“Midnight Train to Royston,” the penultimate chapter of Ted Lasso’s seesaw of a second season, featured one especially jaw-dropping moment in an episode full of them. In the episode’s final scene, Trent Crimm (The Independent) messages Ted, who’s just arrived home feeling a sense of closure after bidding a Good Will Hunting-style farewell to Dr. Sharon. But it’s really not ever a good thing when a reporter messages you late at night, and Trent is indeed the bearer of some bad news. It seems he’s been working on a major feature story exposing the real reason Coach Lasso had to abandon his team in the final minutes of their FA Cup quarterfinal.
We pretty much knew that something like this was coming. At the time (in the closing scenes of Episode 2.6, “The Signal”), Ted told Coach Beard and Nate that he had an upset stomach and maybe food poisoning. Ted stuck to this story on the record when Trent asked him for a quote in the following episode, “Headspace.” Then, in the episode after that — “Man City,” Episode 2.8 — Ted confessed to his coaching staff that he’d actually left the pitch because he had a panic attack. But we hadn’t heard anything out of Trent in awhile. And it’s not like Ted Lasso didn’t give us plenty of weird, intriguing, plot-heavy stuff to try to distract us.
But Trent Crimm is nothing if not intrepid, so there was no way his scene with Ted in “Headspace” was meant to be a throwaway. However, what made Trent’s reveal at the end of “Midnight Train to Royston” so shocking to so many viewers wasn’t the existence of Trent’s story — it was how Trent presented the story to Ted. He told Ted that he was obligated as a journalist to uncover the truth about Ted’s surprise sideline departure. And then Trent added that, since he respected Ted as a person, he also felt obliged to further reveal that the anonymous source who’d told him about Ted’s panic attacks was none other than Nate.
Trent Crimm and Nate Had Been Talking for Awhile
For me, this reveal wasn’t a *huge* surprise. Nate “The Great” Shelley hasn’t been referred to by his old nickname all season long, and has been clearly festering ever since his surprise & lovely promotion from kitman to assistant coach at the end of Season 1. As soon as he got a little bit of power, Nate’s unaddressed inferiority complex, issues with his father, and other emotional problems led him to see and hear slights in almost every exchange he had, from almost every other person with whom he interacted. And, while Nate’s still come through with helpful strategies for Richmond, he never seems to feel like he gets enough credit for them.
Plus, the one time he proposed solving a problem on his own, Nate got an uncharacteristically insensitive reaction from Ted. All the way back in “Rainbow” (episode 2.5 — it’s only been six weeks, but doesn’t it feel like four or five times as long?), Isaac was having a tough time connecting with the rest of the team. And by “tough time,” I really mean he wasn’t connecting at all: Richmond was indeed playing like shit, but all Captain Isaac was doing was shouting that the team needed to play “not shit.” True! But unhelpful. In a coach’s meeting, Ted mused that, since Isaac is a “big dog,” Richmond needed another big dog to come in and set Isaac’s head straight. After a moment’s hesitation, Nate volunteered for the job. Ted’s response? He laughed. Only after Nate didn’t join in did Ted realize his mistake: “Oh, you’re being serious?” He immediately changed his tune, but neither that nor Ted’s floundering apology did anything to soothe Nate.
But the far bigger issue in the Ted Lasso universe was Trent unveiling Nate. I was both surprised and shocked that Trent would do such a thing, and dedicated a fair bit of real estate in my already way-too-long “Midnight Train to Royston” recap to questioning why Trent would do such a thing. And especially why Trent would do it *in print.* It would be one thing for Trent to tell Ted, in person, that Nate had betrayed private information about Ted’s health to a reporter, and so Trent in turn felt he could justify betraying Nate’s betrayal of Ted to Ted. That way, at least, Trent would have plausible deniability, should he ever need to then betray Ted by claiming he had never betrayed Nate to Ted in the first place. (Clue is a fun movie.)
