Jamie Tartt’s subtle sacrifice in Ted Lasso’s “Two Aces” might be the most surprising gem to come out of the show’s first season. It’s easy to be frustrated with a character like Jamie. It’s easy to believe that he might get to a point where he gets worse before there’s any development. But then we’re struck with a moment of vulnerability like this, and it reminds us why this show is so unbelievably special because of how it explores human complexities.
No one is born good or evil. Jamie Tartt might be a bully at this moment, but he didn’t start off that way. Something heartbreaking forced him down this path, and we get a glimpse of it when he chooses to sacrifice the boots (cleats) his mother had given him. Jamie didn’t necessarily need to tell the audience the reasoning behind the boots’ significance. In the same way that Rebecca opted out of giving details, Jamie could have chosen that path too, but I appreciated the series allowing him to open up for a split second because it’s the scene that makes it easy for us to really see him as he is.
This is a moment where Jamie ultimately lays it bare that he has made the conscious decision to armor himself. And that’s the thing that is so riveting because it shows that people with armor always have a reason for it, which is also stemmed from an active choice they made. You don’t put up walls for no reason; you put up walls not to get hurt. And Jamie Tartt is a man who’s been hurt by his father’s decision to use him for clout.
“I made a vow to be so tough that he could never call me ‘soft’ again.” And with a single sentence, Phil Dunster laces the character’s expressiveness with so much, it’s astounding. Jamie blatantly and with as much vulnerability he could dig into, tell us and the team that his father’s lack of adoration has broken him. He tells us of the tragic detail in the midst of all this he’s forgotten about how to make his mother proud though she’s the one person who’s always cared for him as he is. She is the one who’d love both the soft side of him and the tough one, but he got distracted by feeding the monsters within because of what his father’s instilled in him.
The reason Ted Lasso is so special as a series is because it allows the men to be vulnerable. There is nothing wrong with being both soft and tough, but society has time and time again told men that they cannot be both. From the beginning of time, the patriarchy demanded men be tough, and thus it cemented in the idea that crying was for girls. But it’s 2021 now, and we’re finally getting to a place where more people understand that vulnerability isn’t a weakness but a strength. Emotions aren’t gender-based; emotions are human. Emotions are a part of life—even animals cry for Christ’s sake. Ted Lasso is the show that continuously reminds its viewers that sensitivity and emotions are welcomed no matter who they are coming from.
Roy Kent can break an entire bench and throw out the ‘f-bomb’ in every other sentence, but he could also sacrifice his blankie in an attempt to get rid of the curse they all ridiculously believe in. And that’s what makes this scene so riveting because men like Jamie and Roy didn’t have to go into details about what they were sacrificing, they chose to. While Roy is more open to vulnerability and leaning more towards it than Jamie is, the active choice to try says so much about the fact that somewhere deep within, he wants to be part of this team.
Jamie’s subtle yet immense sacrifice shows us that he wants to be the man his mother always believed he could be, but it’s not going to be easy getting there while he’s still trying so hard to stick it to his father. He wants to be a team player and pass the ball, but it’s not going to be easy while he’s still fighting the demons within that tell him being soft somehow makes him less great.
This is a big moment. It’s quiet in its excavation because no one cheers for him or commends what he’s done, but they all accept it with silent nods and understanding. They grasp the detail that this wasn’t easy for Jamie, and they also understand the fact that he’s fighting battles they weren’t fully affair of prior to this.
It’s a moment that can be felt by each of the teammates, which translates to the audience as the camera pants to their reactions in order to showcase that they’re all listening, caring, and taking in what’s being said. They’ve all got internalized misogyny buried deep and beliefs that weigh them down as opposed to uplifting them, but at the end of the day, this reveals that they are all trying. They’re all trying to be the very best versions of themselves on and off the field.
Jamie Tartt is especially trying even though we barely see it, and even though he himself can barely understand it. But he chooses to open up for a moment, and Dunster makes it clear that though an eternal sense of serenity isn’t suddenly going to dawn on him, Jamie feels a little lighter now. For a moment, a weight is lifted off his shoulder. He isn’t carrying his rage and the absence of love alone.
It’s a start. It’s an important step in the right direction, and if he wasn’t transferred to Manchester after, it would have been so fascinating to see where it could have led. But as I’ve vocalized multiple times now, Ted Lasso is the one show we could all trust to deliver on the seeds it plants. Jamie’s story isn’t over. He’s going to find the means and the hope to break the walls he’s built around himself, and he’s going to understand that softness isn’t a bad thing; it’s actually lovely. Softness is freeing and gratifying.