“Ted Lasso” and the redemption of Jamie Tartt

Even now, I can hear the cloying bars of “Baby Shark” but sung to the lyrics of “Jamie Tartt. Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo.” Of course the original bad boy of Apple+’s hit “Ted Lasso” would have his own theme song, and co-opt a maddeningly popular children’s tune in order to do so. In the first season of the show, the world was soccer star Jamie’s (Phil Dunster) stage, and everyone else in the world, including coach Ted (Jason Sudeikis), his fellow teammates and even then-girlfriend Keeley (Juno Temple), mere bit players.

That changed after his deepening relationship with Ted, a heartbreaking transfer to Man City and various other very public disappointments and embarrassments which led him to return to the AFC Richmond team as a new man. We love to hate a bad boy, but we especially love to love one who proves himself to be the baddest thing of all: kind, thoughtful and capable of change. 

Jamie began as the bully. He insulted his teammates — and his coaches — butting heads especially with Roy (Brett Goldstein). Jamie saw himself as the fresh young star and Roy as the aging, hanger-on standing in his way. Like the shark of his song, Jamie could smell blood in the water. Or, on the pitch. And he was right, in the way of a laser-focused tyrannical child: Roy was headed for retirement and a new stage of life as a coach. 

Part of the redemption of Jamie is the star being humbled, being rejected repeatedly.

Jamie came by his cruelty the most classic way: his dad abused him and continues to, as Ted witnessed Jamie’s father screaming at him after a match — a  match in which Jamie largely helped secure the win, but it wasn’t enough for his dad. The elder Tartt, James (Kieran O’Brien), objected to his son passing the ball. Ted reached out to Jamie, offering support (and a tiny plastic solider). Importantly, Ted doesn’t quit. The Lasso way, as boss Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) found out, is to wear you down, killing your defenses with kindnesses, crumbling your walls with cookies. It also works well on the press.

After being transferred from Ted’s team, Jamie made a series of bad decisions, likely due to being isolated. He had no one to advise him, no one to trust. He left soccer to pursue a career as a reality star, a highlight of which was being voted off a show called “Lust Conquers All.”

Exiled from Love Island and unable to continue his “lustful journey,” Jamie was introduced as a “loser” on a talk show. The director of football for his former team refused to take him back, which Jamie found out live on air. Part of the redemption of Jamie is the star being humbled, being rejected repeatedly. He’s fallen from the sky and been knocked down. It took a lot of hard knocks to get through to him, and it was at one of his lowest points when he reconnected, somewhat drunkenly, with Ted. And when he returned to AFC Richmond, the shaming wasn’t over. Jamie got humbled yet again by teammates who yelled at him and tackled him.

A Jamie still in progress. An unfinished portrait of Tartt.

To start over, Jamie had to start from the bottom. And he had to start letting people in, opening up to others and having a confrontation with his abusive dad; Roy hugged him afterward. Jamie saw a therapist (well, he was forced to and the self-centered part of him described the process of talking on and on about himself as “nice”). Jamie’s path has included the slow and rocky task of breaking out of patterns. Yes, he confessed to former flame Keeley, long after she had moved on, that he was still in love with her, but he soon apologized for that and acknowledged it was inappropriate. The old Jamie would never.

Ted LassoPhil Dunster in “Ted Lasso” (Apple TV+)

The start of Season 3 finds a new and improved Jamie. A Jamie still in progress. An unfinished portrait of Tartt. He continues to have flashes of arrogance but there are serious cracks in his armor where the goodness gets in. And he doesn’t always, or even usually, put himself first anymore. Upon discovering Keeley and Roy have broken up, Jamie doesn’t rush to Keeley in Episode 2. Instead, he rushes to former teammate and current coach Roy. As Roy comforted him in the past, Jamie comforts Roy now, hugging the gruff man (despite Roy’s confusion and grumpy protests).

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When Jamie’s teammates start stressing out about terrible press, he reminds them to let it go. He’s learned to himself, becoming more complex and even more interesting as a character along the way. Jamie still dresses like a teen YouTube star, but he speaks with the mounting wisdom of someone on a different journey, one with self-knowledge at the end

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