Another “standalone” episode that will surely polarize the Ted Lasso online fandom all week. But if you’re a Coach Beard fan and wanted to learn a bit more about this international man of mystery, “Beard After Hours” provided it — along with homages to Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and probably several other influences.

If we could have Jeff Tweedy sub in for us this week, as he did with the show’s theme song for Episode 9, that’d be fun. Alas, you’re stuck with the usual crew for our weekly group recap.

Big takeaway from “Beard After Hours”?

Michael Grant: The most un-Ted Lasso Ted Lasso episode ever. Did we really need this detour? Some characters are more effective in small doses. Always felt that way about Beard. He’s there for comic relief and his even-keel personality balances out Ted’s uber optimism. Here, we get 40-plus minutes of Beard which is way too much.

This episode also feels detached from the rest of Season 2. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the Christmas episode. However, while that was an enjoyable distraction, this was unsettled and not as funny. Plus, who wants to see Beard get beat up?

Ian Casselberry: It felt necessary to take a breath after such an intense show last week. And I’ve always wanted to see more of Coach Beard away from Nelson Road, so I enjoyed the trip into London’s seedy underground.

We still saw some effects from the Man City loss. Beard was obviously traumatized on top of the relationship issues influencing everything in his life. Yet I wonder if we’re supposed to root for Beard and Jane working it out because she seems pretty obviously bad for him.

Andrew Bucholtz: I tend to appreciate it when shows, and maybe especially sitcoms, go that far outside of their usual patterns. There’s also something to be commended in the desire to take swings with these extra episodes and go away from the normal narrative rather than just stretch out the regular storylines more.

This worked out as a way to let us sit and think about what’s ahead for Ted, Dr. Sharon, Rebecca, and Sam. Sure, on some level, it’s hard to wait. But waiting with more of a standalone episode, one that gives us a deeper look at the show’s most mysterious character, has a lot of merits. It was nice to get a look at Beard, what’s going on with him, and where he is at this point. (This fits with the various forms of crisis for everyone and how they address that.)

There were some lovely moments, including Beard’s knowledge of Oxford (and introducing himself under a take on Elvis Costello’s real name), the guy he was running from proving unexpectedly helpful, the repeated criticisms from (imaginary?) Thierry Henry, and the conclusion in the church/club. But I don’t know that I’m eager to watch this one again soon.

Jay Rigdon: Ted Lasso at its core is a hangout show, and I appreciated the hangout elements here. As well as the dip we got into one of the more mysterious characters on the show, it added a few pieces to the Beard puzzle while also revealing the puzzle to be much bigger than we previously thought.

Matt Clapp: This is at least the third time this season where I’ve felt the episode wasn’t all that necessary, and it almost feels like they’re just maxing out every possible ounce of Ted Lasso to make 12 episodes instead of 10 this season. Hey, it’s extremely popular and it’s very smart from a business perspective, but you just hope it doesn’t impact the quality, become too self-aware, and get away from the strengths of the series.

But I still thought it was an entertaining 40-something minutes, and it’s nice to learn a little bit more about Beard. Though did we really? Also, if you’re a fan of these “special episodes” that go away from the traditional series methods, nobody does it better than another excellent Apple TV+ series, Mythic Quest.

Theories on why Beard keeps dropping his keys?

IC: I thought the keys might be an indication Beard was in a dream. But to me, constantly losing them and breaking one off in the lock represented Beard knowing what he has to do, but not allowing himself to walk through that door. He knows Jane is terrible for him. But she’s the only thing he has outside of coaching, so he can’t leave. (Or go home to safety, maybe.) Losing his keys is losing himself in this destructive relationship.

MG: Excellent question. If this were a dream, you could psychoanalyze this to death. In fact, the keys made me wonder if this was all a nightmare or a substance-induced hallucination. Kept waiting to see if Beard would wake up passed out in an alley after a long night of hard drinking at the pub. But maybe, Beard is purposely dropping, and eventually breaking, his keys because he doesn’t want to go home. Maybe he wants to abandon this AFC Richmond life and do something different.

AB: It was interesting how Beard didn’t seem to be paying a lot of attention to the location of his keys. I think that does indicate some reluctance to go home, and some dissatisfaction with where things are for him. And there’s maybe something there in the help he keeps needing to get those keys back.

MC: Alcohol! Anybody that has had these crazy nights out knows the keys — and wallet, cards, phone, face, etc. — frequently hit the ground.

JR: Feels like he’s without a real safe space overseas away from home. We got a lot of Ted’s fish out of water comedy last year, but Beard was always portrayed as being more adaptable, or at the very least in possession of a personality that forced the environment to adapt to him.

But clearly, something is stuck for him. Considering the relationship issues, the coaching critiques his subconscious creates, and the lingering relevance of the last real glimpse we got at what drives him in Season 1 (coaching to win), it’s fair to wonder whether he’s going to make some more overt pushes in a few different directions before the season is up.

