At this point, it’s no secret that Rupert Mannion, still not a pile of dust and a black Amex, is up to some bullshit. Ted Lasso only ever brings Rupert on because you can see it in his eyes, yeah, that he’s got a nasty plan. Every time we’ve encountered him, it’s so he can upstage Rebecca (“For the Children,” “All Apologies”), or try to (“The Diamond Dogs,” “The Hope That Kills You”). He does move the plot along. He is a scummy, smarmy fiend right out of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” I, like Sassy, want to see him in a casket. And now, there’s some bullshit brewing between Rupert and Nate.
Nate Shelley Is All but Gone from Richmond
Nate the Great’s turn toward the dark side has been cooking for some time. All season long, Nate’s been teased in ways we know he doesn’t handle well, made to endure snark or well-meaning comments that miss their mark and feed into the self-confidence issues he’s had his whole life. One scene in last week’s “No Weddings and a Funeral” encapsulates both. When Nate enters the church with the rest of the team, Keeley notes how great they all look, then immediately — and with good intentions, Keeley is a pure heart and will make an amazing mother next season — straightens Nate’s tie.
Keeley then asks if Nate’s wearing the suit Ted got him (it is), and seems like she’s about to tell him it looks good (it does), but, before she can, Jan “He’s Just Being Dutch” Maas posits that it’s “infantilizing” to have another man buy clothes for you (not when that man is Ted, Jan, for a tall person you sure have problems seeing everything in context). This leads Nate to sputter about how most of his clothes are gifts from his mom; his hair goes a bit grayer; he stalks off, humiliated again.
Ted Lasso‘s creators have explained that the first shot of every season establishes which character will change the most over the course of that season. Last year it was Rebecca. This year, it was Nate.
There’s a lot going on in those eyes. Nick Mohammed has been brilliant throughout Ted Lasso Season 2, balancing Nate’s growing hunger for respect and increasingly sharp wit with the fear and uncertainty that have been his compass his whole life. At the end of Season 1, Nate got a promotion from mere kitman* to proper coach. The entire Richmond team celebrated. It could just as easily have been a dream sequence. This season, Nate feels overlooked by Ted, and overshadowed by the ascension of Roy. The fact that Richmond’s surprise winning streak coincides with Roy’s arrival as a coach can’t be making him feel good, either. And, while the major bullying Nate endured at the beginning of Season 1 is long gone, the good-natured teasing that’s a part of life with professional athletes isn’t something Nate can participate in — he just doesn’t have the self-confidence. For Nate, every tease is a major slight, to be endured silently. And every coaching success is proof that he shouldn’t have to endure any grievance, silently or otherwise.
(*No disrespect intended to the beautiful flower named Will Kitman; I was just being sarcastic to make a point. It’s a hugely important job, but Nate sees it as “mere.” You keep on serving up pineapple water and cleaning cigarette butts out of shoes and know that you are valued.)
Rupert Still Has It Out for Rebecca
Enter Rupert. It’s obvious from “No Weddings and a Funeral” that Rupert is planning some sort of move involving ownership of a football club. He loves football. AFC Richmond was, to paraphrase Rebecca, his lifesblood. It’s the whole reason she brought Ted over to manage the Greyhounds in the first place. So Rupert’s little explanation at the funeral, that he doesn’t have time for footie anymore, and he doesn’t even watch TV because he’s so head-over-heels in love with Bex and their little baby Diane, the one Rupert brought to the funeral to serve as his human shield? That is a load of fucking shit, and frankly I’m astonished Rebecca didn’t see right through it. He’s the Angel of Death, Rebecca. He’s not interested in giving you hugely valuable Richmond shares out of the goodness of his heart. Rupert’s heart is twisted and black, like the oak cinders and baby corpses he sacrifices to the demons who keep him alive.
