This is Phil Dunster’s season and he’s positively running away with it. The strongest episode of the season by a good mile, Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 11 allows its best character to shine and develop even further, and in doing so allows for others such as Roy (Brett Goldstein) and Keeley (Juno Temple) to have more fun than they’ve had the entire season. Introspective throughout its nearly tightly written script, the episode possesses other bright spots but it’s their number 9 player that cinches it.
From the jump “Mom City” is an obvious and necessary parallel episode of the season two episode “Man City.” The episode was the one to deliver the heartbreaking two-punch of Jamie’s confrontation with his abusive father, and later Ted’s (Jason Sudeikis) revelation that his father committed suicide when he was a teenager. Their trauma is once again mirrored in the penultimate installment of the series as they’re both confronted yet again with symbols and family from their past and meant to reckon with what it means.
In Ted’s case, the show lays it on a bit thick, indicated early through his holing up at the pub to play The Wizard of Oz-themed pinball machine. He wants — no, needs — to go home, a throughline to the entirety of the third season and exacerbated by the unexpected arrival of his mom. The conclusion to this arc was inevitable, but still, it’s handled with grace. Her inclusion allows Ted more closure as he allows himself to crack in a slight confrontation with his mom, telling her off for all the ways in which she let him down while simultaneously thanking her for all that she’s given and sacrificed to ensure he grew up happy and loved in the fallout of such tragedy.
Elsewhere, Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) plays out as the reciprocal of Ted’s well-tended kindness, as he goes to find Nate (Nick Mohammed.) Ted Lasso has always been a show about the gift and struggles of second chances and redemption, making sure to stress that even when they deserve to be given, the person handed it needs to make something with it. In Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 11, we’re given some of Beard’s backstory for the first time as he recalls how he was a benefactor of Ted’s kindness and his second chances, and that because of that he’s offering one to Nate too.
The moment works because Hunt sells it with a committed performance that leans into the livewire bravado of the character whose enigmatic habits have paved the way to the scene. He and Nate, along with most of the Richmond crew, have benefitted from Ted’s want to believe in people, and now they’re tending to that nurture in their own ways. As has been a gripe with the majority of the third season, the episode is yet another sign that the show needed to prioritize its stories better.
Looking back there’s no reason for Zava (Maximilian Osinski) to have been included, other than proving to be the impetus for Roy to coach Jamie, something that could’ve stemmed from some other narrative point. Keeley’s relationship with Jack (Jodi Balfour,) similarly, was too flimsy in its approach, relegating her to three seasons worth of primary character work being tied to romantic endeavors.
Too much of season three is fodder and half-baked storylines that did little to advance dynamics — romantic, platonic, whatever the hell else falls in between — or individual storylines. This is why “Mom City” is such a surprise and continued frustration because where on earth was this version of the show for the past ten episodes?
Ted and Beard’s storylines and emotional moments hit, but it’s Jamie’s storyline that (again) takes the cake. Despite being a genuine joy week-to-week due to his lovable character growth and off-kilter line deliveries, Dunster hasn’t actually had a full episode to truly sink his teeth into and, given the chance, he tears into it. From the very first moment, we see him forlorn at the podium during a press conference. But we along with Roy can’t have fathomed the sheer emotional whiplash he’d been buried in.
In a scene that’s as heartbreaking as it is hilarious, Jamie breaks down as Roy confronts him, wailing about not knowing why he’s so emotionally fragile, as he laments the loss of his wings (mind you, Red Bull wings in his analogy) as well as deciding to forgo his conditioning hair treatment because what does it matter anymore. The tears are never the comedy but how he fails to fully communicate what he’s going through, which is doubled down later as Keeley takes a stab at it. Some of the truth comes out as she highlights all the many reasons why the Manchester City match might be causing him anxiety, but doing so only makes it worse.
It takes a trip to his childhood home where Keeley and Roy meet Jamie’s doting mother and see their own faces adorning the walls of his childhood room that put the pieces together. Dunster is tremendous in these moments of vulnerability, a pulsating nervous energy that only settles during the episode while in his mom’s embrace. It reappears on the pitch as he plays to his fullest, that old cocky attitude making a timely appearance in the face of a stadium initially hellbent on booing him off the field.
There’s plenty to debate about the season as a whole and a lot of remaining, dividing narratives. Dunster isn’t one of them.
Still, there are issues that remain such as a bizarre, late in the episode choice regarding Jamie’s dad, along with the fear that with the amount of story left to cover, there’s no way the last episode will be as satisfactory. While there’s an air of closure that hovers around the team now that this match is out of the way and Ted seems to be rounding the base and heading home (wrong sports analogy, sorry,) the episode highlights how much more time could’ve been given to the team.
From Van Damme (Moe Jeudy-Lamour) delivering a positively inspired athletic performance to Keeley and Roy’s rekindled something lingering in the air and their bond with Jamie, and Trent’s (James Lance) continued observance of the team as he notes the ups and downs of the locker room hijinks, there’s so much to be explored that wasn’t.
Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 11 is a reminder of why we all fell for the show in the first place in a season filled with the series’ weakest moments. The strong ensemble brings their A games, from Temple’s voice dropping an octave seeing her poster on Jamie’s wall, or the entire team’s tears while watching You’ve Got Mail, to Dunster’s posturing on the field, and Sudeikis unrefined anger that punch his words out in his argument with his mom. “Mom City” is an engaging and captivating episode that flies by despite the hour-plus-long runtime. Now we just hope that it sticks the landing in next week’s episode, the season or maybe series finale.
Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 11 is available now on Apple TV+.
Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 11 — “Mom City”
Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 11 is a reminder of why we all fell for the show in the first place.