Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso is not a show about soccer. According to series creators Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt, it’s a workplace comedy that takes place in the world of soccer and is as much about the sport as Rocky is about boxing. If the series were truly about sports, it would have made sense for its Season 3 teaser trailer to drop during this past Super Bowl, especially considering that the Kansas City Chiefs were playing in the game? Instead, much to everyone’s pleasant surprise, we got the teaser two days later – on Valentine’s Day. In addition to being described as a workplace comedy, we might even be able to take it a step further, given that Sudeikis has also described the series as “What if Nora Ephron wrote a sports comedy?” At their center, Ephron’s films are about love; and Sudeikis and company are following in her footsteps as the relationship dynamics on Ted Lasso quietly redefine the meaning of the word “soulmate.”
The show’s core four are led by Ted Lasso (Sudeikis), followed by Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) — the owner of A.F.C. Richmond, Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) — former Captain of A.F.C. Richmond, and model-turned-publicist Keeley Jones (Juno Temple). These are the characters that carry the series, the ones whose dynamics remind audiences that sometimes your soulmate isn’t just one person but two.
Coach Beard & Ted Lasso
Ted and Coach Beard are my favorite modern TV example of a healthy, fulfilling friendship between two men. While Ted Lasso hasn’t revealed how long the two have been in each other’s lives, it’s clear from their interactions that it’s been a long, long time. Theirs is the kind of friendship where they’re so comfortable with one another that when they’re sitting side by side, they’re practically on top of each other – the lack of personal space gives the opposite of “Two dudes chillin’ in a hot tub, five feet apart cause they’re not gay.” Neither has to tell the other when something’s bothering them; they sense it the moment you walk into the room.
When Ted comes into the office in “Two Aces” talking a mile a minute, incapable of sitting still, and unable to put on his sweater correctly, it’s Beard who explains to Nate (Nick Mohammed) that what’s got Ted in such a tizzy so early in the day is his soon to be ex-wife. When Ted has a one-night stand and doesn’t talk for the entirety of the team’s five-hour bus ride, Beard knows something is up. When Ted says he doesn’t want to talk about it, he knows that that’s a lie and does indeed want to talk about it. So they do.
As with every long-term friendship, there are moments of tension between the two. For Ted and Beard, the tensest moment comes at the end of Ted Lasso Season 1. Beard and Nate have concluded that what’s best for the team is Roy being benched for the last game of the season. Ted wholly disagrees; for the first time in the series, we see that Beard’s genuinely mad at him. He gives him the cold shoulder and the silent treatment. When they meet for dinner after Ted’s supposed to have broken the news to Roy but didn’t, Beard goes off on him, leaving a stunned Ted to question what his problem is – to which Beard pointedly responds that Ted is his problem because he’s being selfish. He reminds him that it’s not just their jobs on the line – it’s also those of Richmond’s players. This is professional football, not collegiate level, and winning matters here. And Beard’s outburst also reminds the audience (and Ted) how important Beard’s perception of him is: he takes his friend’s irritation to heart and does the right thing. (Similarly, when Jamie’s dad causes a scene in the locker room in “Man City” and Beard has to physically pull him out of the room, Ted doesn’t question him when he says he needs time to be on his own after the encounter.)
The most crucial detail of this friendship is that Beard followed Ted across the ocean to London, taking on a job for which neither of them was equipped. That’s not something you do for just anyone. You have to have a special connection with someone to stand by them so steadfastly and be willing to upend your entire life to ensure they’re not alone in a new place during one the most challenging time of their life.
Roy Kent & Keeley Jones
This takes us to Roy and Keeley, who are the embodiment of the grumpy/sunshine trope. Roy communicates in growls, grunts, and expletives. His voice is low because he bottles up his emotions, constraining his throat to keep them from bubbling over. He dresses in black and he isn’t afraid of telling someone to fuck off when they’re pissing him off. In a profession where toxic masculinity runs rampant, it’s no wonder that two decades as a professional footballer left Roy all but incapable of expressing his emotions. Which is exactly where Keeley comes in. She always tries to be the bigger person, the sillier one, the less severe one, the one who’s far less confrontational. Keeley is sunshine: she’s the fire to Roy’s ice, melting away his rough exterior and showing everyone – Roy included – that he’s capable of expressing feelings without it being the end of the world, and without anyone seeing him as weak for it.
