I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but there’s a bit of a schism in the world of Ted Lasso fandom. It opened up like a sinkhole at a Florida flea market just over a month ago, when the show gave us “Carol of the Bells,” maybe its most heartwarming episode yet but also the Ted Lasso episode with the lowest stakes. As in, there aren’t really any stakes. I found the episode delightfully ridiculous and a whole bunch of fun; some other Gist writers did not. It’s here that I’m going to push right past the low-hanging Grinch comparison and assure you that this does all relate to “Beard After Hours,” the upcoming ninth episode of Ted Lasso’s increasingly good second season.
Just after “Carol of the Bells” aired, the Los Angeles Times published a piece on the episode. The Times interviewed Joe Kelly for its article; Kelly, a Ted Lasso OG and the Christmas episode’s writer, shared some more heartwarming BTS details about how “Carol of the Bells” came to be. But Kelly also addressed — if inadvertently — the aforementioned lack of stakes in the Christmas episode. It’s worth pointing out here that the centerpiece of “Do the Right-Est Thing,” the episode that aired the week before, was a very high-stakes showdown between Dubai Air, AFC Richmond’s sponsor, and the team protesting Dubai Air’s connection to environmentally destructive oil drilling in Nigeria, where three of Richmond’s players are from.
In “Carol of the Bells,” though, there was absolutely no mention of any of that. In fact, the episode played rather like none of the story arcs of Ted Lasso Season 2 had begun at all. And, as Kelly explained, there was a very good reason for that: “Carol of the Bells” was written and produced entirely out of sequence with the rest of the season, because Apple placed a late order for more Ted Lasso episodes. Originally, Season 2 was going to be ten episodes long; Apple asked for two more “after the writers room had finished breaking its planned ten.”
So that solved the mystery of why “Carol of the Bells” felt out of sync. But it also began another mystery: Which of the remaining eight was the Ted Lasso bonus episode?
We knew it was a bonus episode, or an extra, or however you want to categorize it, because the Times article also used the word “standalone” to describe the two last-minute additions to the season. So it was clear that the second of the two would be, like “Carol of the Bells,” at least somewhat divorced from the remainder of the season. It likely would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Ted Lasso’s writers and crew to rearrange production and storyline juggling in order to fit in a last-minute change of that size.
Enter “Beard After Hours.” As soon as the episode description went up, this one seemed almost certain to be the second bonus episode. Behold: “After the semi-final, Beard sets out on an all-night odyssey through London in an effort to collect his thoughts.” We know Coach Beard is often up all night, though usually the implication is he’s been with Jane.
But Beard and Ted parted on less-than-terrific terms last week, following Richmond’s worst-ever loss in the Lasso era. And although that is an ominous sign, there’s no reason to give an entire episode over to Coach Beard when the season is only ten episodes long. A big part of Beard’s appeal is his reticence, his wisdom, and Brendan Hunt’s reliance upon tics and gestures, instead of words, to convey what words would be clunky for anyway. You don’t give Coach Beard an episode all to himself unless, in the words of the Los Angeles Times, you’re ready to “revel in the opportunity” of a last-minute standalone episode.
But a strong hunch about “Beard After Hours” wasn’t enough. I needed to know more. To find out, I went to the source. Ted Lasso co-creator Bill Lawrence always chats with fans on Twitter the night a new episode drops. When he asked for questions last week, I asked him about 2.9. And he responded, much like Coach Beard, with a gesture instead of a word:
I also tagged Brett Goldstein and Joe Kelly, who co-wrote “Beard After Hours,” in a separate, even more brazen attempt at getting that good Ted Lasso gossip over Twitter. And Kelly liked that tweet.
Based on an educated guess and social media engagement from two people who know what we don’t, I’m calling “Beard After Hours” the other standalone episode this season. And I was right about Rebecca and Sam. I’ll put my minuscule credibility on the line here, two-and-a-half days before the new episode airs.
As for what that episode may contain: who knows? All we have to go on are the above stills, the episode description, and the fact that it’s 43 minutes long. Last week, “Man City” clocked in at 45 minutes, making it the longest Ted Lasso episode to date. “Beard After Hours” will be the second-longest. Presumably, Beard will say more than a few words in it. Presumably, he’ll muse about Ted’s win-loss record as a non-American football coach. We’re going to spend at least a little time with the Crown & Anchor Trio; I look forward to seeing them in a different setting. Judging by the purple-violet orgy photo, Beard has either seen or remembered something of vital importance; but the last time we saw characters look startled like that, it was in the teaser still for “Make Rebecca Great Again,” and it turned out Rebecca and Keeley were watching Keeley shill for the majesty of Liverpool’s nightlife on the hotel TV.
In other words, anything could happen. And I hope it does! Those Beard-Jamie shippers may even get their wish. If “Carol of the Bells” was all about heartwarming good vibes at the holidays, “Beard After Hours” — just the phrase alone — suggests a brooding, writhing, conflicted, “Bad Romance”-living American werewolf on the loose in the streets of London and within himself. Fingers crossed.
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