“Beard After Hours” is a *lot.* A good lot, like a genie who lets you use one of your three wishes to wish for more wishes. If you’re a Coach Beard fan, Ted Lasso 2.9 is wish fulfillment unto itself. If you love a zany good time, Season 2’s second standalone episode is the show at its zenith of zaniness. And if you were already on the fence about Season 2 — or if you’d fallen off and landed on the other side — then good news: you can keep whinging! Like The Sopranos “The Test Dream” or Breaking Bad’s “Fly,” “Beard After Hours” is a deliberate nose-thumbing at Ted Lasso’s conventions, a try for something very, very different. That’s right: this show gives even grumps reason to believe!
At 43 minutes, Ted Lasso 2.9 is also the show’s second-longest episode. And, while Ted Lasso is always pretty allusion-heavy, “Beard After Hours” — the acronym for which, “BAH,” is also a fun little commentary on Beard — is so dense with references and extended homages to movies and other shows that I’m not going to bother trying to point them all out. My Reservation Dogs recaps are already way, way too long (but thanks for reading them, dozens of you!). Those cap tips will have to go into a separate article. For now, everybody just hang on to your keys.
We begin the evening’s festivities with the scene of Beard and Ted parting at the end of “Man City,” only this time it’s from Beard’s point of view. Ted sets the stakes by reminding Beard to bring coffee to the morning film session. When Beard walks away, we get to watch his face as he flips Ted the bird. He rolls his eyes at Ted! It’s a harder moment to watch here than it was a week ago. Even after watching “Beard After Hours,” I’m still low-to-medium scared of what feels like a coming crisis in their relationship.
There’s a blue moon in the night sky over the Wembley tube station. “Blue Moon,” as you may recall, is the Manchester City fans’ song for the club. They belted it out last week before Richmond’s 5-0 drubbing. They’re belting it out now. Beard stands there, staring up at it, an asteroid of incredulity among endless attendees clad in Man City sky blue streaming up the station steps.
After a long look, Beard appears resigned to his fate. He stares into the middle distance while his train goes along its track, the world sped up around him, Beard sitting still.
This is how the opening credits play: not with Ted finding his seat in an empty Nelson Road, but with people everywhere and Beard all alone. We don’t get the standard theme song, either; instead of Marcus Mumford’s electric rendition, Ted Lasso 2.9 gives us Jeff Tweedy singing a gentle, acoustic version. Though some of you might not want to remember it, the infamous Christmas episode also had a unique opening credit sequence. I love that the standalone episodes got this many inspired variations on Ted Lasso’s already inspired themes. I hope Apple orders a whole bushel of extra episodes at the last minute for Season 3.
After staring down a child in a haunting echo of Roy’s scene with a kid a few episodes ago, Beard gets off the train. The blue moon follows him as he walks home. We go inside Coach Beard’s home! It takes a minute, though, as the key needs a lot of coaxing to turn in the lock. Beard’s place is tidy, it has full bookshelves, it has a glowy, blue light-looking poster of a humanoid on the wall next to the front door that in the dim light your attention can’t help but be drawn to.
Beard turns on the television and gets a beer. Of course, what’s on TV is two sports commentators addressing the Richmond-Man City match. One of them calls it “a real David-versus-Goliath match, but where Goliath just curb-stomped David in the back of the school — like in that Ed Norton movie?” The other one is Thierry Henry, the legendary Arsenal striker. Apparently Henry has been a part of Ted Lasso since the NBC commercials for the Premier League that started this whole thing. Henry says, “Moonrise Kingdom?” I spit out some of my drink and I hope you did, too.
