“Inverting the Pyramid of Success” Spoilers Ahead
Written remarkably by Jason Sudeikis and Joe Kelly, Ted Lasso’s “Inverting the Pyramid of Success” marks the second season’s finale in a big way. It’s both jarring and satisfying, which is always a riveting finale tactic. It delivers on what it had promised, and it wraps some storylines up while still leaving us in the dark forest (as imagined). There are still questions to be answered and further developments to occur, but “Inverting the Pyramid of Success” is a solid finale regardless.
AFC Richmond got themselves promoted, and the series triumphed without falling victim to the sophomore slump.
The season finale sets sail with one of the strongest themes to date (an underlying current all throughout)—the importance of choice. It cements the idea that every choice is a chance, and it spotlights the detail that choices are all we have. It’s the one thing that is ours fully, and it’s the one thing that no one else is responsible for. While a person can be robbed of their own agency, the next step is theirs regardless.
Inverting the Pyramid of Success and Teamwork
Ted Lasso’s “Inverting the Pyramid of Success” unsurprisingly emphasizes the importance of belief so beautifully, this version of the tap is now my favorite thus far. And then, shortly after a win, it crushes your heart just as quickly as it pulled you up. The torn in half “believe” sign at the end is equivalent to Darth Vader cutting off Luke Skywalker’s hand in Empire Strikes Back. The impact is detrimental, and in this scenario, though Ted is the one who sees it, it’s as though a piece of each of them is cut off. And metaphorically, it’s so harrowing there are very few words to describe it. Because that’s just it—while Inverting the Pyramid (the book Beard is reading) is about football, success in any form, shape, or size is measured by teamwork, and the choices each and every person makes that’ll benefit those around them as well as themselves.
AFC Richmond’s hard work and devotion is rewarded when it pays off through what mimics an acute manifestation of belief. It’s a domino effect. When Roy handed the captain’s role to Isaac, it paid off throughout the course of the season, and it beautifully came to life in this episode when he made the decision to tap the “believe” sign. While in the beginning it took some time for him to get used to his role (and learning the vitality of playing for joy in “Rainbow“), in “Inverting the Pyramid of Success,” Isaac takes it one step further—he chooses to believe even harder. He chooses to believe in himself, and more importantly, in his entire team.
This is what a team looks like—masculine melancholy turned towards belief, a win, and kindness at the forefront of every choice. Ted’s decision to apologize to the team because he didn’t give them the chance to learn about his panic attacks through him is just the kind of thing I’d expect from his character. And he’s right, the team should have known, but at the same time, no one would have predicted this outcome when the confession was spoken in a circle once full of trust. And the team reacting with the rage they did is exactly how I pictured they would.
The boys adore Ted—he helped them become a team, and without his kindness and belief in them, they’d be nowhere near the success they’re at today. They’ve each grown in knowing him, they’ve each grown through a newfound trust in each other, and they’ve each grown as a result of kindness. Of course, they’d be angry, and of course, they’d want to hurt anyone who hurts Ted. (In the same way that a lot of viewers reacted on social media by putting anger first, the team is doing the same thing.) But right in front of the one who’s guilty, Ted tells them there’s no need.
He quotes the great “John Obi-Wan Gandalf,” stating: “It is our choices, gentlemen, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” I mean, after everything that went down this week, we’re all in agreement that Ted Lasso is both Obi-Wan and Gandalf, right?
The domino effect of his belief built a team, and the choices they made, as a result, have had a colossal impact. Jamie choosing to give his kick to Dani is yet further proof of the fact that shared joy is a domino effect brought on by belief and the powers of shared joy. He chose to believe in Dani, and it made for one of the most exceptional parallels ever. What a way for Dani Rojas to shine again. They all get it now. They’re home, and working together is better than lone glory.
The Press and The People
Ted Lasso’s second season triumphs for a myriad of reasons, but at the top of the list is its decision not to gloss over mental health. It’s the decision in the writer’s room to not only dig deep into the characters but the decision to make a statement about the stigmas around mental health. When Ted finally speaks to the press at the end of the episode, he speaks directly to the world because this isn’t just a fictional issue. It’s a real-world problem that demands to be dealt with and spoken loudly on behalf of.