When we see the two interact for the first time, it’s full of easy banter revolving around Keeley’s then-boyfriend, Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster). Jamie is 23, Richmond’s egotistical star player – and Roy’s least favorite person. The two go at it constantly, in a clear rivalry between the team’s captain and one of its youngest players. When Keeley realizes that Jamie’s a bit of a dickwad (it’s when he brings a second date to Rebecca’s charity gala in “For the Children”), she gets even by bidding on Roy during the player auction. And when Roy realizes he’s been used as a pawn, confronts her, telling Keeley to leave him out of her games with her current lover. It’s the first time we see him express hurt, and it’s a big step forward for him.
As their relationship progresses, Roy is revealed as the reserved one when it comes to romantic relationships, whereas Keeley is eager to get the ball rolling. It’s refreshing to see dynamic in which the woman is more forward with her sexual desires than the man, and neither is judged by the other for it. Roy kisses Keeley first, but doesn’t take it any farther, slowing things down to such to the point where Keeley wonders if he’s actually interested in her. And he is – he’s just afraid of showing it because he wants whatever the two of them have to actually mean something.
As he pursues something of substance with Keeley, Roy starts taking the necessary steps to be more open as a person. He apologizes to Keeley for not being straightforward about his intentions, lets her know he’s trying to be more honest in these situations as well. When Keeley reveals that she slept with Jamie while Roy had her in this state of limbo, he quickly overcomes his issue with it – because he likes her more than he hates him.
We watch as their relationship beautifully evolves into something more, something meaningful. By the end of season one, we learn that while Keeley’s been dating professional footballers for most of her adult life, it’s only just now that she’s begun to care about the sport – because of Roy. Roy is no longer afraid of accepting her affections. One of the most stunning scenes in the series is in the Ted Lasso Season 1 finale, ‘The Hope That Kills You.’ After injuring his knee, in a moment that cements this season as the end of Roy’s career, he sits in his sadness and anger in the locker room as the match continues on without him. When Keeley appears at the locker room door, he yells at her about how she’s not allowed back there and he wants to be alone. She ignores him, joining his side and embracing him at his most vulnerable – as the angry, heartbroken, man that he is. It’s so clear in that moment that this is the first time someone has ever truly accepted him for all that he is.
In season two, we see them go through the phases of a new relationship – road bumps and all – and grow as individuals in the relationship. Keeley realizes that she can’t push Roy into doing things he doesn’t want to do and apologizes for the instance in which she did so, trying to pressure him into taking a position as a pundit on one of the sports shows to get him out of the rut he’s been in since retiring. Roy realizes that it’s okay to not be with your partner 24/7 after Keeley lashes out at him for never giving her a moment to herself. He runs her a bubble bath with rose petals and a fucking apology playlist.
There are moments where their actions are questionable to say the least, serving as a reminder to the audience that this is really the first relationship that has the potential to develop into something long lasting for both of these characters. Between Roy neglecting to mention having a girlfriend when talking with his niece’s teacher in a moment that can definitely be read as flirting, and Keeley neglecting to tell Roy that Jamie admitted he was still in love with her, small cracks begin to form in the foundation of the relationship.
Keeley’s career trajectory is on the up thanks to Rebecca making her the club’s PR representative, getting brand deals for the players (Nespresso! The George Clooney teas!), and helping with the launch of a dating app called Bantr (which ends in disastrous results for someone but that is neither here nor there. This all leads to her own Vanity Fair spread, where she asks Roy to be a part of her photo shoot. During said photo shoot, they share a moment where they admit the things they’d hidden from one another. Roy tells her about the moment with Phoebe’s teacher, she tells him about Jamie and it’s a reminder of how far they’ve come as individuals, willing to be so open with one another.
But what’s a good romance without a little bit of regression?
A rough patch like the one they’re being set up to go through in the series’ third season is nothing to actually be worried about. There’s no doubt that because of the connection they share, and the love they have for one another – a love that neither has ever really had – it’s so clear that they’re going to find their way back to one another in the end, because that’s what soulmates do.
