“Headspace” Spoilers Ahead
Ted Lasso’s seventh episode, “Headspace,” written by Phoebe Walsh is the exploration of decision making and going further into the dark forest we were forewarned about. It’s a brilliantly compelling episode that tries to dig deep into the layers of our favorite characters, and though it leaves us with a lot unanswered, that is ultimately where its strength lies.
As a series, Ted Lasso was not going to gloss over therapy with Ted, and it was not going to push characters into battles they’d overcome within a day or two. What each of them are dealing with in “Headspace” is exactly what they need, and when they come out of this, they’ll be stronger for it.
The Exploration of a Coach’s Headspace
Getting help is hard. Sitting in therapy for the first time after having prior experience and preconceived notions of what it’s always like isn’t easy, and Ted Lasso is exploring that reality through close inspection of its nominal character.
It starts off just as you’d expect with Ted’s nerves and anxiety coming out in the form of quips and constant chatter. His inability to find a position to sit comfortably in, commenting on the intimacy of the setting, mentioning cartoons/TV, cracking a Don Draper joke followed by mimicking the toy and a faint, subtle deep breath was a compelling way to begin. However, after Dr. Fieldstone asks him to perhaps start with what happened the night before, he immediately storms off stating that this isn’t going to work for him.
The next day however, Ted is back, and he tells Dr. Fieldstone that he’s doing this primarily because he doesn’t quit things. It’s a fascinating callback to “Tan Lines,” and it makes it all the more heartbreaking when you realize how much blame he still carries. This time, he opens up about the fact that he has tried therapy once before, but considering the fact that his marriage ended in divorce, he is holding on to the belief that it did not go well for him. And then he cracks once more, stating:
“I think it’s bullshit. You don’t know me. We don’t have history. And you just expect me to spill my guts about all the gory details of my life. The fights and mistakes. My deep dark secrets. But you ain’t listening cause you care about me, no, you’re only listening to me cause you’re being paid to listen to me. You’re getting paid to just jot down your little notes, and diagnose my tears, and then what? Probably just blame it on my folks, right?”
Before we get into dissecting Ted’s comment, I need to mention that “Headspace” does something riveting, and it prompts us to look back on “Lavender” where Dr. Fieldstone had mentioned that her favorite book is The Prince of Tides. For those who aren’t familiar with the novel (there’s also a film), it follows a coach named Tom Wingo who hesitantly sees a therapist named Susan Lowenstein. I won’t spoil the rest of the story for those who aren’t familiar with it, but there are a number of parallels we can draw including the approaches taken into welcoming/disregarding therapy.
But before the show gives us any more similarities (which will perhaps be in later episodes if this isn’t just a coincidence), the third time proves to be a charm, and Dr. Fieldstone confronts Ted. She tells him that she was offended by his statement because while she would do this for free, in the same way that he gets paid to be a coach, she gets paid to a job she sincerely cares about. Sarah Niles brought such heart and vulnerability to that statement, it broke me. The way both Sudeikis and Niles play off one another in these scenes is utterly masterful. Dr. Fieldstone isn’t stoic, she’s warm and sincere, which the scene in last week’s episode with the team showcases. She can laugh, she can crack jokes, she does smile a lot. But she is also no Ted Lasso in how expressive he could be, thus to open up like this and to vocalize her pain shows so much of her character.
It also pays homage to what this show does best by allowing its characters opportunities sincerely apologize and grow because of their mistakes.
It not only continues to show us that she’s good at her job, but it shows us that there is pain inside of people like her as well. In the same way that this arc reveals just how important it is to check in on the most optimistic people, this moment reveals that those who are helping us are human too. They crack and break just as much as they smile.
This moment finally breaks the ice between the two of them and more importantly, it allows Ted to understand that Dr. Fieldstone isn’t like the other therapist he knew. She cares about him, and she isn’t here to point fingers or prove anything, but she is here to genuinely help. She is here to get to the root of his issues, and she understands just how terrifying self-care can be, which admitting that continues to be a beautiful reminder to everyone watching from home as well.
As we continue to deal with social media and the truth behind what’s real and what’s written, “Headspace” also sees the return of Trent Crimm. He asks about an official statement from Ted to which he ‘clarifies’ it was indeed his stomach. While none of us imagined Ted would openly admit to the public that he had a panic attack, I can’t help but wonder if that’s something we’ll see by the end of the season.
Wunderkind Wonder Kid
As imagined after the end of “The Signal,” Nate’s slip up in saying “wonder kid” as opposed to “wunderkind” leads the assistant coach through highs and lows, bringing us one step closer to understanding exactly what he is going through.
He is still a huge hit on Twitter and riding the high from the win, but a small somewhat of an insult from his father leads to some evident frustrations from within coming to the surface. “Headspace” intimately explores just how juxtaposing emotions are consistently at war with one another. After Nate proudly points out that he’s featured in the newspaper, his father states: “they say humility is not thinking of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” And here is where this can essentially be looked at in a few different ways.