Beard sips his beer. The commentary continues. The commentators get weirdly specific with their critique, placing the blame for Richmond’s loss squarely on the coaching staff and then zeroing in on Coach Beard. He’s “Ted Lasso’s Number Two — he’s supposed to challenge him, not just be a sniveling lackey.” Henry goes a step further: “I hate Coach Beard.” Beard, shocked, responds with what will become a refrain as the night progresses: “Shut up, Thierry Henry.” He chugs his beer, zips his jumper, slams the empty bottle down —
— and smash cut to Mae slamming a full pint down in front of Beard at The Crown & Anchor. Mae seems sympathetic, but talk quickly turns to the match, and she reads Beard the same riot act Henry and his cohort had going: Richmond was too quick to attack, they left no one back on defense, and what the hell was Beard thinking with a strategy like that in such an important game? It was the FA Cup semifinal, man, come on!
It’s hard to tell because the shot’s focus is on Beard, but Mae is screaming her head off here. Annette Badland does an amazing job in this scene. I really hope they don’t kill her next week.
Beard checks his phone. He’s missed a bunch of messages from Jane. So that didn’t end, after all. As Beard types back, we get a glimpse of the end of their previous conversation, which for some reason tickles me to no end:
Baz, Jeremy, and Paul appear, because of course they do. Paul returns Beard’s dropped keys (metaphor!), Paul offers him a hug, and Beard tells them they’re welcome to sit, as long as the conversation is about anything other than the Man City game. Naturally, the conversation turns to “the fragility of life.” Many, many, many pints later, we find out that Beard believes reality as we know it is a simulation, and “all we can do is tip our caps to the rascal pullin’ the strings.” That sounds like Tom Waits by way of Baudrillard and is therefore a perfect line for Beard.
It also gives us further insight into the conspiratorial nature of the Beard family. That line about how his mom has gone “full QAnon” stuck with me since Episode 6. One hard truth, though, is that Beard and the boys have closed the pub. Jane chooses this moment to text Beard, telling him she’s gone to a club and is “atoning for her sins.” She sends a selfie beneath a neon lavender cross.
Beard is transfixed. He insists on continuing the night. Paul suggests they go to Bones & Honey, but Baz and Jeremy scoff; that’s a private club, and they once turned away Cher, so what chance does this lot have getting in? There is a dress code to consider — but good old Mae hoists a giant lost & found box onto the bar. So *that’s* how we got the Peaky Blinders wardrobe everybody’s been raving about all week.
At Bones & Honey, Beard slides up to the hostess stand. He tries to charm her with a few half-baked lies about things they might have in common, but she isn’t buying any of it. Turns out, though, it’s all just a con to get her full name. Once Beard has it, he lets her brush him off so she can answer the phone — it’s Baz, outside, pretending to be the fire marshal. He tells Miss Sarah Coombes that her flat is on fire. An instant later, she’s running out of the building, and Beard & Company are in.
In the elevator on the way to the club proper, Jeremy expresses remorse for tricking Sarah. But Beard points out that her life will seem more vibrant now since her building isn’t actually burning to the ground. It’s a deliberate reference to the scene in Fight Club with the clerk who always wanted to go to vet school.
The crew from the pub are too awed by Bones & Honey’s posh clientele to actually go in. Beard, echoing Ted’s exchange with Nate over the latter’s suggested play last season, insists that they do belong here, since here is exactly where they want to be. “And feel free to strut,” he adds. It’s all kinds of great to see Beard at the head of the pack like this, doing deceptive stuff Ted would never consider.
There’s a woman in red across the room. She gives Beard a look; he gives her a tip of his jaunty drivers cap. After talking with the bartender, though, the woman is gone. And then Beard has bigger problems, because his three cohorts are about to get class-bullied by some snots at the pool table. So he swoops in with a delightful Irish accent, and elaborate alias: he’s Professor Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus, an Oxford professor emeritus of economics and management, out for a “wee liquid reunion” with three of his protégés.
