This week, a normally sensible person who writes for The Gist made a very silly suggestion. She suggested that Jamie Tartt’s punch — you know, the one to his father’s face that we were all dying to deliver ourselves — should have actually come from Ted Lasso. This is absurd! It would make more sense to see Roy Kent turn into a pint of butter pecan ice cream than it would to see James Tartt, henceforth Senior Tartt, take a punch from Ted Lasso. And there are two very simple reasons why.
Yes, Jamie Tartt’s Punch Had To Come From Jamie Tartt
The most obvious reason is that this was Jamie’s fight. His whole life, Jamie’s been abused by his father, emotionally, verbally, and physically. He didn’t fight back after the match in “The Hope That Kills You,” the one other time we see Jamie and his father. In that setting, with Senior Tartt whipping himself into a rage over his son’s decision to go for an assist instead of scoring the winning goal himself, Jamie was completely cowed. He slumped down. He looked away from Senior Tartt. He didn’t defend himself when his father put hands on him. In short, he looked like a little boy in shock.
This version of his father is really the only one Jamie has ever known. Which means that the choice to react or not react to him is Jamie’s alone. Anyone else stepping in would have opened Jamie up to a whole new channel of abuse and taunting from his father, about how he can’t stand up for himself and has never been able to and is no good. To say nothing of the self-doubt or shame or confidence issues or any number of other emotional problems it would have opened up inside Jamie himself.
On a certain level, this is the weak-but-effective metaphor of good old-fashioned demon exorcising. If Jamie punches his father, and gets him to shut up and go away, he’s banished the demon from his home. (This metaphor strains when you recall it’s technically Coach Beard who banished Senior Tartt from the locker room, so let’s instead appreciate that Beard had the burn of the season telling James to watch out for the door.) If Jamie doesn’t punch his father — and someone else does — then the demon isn’t banished. The battle is postponed. The team can have Jamie’s back, but they can’t fight this fight with him.
I can’t help wondering if Jamie has ever hit his father before. It’s hard to believe, given how much abuse it feels like he’s suffered, that Jamie has never once flailed blindly, pushed him away hard, swung and missed, landed a glancing blow, or given him a good crack. I suppose it’s less important to know whether or not he ever has than it is to remember where Jamie has been all his life. He’s not much older than Sam; his loan to AFC Richmond from Man City suggests he made it to the Premier League recently. And Jamie did Lust Island specifically to “piss off” his old man. Richmond’s current team has to be the most supportive, the healthiest he’s ever been a part of. The current version of Jamie is also the healthiest-ever version of Jamie.
When you’re little, and you’re lashing out at someone bigger than you, there’s an element of comedy for the bigger person: Look at this poor kid, thinking he’s already man enough to knock me down. For the kid, there’s just naked anger. You grow up some, and that anger can actually become fear. Because now you have a better sense of just how much smaller you are. And bigger people are very good at seeing fear in smaller ones. You punch back, but your soul isn’t in it: your brain is too preoccupied with danger. Then you start really learning to be afraid when this bigger person confronts you. If you let it, the fear you learn will stay with you long after you’ve become someone new in every other respect.
I think it’s very likely that, before “Man City,” Jamie had never taken himself seriously when his father confronted him. Maybe he had punched at Senior Tartt; maybe he’d landed punches before. You punch differently, though, when you don’t believe in yourself, when you don’t believe you can win. His father, a lifelong bully, can see this too. Jamie went from angered…
…to overwhelmed, all within the space of one punch.
And he doesn’t look frightened of his father as much as he does fearful of what comes next. After you’ve changed one pattern, you have to start something else. That’s never easy. It can be purely terrifying when what you’ve changed is something you’ve always known.
Ted Lasso Is Boxing Gloves on a Goldfish
Ted is not in a good place. Ted has not been in a good place for some time. You could argue that Ted hasn’t been right since he was sixteen years old. But that doesn’t mean his response to father-son trauma is or should be to fight. We know from his panic attacks that Ted’s response is flight. It’s not surprising that he didn’t jump in against Senior Tartt; immediately after the punch, Ted couldn’t look in Jamie’s direction.
Nevermind punching — Ted can’t even hug in this situation. As some sensible Lassonians recently pointed out on their thoughtful and correct podcast, Season One Ted would have been the first one in there to wrap arms. This season, all Ted knows in the aftermath of that punch is that the time has come for him to start talking.
Nor do I think this has anything to do with Ted’s boundless optimism or region-specific manners. Critics and viewers often call Ted a Midwesterner; it’s more accurate to say he’s from the Plains. Regardless, both places overvalue politeness and put a high premium on adherence to a general sense of right and wrong. When someone’s going out of their way to be rude, you turn the other cheek until you just can’t. The people with whom Ted grew up throw hands. “No Fight Club” is a locker room, same-team rule, not a universal one.
All of this is to say that Theodore Laurence Lasso is not incapable of a fistfight. We’ve even seen him get close: “Better manners when I’m holdin’ darts” is still the show’s most threatening line, and lo and behold it belongs to Ted. But Ted is also holding on to way more baggage than he realized. He knows he has to start letting go. And he’s finally acknowledging that the way to do that is by sharing. Punching Senior Tartt in the face isn’t a release — it’s a piling-on. You don’t process trauma by adding more trauma. The way out is through. Violence is a scattered map.
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