Keeley Jones & Rebecca Welton
Rebecca and Keeley are the female friendship that most women dream about sharing with someone. They’re two women at different points in their lives with next to nothing in common and from two completely different generations – and yet instead of that being something to make them shy away from one another, it’s what brings them together. They realize that even with all of their differences, there are some experiences that are just universal for all women. Keeley, much like Ted, forces her way into Rebecca’s life. She sees this stunning, older woman and is immediately intimidated by her but she doesn’t allow that to deter her from befriending her.
Her first act of breaking the ice? Gifting Rebecca a small cactus because it reminds her of her new friend – prickly, but strong. Keeley understands why Rebecca is so guarded – she even goes on a tirade about how unfairly she was treated by the press when she was going through her divorce solely because of the fact that she was a woman, when her ex-husband was parading around town with the multiple women he had cheated on her with throughout their marriage.
The pivotal moment in the pair’s friendship comes in ‘For The Children.’ It’s the first charity gala Rebecca is hosting post-divorce and when it comes to doing the step-and-repeat in front of paparazzi, she’s understandably uneasy. She offhandedly mentions how much she hates that part and Keeley, seeing her total discomfort, immediately comes to her aid. She gently gives her the encouragement she needs to look her best in front of the cameras, giving her advice on how to pose. She even goes out of her way to join in on the throng of photographers shouting where to look at her friend – just to yell out how fucking fit Rebecca looks. It makes Rebecca laugh and fully loosen up on the step-and-repeat because for the first time in god knows how long, another woman has made her feel good about herself, instead of attempting to tear her down. In turn she reciprocates what Keeley’s done for her in this moment when she reveals later in the episode that Jamie’s brought another woman to the gala as his second date. This revelation is what makes Keeley realize that it’s time to call it quits with Jamie and at the end of the night, the two women are in the back of a rickshaw drinking champagne straight from the bottle. It’s the beginning of a beautiful, beautiful friendship.
While Sassy (Ellie Taylor) is the first character Rebecca refers to as her best friend in the series, it’s Keeley who has come into her life and given her everything she’s needed from a friendship with another woman – the unwavering support and reassurance that it’s clear Rebecca’s never received from not just Sassy, but any woman in her life, period. From the get-go, it’s made clear that Keeley is going to be one of Rebecca’s staunchest defenders.
The bond between the two only strengthens as the series goes on.
Rebecca, knowing that Keeley is trying to make something of herself as other than being famous for sort of being famous, offers her a job doing publicity for the club. In any other series, she would be threatened by this ambitious, younger woman, but here we see her use her position in power to help uplift her instead. In return, Keeley offers Rebecca the unconditional friendship that she’s clearly never had before. When it’s revealed that Rebecca’s ex-husband is dating a new woman, also named Rebecca, Keeley pops by with no other intention than to make sure that Rebecca’s okay.
“If you ever have a moment where you don’t got this, you just call me, alright?”
Their friendship is still fresh yet here she is, reminding Rebecca that she’s just a call away if she ever needs her. It’s a testament to the way bonds between women form so quickly when they’re both in a place where they need the comfort and company of someone who doesn’t want them to be anyone other than who they already are. This is the foundation of their friendship, and the pair constantly uplifts one another and finds ways to remind the other that they’re capable of being better. Rebecca reminds Keeley that she can do far better than Jamie. When Keeley finds out that Rebecca had paid the paparazzi to take photos of her and Ted to sell to one of the rag tabloids, she immediately expresses her disappointment and anger, and Rebecca understands that their friendship – and Keeley’s perception of her – is at stake if she doesn’t confess what she’s done to Ted. In the end, she does the right thing.