A Trent Crimm source betrayal via text message is a vastly different thing. Now there’s a record of it. Ted could easily screenshot the conversation and use it against Trent in any number of ways. Or someone else could: Ted is hardly the vindictive type, but I wouldn’t put it past Coach Beard to swipe Ted’s phone on the sly and get the information he needs to hold Trent’s feet to the fire. I absolutely believe Jane would do such a thing, if it ever got that far.
(One quick related note here: Perhaps, like me, you’re not an iPhone user and you were wondering about the “Maybe” in front of Trent’s name in the chat with Ted. Apparently, one of the many sneaky things an iPhone does when it gets a message from an unknown number is search for the number in your email contacts. If it finds the number there, it gives you the person’s name preceded by a “Maybe.” So, while it seems weird that Ted wouldn’t already have Trent’s number in his phone — wouldn’t Trent ask Ted for quotes on the regular? — it looks like Ted does have Trent’s number in his email. Shoutout to Mr. Bissonette for figuring this one out.)
Could Trent Crimm Really Betray a Source Like That?
Regardless of the reason, though, Trent outed Nate. And that is a huge journalistic no-no. Or anyway, it is in the U.S. Indeed, most of the viewers who were stunned, or outraged, or generally disbelieving of Trent’s action seemed to be American (according to my highly scientific study of reactions on social media). So then there came an inevitable correction/backlash of U.K. viewers, who pointed out that, no, it’s actually not uncommon at all for a British reporter to unmask an anonymous source, depending on the situation.
Well — this wouldn’t do. I had to find out more. And what I discovered is that Ted Lasso maybe has some wiggle room, potentially, in making Trent Crimm’s source betrayal a major plot point. Because there appear to be distinct differences between the way British newspapers treat anonymity and the way British tabloids do.
For example, Trent Crimm’s newspaper — it’s called The Independent, in case you’re just joining us — has its own very clear code of conduct. When it comes to anonymous sources, The Independent’s CoC appears to have a rather straightforward policy: “If a source needs to remain confidential you should ensure that they cannot be identified — directly or indirectly — from your notes, or any data on your mobile phone or other device.”
Based on that alone, it would appear that Trent Crimm is in clear violation of his newspaper’s ethical guidelines. (I should also point out that these guidelines make no mention of what will happen should a reporter violate them.) But look closer at the paper that published Trent’s article on Ted’s panic attacks:
The URL is for not The Independent, but the Everyday Independent. This publication does not exist in the real world. We’ve never heard it mentioned on Ted Lasso. Given the name, I wonder if the Everyday Independent is supposed to be a tawdry, tabloid extension of the staid, newspaper-of-record-ish Independent, and thus able to publish — and profit handsomely from — all the lewd, gossipy stuff its parent paper would never touch.
This is extra important where Codes of Conduct are concerned because several of the major British tabloids appear to derive their Code of Practice from the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). (To name one example: The Sun, whose reporter was all but openly jeered in Ted Lasso‘s pilot episode and who proceeded to ask Rebecca a tacky, heartless question about her divorce, follows the IPSO Code.)
“Independent Press Standards” sounds important and reassuring. But the organization has been widely criticized for being funded and operated by the publications it’s supposed to regulate. And IPSO’s lone statement on anonymous sources leaves much more room for creative interpretation than the real-life Independent‘s: “Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information.”
By telling Ted that his respect for the coach is the reason he’s giving up his source, Trent implies that his betrayal of Nate comes from a place of morality. And if the Everyday Independent is indeed guided by the more tabloid-friendly IPSO, then Trent may well believe his “moral obligation” to Ted outweighs the same obligation to Nate, especially since his article’s already been published.
Is Trent trying to have it both ways here? Maybe. We won’t find out until at least the finale, if we ever get closure at all. However, while we never saw Nate talking to Trent, if Nate’s general attitude with Trent was what it’s been throughout Season 2, I have to conclude it wasn’t hard for Trent to give him up. And, if push comes to shove, Trent’s newspaper has an army of lawyers to defend him against pretty much anything Nate can come up with (except maybe parking a bus on top of his car).
Now all that’s left to do is worry about how Trent’s betrayal will affect whatever Nate and Rupert are plotting. Ted Lasso is stressing me out and making me like it — the show’s wonders never cease.
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