Ted Lasso: Carol of the Bells
August 13, 2021 12:11 PM - Season 2, Episode 4 - Subscribe

It's Christmas in Richmond. Rebecca enlists Ted for a secret mission, Roy and Keeley search for a miracle and the Higginses open up their home.

This episode is served with an excellent cheese board.
posted by Happy Dave (39 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Last week they established what felt like it would be the main driving plot of the season, and then this episode basically does not engage with it at all, and I did not mind in the least

Instead we just got a nice cozy evening of likable characters interacting with each other and having a nice time and it was just very pleasant

god damn I love this show
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:39 PM on August 13 [11 favorites]

I've never been more pleased after Sexy Christmas was taken away from me.
posted by memento maury at 6:47 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]

This is just what I needed! Christmas in August!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:16 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]

posted by tzikeh at 7:19 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]

and also

posted by tzikeh at 7:20 PM on August 13 [9 favorites]

When Ted was drinking whiskey and watching It's a Wonderful Life, I was worried the episode was going to a dark place. Instead it was delightful. Still, I can't but think that Ted's initial impulse is another hint that he's not quite as put together emotionally as he projects.
posted by synecdoche at 4:37 AM on August 14 [9 favorites]

To quote last season:

Nate: Is he OK?
Coach Beard: (laughing) No!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:23 AM on August 14 [11 favorites]

Ted is most definitely not in a good place and I'm curious where the season is going to take that (aside from a long-delayed visit to Doc's office, obviously.) In addition to the big hints (like spending Christmas alone drinking whiskey and identifying with George Bailey on the bridge), he's been acting like his bubbly positivity has been on autopilot all season so far. I'm grateful for the big hints because otherwise I'd be worried that Sudeikis and/or the writers just lost how to access the character, but I'm hopeful that this is going to go someplace worth following.

God Bless Me, Every One.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:28 AM on August 14 [6 favorites]

The Higginses are played by a real-life married couple, btw.

Wow, it's been over a decade since I heard the "It's a Wonderful Life" reading that George died at the midpoint.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:06 AM on August 14 [4 favorites]

Ted is most definitely not in a good place

They've been hinting that something is going on with Nate, too, and I look forward to finding out more.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:10 AM on August 14 [6 favorites]

I have a feeling the team is going to see some painful personnel changes.

Last season someone said that teams that get relegated get broken up. This season we learned via Nora that they're paying Premiere League salaries for Championship League players. They're likely to lose their Dubai Air sponsorship. And then Higgins's toast about found family and most importantly being Richmond....

I think that all adds up to some ominous foreshadowing.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 5:51 AM on August 15 [7 favorites]

Keeley is, yet again, making very very sensible sacrifices, suggestions, inferences, and statements -- so admirable!!
posted by brainwane at 10:23 AM on August 15 [4 favorites]

So definitely a bottle episode, with the second half and especially the finale bordering on saccharine sweet fan service. Still enjoyed it a ton.

Some moments hinted at what I think are likely to be the broad themes in S2

- Ted's drinking whiskey and watching the bridge season from It's A Wonderful Life when he's unable to spend the usual Christmas with his kid
- Nate revealing that his father "hates everything"
- Keely admonishing Roy to stop being a knob head for his immediate classic Angry Guy Dad (Uncle) reaction of...going to beat up a child

Basically Nate / Ted / Roy all need to deal with some issues that involve Dads.

I love the Higgins Clan so much, and it was great to see Sam really coming out of his shell even more.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:25 PM on August 15 [4 favorites]

Also also the "ussie - mental - wicked" guy being family of the dentist Roy finds was SUCH A PAY-OFF
posted by tzikeh at 2:38 PM on August 15 [11 favorites]

oh! I also loved when one of the other nigerian players brought the traditional dish but with goat meat, and how happy Sam was. It was on that lovely long tracking shot down the table near the end, and I missed who the other player was.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:08 PM on August 15 [6 favorites]

but I'm hopeful that this is going to go someplace worth following.

I've never trusted a team of writers more than Ted Lasso's, and am confident that this is the case.