As Keeley gets better at her job doing PR for the club, more opportunities start to come in and Rebecca is nothing but supportive. She reminds her that she’s fully capable of getting what she wants out of her career and Keeley takes that advice to heart. When Keeley’s offered her own PR firm, meaning that she’ll have to resign from her position, she’s afraid that Rebecca will think of it as a betrayal and it’s completely understandable why she thinks her friend might take it that way. No matter the strength of a bond, it’s always a scary thing to have to discuss something that will change both of your lives, especially when that other person has been a mentor to you. Instead, she’s wholeheartedly supportive of her friend’s new career prospects because she knows that she can’t be the person to hold her friend back from being great. Rebecca had taken Keeley under her wing in season one, and the time has come to set her free, even if it means spending less time with her best friend. The exchange in Rebecca’s office where they discuss this is a rarity in television – seldom do we see scenes where women are in tears because of how much love and respect they have towards one another.
Ted Lasso & Rebecca Welton
Ted and Rebecca are the most obvious of the soulmates on the series – the only characters to have been confirmed as soulmates by Sudeikis – and it makes sense, considering y’know, the fact they’re the main characters. Rebecca is the first character we meet, before Ted himself, and that’s for a reason.
Their connection comes along in the most unconventional of ways, with Rebecca hiring Ted to coach A.F.C. Richmond so that she can use him to burn the club to the ground to spite her ex-husband. She quickly begins to realize that hating Ted is going to be harder than she’d initially thought it would. His folksy mid-western charm starts to win her over, little by little. First, it’s the biscuits that he brings to her every morning for ‘Biscuits with the Boss’ because he claims they can’t be good partners without getting to know each other first. Even though at this point in the series, it’s meant as a professional partnership, it’s sprinkled in as the series continues that it also has the potential to be a romantic partnership.
“Ted and Rebecca by design have always been cosmically, soulfully connected in ways [that] the universe was just not gonna allow [in] this time around life for them not to interact with each other.” – Jason Sudeikis
One of the very first sprinkles of this comes in ‘Biscuits.’ Rebecca has one bite of the first batch of biscuits Ted brings her and she might as well be Cookie Monster from there on out. Less than a week into having him hand deliver these treats to her, the series tells us that the biscuits are already something that feels like home to her. It establishes early on that Ted’s presence in her life is one that’s meant to bring her comfort and safety – something we quickly learn she’s been deprived of from most people in her life, especially her ex-husband. It’s further shown in the same episode when one of the journalists in the briefing room takes it upon himself to embarrass Rebecca in front of everyone, bringing up the news that yet another of her ex-husband’s mistresses has come forward, and Ted turns his focus to her as it’s happening, seeing that she’s shaken by it but trying to remain unbothered. Following the press briefing, he immediately goes up to her office to check on her. Rebecca is the first person he gives a little green army man to – because she’s the first person he realizes needs someone in their corner, and Ted is steadfast in his loyalty to her from that moment on.
As I mentioned while discussing the relationship between Rebecca and Keeley, Rebecca is incredibly guarded because of what she’s experienced as a woman married to a man in the public eye. She’s careful of who she allows into her life, of who she gives glimpses of the real Rebecca to and Ted immediately clocks that. He even tells Keeley that Rebecca’s got some fences up that just need to be hopped over first, hinting that they are going to be the ones to do just that.
Ted slowly but surely hops over Rebecca’s fences – taking a big leap in “For The Children.” It’s the episode where we’re introduced to Rebecca’s ex-husband, Rupert Mannion (Anthony Head) and from the moment he appears at Rebecca’s charity gala, it’s obvious that he’s actually worse than we thought he was. Most of Rupert’s scenes not just in this episode, but in the series, are with Rebecca, Ted, or both of them. It’s an interesting set up for the series to have Ted interact so much with his boss’ emotionally abusive ex-husband. We’re clearly meant to think of Ted as Rupert’s foil – and everything Rebecca wants and needs from a partner. Where Rupert tells Rebecca she’s bold for choosing such a youthful dress to wear, Ted was the one who initially encouraged her to wear it because he saw that she was self-conscious about not being able to pull it off and wanted to gently remind her that it’s all about being confident. The audience can also read Ted’s simmering anger with Rupert’s treatment of Rebecca. When Rupert makes a disparaging comment to Rebecca in front of Ted, Ted glances down at the beer bottle in his hand – and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that he wasn’t considering hitting Rupert upside the head with the bottle. The pivotal moment in the episode comes when Ted goes to check on Rebecca. He finds her outside in tears and for the first (and last) time, she opens up to someone about what the way she was manipulated into eating, wearing, and doing whatever the hell her ex-husband wanted her to do. It’s intentional that the first person she ever allows to see her vulnerable is Ted. He’s the first person to actually see through Rupert’s charm and feigned amiability and see him for what he really is – a manipulative abuser. In his being able to see straight through Rupert, it makes him the first person to truly acknowledge Rebecca’s pain.