Where we were once the only people who saw Ted Lasso’s tremors in the middle of a press conference, as a direct result of therapy, today, we watched him take a stand for everyone. Ted states: “I want to share with you all the truth about my recent struggles with anxiety, and well, my overall concern with the way we discuss and deal with mental health in the athletics.” This is a step in the right direction, and it’s an important one. While Ted was robbed of the choice to speak out about his struggles on his own terms, he took what could have been a darker shadow and lit another match to help others instead.
A part of me, much like Coach Beard, will always be angry that Ted was betrayed and robbed of his agency because of Nate’s choice. If we learned anything about Coach Beard, it’s that his unwavering loyalty to Ted is a saving grace for him as a person too. Ted Lasso is a light in his life, and this friendship is something Beard values more than he can express. He doesn’t talk much, but if looks could kill… Coach Beard and I also have something else in common, it’s fine if you hurt me, but don’t you dare go after my best friend. Beard’s adventures after hours proved that he could take on a lot, but he very clearly hates standing back as Ted struggles.
And I appreciate the fact that he vocalizes it. While in the beginning he shows up with coffee knowing it’s probably too soon to discuss, late at night over beers is the right time for a confrontation. But more than anything, what Beard does is he gives Ted the agency to decide for himself. Beard wants to headbutt Nate, but beyond his rage and the need to defend his friend, he understands that Ted’s agency is what matters most. It’s what Ted needs after the disrespect he received; he needs someone to honor his agency and choices, which Beard does throughout the episode.
Nathan Shelley robbed Ted Lasso of his choice to open up on his own terms, and while his friends were upset by the outcome, they left the play in his hands. And Ted left the play in the team’s hand. It’s a cycle—choices matter. Ted’s reaction makes sense, but so does everybody else’s, as a callback to “Goodbye, Earl“—all people are different people. Thematically, it’s what the series has shown so intrinsically throughout the season it’s been a marvel to watch. The same situation, but a different reaction and understandably so.
As mental health is addressed to the press, we see two different versions of it in “Inverting the Pyramid of Success.” We watched two photographers violate Ted’s space as he left his apartment in the morning, and then we watched Trent Crimm speak to him face to face in private. Trent Crimm, the Independent, is now just … independent. He tells Ted that he told his team he leaked a source because he wants something more profound and better than what he has now.
Trent Crimm might have written the article without wanting to, but when you think about it, knowing about his former piece, compared to all others, he probably wrote the most moving exposé. The truth is no longer just featured in The Independent, but as predicted, it’s everywhere. (And what I would give to read Trent Crimm’s version of it. Edit: It’s been transcribed here.) But because all people are different people, the episode opening up with the pundits discussing it on Sky Sports gives us different versions of what mental health conversations look like in the real world. Some people, like Jeff Stelling, are indeed compassionate, while others like George still have a lot of learning left to do. While we live in a world where there’s (probably) more compassion than there’s backlash in the face of mental health, it doesn’t change the fact that sometimes the darkness and negativity are louder.
And that’s why these conversations matter. That’s why, an Emmy award winning show like Ted Lasso, centered around a men’s football team highlighting mental health as a fundamental storyline throughout its entire season, is so noteworthy. And to see it through a man is especially progressive because while there are still ways to go in inclusive storytelling, mental health in the past has so often centered around women, thereby perpetuating the stigma that it’s merely because we’re “too emotional.”
Instead, Ted Lasso’s “Inverting the Pyramid of Success” makes it clear that neither anxiety nor depression care about gender, ranks, and whatnot—in the same way that timing isn’t a consideration when panic attacks strike, it’s a mark of the detail that it’s just profoundly human.
Both Ted Lasso and Trent Crimm take ownership of the circumstances here. As does Jeff. Choices are made, and they aren’t easy ones. Trent Crimm once chose to see the real Ted Lasso, and by virtue of his integrity as a man, took priority over his glory as a writer. Kindness and belief make people better. It’s that simple. It really is.
Hiring Your Best Friend
Ted Lasso continuously passing the Bechdel test is one of my favorite things about the series. And that’s especially the case throughout “Inverting the Pyramid of Success.” Keeley Jones, much like Nathan Shelley, was given a chance and the agency to seize an opportunity they’re both good at. And they both could have risen to the top honorably except one of them took in the feelings of their boss, which inadvertently also touches on the importance of honest communication.