Of course the three snots went to Oxford, and of course they grill Beard on some super-specific Oxford shit. And of course, fucking of course, Beard has the details to parry their every thrust. It’s an impressive display, but what’s more so is that Beard is actually guiding the snots where he wants them to go so that he can tell them the things they don’t expect him to say. This, for me, was “Beard After Hours'” most Beard-centric scene. It’s not that he pulled a rabbit out of a hat. Beard convinced these guys that he had a rabbit under his hat when he didn’t have a hat on his head.
So now there’s a wager on a game of pool, and Jeremy sinks the wagered shot while looking up at the three snots. This is the Ted Lasso version of the “How do you like them apples” scene from Good Will Hunting. As with the Fight Club homage earlier, the threat of violence has been removed and replaced with wholesome trickery. There’s about to be a bunch of drinking and mirth around the pool table, but Beard has other plans: the woman in red is back at the bar. Before he goes, Baz pulls him aside and asks him how he knew “all that stuff about Oxford.” Beard shrugs: “I dated a professor at Oxford. And I listen more than I talk.” He led them exactly where he wanted them to go. I want to get Coach Beard drunk and listen more than I talk.
He thinks he’s following the woman, and walks down an empty corridor. A melancholy, mildly creepy version of “Clair de Lune” plays. It sounds like it’s being played on the organ Roger Sterling played while Peggy skated around the empty office near the very end of Mad Men. I’m not saying it’s an allusion to that; that’s just what it sounds like.
And “Blue Moon” is a melancholy song that Manchester City supporters make jolly. The moon imagery is important in this episode, but transformations are, too.
At the end of the corridor is a room full of great old analog TVs. They start playing footage of the Richmond-Man City match. The commentators return, and they’re speaking directly to Beard again. “Beard’s self-esteem is so low, he would need a pep talk to kill himself. And I would like,” says Thierry Henry, “to give that pep talk.” This time, Beard’s retort is a shout: “Shut up, Thierry Henry!”
Unfortunately, Beard tears his trousers. His epithets alert a security guard, who asks to see Beard’s membership card. And that is how his time at Bones & Honey comes to an end. But who’s standing across the street? Why, the woman in red, of course, now clad in a tiger-print trench coat. She offers to fix Beard’s trousers back at her place. The blue moon watches over it all.
Of course, in order to get them fixed, Beard has to take them off. She promises to give him “something to wear in the meantime,” and boy, does she deliver on that promise:
I know at least one person reading this would have preferred a screencap of Beard pantsless. But you don’t put a pair of pants like that in your show if you don’t want recappers to talk about them. Red also gives Beard the keys he dropped (metaphor!). She tells him that this particular pair of trousers belonged to a dead man. It turns out Red keeps trousers from every man she’s ever been with. She and Beard talk about being in love. “I want to be with her. All the time,” Beard says. “Is that love? Or do I have a problem.” Red: “Why can’t it be both?”
On that note, Red’s phone rings, and a man who I can only describe as both looking and sounding like Roy Kent if he were given an X-Men serum wants to FaceTime. He forgot his keys and needs her to open the door. This will become a minor plot hole a moment later, as the sight of Beard enrages him and he threatens death upon Beard and then opens the flat door without much trouble while Beard is fleeing out the window. There’s a short chase scene reminiscent of both the opening rooftop chase from The Matrix and the general hectic techno pulse of Run Lola Run. It ends when Beard, with nowhere else to go, jumps off the rooftop four stories down into a giant, overfilled dumpster.
As terrifying as that jump would be, I… actually buy that Beard comes away with nothing more than a tweaked ankle? That dumpster really is stuffed to the gills. Sundays must be garbage days in London. But Roy Kent, Mutant Superhero is just as everywhere as the original Roy, and chases Beard a bit more before Beard makes a magical escape on a speeding bus. How did he get inside the bus without it stopping? Don’t know, don’t care. In the words of George Michael Bluth while watching Gob perform magic tricks badly, I’m just loving the ride, you know?
