- Creators: Jason Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly
- Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, Brett Goldstein, Nick Mohammed, Juno Temple, Brendan Hunt, Jeremy Swift, Phil Dunster, Sarah Niles
Warning: Reviews of Ted Lasso season 3 will contain spoilers.
The first thing you’ll notice about this week’s Ted Lasso is its massive runtime: one hour and three minutes. Of the twelve episodes in season three, seven were less than forty minutes. By contrast, only one of this season’s episodes has been under forty-five minutes. I can understand why most will be turned off at the prospect of watching an hour-long episode of a show that began as a traditional half-hour (by streaming standards anyway) sitcom, but Sunflowers may actually be one of the show’s best outings.
The episode is structured similarly to last season’s Beard After Hours, which isn’t exactly the vibe you want when going into such a long outing. After another Zava-less drubbing, Ted believes it’ll be a morale booster to forgo curfew and allow the team to do as they please for the night. And with Richmond in Amsterdam, it leaves open a world of possibilities. The team splinters off into its own subplots, so let’s run them all down.
First is the bulk of the team (Isaac, Danny Rojas, Sam, etc.), who spend the episode deciding how to spend their one carefree night in one of the wildest cities in Europe. Do they go to a crazy sex party or a private party DJ’d by Martin Garix? It’s been surprising, and a little disappointing, how little the show has developed the players this year; besides Jamie, we’ve barely spent any time off the pitch getting to know some of the lesser known characters. Anyway, the bits with the team were light and funny, and culminated nicely with some team bonding in the form of a pillow fight.
Besides Jamie, the one player that has received the spotlight is Colin. I was left wondering after 4-5-1 when we would come back to Trent Crimm and his knowledge of Colin’s secret, and how that secret would inevitably become public. After Colin sneaks away to a gay bar, Trent follows him and lets him know he shouldn’t be afraid to be himself. Or, at the very least, to let him know that he’s not totally alone. Their scene together on the canal was lovely, and was all the more remarkable considering we barely knew the inner lives of either of these characters before this week. And it fits in with what I said last week: that the show works best when it’s about having someone to fall back on.
Jamie and Roy’s scenes together didn’t really shed any new light on either of them, or subvert what we expected them to do, but it’s been a joy to see the show remember how great Phil Dunster is this year. He continues to be a reliable presence and is increasingly becoming the face of positivity regardless of what’s being thrown his – and the team’s – way. Plus he must have legs of steel because it seems he runs for what must be hours, after playing a full football match, and then rides a bike around Amsterdam???
Thank God Ted Lasso takes place in a comedy because, in another world, Rebecca’s subplot would make for some easy horror material. After she falls in a canal, a kindly Danish stranger offers his houseboat to dry off and shower, and the two spend a romantic night together. It mostly goes as expected if you’ve ever seen a rom-com before, and Rebecca doesn’t worry so much about what’s plagued her all season so far – Rupert, motherhood, Sam – but Hannah Waddingham and guest star Matteo Van Der Grijn just work so well together that I’ll give it a pass. Perhaps what Rebecca has needed all along is someone that has no idea of her status in life, and can love her for who she is.
I actually found Ted’s subplot to be the best of Sunflowers, even if it took the longest to get going. It would be illegal to have any movie or TV show set in Amsterdam and not include a drug trip sequence, so color me surprised that it would come from Ted and not one of the players. Though, unsurprisingly, Beard has his own trip off-screen. (Note to the Ted Lasso creatives: I do not need to see Beard’s version of this night, thank you very much.) Thankfully it’s fairly tame by modern standards, and the reveal that it was a placebo effect was a nice subversion.
Anyway, Ted ventures off to a Van Gogh exhibit, and it’s here where the episode really clicked for me. As the museum guide lectured about Van Gogh, and how he was able to find his passion – leading us to believe it’ll reinvigorate Ted to get invested in coaching again – all Ted can do is focus on the painted sunflower, and how it reminds him of Kansas. It’s not til he visits the corny American-themed restaurant that he actually finds a breakthrough, in the form of a new way to strategize for the season ahead. The show has been building towards giving Ted a way out and returning to the states, so to see him fully invested again was a fantastic way to make it less of an easy answer.
I wish I could find a way in to Higgins and Will’s (Charlie Hiscock) trek to the jazz club, but I just don’t see how it all fits within the rest of the episode. Trim these scenes from Sunflowers and you don’t lose much, unless the show has something more substantial planned for Will in future episodes. Would the episode have been more cohesive without it? Probably, but it doesn’t put a huge damper on the rest of the proceedings. Once again, Sunflowers doesn’t dabble too much in the patented Ted Lasso niceness or mental health, even if it does literally end with a group sing-along of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.” Outside of Ted, I don’t know if anything within the episode will have much weight on the rest of the season, and that’s just fine with me. When you have great character moments like you do here, everything’s gonna be alright.