As Higgins tells Keeley when she confronts him about her opportunity, “a good mentor hopes you’ll move on. A great mentor knows you will.” Keeley Jones and Rebecca Welton started out as unlikely acquaintances before they became the best of friends, but because belief in the other person is always at the forefront of their relationship, there is never competition between the two women. On par with the theme from “Midnight Train to Royston,” it’s not about competition, it’s about community. In the same way that a pyramid will topple over without a steady foundation, people will fail if they rise without steady support. Again, not to sound like a broken record, but no one achieves anything alone—much like trees, humans weren’t meant to survive that way. We are here to support and uplift each other. You can practice self-care without being selfish.
Watching the women sob while hugging each other because they’d miss working with each other is, without question, one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve watched all year. To watch two women who’ve been each other’s anchors cry because they’re both so proud and so sad is precisely how it should be. Working with your best friend is a beautiful, amazing thing, but we live in a sad world where that’s not always permanent. Because ultimately, wanting the best for those we love equates to wanting them to rise, and sometimes that means they’ll move on.
Between Keeley and Rebecca, there’s always been honest conversation—confronting one another even while it was hard, and because both women love themselves, they’re so innately capable of loving each other as beautifully.
In an industry where women are so often pitted against each other, I’ll always be grateful Ted Lasso rises above that pattern. It shouldn’t be like this in the fictional world, and it shouldn’t be like this in the real world. Women should be each other’s cheerleaders. We should be each other’s anchors. Rebecca and Keeley are, through and through.
Keeley Jones, The Boss
Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman, the “BILF”—a boss ass bi*ch, reaping the benefits of what she’s sewn is everything and more to me as a viewer. But there’s still so much we don’t know about Keeley, and I hope that’s something season three delivers on. Once again, we heard about her mother in passing, but I want to know more about her. I want to know about Keeley’s family. I want to know about her childhood. (I want to know about all of theirs, really.) It’s necessary to flesh out her character more through her new endeavors.
The offer, the decision to take it, and Keeley Jones choosing her career right now are so lovely to watch because she’s not only worked hard for this, but she has inspired others in the process. She has made people better by supporting them, loving them, and being the best version of herself even when she was confused. In “Midnight Train to Royston,” we watched her struggle with the fears that she wouldn’t be enough as herself, but through her journey in “Inverting the Pyramid of Success,” we’re seeing her take the necessary chances to allow the world to get to know the real Keeley Jones.
A vacation would have been great, but as of right now, taking the time to work is exactly what she needs, and the show painting this portrait of success through Roy and Keeley is exceptional. This is where Keeley and Nate differ because Keeley knows it’s lonely at the top. She knows that it’s important to share your successes and failures because she understands the truth behind the healing catharsis found in vulnerability. She has found truth in her hard work, and I hope we continue to see the aftermath of what this time alone working does for her. Because she is anything but lonely, secluded, or burdened by perilous darkness when she decides to choose for herself.
And ultimately, the feminist portrait this storyline paints is that a woman on top can have both—she can choose to chase her career, and she can choose to love her boyfriend just as hard. She doesn’t have to choose between them when both are a possibility. And I’m so happy that Ted Lasso delivers on this when other shows in the past have made the woman choose one or the other.
Roy Kent and Self-Love
He’s here, he’s there—he’s come so far. One of the quips I have with Ted Lasso’s “Inverting the Pyramid of Success” is not seeing the direct aftermath of Roy and Keeley’s angsty confession during the photo shoot. While I’m glad the two of them had a healthy conversation surrounding the divulgences, there’s still the matter of why the idea of marriage stunned Roy the way it did. Is choosing to go on vacation his version of diving deeper into commitment? I can see it as so, and I’m fine taking it as somewhat of an answer, but his insecurities are yet to be resolved.
And insecurity is yet another fascinating element that Ted Lasso touches on through various characters because it’s so innately human. We’ve all got them. While at one point, his identity as a man, as opposed to a footballer, was the primary crutch he was carrying, he now harbors the heartache that Keeley is better off on her own. As he begrudgingly tells the Diamond Dogs, Vanity Fair excluding any of the photographs with him in it hurt his feelings. He vocalizes the fact that she looks great and natural without him. And I just, sir.
