The title of Ted Lasso S3 episode nine gives the game away. La Locker Room Aux Folles, a reference to La Cage Aux Folles, the play and musical about a gay couple, is predictably about Colin Hughes, played by Billy Harris, revealing to the team that he is gay. We always knew it was coming.
But as ever with this thought-provoking show, there is a broader theme that is knitted into the storyline too, revealed as it spins through plot twists asking us, the audience, to reflect on our own judgments and prejudices.
Team captain Isaac McAdoo is angry with Colin. In the previous episode he had accidentally discovered Colin’s secret, and now he can’t bring himself to look him in the eye. Is this because he is a homophobe? In the world of professional sports teams, it might be a possibility. Or is that our own stereotyping reflected back at us? Are the writers leading us to this conclusion or are we making judgments ourselves? Is it possible that we are not even looking for another reason why Isaac might be angry with Colin?
This is a show that has asked us all along not to be judgmental of others. Remember Ted’s darts match with Rupert Manion in Season One, when he espoused the virtues of being ‘curious not judgmental’? Remember Cam Cole, the one-man busker who saves the night at Rebecca’s benefit gala, and Ted tells her “You do not wanna judge this book by its cover”?
In the end, it turns out that Isaac is not angry with Colin because he’s gay, but because he’s hurt that he had lied to him. “What is it about me that made you think you couldn’t have told me?” Isaac asks Colin at the end of the episode to the musical crescendo of ‘I Am What I Am’, an emotional moment that neatly demonstrates the point.
We are all judgmental. We form conclusions about others all the time. Who among us has not thought less of the Porsche driver who revs his engine, speeding through the traffic wearing his dark glasses and grin? But what if he happened to be the neighbor of a woman who had gone into labor and the driver is racing to get her to a hospital? Do we still think less of him?
“Judging someone does not define who they are; it defines who you are,” explains Barbara Markway, Ph.D., in Psychology Today, who cautions against the negativity created by being super-critical or judgmental of others. “Although judgment is a natural instinct, try to catch yourself before you speak, or send that nasty email and do any potential harm. You can’t get your words back. Pause. See if you can understand where the person may be coming from. Try to rephrase your critical internal thought into a positive one, or at least a neutral one.”
Being curious or empathetic instead of judgmental is the solution, as Ted Lasso has so eloquently pointed out through all three seasons of the show. “Remember, we are more alike than different,” says Markway. “When I feel critical of someone, I try to remind myself that the other person loves their family just like I do, and wants to be happy and free of suffering, just like I do. Most important, that person makes mistakes, just like I do,” says Markway.
Roy Kent delivers his own version of that message at the press conference in the same episode, supporting Isaac who had lashed out at an aggressive fan: “None of us ever knows what’s going on in each other’s lives,” Roy says simply, and argues that we should always give other people the benefit of the doubt and love them just the same.
This is an episode that is as nuanced and thoughtful as ever, which carefully handles a sensitive subject.
Lucy Broadbent is the author of What Would Ted Lasso Do? How Ted’s Positive Approach Can Help You. Find it on Amazon here.
Ted Lasso Season 3 is streaming on Apple TV+.