And Nate, you’ll recall, has been high off his own hype ever since his “Park the goddamn bus” order at the end of “The Signal” won Richmond its FA Cup quarterfinal match. He scrolls Twitter, soaking in the praise (and taking the criticism out on poor beloved Will). Nate’s likewise been wondering for a few episodes if he’s ready to manage his own team. So the little seen-but-not-heard exchange between Rupert and Nate at the end of last week’s episode is supposed to make us think that Rupert will soon hire Nate away from Richmond to coach whatever team he owns next.
And at first, I believed that. But the more I thought about it, the less that seemed like… enough. Rupert is still the same guy who told Rebecca he would be “relentless” in savaging her to the press from the owner’s box at Nelson Road. If anything, we should assume he’s worse now, thanks to Richmond’s relegation. Taking Nate from Richmond would remove the coaching staff’s ability to come up with savant-like solutions to last-minute problems. But Rupert doesn’t know that. And it would not be devastating to Richmond — which Rupert definitely does.
No, whatever’s cooking with Rupert and Nate is also going to include serious devastation. And probably not as espionage — cue Higgins’ “I’m not a spy, Rebecca” — but, rather, in the form of a Nate Dogg team roast next to which his motivational jokes in “Make Rebecca Great Again” will look like a TikTok of happy bouncing puppies. If Rupert can get Nate to upend the locker room and have the team at each others’ throats, if he can make it look from the outside like Rebecca’s decisions have the team on edge and choking away big games despite their great EFL record, he’ll be that much closer to getting her to give up the team. Because Rupert also knows that Rebecca doesn’t really care about football. He maybe understands that she cares about the team — the people who make Richmond Richmond. But that’s a generous read. I’m not sure he gets even that.
“Rupert and Nate” Is Just a Red Herring
But I think the true devastation will be wrought upon Nate. Say he gives a bridge-burning roast for the ages, and even gets people (*ahem* Roy *ahem*) throwing punches at him, in turn violating the first rule of Ted’s Fight Club and now putting the coaches at odds with one another. In other words, maximum discord. Even in that scenario, Rupert can’t trust that the bad blood will last. It would take Richmond somehow getting forced into administration for Rupert to have a clear shot at getting the club back.
So Nate can help Rupert’s general plan. But he can’t get him considerably closer. And once he’s done his dirty deeds and conveyed everything he knows about Richmond’s inner workings, Nate becomes expendable. It’s not Rupert and Nate and their new team we’ll be rooting against in Season 3. It’s just the Rupert Mannion Show. It always is. That’s the kind of guy he is. Rupert is going to get what he wants from Nate and then kick him to the curb. He doesn’t have a coaching job for Nate. He has an *offer* of a job. Rupert knew Nate back when Nate was a lowly kitman. He’s not going to trust a former kitman with a year’s assistant coaching experience to be in charge of a whole team. That’s the equivalent of what Rebecca did with Ted. It’s what Ted would do. Which is how we can be sure it’s not Rupert’s plan.
I also think there’s some racism to be found beneath Rupert’s moneyed veneer. Something about the way he says he’d like to put “Obisanya back on defense — where he belongs” in the dart scene has never sat right with me. I can’t offer any specific proof. But that comment, combined with his general disdain for the “hillbilly” Ted, leads me to believe Rupert doesn’t trust outsiders, or anybody who looks like one. It would be pretty on-the-nose, but it’s not hard for me to see a scenario where Nate goes to Rupert thinking he’s got a plum job waiting, only to find Rupert having a drink and a laugh with George, the manager he’d put in charge of Richmond before his divorce and who Rebecca fired in the pilot episode.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, so I’ll stop before this turns into full-blown fanfic/anxiety nightmares. But I do know this: nobody on fucking earth should trust Rupert. Least of all Nate. Turn back from the dark side, Nate; it’s not too late. I thought it was “wunderkid” as well, until your quote and the teasing you got. I even thought it was “wonderkid” until I looked it up just now. No shame!
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