Plus, his fear that they were breaking up when she says she wouldn’t go with him is so crushing because you could see that he genuinely does believe he’s like a virus to her. We watched him vocalize the same thing to Phoebe in “Man City,” and though he doesn’t say it out loud here, we can see that a part of Roy feels he isn’t good enough for others. It’s not a crutch he’s told us about, but I imagine season three will bring it to the surface more and allow him to deal with it.
I also wonder how much Phoebe’s mom (his sister) being a successful working mom without a partner has skewed Roy’s image of the duality that can be achieved in relationships but isn’t always. We don’t know much about her other than the fact that her husband (ex?) is a piece of sh!t, but it’s something to reflect on. Keeley can and absolutely should have both love and a career, but the examples people know of don’t always allow such disposition to take front and center. Feminism that rejects the idea that women cannot and should not conform to traditional societal expectations (such as having a loving partner) and a thriving career is outdated, but that’s a topic of discussion for another time. Insecurities on top of unlucky paradigms could alter Roy’s heart and mind working together in unison.
Keeley Jones feels like she’s been struck by f—king lighting with Roy Kent, but when he spoke those words to Rebecca in “Goodbye, Earl,” he was talking about how Keeley made him feel. And sooner or later, he’s got to understand that he’s worthy of the love that he receives. He’s come so far from allowing himself to be vulnerable in “The Hope That Kills You,” but self-love isn’t easy. And it’s especially not easy when you’re used to keeping an image like Roy Kent’s. But he’s going to get there, and when he does, it’ll be worth it. (But did he even go? He left the two tickets on the empty desk. Did he go back for them? Again, I need answers.)
Forgiveness and Growth
Both Jamie Tartt and Roy Kent have come so far it’s innately brilliant. Take a breath, Greyhounds. Ted Lasso isn’t (and was never) the type of show to harp on a love triangle, but it’s the type of show that’ll exhibit the power of a healthy conversation.
It’s so significant that Jamie chooses to come clean to Roy without anyone saying anything to him because it’s the essential showcase of his growth. Roy Kent is a mentor to Jamie Tartt, and he’s an example of a healthy male figure he could look up to thus, the decision to open up to him was so brilliant because it reiterates just how much Jamie truly values his opinion. And he especially values it because Roy was there for him at a moment when he needed him the most.
Admitting that death made him uncomfortable, and he had no idea what to do, but understanding how wrong he was while vocalizing that he respects their relationship and would never get in the way of it is exactly why this show is so special. It’s exactly why Roy forgives him because both men have come so far in understanding not only each other but the value of an honest conversation. And the sincerity in Phil Dunster’s expression floored me because Jamie Tartt has indeed come far.
Ted Lasso continues to denounce toxic masculinity by allowing men moments of sincerity and honest conversations like this. It continues to be a beacon of light in a genre that would’ve otherwise used every last opportunity they could find to continue causing animosity where it’s unnecessary.
It plays on the thematic focus of choice that much more by laying it bare that they’ve both made the kind they are better for. Jamie can be freed from his guilt this way (because really we know how much Roy’s support means to him), and Roy could let go of the frustration that Jamie is still a threat.
And that final moment after the game where Roy headbutted him only to hug him again as they physically jumped up and down smiling is a scene I’ll never stop replaying. Where in “Man City” Roy embraced Jamie as a decision to be his strength and support, today during “Inverting the Pyramid of Success,” it’s a sign of a real friendship—a mark of true, shared joy.
Some people aren’t huggers, and that’s completely fine, but when people are, there shouldn’t be any shame in these moments of shared, physical joy. And to see it between two men who’ve fought tirelessly against each other on the same pitch is a showcase of full circle growth in an astonishing approach. It’s proof of the detail that shared joy is more evocative and healing than solitary acclaim.
Sam Obisanya is still our ace, and thank heavens for that. And I love the fact that his decision isn’t driven by Rebecca’s feelings, but because he comes to the understanding that his work here in Richmond isn’t done yet. When he watches the player in the park with his jersey, it serves as a reminder to Sam that he’s done a lot of good at AFC Richmond, and it’s not time for him to move forward yet.
Also, with the way that Edwin Akufo behaves after Sam respectfully rejects the offer, I’m so thrilled Sam won’t be around someone who’s well—the very kind of billionaire we should all be wary of.