But Beard isn’t for long; he’s misplaced his wallet with his bus pass in it, and gets thrown off. Beard hobbles into a posh hotel, but, by this point, he looks like a guy in a pair of Elton John pants with a mysterious ankle injury who’s been reborn out of a dumpster, and his attempt at charm won’t even get him a call on the desk clerk’s phone.
And so, Beard wanders a bit. He wanders down wide streets; he heads down some narrow covered alleyways. There’s a light at the end of one, and three silhouettes stumbling toward him. It must be the Crown & Anchor three, drunk and jolly after a night of pool hustling, right? Right?
This is the Hound throwing that rock at the wights and watching it skid across the refrozen ice. This is a bad, bad scene. Beard apologizes for slamming Senior Tartt into the Wembley locker room door, but Jamie’s father doesn’t forgive as readily as, say, Ted Lasso. Beard runs away from Senior Tartt and his two idiot friends, but, in a shot that’s framed exactly like the final Agent chase in The Matrix, quickly finds himself between a locked door and a hard place. And without a fire escape to run up, either.
There is a fight. It doesn’t go as badly for Beard as I feared it would. But it doesn’t go well. He takes a punch to the face. He gets knocked down. His keys fall out of his pocket. He gets roughed up some more. Marcus Mumford sings the softest version of “Blue Moon” you will ever hear. Beard never stays down, though Senior Tartt implores him to do just that. Beard gets up and tackles the man. The friend who isn’t Bug pinions Beard, and Jamie’s father picks up a stray metal rod.
For a moment — a brief, terrible moment — I thought things were about to go from bad to very bad. “Beard After Hours” could have been, among other things, an extended explanation for why Coach Beard is in the hospital next week. But that’s not the road this episode goes down, because there’s a mutant superhero to account for.
X-Man Roy Kent, who I will now refer to as Beard’s Guardian Angel, swipes Senior Tartt out of the way with one hand. He puts about as much effort into it as I do brushing vegetable scraps into the compost bin. The friend who isn’t Bug, for reasons passing understanding, squares off against Beard’s Guardian Angel. He takes a couple of halfhearted swings, which the man dodges easily, then promptly gets punched to the ground. Bug makes the smartest decision of his whole life and just runs away.
Is this mountain of a man only here to enact his promised vengeance upon Beard for having the audacity to change his pants in front of Red? No: he’s returning the wallet and phone Beard left back at Red’s flat. He also returns Beard’s lost keys (metaphor!). Turns out he and Red — whose name is Mary (subtext!) are having a baby, and he’s been working on his anger management issues in preparation for the blissful day he becomes a father. This man, whose name IMDB tells me is Darren, apologizes for losing his temper and explains he’s paranoid about Mary cheating because he used to cheat on her: “But I’m in a really good place now.” Darren has melted my heart. I want to talk with him about fatherhood and do cardio together.
Beard’s phone has 52 missed texts and 72 missed calls from Jane. The screencaps of all those texts will have to be another article. The takeaway is that Jane is pissed as hell at Beard for not messaging her back, but before she was pissed she did in fact tell him she loved him. And then Beard’s phone dies, and he howls like Lear on the moor.
Back to wandering. Past every screen showing footage from Richmond’s loss. Beneath a blue moon like a puppet master’s winking eye. Then, a limo pulls up alongside Beard. Good lord, but this episode is good with its timing. And this time, it is Baz, Jeremy, and Paul. They barely had 20 quid between them earlier in the night — but it turns out that the three Oxford snots are truly shit pool players. Our trio won so much money off of them, they rented themselves a limo for the rest of their night that will never end.
Except now that Beard has possession of his keys, the only place he wants to go is home. Before bidding them goodnight, though, he gives them a message on a piece of paper, tells them an address, and says when they get there they should tell Renee that “Beard says it was okay.” A limo ride and a Young Frankenstein reference later…
…we’re in another narrow corridor heading toward the light. But this time, the reveal is a joyous one: Beard has led his three new best friends for life to a secret tunnel leading right onto the Nelson Road pitch. The three biggest AFC Richmond fans in the world scream with joy as they worship the only way you can in this temple: by running around the pitch, scoring goals, and sliding on the wet grass. “We Are The Champions” plays. It’s just awesome. Beard gave them the best night of their lives.
