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Ted Lasso 2×04 “Carol of the Bells” Review

“Carol of the Bells” Spoilers Ahead

Jason Sudeikis in “Ted Lasso” season two, now streaming on Apple TV+. Episode: "Carol of the Bells"
Source: Apple TV+

If I loved this Christmas special of Ted Lasso less, I might be able to talk about it more. (The sole fact that I’ll now have an episode of this show to watch yearly around the holidays is everything that’s good and pure in this world.) “Carol of the Bells” is now part of the greats like Parks and Recreation’s “Citizen Knope,” and I will hear no objections about this.

“Carol of the Bells” is as close to a perfect episode as they come. It’s beautifully vulnerable and so wholesome, it’s just the kind of healing balm that It’s A Wonderful Life is. It’s a reminder of the fact that Christmas is about the people we spend it with, and the love we sprinkle into the world as we celebrate. And Ted Lasso’s Christmas episode is about ensuring that no one is alone.

In “The Hope That Kills You,” Ted says that it’s better to be sad than to be sad and alone, which works out for him because for a moment, that’s where his day was headed until someone else took his advice to heart. “Carol of the Bells” is a beautiful showcase of what a found family looks like, which easily speaks volumes about why we are all so attached to this show.

The feeling of belonging that it evokes is unmatched.

Carol of the Bells and Santa’s Helpers

Jason Sudeikis and Hannah Waddingham in “Ted Lasso” season two, now streaming on Apple TV+. Episode: "Carol of the Bells"
Source: Apple TV+

When Ted’s Christmas FaceTime with Henry is cut short because the guilt gift he got him is much more entertaining than staying in front of a computer, Ted starts to slip into a whiskey induced stupor. But just as Clarence the angel drowning in It’s A Wonderful Life gets George Bailey out of his own head, a rock to his window thrown by Rebecca has Ted’s attention geared elsewhere too. And the callback to Ted’s “Hi Boss,” with Rebecca’s “Hi Ted” was just brilliant.

After learning that Christmas FaceTime isn’t going as planned, Rebecca insists that Ted join him (though where to, he has no idea). And there could not have been anything more fitting than the two of them delivering presents—something Rebecca used to do but neglected the year prior because of her heartbreak.

Hannah Waddingham in “Ted Lasso” season two, now streaming on Apple TV+.
Source: Apple TV+

It might not be Elton John’s party, but it’s a party that feels right for the two characters who are in a myriad of ways kindred spirits of one another. They have both been made to feel small in life, and yet they have risen above it.

Through everything, they were the people who would have given their all. Except to fall is to be human and while Rebecca experienced the worst of it, Ted is a bit more fortunate right now because he has multiple people in his corner who are willing to pick him up.

This is where we see the true Rebecca shine through—the woman Sassy knew was deep inside of her all along, (otherwise she wouldn’t have been as fiercely loyal after she abandoned them). Rebecca is the kind of person who gives in tenfold, and she does so because it brings her tremendous joy. And that very joy was the infectious carol we got to see this week as she sang once more.

And I love the fact that this time, Ted got to sing with her. Ted got to experience the unbeatable power and magic of Rebecca Welton singing her heart out without having to walk away because of a terrible panic attack.

This time, Ted gets to be part of the celebration because in some ways, he’s a reason for it. He’s the person whose presence in a number of ways has had colossal impact on Rebecca’s fight against the demons that Rupert left behind. He’s been her strength in trying times, and now, it’s her turn to give back.

Hannah Waddingham and Jason Sudeikis in “Ted Lasso” season two, now streaming on Apple TV+.
Source: Apple TV+

Without George Bailey, Bedford Falls would have been a completely different place, and that’s why in the end, all residents show up for him. Without Ted Lasso, Richmond wouldn’t be the team that it is today, and though it might not appear as though he needs them in a way as evident as George did, the series emphasizing the importance of mental health struggles being equally as significant as something tangible or clearly visible is the reason why it’s so special.

It’s the reason why “Carol of the Bells” isn’t just a filler Christmas special (though I love those so much I’d never complain), but it’s the reminder that no form of struggle is too small for care and attention. Ted doesn’t say a lot, and he doesn’t need to because right now, Rebecca understands enough to know exactly what he would need. And thus, visiting the Higgins residence for some carolling proves to be the perfect dose for a better day.

Love Actually: The High Road

Brett Goldstein, Elodie Blomfield and Juno Temple in “Ted Lasso” season two, now streaming on Apple TV+. Episode: "Carol of the Bells"
Source: Apple TV+

Sexy Christmas at the Jones-Kent residence turns into a search for a last-minute dentist because Phoebe’s bad breath is a cause for medical concern. Roy promises both the girls that if they don’t find one tonight, they’re each getting a thousand pounds. Their quest turns out to be a successful one, and they learn that the antihistamines Phoebe is on because of her soulmate cat are drying out her mouth. She’s given a prescription and they’re on their merry way, but of course, there’s a catch, and Roy Kent insists on pulling a Love Actually. (Inquiring minds have to know whose idea this was in the writer’s room. Was it Brett Goldstein’s or someone else?)

