This article contains spoilers for Ted Lasso season 2, episode 5, ‘Rainbow.’
In case last week’s Love Actually cue card tribute wasn’t enough, AppleTV+ really wants you to know that Ted Lasso believes in rom-communism.
At the beginning of this week’s episode, ‘Rainbow’, Ted (Jason Sudeikis) addresses the players of AFC Richmond. “I believe in communism,” Ted says. “Rom-communism, that is.” He goes on to define this philosophy: “rom-communism is all about believing everything’s gonna work out in the end.” The team has been on a lengthy losing streak, and Ted insists that just like in romantic comedies, the team can bounce back from defeat and ultimately end on a high note. The episode then pays tribute to romantic comedies, both in subtle tropes and blatant quote usage.
Here are the romantic comedy references in ‘Rainbow’, explained:
Love actually is all around
The players of AFC Richmond love romantic comedies, too: Colin (Billy Harris) refers to “the three Kates” (Beckinsale, Hudson, and Winslet) as major contributors to the genre, while Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) and Dani (Cristo Fernandez) are partial to Renée Zellweger and Jennifer Lopez, respectively.
Nancy Meyers’ The Parent Trap has two subtle nods in ‘Rainbow’: the use of Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E” and a complex handshake between Isaac and Ted, reminiscent of the handshake between Lindsay Lohan and her butler.
At the end of the episode, during the football match, the action briefly settles on an older couple, who we’ve never seen before, and will never see again. The couple addresses the camera directly, recounting the story of how they met at a match decades prior. This is reference to Nora Ephron’s When Harry Met Sally, which features vignettes of elderly couples looking to the camera and speaking about how they fell in love. Dr. Fieldstone (Sharon Niles) shares the surname and profession of a character from Sleepless in Seattle, another Ephron classic.
AFC Richmond owner Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) has started using Bantr, the dating app founded by Keeley (Juno Temple). There’s a third Nora Ephron reference here, this time from You’ve Got Mail, which also followed unknown lovers meeting online. Rebecca’s Bantr username is “Bossgirl,” and her mystery man’s is “LDN152,” while in You’ve Got Mail, the protagonists’ handles were “Shopgirl” and “NY152.”
But who is LDN152? We don’t find out in this episode. A scene of Rebecca messaging LDN152 quickly cuts to a shot of Ted looking at his phone, and we never see what he’s looking at. Could this be a hint, or a red herring? If not Ted, who could LDN152 be – Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt), who isn’t in a committed relationship? A celebrity cameo yet to be revealed? Or even Nate (Nick Mohammed), who is turned down by a restaurant hostess in this episode?
My Fair Nathan
Speaking of Nate, AFC Richmond’s timid assistant coach gets a romantic comedy moment of his own. He’s secured dinner reservations for his parents’ anniversary, but the hostess (Edyta Budnik) refuses his request for a well-located table. When Nate dejectedly reveals this to Rebecca and Keeley, they insist on coaching Nate in the art of confidence, teaching him to speak boldly and powerfully, reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn’s transformation in My Fair Lady. Nate gets the table, but does not get the girl, which is probably for the best.
Rom-communism in action
Ted loves a good pop culture reference. This week sees him trying to encourage team captain Isaac (Kola Bokinni), who has been taking the team’s losses pretty badly. Ted calls on Roy (Brett Goldstein), AFC Richmond’s former captain turned pundit, to help Isaac out. Meeting Roy at a halal restaurant, Ted observes the meal and tells the waiter, “I’ll have what he’s having.” This, of course, is a reference to When Harry Met Sally, in which a restaurant patron says, “I’ll have what she’s having” in response to a very explicit demonstration by Meg Ryan.
It seems that When Harry Met Sally is a favorite of Ted’s, because he references it again. Sensing that Roy finds sports commentary unfulfilling, Ted offers him a coaching job for AFC Richmond. Paraphrasing a speech by Billy Crystal’s Harry, Ted declares: “When you wanna spend the rest of your life coaching with somebody, you want the rest of your life to begin ASAP.”
After Roy profanely tells him off, Ted resorts to paraphrasing from other romantic comedies to appeal to Roy. “You complete our team,” Ted pleads, riffing on Tom Cruise’s “You complete me” from Jerry Maguire. Ted begins another plea – a version of Julia Roberts’ “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy” from Notting Hill – before Roy rejects him again. “As you wish,” Ted concludes, quoting Cary Elwes’ declaration of love from The Princess Bride.
Roy and AFC Richmond, a love story
Though Roy remains the profane cynic of our hearts, he’s already got the girl, having fallen for the chipper Keeley in season one. There’s a love story in ‘Rainbow,’ and it’s not between Roy and his girlfriend, but Roy and his football club.
Roy’s arc in ‘Rainbow’ is structured like the third act of a romantic comedy, when the protagonists have yet to unite for good. Having retired from gameplay, Roy is a social media sensation with his expletive-laden, no-nonsense approach to sports punditry. But Ted’s hunch about Roy was right. Commentating doesn’t give Roy the thrill of impacting a match – he just speculates about what might happen, and complains when his predictions are wrong. And so, while commentating live, Roy realizes the next step in his football career is to become a coach. He hastily discards his microphone and bursts out of the studio and hops into a cab, desperate to make it to the stadium before the match is over.
Roy’s cab ride is cut short by a roadblock, forcing him to leave the car (a reference to the end of The Holiday) and run the rest of the way to reunite with his true love (referencing Love Actually and Bridget Jones’s Diary, if not every other romantic comedy of the last 25 years.) Roy breathlessly arrives and, and the fans in the stands note Roy’s return, chanting his name. His homecoming feels like the dramatic declaration at the end of a romantic comedy – like John Cusack holding up the boombox in Say Anything.
Roy accepts the coaching offer, telling Ted, “You had me at ‘coach'”: a play on “You had me at hello,” the response to “You complete me” from Jerry Maguire. Ted cheerfully welcomes Roy back to AFC Richmond, and they all live happily ever after – at least until next Friday, when AFC Richmond will surely have a new conflict to overcome.
Ted Lasso drops Fridays on AppleTV+.