Reflecting on “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea,” episode two of the third season of Ted Lasso, I was reminded of a cartoon by David Hayward who is known online as NakedPastor.
“The Bars of Expectation Cage” depicts a person building a cage around themself using bars that others are handing them. The caption reads, “The expectations of others were the bars I used for my own cage.”
Roy Kent can relate to that powerful message. So can Trent Crimm, Keeley Jones, Rebecca Welton and me.
Keeley’s discomfort at her own company, Keeley Jones Public Relations (KJPR), which we learned about in episode 1, continue.
Barbara, the CFO hired by the investment firm backing KJPR, runs a tight ship. She often appears exasperated with Keeley and clearly refuses to take her seriously.
Keeley’s cage is built with the bars of Barbara’s expectations. She longs to be a businesswoman like her friend Rebecca, but feels like an imposter. So she tries to play the part, to be the person she assumes Barbara expects her to be.
It takes an old friend named Shandy to remind Keeley of who she is.
Shandy: I saw you in Vanity Fair. Fully clothed. And I cried. I’m so proud of you, babe. We all are.
Keeley: Proud of me? Why?
Shandy: Because you made it out all by yourself.
By the end of the episode, we see Keeley being Keeley. She begins to lead her way—putting a premium on relationships—and begins to thaw her relationship with Barbara.
Proving ‘them’ wrong
Roy is battling expectations of his own. He’s not the boyfriend he thinks Keeley deserves. He’s worried about being a good coach. In a power scene, we learn that he has been dealing with trying to live up to expectations for a long time.
Forced to reconcile with Trent Crimm, Roy removes an old newspaper article from his wallet.
Roy (reading): “Newcomer Roy Kent is an overhyped, so-called prodigy whose unbridled rage and mediocre talent rendered his Premiere League debut a profound disappointment.” Do you know who wrote that?
Roy: I was 17 years old. This f**king wrecked me. [And apparently still is.]
Trent: I thought I was being edgy. I was just trying to make a name for myself.
As they are parting, Roy notes that the two had a lot in common at the time—which is correct—but he misses the point. Roy recognizes that they both thought the other was bad at their job, when actually what they had in common at that moment, was trying to live up to expectations.
Unknowingly, Trent contributed to Roy’s cage, while building one of his own.
Late in the episode, Roy gives more context. After tearing up Trent’s story, Roy explains why he felt, “Sad. Or something,” despite thousands of fans cheering for him.
Last season I was there, we played a match against Arsenal and we f—ing murdered ’em… But I played like sh*t…
That was the first time, ever, I thought, “I can’t keep up anymore. I’m not good enough.” And that was all I could think about for the rest of the year. I knew it was only gonna get worse. So at the end of the season, I left. Everyone was shocked… I didn’t wanna be one of them broken-down footballers just taking up space until they’re dropped, years after they should have been…
Going back there today, there’s a part of me thinking maybe I should have stayed and just ****ing enjoyed myself. But that’s now who I am, I guess.
I love Ted’s response, “Not yet.”
It’s hard to enjoy yourself from inside a cage.
Then, of course, there is Zava. Will he live up to expectations? Can he?
And Nate, who is always checking Twitter and his dad’s mood. What will the expectations do to him?
I guess we have the rest of the season to find out.
In the end, it’s not the hope that kills you. But a cage of expectations can feel pretty close.
I can relate. Maybe you can too.