A Christmas episode feels out of line in more ways than one.
This recap of Apple TV+s Ted Lasso season 2, episode 4, “Carol of the Bells,” contains significant spoilers.
It took over a dozen episodes for Ted Lasso to produce something less than pretty good, but all good things must eventually have a flop or two. It’s not that having a Christmas episode air in August is necessarily a bad idea (it could have been charming), but that the episode epitomizes the worst traits associated with the holiday and special episodes: minimal tension, a story that feels like it was written in the thirty minutes before the writers went on vacation, lurking darkness quickly quelled by holiday cheer, advancement of season arcs sacrificed to make way for thirty minutes of nice vibes.
Ted Lasso season 2, episode 4 recap
An opening sequence followed by a cute, if unmotivated, animated title sequence sets up some of Carol of the Bell’s storylines (if you can even call them that). Higgins’ family regularly hosts players who don’t have nearby family, but only a few show up. The twist in the storyline is that this time… many people will show up (and if that’s not what you call underwhelming I don’t know what is).
Ted is set to do Christmas with his son over FaceTime, which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t last long. He begins to lapse into misery when Rebecca appears at his window. She takes him on a sort of Christmas goodwill tour, delivering presents and rewarding buskers in what could be an inversion of their dynamic if the episode actually bothered to do anything interesting with them. The closest we get is Rebecca admitting that she decided to ditch her plans and spend time with Ted as she knows from firsthand experience how tough a post-divorce Christmas can be. It’s a sweet moment that reminds us what these characters have in common, it’s just a shame that it’s just that, a single moment.
The storyline that has the most meat on its bones revolves around Roy and Keeley, whose sexy Christmas plans are put on hiatus while they take care of Phoebe, who is upset after a boy from school made fun of her bad breath. Her two surrogate parents attempt to cheer her up but instead discover that this is no mere bullying; Phoebe has a serious case of halitosis. They set off in search of a dentist, eventually finding one who links Phoebe’s odor to cat-related antihistamines. Unfortunately, the only solution is to get rid of the cat, which Phoebe is not happy about.
To cheer her up, Roy concocts a Love, Actually parody to confront the boy who hurt her feelings. They stand outside the door holding signs until he apologizes, and Phoebe feels much better. It’s probably the closest thing the episode has to a satisfying payoff, but like the other storylines, nothing much really happens. We already know Roy is an A+ Uncle, willing to sacrifice his plans for Phoebe. Similarly, Rebecca has already shown her benevolent side this season, and Higgins, well, Higgins doesn’t really do anything besides host a nice meal.
That speaks to the overarching problem of ‘Carol of the Bells;’ every storyline is a C-story, or a facsimile of a better Ted Lasso storyline, with very little thought given to it. For instance, why would Roy decide to knock on doors to find a dentist, when I’m sure he and Richmond have one they can easily contact. Does Rebecca actually have plans? Why did she go on this tour with Ted? There’s no real setup to the players showing up at Higgins’ house en masse, and there are no stakes to it.
It all ends with some Christmas karaoke outside the Higgins’s that feels more like the culmination of a charity special than an actual episode of an Emmy-nominated TV series. One could definitely argue that Lasso, being a “nice” show, should excel in this low-stakes exercise in kindness, but I’d push back on that initial premise. Ted Lasso (as I’ve tried to discuss in these recaps) has a lot more going on underneath than that assessment. At its heart, it’s about putting up a brave face in a world that is constantly trying to beat you down, about the efforts and the limits of kindness. “Carol of the Bells” feels like it’s written for the naive interpretation of the show. There are acts of tenderness, but nothing more. Even if it were aired in December, it would still feel like reheated turkey.
- Beard going to a Pagan Christmas ritual at Stonehenge with his ex (they bought tickets before the breakup).
- “Sam, back home what does Christmas mean to you.” “Colonisation.”
- “What have you got to be sad about. Did one of the paw patrol dogs die?”
- “Santa’s true power is not his speed, but his endurance”
- The “ussie” teen returns!
What did you think of Ted Lasso season 2, episode 4? Comment below.