Also also the "ussie - mental - wicked" guy being family of the dentist Roy finds was SUCH A PAY-OFF

ABSOLUTELY--my wife noticed that the 'ussie' guy and his dentist mom actually look a lot alike, and, well, 'ussie' guy is played by Bill Skinner and the dentist is played by Claire Skinner (who has a 22yo son named William), so that's a neat bit of casting there, too.
posted by LooseFilter at 4:27 PM on August 15 [6 favorites]

I would like there to be a reason for Rebecca to sing in each remaining episode because Hannah W’s extraordinary voice is a gift to the world.
posted by pjsky at 8:24 PM on August 15 [3 favorites]

Aha! The non-continuity of this episode is because it was added after the original 10 were already planned:
The installment was a late addition to the season, which Apple expanded to 12 episodes after the writers room had finished breaking its planned 10. They seized the opportunity to revel in two standalone episodes, with “Carol of the Bells” positioned between “when s— goes down and is about to go down,” said the episode’s writer, Joe Kelly.
So it looks like episode 5 will pick up the sponsorship/protest story thread. (That article also features the first on-record comments from show co-creator Joe Kelly that I've come across.)
posted by LooseFilter at 9:01 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]

Clearly in the minority on this one but it definitely seemed like "filler". Boring, disjointed and cheesy. We almost turned it off in the middle but I thought maybe something interesting would happen by the end, but no.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:15 AM on August 16 [5 favorites]

I don't think filler exists in character driven shows. We just got to spend some bonus time with these people.

I'm very glad they turned up the cheese to full "special Christmas episode" levels. I was honestly expecting something amazing from Dani Rojas (Dani Rojas!), but the song at the end was more than acceptable.
posted by Acari at 1:58 PM on August 16 [7 favorites]

This episode had so many of what I now recognize are classic Ted Lasso moments of anticipating that something bad is about to go down (like "rowdy football players get drunk and trash wholesome family holiday party" or "everyone in Phoebe's school now knows she was looking for a dentist and makes fun of her") and then having something delightful happen instead! It felt like filler but it was nice filler. I'll take it.
posted by rivenwanderer at 2:27 PM on August 16 [2 favorites]

From the LA Times article linked above:

“Writing for ‘Ted Lasso’ means writing conflict without one-dimensional villains who show up to do horrible things because they’re evil and want to rule the world or whatever,” said Kelly. “The only ‘villain’ in this episode is depression, which really is a powerful villain in real life. The idea that Rebecca swoops in and helps defeat that for Ted for a moment is so sweet...”

Great now I'm getting teary-eyed reading an article ABOUT the show that makes me teary-eyed
posted by rogerroger at 3:19 PM on August 16 [7 favorites]

“Writing for ‘Ted Lasso’ means writing conflict without one-dimensional villains who show up to do horrible things because they’re evil and want to rule the world or whatever,”

Don't tell him about Rupert.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 7:36 PM on August 16 [4 favorites]

If anyone hasn’t read it (I looked but couldn’t see it posted in any earlier threads), Cat Valente’s Patreon post about Ted Lasso is a pretty good summary of how and why I enjoy the show too.

Particularly the phrase ‘Trojan Horse of Hope’.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:40 AM on August 17 [1 favorite]

"We could turn this moment of tension into real conflict, as we are obviously very talented writers, but we will just motion at it and then say 'just kidding we're all friends here'" is getting ever more frustrating. I hope the rest of the season really does put the characters through some actual stakes and obviously this is not part of it. But I also almost turned this one off.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:21 AM on August 17

"hope the rest of the season really does put the characters through some actual stakes"

Space Coyote: this is a genuine question: why do you want that?

I do not know much about the Iyashikei genre, but I love soothing low-key healing stories, partly because they feel like a breath of fresh air and a relief; there are so many other shows and books and movies etc. where things get tense and stakes-y (including stories that I like or love). Maybe there is a big Iyashikei element to this show, that's a genre or subgenre it's working within or with, in case that helps you try out a different lens on the show to enjoy it differently.
posted by brainwane at 8:53 AM on August 17 [7 favorites]

Space Coyote: this is a genuine question: why do you want that?