Back at his house, things continue to go sideways for Beard himself. The elusive house key breaks off in the lock. Then it starts raining. Beard wanders off for refuge — and finds it in a literal church. The door is unlocked, the candles are all lit, and there’s no one around but God. So he prays.
Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret’s little boy. Long-time listener; first-time caller. And I know you’re probably busy, ’cause you’ve got bigger fish to multiply and then fry. As you do — but, uh, there’s this girl. There’s this woman. Jane. Last name Payne. P-A-Y-N-E — you probably know that, but, if you wanted to look her up. And I care for her. Deeply. I could’ve been with her tonight, but I ended up with you. And I am under no illusions that she could solve what ails me. But when I’m with her, the world just feels… more interesting.
I knew we were getting the Beard Episode, and I expected more emotional depth than we had ever gotten from him. I did not expect to find Coach Beard in a church, literally praying to God for help with Jane. I have to quibble with this a little bit, though, because we just haven’t gotten much of Beard and Jane together this season, and what we have gotten is disturbing. Based on what we’ve seen, he really should break up with her. She seems controlling and manipulative and just generally not the kind of person you want to saddle up with. So, maybe part of “Beard After Hours” was meant to undo some of the turbulence of us seeing them back together during the final few episodes of Season 2.
Speaking of turbulence: Beard’s prayer is interrupted by… house music? Coming from somewhere in the church? Recall that the selfie Jane sent Beard about 3,000 words ago was of her beneath a neon lavender cross. This is what those of us in the writing trade call “foreshadowing.”
Beard follows the music down, down, down, to a lavender-blue club in the bowels of the church. There is a lavender-blue club in the bowels of this church. It’s got neon crosses in every color of the rainbow hanging in multitudes like some glorious Whitmanesque fishery. Beard takes off his Richmond jumper, hesitates a minute on the dance floor, and swings to the beat in the haze.
I’m sure this scene will be memed for all time. And that’s fine. But, in addition to being silly and funny, there’s also a gaudy, strange, beauty to Beard giving himself over to a higher pulse at the tail end of his very long night.
It’s made stranger, gaudier, and more beautiful when Beard reunites with Jane, takes the hula hoop she hands him, and proceeds to hula hoop across the dance floor, up onto the altar, and into a higher plane.
And that’s how the night ends: Beard and Jane on the dance floor together, smiling like idiot kids and gyrating like two people propelled by something they don’t fully understand but choose to let guide them where it wanted them to be all along.
But that’s not how the episode ends. The coda comes in Ted’s office the next morning. Roy and Nate are antsy and eager to get started, but Ted reassures them that Beard will appear. And he does, with each coach’s preferred coffee balanced in a to-go tray. Everyone notices he looks like hell. Frankly, I’m surprised Beard didn’t call in sick and go home with Jane. But I realize that his *not* doing that means I should let go of some of my fears about his eye-roll and middle finger. In spite of his religious experience, Beard still fulfilled his responsibilities to the team.
And the team has been doing very well of late. In a callback to the Christmas episode, we get a shot of the win-loss white board on the office wall. They now have 79 points, and are all but assured of promotion back to the Premier League. It seems Richmond has gone 13-2-2 since then. That is… not a result I would have expected? We knew they’d been winning more since adding Roy as a coach, but the general atmosphere around Richmond’s play hasn’t been that happy.
But that’s for another article to discuss. We close “Beard After Hours” with the seemingly innocuous, oft-mentioned film session. It’ll be short, as Ted reveals he’s sped the game footage up by ten and set it to the Benny Hill theme song. Beard pulls his hat down over his eyes and stretches his legs up on his desk, sitting still with the world sped up around him.
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