It’s from that moment on that Ted and Rebecca’s relationship – whatever it’s meant to be – begins to blossom. He’s hopped over the fence and as much as she hates it, Rebecca reluctantly accepts it. It creates an internal struggle within her as the Ted Lasso Season 1 moves along. She knows that Ted is just an innocent, undeserving pawn in this game of revenge she’s playing against her ex-husband and she subconsciously starts to care about him.
The pivotal moment in that struggle comes in ‘Make Rebecca Great Again,’ where Ted has a panic attack whilst Rebecca’s in the middle of singing ‘Let it Go.’ When he’s outside hyperventilating on the curb, it’s Rebecca’s voice that cuts through all of the noise in his head – it’s Rebecca‘s presence that pulls him out of it. In a room full of their entire team and his best friend, it’s intentional that she’s the only one who noticed him leaving in a panic. When Rebecca talks him down from his panic attack, it’s the first time we see her warm and gentle with someone else – a complete one-eighty from the ice queen she believes herself to be. Just as Ted is the only one who truly acknowledges the pain she went through in her marriage, she is the only one who can see through his facade of being okay and instead of using that against him, it only makes her affinity to him stronger.
As resistant as Rebecca is to feeling fondness towards Ted, at some point, she also stops fighting it. When her shitty ex-husband is being an asshole to her in public and Ted challenges him to a game of darts where if he wins, Rupert will never be allowed to step foot in the owner’s box at Nelson Road, even if his new fiancee owns shares of the club, Ted completely humiliates him and it fills Rebecca with absolute delight. When Rupert crudely implies in front of a crowd of people that Rebecca is a whore, Ted pointedly replies with “Better manners when I’m holding a dart.” This is the first – and, to date, the only – time in the series when Ted threatens violence towards another character. Until this point we’ve seen Ted release his anger on other characters, he’s shouted at both Jamie and Rebecca (immediately apologizing to her not once, but twice afterwards) – but the anger displayed towards them was something different from the deep, simmering hatred that he feels towards Rupert. An anger so deep that the second Ted sees Rupert sitting in the pews at the funeral for Rebecca’s father, he scowls at him. Ted Lasso! Scowling! It comes from his desire to protect Rebecca from a man who has done everything in his power to continuously tear her down, even after the dissolution of their marriage. Ted is her knight in shining armor. He is consistently the only character to come to her aid when it comes to Rupert, always asking her if she wants to leave the situations that her ex-husband has put her in, whether it after the moment at the gala, or before the darts game. Ultimately, Ted is the one character who puts Rebecca first, time and time again – he’s not going to let her fall, not if he can help it.
In turn, Rebecca is the only one who knows when Ted is feeling anxious or unlike himself. In ‘Carol of the Bells,’ Ted alludes to spending Christmas alone after he plans to FaceTime with his son to open presents together, and she’s the only one who catches it. As Ted sulks in his apartment alone, watching It’s A Wonderful Life, just as George Bailey is meeting his guardian angel Clarence for the first time, he hears something being thrown at his window. He stands and goes over to check what the cause is, and it’s Rebecca – his very own guardian angel – throwing rocks at his window to get his attention, the words “HI TED” spelled out in tinsel below.
Similarly, in ‘The Signal,’ when he has another panic attack whilst in the middle of a match, she’s the only one who knows what’s really going on with him without him having to tell her. She immediately goes after him, and when she’s unable to find him, there’s a sense of panic in her too, because she knows that he isn’t okay and she wants to be able to comfort him just as she had done the last time. Instead, she’s forced to give him a call, leaving a voicemail expressing her concern. It’s a voicemail that goes unacknowledged by him and it’s the catalyst for the distance between them in the middle of season two.