And again, when Ted Lasso as a show surprises me, it does such a great job of it. I really thought Sam would leave; thus, to know that he’s staying (and it’s the right decision for the character), makes me that much happier as a viewer. Sam’s decisions are tied to what others think of him, Rebecca being one, but also his father, Ted, and the rest of the team. But the part of his journey that will focus on his own feelings is going to be so amazing to watch next season.
Sam Obisanya found his footing in season two, and his character was strengthened as a result of his experiences. Where in “Do the Right-est Thing,” he learned the importance of stepping up for family and his country, next up is learning more about himself. This decision is the start of that. And if this show ever gives us an epilogue of “where are they now?” I want to see the Nigerian team where Sam Obisanya is the captain and star player beat Casablanca. His dream has to come true someday, and I believe in it now more than ever. The decision to open up a Nigerian restaurant is his start in many ways, and it’s an exceptional one.
The Dark Pitch
In an episode where choices and conversations are at the forefront of storytelling, Nathan Shelley’s gait to the dark side showcases why both actions are so vital. Choices and conversations both require action, and it’s almost always the hard one.
The heartbreaking parallel to “be curious, not judgmental” is painted so grimly through the conversation with Ted, it broke me. Because that’s just it—Ted is curious through all this. He wants Nate to come to him, he doesn’t want to exploit him, and more than anything, he wants to give space. The concept of space is something that Ted Lasso understands too well now, but it’s also something that he himself needs to work around.
We know Nate’s betrayal deeply hurts him, and as a human being, he’s probably angry too. There’s not a single person in the world, no matter how kind who wouldn’t be, but through the terrible night he had, Ted chooses to forgive and understand. He chooses to be curious, to wait for the moment where he can learn why Nate did what he did. And so, after Nate walks off after everyone touches the believe sign, Ted finally decides it’s time to ask the question.
He doesn’t state he knows it was Nate who leaked the information, but he asks, plain and simple, what he’s done to upset him as so. And my goodness, this hurts so much because Nick Mohammed’s performance is so achingly nuanced it’s crushing. We watched him physically showcase Nate’s internal battle with the devil and angel on his shoulders. It brings me back to “Headspace,” where Nate’s conversation with his mother and father over breakfast really painted him as a child instead of a grown man. A lack of parental love and a lack of love broke Nathan Shelley, and as a result, he chose power over compassion. He chose to be judgmental as opposed to being curious. But watching him battle with himself while his words on the surface spoke a completely different language than that which was clearly inside of him was utterly riveting—all the awards to Nick Mohammed at that moment.
I let out an audible gasp when he says that Ted doesn’t even have the photograph he gave him because we, as the audience, know it’s right next to a photograph of his son. We know that Nate is important to Ted and that he’s important to the team, but Nate doesn’t know that, and while it’s understandably a reason he’d be upset, it’s not an excuse. “Inverting the Pyramid of Success” quite literally makes it clear that we are responsible for our own choices, and that’s the truth of life.
So often, hurting people hurt other people. I said that last week, but I’ll repeat it because while it’s motive, it’s not an excuse. It’s a choice. And I’m personally struggling so hard with my feelings towards Nate, but the thing is—I don’t hate Anakin Skywalker, I hate Darth Vader. And I suppose that’s the same way I feel about Nathan Shelley.
Nate the Great is in him somewhere, buried deep underneath the anger and the pain, but right now, he’s long gone. And I don’t know how or even if the series plans to redeem him because right now, he’s deep into the villainous descend. As mentioned above, ripping the believe sign is this show’s version of Vader cutting off Luke’s hand. It’s the second sacred thing Nate took and tore to shreds—the trust of the Diamond Dogs, first and the heart of the team, second. He is, in every way, a villain right now, and it’s because of his own choices.
I feel for Nate—I really do, but it’s a hard-earned lesson to know that no one else is responsible for your feelings and your choices. Ted is a human being, and he cannot be aware of everyone and everything, every second of the day, especially while he’s going through his own heartaches. Nate learning about Ted’s panic attacks should have told him everything about why Ted’s attention has been more scarce. It should have been the key to understanding that it’s not personal. And yet, it didn’t suffice.