And it serves as an utterly brilliant moment that once again encourages vulnerability—this time in kids. Keeley has helped Roy feel more comfortable with vulnerability and now, he is doing the same with his niece. As much as he would have probably preferred grunting his way into scarring Bernard for life, deep down he knows this sets a better example.

Phoebe’s notes state that her feelings were hurt by Bernard’s gift and that in spite of it all, she forgives him and wishes that he would do better. And in a shocking twist, Bernard apologizes. (I say shocking because with kids, we don’t always know how they are going to react.)

Where Ted Lasso always succeeds is in its subtlety and “Carol of the Bells” is no small feat in exhibiting the show’s magic. No matter a person’s age, transparency is crucial for growth. As much as they wanted to stick it to Bernard, what this ultimately does is free Phoebe from the sadness that she harbored because she was mocked. It’s just as cathartic for her to open up about her sadness as Roy admitting that he doesn’t know who he’ll be after he retires in “All Apologies.

Stepping forward and vocalizing our heartaches is freeing when there are people listening. It was already a little better with Roy and Keeley helping Phoebe through it, but now that she is able to forgive Bernard and actually hear a sincere apology, it makes it easier for her to move on. It’s mature, beautiful, and so unbelievably soft, I wept like a baby.

Roy Kent has grown so much from bottling things up and exploding that it’s reflected in his niece too. They didn’t have to do this, but he’s slowly starting to understand the importance of vulnerability and thus, working towards using it to help others as well. Plus, he got to grunt too, he’s done his due diligence.

It’s A Wonderful Life, indeed

Toheeb Jimoh in “Ted Lasso” season two, now streaming on Apple TV+. Episode:"Carol of the Bells"
Source: Apple TV+

“To the family we’re born with, and to the family we make along the way” is Ted Lasso’s “Remember no man is a failure who has a friends.” The final shot of the episode with Ted and Rebecca singing outside of Higgins’ largest gathering yet is what I’d like to call a cinematic masterpiece. This is the show in a nutshell—a celebration of humanity and a celebration of found families.

Higgins’ door has always been open, but this year especially, the team has truly felt most like a family. They could have chosen not to join in even though they didn’t get to go home. Someone like Sam, for whom Christmas is reminiscent of colonization didn’t choose to go for the holiday, but because in truth, they are a family now. They are each other’s home away from home because they are the family they have chosen.

Team Richmond is no longer just a professional football team, it’s a family. It’s people from different backgrounds, beliefs, and characteristics all united by a love that’s made them stronger.

Ted Lasso isn’t the only George Bailey. Today, there is a version of him inside all of them because they are each irreplaceable pieces of a puzzle who’ve impacted each other by the love and kindness they’ve shown. They’ve grown stronger because of their shared vulnerabilities, their selfless sacrifices, and their unwavering adoration that in spite of hard times has ceaselessly lingered.

“Carol of the Bells” is an inexpressibly magical episode that not only pays homage to classic films, but it showcases just how important everyone’s joy and place in the world is.

Ted Talks and Further Thoughts

  • DID ANYONE ELSE SCREAM AT THE CHRISTMAS THEMED RED AND GREEN OPENING? I DID. I AM NOW. INGENIOUS.
  • “Mom! There are two white people at the door and they’re smiling!”
  • “Where does Bernard live?” “You’re not going to go beat up a little kid.” “Why not?” It’s the way that Roy was actually serious in questioning this that had me cackling for hours on end.
  • Using the surfboard as a table extension was everything I didn’t know I needed to see. Too pure.
  • “God bless me, everyone.” Oh, Jamie. Doesn’t understand how Secret Santa works and can’t properly quote A Christmas Carol. But we love him anyway. Also, where did he spend Christmas? With his father? How was that? We need to know.
  • It’s a shame Ted’s mini dart board wasn’t working properly because it’s an A+, the thought that counts, kind of gift.
  • “Did one of the paw patrol dogs die?” Once again, Roy Kent had the most hilarious lines in this episode.
  • Rebecca’s obsession with Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig? I get it.
  • “Because science is real and it’s Christmas.” A little louder for the people in the back, please.
  • Keeley with The Diamond Dogs before they parted ways for the holiday was perfection. As was Ted  calling her a little magic pixie dust. (It’s great when you know Juno Temple played a fairy in Maleficent, but also, she is absolutely a perfect fairy.)
  • Nate getting Ted a photo from their first win was precious until you realize he wrote all over Beard’s face and you’re not sure if you should laugh or be offended on his behalf.
  • Beard and Jane broke up but they still went to a Pagan celebration together. Cool.
  • The montage of each of them ringing doorbells at different locations was incredible.

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