I'm obviously not Space Coyote, but: because we know they are actually going through some emotional stakes? Ted talks about contemplating suicide in this episode, and while the love and support of friends is extremely important I'm not sure that seeing Ted hand out charity while dressed as an elf really resolves that. There's a lot of heavy themes in Ted Lasso, clearly several people are dealing with trauma of various types. I'm not saying I want to see bad things happen or for there to be sad episodes, but steps toward acknowledging and working to solve some of these traumas that the characters we like are experiencing are far more meaningful to me than a fluffy Christmas special. I guess the short of it is that Ted is clearly in a bad place, and though a night out with a friend doing good deeds is lovely it doesn't really make Ted whole again, does it?
posted by oneirodynia at 10:53 AM on August 17 [5 favorites]

There is a bit of foreboding joy going on here and my spidey sense says Higgins might die. It’s just way too close to what they did with Buffy’s mom — the episode when she met a new man and got beautiful flowers and was just so happy, I was like, oh no, shit.

And it might tip Ted over the line. He’s definitely been on autopilot with the puns and jokes.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:51 PM on August 17 [1 favorite]

Space Coyote: hope the rest of the season really does put the characters through some actual stakes
brainwane: this is a genuine question: why do you want that?
Conflict, adversity, challenge are all ways towards growth. I want Ted, Rebecca, Roy, Keeley, Phoebe, the Higginses, Doc, Sam, and everyone in the show to experience growth. Doesn't have to be death or betrayal, might be depression or some other curveball. Part of the fun is seeing what's next.
posted by theora55 at 12:12 PM on August 18 [2 favorites]

I appreciate the responses!

The texture of this show lends itself to the occasional quiet healing story episode where no bad things happen; I'm reflecting on how much I enjoy those kinds of stories, how restful they feel (especially as breathers between higher-stakes episodes). But it sounds like there are people to whom they are not restful, especially if the sweetness feels artificial or manipulated/manipulative.
posted by brainwane at 8:36 PM on August 19 [3 favorites]

I do think it really helps to think of this episode in terms of:
1. It is a single chapter of a serialized whole
2. It was added as a one-off after the story was established for the season as a whole (and there's one other like that at some point too)

It seems potentially pretty canny for them to slot it in right after the main stakes have been established, so that you can have a sort of "one last hurrah" as the storm clouds gather on the horizon
posted by DoctorFedora at 1:39 AM on August 20 [1 favorite]

DoctorFedora, that's pretty much what Bill Lawrence (and every culture writer or industry insider who's seen screeners of the whole season) has been alluding to for the past couple of weeks on Twitter. The first three episodes were supposed to be released at once, like last season -- and like every other Apple+ show I've watched, so I'm not sure why that didn't happen here. Anyway, we were supposed to get all of that slow storybuilding in one big dose, then this episode and Rainbow are sort of the cresting of the roller coaster.
posted by palomar at 11:37 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]

Brit speak question. In Season 1, a Brit character referred to a parking lot, not car park. In the Christmas episode they were talking about Santa and saying Merry Christmas. I've always thought - from Brit films - Brits say Father Christmas and Happy Xmas.

Did the Lasso writers feel they had to dumb it down for the US audience? Or is it similar to what someone joked about the Soccer Saturday, Brits actually use the same words as Americans, they just make up something different to mess with us.
posted by NorthernLite at 4:48 PM on August 28

Father Christmas and Happy Xmas are both kind of old-fashioned British-isms - the UK is steeped in American culture enough that we’re gradually shifting towards ‘Santa’ and ‘Merry Christmas’ as the defaults.

Parking lot may have been a British character intentionally changing the reference because they’re talking to an American - were they talking to Ted/Beard? I believe a fair few of the writer’s room are from the UK, so I think it’s unlikely they’d have done it unintentionally.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:31 AM on August 31 [2 favorites]

The chemist has a sign that says “pharmacy”. I’m a USian, but lived in London for a year and that pulled me right out.
posted by gauche at 3:28 PM on October 5

Nah, you see both these days. I have a pharmacy in my village that uses Pharmacy on its signage.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:16 AM on October 7 [1 favorite]

They slipped a big penis joke in the Christmas episode! Sometimes I forget that even though this show might well be subtitled “Friendship is Magic”, it’s not a children’s show.
posted by Monochrome at 2:21 PM on October 9

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