Nate could have and should have done exactly what Ted does in this episode. He should have chosen to confront him. He should have chosen to ask if there’s anything he’s done to upset him, but instead, Nate decided to let the anger marinate for far too long, and then he chose to make his own assumptions. He chose to believe that Ted Lasso is the enemy, Rupert Mannion is a new hope. And this conversation, my God, talk about an aching parallel to Revenge of the Sith. Anakin Skywalker was like a brother to Obi-Wan Kenobi—he loved him. Need I say more?
And then there’s the matter of the “Rainbow” parallel. Where Roy Kent’s triumphant return was a homecoming, a step towards finding his rainbow, but Nate physically walking the very route (the same one Ted did, too after the panic attack) dressed in all black was his gait towards the shadows. The contrast is just so (excuse my French) fucking brilliant; it’s truly excellent in storytelling. Plus, there’s the detail that Keeley is wearing the same gold jacket she was wearing in “Rainbow,” and Rebecca is wearing the same outfit she wore in “The Signal.” When you take note of the importance of costumes and the connections between the people, well, that’s worthy of an entire scene breakdown. It’s so painfully telling.
And ultimately—there’s a disturbance in the force now though Keeley calls it a balance with Rupert’s return, but it won’t be a proper balance until we’re actually out of the dark forest. Or, the dark pitch now, as Nate’s new ground looks cold and grim.
To watch him stand there alone, proudly—it’s no fun, it really isn’t. And it juxtaposes the fact that even if there are wins for him, will they truly be satisfying? Is Rupert someone he could share the joy with? Of course not. Rupert is going to hug him the same way Roy did. He can’t jump on Rupert like he can on Ted. They don’t have a friendship here, it’s a dictatorship, and he chose to be a puppet (like Vader is Palpatine’s).
Ted Lasso’s “Inverting the Pyramid of Success” is a brilliant 50 minutes of television with the necessary themes we could all take notes on. Each and every one of us has choices in life; sometimes, we’re robbed of them, but what we do and how we react is the true measure of our character.
The hard choices are almost always the right ones. Sharing joy and celebrating successes together is better than taking all the glory alone. Praise is worth nothing if you have no one to celebrate with, and being curious is always better than making assumptions. Conversations matter, and the tough conversations matter even more. And the truth? Well, Dr. Sharon Fieldstone was right, it’ll set you free, but it’ll piss you off first.
“Inverting the Pyramid of Success” leaves us with questions, but now more than ever, we can be certain that everything will work out in the end.
Ted Talks and Further Thoughts
- MAE CRUMBLING UP THE PAPER. MAE FOR PRESIDENT 2K24.
- “I’m afraid your mustache is gonna pop off.” But what if one day, Ted just shaves the mustache…is that something we can all handle?
- Is Keeley Jones, the Vanity Fair issue available for purchase? Because I need it.
- RIP, Earl on Dani’s shoe. (Insert crying emoji here.) FOOTBALL IS LIFE!
- I ask this again, what did Palpatine whisper to Vader????!
- No but can we talk about the fact that the other coach in front of Nate at West Ham basically looked like an Imperial General from the back and the team with their white jerseys looked like storm troopers?! “Imperial March” starts playing at the distance.
- Roy growling at the pink lion. (Tiger? Panther?)
- While Edwin Akufo’s reaction was super unnecessary, Sam Richardson’s performance was aces.
- Keeley hating snakes? Same
- Roy Kent washing dishes? What a real man!
- “Horticulture, baby!”
- I never, ever want to get on Beard’s bad side. We talk a lot about the Roy Kent side-eye, but damn, the Beard stare is terrifying.
- I’d also like Keeley’s pink plaid pajamas. Please and thank you.
- Jeff missing Roy. Valid.
- Rebecca eating the salty biscuits will never not be funny.
- Will freezing when Roy and Jamie were talking. Big mood.
- “Is Roy here?” “I don’t hear any grunting.”
- Beard’s repetitive “oh my God” to Roy basically unofficially officially joining The Diamond Dogs is an accurate representation of my reaction as well.
- I just want you all to know that I also have an anchor tattoo and therefore, I am as cool as Isaac.
- What happens to Ted after all this? I really hope he takes a little break to go home and see Henry. Or can Henry come stay with him for a while? It’s just the kind of healing he could use.
What are your thoughts on Ted Lasso’s “Inverting the Pyramid of Success?”