Various cultural traditions and/or religious beliefs have a different approach on behavior, including but not limited to, how a kid is treated when they’re no longer a kid. While some may think living at home after you’ve turned 18 is a bizarre concept, there are others (like my Armenian family) that ultimately believe people should move out once they are married, going away for school, or living in another country. In some cultures, you’re quite literally, still a baby, no matter how old you get.
Now, while we have no evidence as to what or how Nate’s family believes, looking into how differently both his parents behave with him is an interesting factor to weigh in on. While his mother seems to coddle and show deep appreciation for him, his father seems to be more passive, and in Nate’s own words, he complains frequently. (We even see him argue with the newspaper.) However, oftentimes when a parent is unkind or mistreats a kid, the same type of behavior can be seen exhibited towards their spouse, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Nate’s mother and father.
On the surface at least, they appear to have somewhat of a healthy relationship, and a language established with each other. So, what’s the story? Why is Nate’s father so hesitant to commend or compliment his son? And again, there are a lot of parents like him who’ve shown such a lack of care that it’s triggered insecurities through the roof within their kids. Is Nate’s father merely trying to protect him from getting too cocky or does he have no idea how to properly communicate? When we get to the bottom of this, it’s going to be so fascinating to explore because watching Nate stick his tongue out to the cardboard box with a silly face then harnessing some of the same behavior he gets from his father in order to belittle Colin was a lot to take in.
Colin is no innocent. There was once a time where he was one of the players who mocked and essentially bullied Nate. But as we learned in “The Signal,” Colin is going to therapy and working on himself. It’s also a classic case of do to others as you’d wish for them to do to you, followed by someone shouldn’t be punished for their past crimes if they’ve made proper amends.
After Colin privately confronts Nate to see if he’s specifically done something wrong to receive sole backlash in something the entire team participated in, Nate states: “Jamie and Dani are like artists—and Colin, you paint, too, but your work doesn’t end up in museums. It hangs at…well, you’re like a painting at Holiday Inn. You don’t inspire. You don’t move people. You’re there. You cover a blood stein.” This is such a specific, heartbreaking thing to say to someone that a part of me wonders if it’s something that was once said to him that he is now recycling.
Does Nate genuinely believe this about Colin or is this something he thinks about himself? When he reads headlines such as, “Is Nathan Shelley Ready to Manage His Own Team?” is he filled with confidence or do these harrowing words of crushing self-doubt haunt him regularly? (I’m still on the imposter syndrome train, but we shall see.)
And in this case, when one’s headspace isn’t clear enough to make proper decisions, thankfully another overhears in order to have the necessary conversations. Beard hears what Nate said to Colin and confronts him about it, stating that the comment was weird and personal, and he needs to apologize. Nate agrees then asks if he has told Ted, which Beard responds by saying this is between them. This once again brings us back to the idea mentioned last week that Ted seems to be the only figured Nate is terrified of disappointing; he seems to be the only one whose opinions matter most.
Nate publicly apologizes to Colin in front of the whole team, and they each playfully attack their assistant coach in genuine adoration. The detail of wonder kid returns later when he is presented with his very own jersey that reads: “wonder kid” on the back (an idea we learn was Will’s). This is where it starts to get so riveting because I wholeheartedly believe Will did not intend for this to be humiliating in any way—there’s only one Jan Maas on the team, and really, in Sam’s words, he’s just Dutch.
While we could very clearly see that the tweet from user JoTheMan6 stating: “Nate might have won it for Richmond, but he clearly still seems like a loser. #coachnate #notmywonderkid” sets him off, the harsh approach he takes with Will is genuinely concerning. (It also reminds me a bit of when Ted inadvertently threw his frustrations out on Nate for a moment in “Make Rebecca Great Again.”) But again, we have to take into consideration the fact that this isn’t the first time Will has been on the receiving end of Nate’s frustrations. And getting to the bottom of these darker issues and exploring his headspace is worrying me a bit now.
The Couple’s Clash
“Headspace” opens up with a montage for Roy and Keeley to Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” and it appears as though everything is great, but through Juno Temple’s performance you can start to see that something is somewhat amiss. And as we learn as the episode goes on, everything is fine, but Keeley just needs some space.
You know what I respect? A show that gives its main couple realistic conflict then allows them to deal with it like adults. What a concept. You’d think it wouldn’t be such a rarity on screen, but apparently asking for stability in romance is asking for too much at times. That said, the idea of needing space works so well for these two because being around each other at home was one thing, going out was another, but working together this closely as well would obviously result in slight frustrations.
And conflict this way works because it creates realistic drama that not only services the plot, but it advances the character arcs. We get so much of Keeley’s branding, and we’re shown just how much she does to help other people, but we’re finally given a chance to see moments of self-care now. In an episode where self-care is the prominent theme, this arc works to reflect the different forms in which that can be achieved. For someone like Ted, it is digging deep into his headspace with therapy. For Keeley, it’s solitude, the quiet comfort in watching her show alone. (I, for one, can agree. If my boyfriend was reading a book and distracting me from watching Ted Lasso, I’d react the same way Keeley did.)