Still expecting fallout from the Man City debacle?

MG: Sure seems like we’re building towards it. When a team suffers a blowout like that, someone is usually the fall guy. The question is: will it be management or one of the players? Either way, that could be the end-of-Season 2 cliffhanger. It seems reasonable to assume that Trent Crimm, The Independent is going to break the story.

IC: I don’t see how there can’t be. The coaches seemed to move on in healthy fashion, though Beard regrets not standing up to Ted’s strategy and something might result from that.

But after such a decisive loss and facing relegation for the second consecutive season, Ted has to face more scrutiny. And if Trent Crimm, The Independent is snooping around as we believe, and finds out that Ted is suffering from panic attacks and lied to the public about why he left the match against Tottenham, that’s a scoop virtually no reporter would sit on.

AB: I’m interested to see where this goes because as a show, that feels like a driver of conflict. But from a sports perspective, it seems pretty great for a Championship side to have made it to a FA Cup semifinal (in real life, the last side to reach that stage while in the Championship was Reading in 2015), and even a terrible blowout loss is still just one match.

This is a great thing about making a sports show about soccer; it’s quite possible to have the stakes and drama of that FA Cup semifinal without impacting Richmond’s larger season at all (at least in the league table), something that’s tougher to do with American sports without separate cup competitions.

There absolutely are going to be further challenges ahead for Richmond, and perhaps especially for its coaches. A media exposé (maybe on Ted lying about his food poisoning) may be part of that. But the Ted Lasso writing staff have done a nice job of not giving viewers what they might expect from TV, and I wouldn’t be shocked if there are further zags ahead.

JR: Probably, but not immediately and not directly. Ted Lasso handles chronology more like Mad Men, with differing amounts of time passing between each episode. That’s frustrated some reviewers, but it’s a nice break from the usual streaming mode of pure serialization. Episodes that feel different and tell complete stories are a real asset for the show.

So no, I don’t think the blowout itself will be a big plot point. But I do think it might hint at some impending character choices.

Favorite scene or quote?

MC: Beard saying “Long-time listener, first-time caller” to God.

AB: “I’ve been to Vegas many times. One night is good. Two nights is perfect. Three nights is too many. Ted is a man, just a man. And as for the fragility of life, I’m so glad someone finally asked because, yeah, I got a few thoughts.”

IC: Coach Beard doing hula hoop. Probably because I’m envious of anyone who can hula hoop and makes it look so effortless.

JR: “I dated a professor at Oxford. And I listened more than I talked.”

MG: “We’re a repressed nation. One exposed arse can bring down the monarchy itself.”

Who’s another character you’d like to get a standalone episode?

JR: I’m not sure another character has enough remaining unexplored potential to benefit from a full look like this. Not at the expense of time with the greater ensemble.

MG: Roy Kent is the obvious choice. You could build an entire spinoff series after him. But I’m going to go off the board and select Nora, Rebecca’s charming and feisty goddaughter. It’s amazing how much she dominated one episode. Easily the breakthrough performance of Season 2.

MC: An episode (probably on the shorter side) with Higgins running into mishaps and awkward situations, while perhaps seeing more 0f his front office duties and “behind-the-scenes” work, could be entertaining television.

AB: Sam Obisanya might be a good choice here, with any possible outcome of his relationship with Rebecca. If that somehow works out, it would be interesting to see how he’s doing, both when she’s around and when she’s not. There are maybe some possibilities of him interacting with media, teammates, and his dad again too. And if that relationship doesn’t work out, it would be interesting to have something focused on how he reacts.

IC: I wanted more Mae after finding out she went on a date with one of the bar regulars. How many others has she gone on or was that a one-off? So many AFC Richmond players have surely stopped in over the years. That woman has stories to tell.

Is there a sports venue you would like to visit late at night?

MG: The University of Oregon’s Hayward Field. Without Limits, a Steve Prefontaine biopic, is my favorite sports movie. It captures the sheer joy and pain of long-distance running. Would love to get in some laps on the same field that Prefontaine once ran. Even though most of the original facility has been demolished and renovated, it would still be meaningful.

MC: Wrigley Field.

AB: I think soccer grounds are an excellent pick for this, and I enjoyed how thrilled the Richmond lads were to be on their team’s pitch. Some of these grounds are so interesting and so cool to see from pitch level. My pick here might be Wembley, very appropriate for Ted Lasso. Yeah, it’s not the same stadium where Freddie Mercury once played, but it’s still a site that’s been witness to so much history, and the new stadium itself has seen a lot of incredible moments already.

IC: I’ve never been to Fenway Park. While I’d certainly like to watch a Red Sox game there, getting to run around an empty ballpark with a couple of friends late at night, the field and the stands, inside the scoreboard, would be spectacular.

JR: Shooting around at an empty Hinkle Fieldhouse or Assembly Hall would be incredible.