains he isn’t interested in buying AFC Richmond as there is only one player he has set his sights on. Someone performing like Sam would become the target of others, but the matter is made more complicated due to the secret romantic connection that is currently on pause.
Edwin takes Sam on a glorious day out comprising of museum trips and a restaurant pop-up serving Nigerian food that only exists because Edwin made it so. He wants to do good with the money he recently inherited and that means bolstering both Ghana and the entire continent. Edwin’s dream is for an African country to win the World Cup in the next 20 years and he believes that Sam can be a part of making this happen.
“You inspired the world to care about what’s happening at home,” Edwin observes about what makes Sam special beyond his athletic ability. He tells Sam to take his time regarding the offer and then follows this up by telling him he has 72 hours to decide.
On the way home, Sam is beaming when he phones his dad to give him this news, and the smile plastered across his face suggests he will be leaving at the end of the season. However, when he gets home, Rebecca is at his front door, and while she isn’t there to offer him an answer or ask him to stay, this will no doubt impact his decision. Selfishly, I also don’t want Sam to leave either — even if I’m still not as on board with this romance as Ted is.
Penultimate episodes are also for secret sharing, and Ted brings up Rebecca’s tendency to drop by at this time of year with a truth bomb. Last year it was regarding how much she initially hoped he would fail and now she is confessing about her relationship with Sam. Ted wonders what she will lay on him this time next year and I am already taking suggestions. She explains things with Sam are currently in limbo, but she admits she has lost all objectivity. Ted’s advice is to trust her gut and heart, which is relatively vague but useful nonetheless.
After his breakthrough last week, Ted is preoccupied with making plans for Sharon’s going away party that involves an excellent dance routine by the team set to ‘N Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye.” He is flummoxed when he finds out she has already left and rather than saying farewell in person there is a stack of letters for each player and staff member she treated. Ted blows up at this and only takes his letter when Higgins (Jeremy Swift) nails a perfect pun.
“Midnight Train to Royston” is named after the Hertfordshire destination Sharon is headed to (it is only an hour trip from central London so hopefully we will see her again), but Ted manages to catch her hours before she boards. His fury is visceral and he can’t believe after everything that this is how she chooses to part ways. In reaction to his petulant behavior, she calmly tells him that she is not comfortable with goodbyes and she put everything in her letter, which he hasn’t even read. He quickly discovers she has penned an excellent farewell and Sudeikis gives an impressive range of reactions to the words we never get to hear. He gives her the team's goodbye present and she takes him out for a drink or two with her new envelope stuffed full of cash. Sadly, she never gets to see the team doing their best marionette dancing, and then Ted also pulls a silent goodbye but leaves her one of his beloved army men.
The breakthrough Sharon had with Ted has been a backbone of the series and it is notable that she did not speak to the other members of the coaching team. If Nate (Nick Mohammed) had gone to see her then maybe the events in this episode might be different, but alas, he did not go down this path. He is frustrated about Ted taking credit for his idea, however, as the assistant, it isn't part of his job to grab the glory. Ego coupled with anger is a big issue and while Roy (Brett Goldstein) and Beard (Brendan Hunt) don’t care about credit, Nate has been brought up in a home that belittled or simply ignored his every achievement.
Nate’s storyline has been challenging to watch because his behavior has been really ugly at times and this doesn’t even account for him spilling Ted’s panic attack secret to Trent Crimm (James Lance). It is a huge betrayal — although Trent is doing a bad job as a journalist to not protect his source — and one that was hinted at last week when Rupert (Antony Head) was seen whispering in his ear. After the comments about his suit being from Ted, it is like Nate wants to distance himself from his boss and he does so in a particularly awful fashion with this leak.
He enlists Keeley (Juno Temple) to help him buy a new suit and it is ideal timing as she needs to pick up some looks for her Vanity Fair photoshoot — costume designer Jacky Levy understood the assignment with these outfits. When they settle on an all-black look (it is very Roy Kent), Nate tries to kiss her and it is extremely awkward. Keeley tries to brush it off as not mattering but he goes back into the changing room and spits at the mirror. It is thoroughly unpleasant and while it does fit with his trajectory this season, it also matters that race has been ignored. I am not expecting a deep dive into Nate’s identity per se, but that it hasn’t been mentioned even in passing throughout this whole arc is a huge misstep.
Another concerning area of plotting (for very different reasons) is Roy and Keeley’s recent seachange, which has shifted into uncharted contentious territory. My main issue here is the Roy side of the confession is rather contrived because while there was a vibe with the teacher, there is no way she doesn’t know Roy is dating Keeley. Firstly, she probably googled him and also, Phoebe would definitely bring up her uncle’s girlfriend considering how much time they spend together. Roy plays the very supportive boyfriend when he shows up to the photoshoot and manages to talk Keeley down from her insecurity spiral. “You are Keeley Fucking Jones: The Independent Woman” and he boosts her further by emphasizing, “The real you is fucking amazing.”
It is all going very well and I don’t think we have seen Roy smile this much in the entire run of Ted Lasso as when he is watching Keeley get photographed. During their smoldering couple shot she tells him about Nate and he, in turn, shares the fact he didn’t tell the teacher he was taken. This gives Keeley the chance to bring up Jamie’s (Phil Dunster) confession at the funeral and this is met with very stony silence and a tense final few photos. I think it is good to have conflict and even though I gripe at the idea of this love triangle it would make more sense if Jamie’s presence wasn’t so on the periphery. This is just another element thrown out of balance for the finale.
With one episode left to go, Richmond is on the precipice of returning to the Premier League and the pedant in me really needs to see their results and the league table. Even if they lose they could score a playoff spot, but promotion is not guaranteed that way. Regardless of the soccer game, there is a lot on the AFC Richmond plate in the locker room and the lack of harmony will impact the result — and even Sam’s decision.
Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.