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to commend Juno Temple’s performance because woah. Whether Brett Goldstein’s reaction was Roy’s or Goldstein realizing what a superb scene partner he has, either way, it was extraordinary. I almost screamed with her that’s how compelling Temple is. And that moment between the Sex and the City dialogue matching up with Keeley’s feelings were so gripping—you knew an outburst was coming, the tension was brilliant, and when it happens, it hurts in all the right ways.
We all hate it when tensions are running high with a couple, but when you know there is going to be a reasonable solution, it works to develop the plot through the character’s growth. Temple’s work this week was full of range and so much nuance, it resulted in giving the audience exquisite growth for the character. It served as the reminder to us all that she is Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman. (Fitting for an episode where we saw the return of Trent Crimm as well.) She’s so much more than Roy’s girlfriend, Rebecca’s best friend, and everyone else’s cheerleader. And while I don’t necessarily think people viewed her as only one thing, I’ll always appreciate diving into a female character’s complexities more profoundly.
Roy is a smart man, but he isn’t always good at reading the signs. (She should have just quoted rom-coms to him, that would’ve done the trick.) However, the thing with Roy and Keeley is that now that they have come to the understanding that space is a healthy necessity in their relationship, it’ll result in them growing stronger as a couple. And the three hours of peace will undoubtedly work to satisfy in all the right ways.
We knew Roy Kent would get the memo at some point, and for the message to come from Jamie Tartt of all people was chef’s kiss.
Hesitations to Meet
“Headspace” does such a remarkable job of exploring the state of mind in altering forms with each of the main characters, and Rebecca’s is so fascinating because very little appears on the surface. It might seem as though she is nervous to meet the mystery man and not as eager as he is for that coming day, but as “The Signal” revealed, Rebecca has reasons not to believe that love can actually be a lasting bond.
Her parents are far from a healthy example, and as a divorced woman with an emotionally abusive ex-husband, her hesitations are rightfully placed. Sassy hasn’t had success either, Ted has just divorced, Beard is in a toxic relationship, and thus, believing in love feels like some sort of a foreign concept. Higgins and Keeley are the exceptions in her life. They are an example of what true love can look like, but it’s human to believe that what they have found is a true marvel in the world and not in the cards for everyone.
And that serendipitous run-in with Sam while she’s trying to respond was riveting because it’s here where we can understand why so much of this makes sense (notwithstanding age and power imbalance, of course). Sam’s warmth and innate kindness screams trustworthy. I can’t imagine a single person for whom he wouldn’t be perfect for.
Thereby, it’ll be fascinating to see how it all plays out when they realize they’ve been speaking to each other this entire time, and it’ll also be interesting to see where it all goes and where it leads Rebecca with her walls. It’s easy to let them down through a screen—”never been so connected, yet never so further apart”—but come face to face, it’s a different story. The walls are higher and sturdier face to face. They are harder to break down and exploring this in a myriad of different angles is brilliant.
Sam hasn’t had colossal heartbreak that we know of. His walls aren’t through the roof like Rebecca’s are. He’s young, he’s eager, and opening himself up to love is much easier. Ted Lasso isn’t a show that subverts expectations, every arc is meticulously planned, and though I have my reservations about this, I’m excited to see the impact the two of them will likely have on each other when the truth is revealed.
“Headspace” is an intriguing episode that caters to the steps that are taken towards freedom, and it explores the shades within emotions when uncertainties and fears are heightened. We are still very much in the dark forest, we’ve got the tools to get out of it, but learning how to properly use them is proving to be at the forefront of surviving and making it out of the battle ground.
Ted Talks and Further Thoughts
- Is the “Roy is Sorry for Not Understanding Keeley” playlist available on Spotify? Because I need it. Because SADE. Yes, a thousand times yes. The man has taste. Edit: It is
- Beard is wearing the hat Jane suggested…
- “I can’t be your mentor without occasionally being your tormentor” is a great way to put therapy.
- The kit room being the “smoking doesn’t count room” is hilarious.
- A man who listens is indeed f—king hot.
- Rebecca and Higgins jazz scatting when Roy walks into the room is everything I didn’t know I needed. Moira Rose should have been in this room.
- “Ratatouille is a masterpiece!”
- “All relationships are a nightmare.” / “My relationship is the oxygen that gives me life.” / “Apart from Leslie’s marriage, which is a bloody greeting card of some kind, and you and Roy just aggravatingly perfect in every way.”
- Prank calling was indeed a fun time.
- The team encouraging Sam and being so invested in this relationship is the cutest thing ever.
- I also love how no one denies that they were in fact talking about Roy.
- Ted responding with sometimes it’s good to bottle things up then bringing up pickles as an example was fantastic, but also, said bottles need to be opened eventually.
What are your thoughts on Ted Lasso’s “Headspace?” Let us know in the comments below.