‘Ted Lasso’ Recap, Season 2 Episode 9: Beard Has a Late Night

Season 2, Episode 9: ‘Beard After Hours’

And now for something completely different.

So … we waited through eight episodes for the revelation last week that finally gave this season a clear arc: Ted’s father committed suicide when he was 16, and he has definitely not figured out how to deal with it. He and Dr. Sharon Fieldstone have significant work to do — probably on her mental health as well as his.

In that same episode, the mismatched lovers Rebecca and Sam apparently hooked up, a development that will presumably have significant consequences. And Nate was still on a psychological journey to the dark side that seems likely to soon turn him into the English Premier League’s Kylo Ren.

And this week? No reference whatsoever to any of those story lines. No Rebecca, no Sam, no Keeley, no Higgins. Just a few book ended moments of Ted and Roy and Nate.

Just last episode, it seemed a little cruel to me that the showrunners required Sarah Niles (who plays Sharon Fieldstone) to learn to ride a bike for her part and then had her hit by a car.

But this seems crueler. At the very least, there are more of us getting run over, narratively speaking.

This week’s bottle episode is titled “Beard After Hours.” Its name is a reference to Martin Scorsese’s 1985 black comedy “After Hours,” starring Griffin Dunne and Rosanna Arquette.

Now, if you wanted to film a stand-alone episode with virtually no connection to what came before or after, “After Hours” is a fairly intuitive choice for inspiration.

The film is about a man who spends an entire night wanting nothing more than to get back home — to uptown Manhattan, from SoHo, where he is trapped — but whose goal remains elusive for 90-odd minutes. The plot is, by design, a narrative parenthetical that takes place when everyone else is sensibly asleep.

And, as the writer John Brown Spiers proposes for The Gist, that’s just what the writers of “Ted Lasso” apparently wanted. Apple had initially placed an order for 10 episodes for Season 2 but then upped the request to 12 after the season’s arc had already been planned. The first stand-alone addition was Episode 4, “Carol of the Bells,” the cheery Christmas tale that doubled as an extended riff on “Love Actually.”

Despite my status as a pre-eminent hater of “Love Actually,” I thought that episode worked pretty well: The many references (Elton John’s Christmas party!) were delightfully meta, and while the episode was a bit saccharine, its overall tone was mostly in keeping with “Ted Lasso” in general.

“Beard After Hours,” by contrast, is frankly bizarre. I love Coach Beard (played by Brendan Hunt, who is also one of the show’s writer-creators) as much as anyone. But his appeal has always been that he is somewhat at the margins, a sardonic observer whose lines tend to be brief but beautifully written and exquisitely underdelivered.

An entire episode focused on him, with virtually no participation by the rest of the principal cast — we do get a bit of Mae and substantial screen time for the AFC Richmond superfans played by Kevin Garry, Bronson Webb and Adam Colborne — is, simply put, a different TV show. Not a bad one, but not remotely the one we have come to expect after 18 episodes.

There is, as always, plenty to like. The early “Moonrise Kingdom” joke tickled me almost beyond words. The exponential increase in pint glasses when Beard first hangs with the Richmond fans is, likewise, a nice touch. And the moment when the Richmond fans get to visit the pitch at Nelson Road (to the tune, of course, of “We Are the Champions”) is a marvelously “Ted Lasso” moment, maybe the best of the episode.

But the rest? Color me confused. I’m largely going to skip my usual scene-by-scene analysis because almost nothing in this episode seemed to meaningfully relate to anything else in the show. That near-final scene with Beard at the nightclub with the hula hoop? If you can help me out, please feel free.

As for the episode’s quasi-inspiration, “After Hours”: I was not a fan when I originally saw the film as a teenager. Watching it again — I did this so you don’t have to! — I still did not much enjoy it. (Although I was reminded that the world was a notably better place when Teri Garr was a part of our public life.) I did, however, far better appreciate that the film was in essence a lengthy, reasonably intriguing exploration of male sexual anxiety.

This obviously relates to Beard’s never-ending drama with Jane. But although the episode borrows its premise from “After Hours” and throws in occasional references — the focus on house keys, Beard’s getting a pair of silly pants (for Griffin Dunne, it was a shirt) — it never really embraces “After Hours.” At least not the way it embraced “Love Actually” or, in the subsequent episode, rom-coms generally. There’s no “Surrender, Dorothy!” or skeleton tattoo or “mohawk night.”

Which is probably for the best. “After Hours” is an exceptionally bad tonal match for “Ted Lasso” — again, far worse than “Love Actually,” though in the opposite direction. The film is a bitter comedy, with sexual politics that look significantly more unpleasant 35 years later.

Has “Ted Lasso” earned itself an indulgence like this off-key, off-plot, moderately interesting misfire? Absolutely. But that still didn’t make it a good idea.

Odds and Ends:

The moment that felt the most “Coach Beard” in this episode was when he was at the bar and the Richmond fans asked him a trifecta of questions about Las Vegas, Ted Lasso and “the fragility of life.” His first two answers were excellent. But his announcement regarding the third, “yeah, I got a few thoughts,” was perfect. (Also, it was perfect to have skipped ahead from there. Nothing Beard might have said could have possibly been as good as what we can imagine him saying.)

The legendary Arsenal striker Thierry Henry — he’s one of the commentators in Beard’s dreams/visions — has a magnificently wicked line tucked in there: “He would need a pep talk to kill himself, and I would love to give him that pep talk.”

I strongly suspect that I missed multiple references in this episode, in part because I was so focused on “After Hours.” Hit me with what you have in the comments. In the meantime, in addition to those noted, I will add Cher, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” and a repeat of last week’s wonderful Anne Lamott “Bird by Bird” reference — thanks to everyone who pointed that one out!

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