[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Ted Lasso Season 2, Episode 9, “Beard After Hours.”]
Putting a bottle episode in the second half of a show’s season—right after a key emotional moment or major cliffhanger—is a gutsy move, to say the least. Stranger Things tried it in its sophomore season, to mixed reviews. And now, much in a similar fashion, Ted Lasso is eschewing the main storyline regarding Ted’s (Jason Sudeikis) mental health, Richmond’s overall performance, and Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) and Sam’s (Toheeb Jimoh) budding romance for an hour entirely focused on peeling back the layers of Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt).
While the placement of the episode within the season might aggravate some, “Beard After Hours” is a compelling hour of television that illuminates the enigma that is Ted’s coaching pal—and suggests he too struggles with mental health. Here’s how it happens.
The entirety of the plotline unfolds after Beard tells Ted he’s not going back to Richmond with the team and his night gets crazier and crazier. First, the coach goes home; he turns on the TV to find coverage of the match and “hears” the announcers disparaging him. (It’s all in his head, but the effect on him is profound enough to push him out the door and to Mae’s [Annette Badland] pub.) There, she too questions what on Earth he and Ted were thinking during that horrendous loss. It seems Beard can’t find relief at home or at the bottom of a bottle.
But he does find a reprieve with the trio of Richmond fans who’ve been hanging around Mae’s since the first episode. They talk for the rest of the night until the pub closes, and after that, they decide to head to an exclusive establishment that even Cher couldn’t get into. Naturally, they can’t just walk in, but Beard has a plan. He goes up to the receptionist and distracts her for a bit, tricking her into revealing her name, and then the fans give her a call pretending to be the fire department and saying her flat is on fire. She runs out, and Team Beard makes it in.
Inside, they bluff their way into a game of pool with some hoity-toity Oxford graduates, so the night seems to be going well. Until it isn’t—at least for Beard, who wanders away into a room full of televisions and again hallucinates that the announcers are belittling and insulting him and even pushing him to commit suicide. He’s found by security and…escorted off the premises, to put it lightly. In all the commotion, he rips his trousers (oh, no!), but as he’s thrown out onto the street, he runs into an equally mysterious woman who offers to mend them for him if he comes up to her flat.
So he follows her, and she gives him a new pair of trousers—she says she has many spares, because she’s kept a pair from each of her previous lovers. He seems content there, but things go bad quickly: Beard ends up sprinting away and jumping into a Dumpster in an attempt to escape the woman’s pro-wrestler-size boyfriend, who assumes she’s cheating. He gets on a bus, then is forced off. He tries to use a hotel phone (he left his in the flat), then is forced out (no call). He winds up dejected in an alley. And who, as fate would have it, is also in the alley? Jamie’s dad (Kieran O’Brien), and his deadbeat friends.
Eventually, the men come to blows (during this sequence, a voice echoes in Beard’s head claiming he wanted to get beat up that night). Beard takes a nasty pummeling, but just as Jamie’s dad starts to come at him with a pipe, the boyfriend from earlier reappears and scares them off. He then helps Beard up: Turns out, he was chasing him down to return his phone. Only on Ted Lasso!
But Beard’s not out of the woods yet. Throughout the episode, he’s been grappling with his feelings for his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Jane (Phoebe Walsh). While all of this has been going on, she’s offered an invitation for him to come with her to a club and finally said she loves him (over text). But since she didn’t know he’d lost his phone, it just looked like he was ignoring her, which, when it comes to the L-word, is never, ever good. Before Beard can text her back, his phone dies, leaving him screaming in the alley. He finds his way to a church, where he has a conversation with the Almighty and admits while he’s “under no impression [Jane] can cure what [ails him],” he wants to be with her. And his prayers are answered as he goes out a side door in the church to the club and finds Jane there, where they dance together.
The episode wraps up with Beard back at the Richmond offices, in a pair of sparkly trousers and with a bruise over his eye—but of course, no matter who asks what he’s been through, he’ll never tell. Such are the secrets of Coach Beard.
Ted Lasso Season 2, Fridays, Apple TV+