What truly sets Ted and Rebecca’s relationship apart from the others in the series is that they’ve been leading parallel lives. They come into each other’s lives at a time of crisis – Rebecca, freshly divorced and trying to find herself again, albeit through the wrong means, and Ted, whose marriage is on the verge of collapse, and he must learn to accept that. Ted signs his divorce papers on the date that would’ve been Rebecca’s thirteen anniversary with her ex-husband. Both characters have their first post-divorce one-night-stands on the same evening – and the series heavily implies that the person they really wanted to be with in that moment was the other.
Their divorces are what ultimately lead them to one another – and it’s what leads Ted to forgive Rebecca when she admits the entire reason she hired him was to ruin the club and get back at her ex-husband. He more than anyone else in her life understands that the pain of a divorce can drive you to do crazy things because here he was, coaching a sport he had no business coaching, half a world away because his marriage had fallen apart.
But perhaps the most telling parallel moment in their lives?
September 13, 1991.
In Ted Lasso Season 2, we learn that Ted’s father committed suicide. Cue ‘No Weddings and A Funeral,’ in which Mr. Welton dies and the series uses his funeral to cement the connection between Rebecca and Ted. The reveal scene is a stunning thing to witness, the show cutting back and forth between Ted and Rebecca, in completely different locations, sharing how their individual lives changed forever on that date. The editing allows the two of them to both tell their separate stories and assist each other in doing so – even though they’re not telling said stories to each other. The scene also marks the first time in either character’s lives when they’ve told anyone what happened.
Rebecca reveals that when she was sixteen, she walked in on her father cheating on her mother while she was meant to be sleeping over at Sassy’s and her mother was out of town with friends. He chased after her, trying to explain and when she didn’t turn around, he pretended that it never happened. Ted reveals that he was just getting home from school when his father killed himself – by shooting himself in the head – and that he’d found his body, having to call 911. It’s important to note that these characters are telling their stories at the exact same time, because they happened at the exact same time because of the time difference between Kansas and London.
Their traumas are not comparable. Let’s get that out of the way – it’s not the Trauma Olympics. But what we’re meant to understand is that losing their fathers – Rebecca emotionally, Ted physically and emotionally – is what began the journey in life that ultimately leads them to one another. Her father’s infidelity and his aloofness about discussing it with his daughter, knowing damn well that she was a child that he had laid a tremendous burden on, is exactly what lead Rebecca into marrying a much older man, who would cheat on her, multiple times over, and she would be the last to learn about it. It’s why she took so long to leave her marriage because her mother stayed with her father after everything, even at one point choosing him over her own daughter when Rebecca had told her to leave him.
The loss of Ted’s father is what makes him into the supportive man we know and love – because the guilt of not knowing his father was struggling is something he never wants to experience again, even though he was sixteen. It’s why he tries so hard to remind everyone around him that they’re not alone, at least not while he’s around, because life is hard enough as it is, and the last thing he wants to do is make it harder for anyone.
This episode also stands out in regards to their relationship for a few other moments, too. Ted is running late to the funeral because of his emergency therapy session and when he walks into the church as Rebecca is taking the podium to start her father’s eulogy, there’s a change in her demeanor when she sees him, as if his presence is what’s been missing in order for her to feel safe enough to do this. What’s even more telling is that there’s almost a collective sigh of relief from everyone who knows when he finally appears. When Rebecca begins the eulogy by singing Rick Astley‘s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ and falters on the lyrics, while in tears, it’s Ted who picks up where she left off, giving her the bolster to continue. It’s not her best friend, Keeley, or Sam, her secret lover, but Ted, because he’s who brings her the most comfort, even if she’s only subconsciously aware of it.
From a storytelling perspective, if these characters are not meant to be something that grows into more than just friendship, this particular reveal in their histories would make no sense. But the seeds have been subtly planted for their rapport to blossom into something more – and it wouldn’t be the ‘cliche’ that people argue it to be. One of the most underrepresented stories in modern media is the story of characters getting a second chance at love later in life. With Ted and Rebecca, Ted Lasso would give us the rare story that reminds us it’s never too late to find your soulmate.