“Sport. It’s quite the metaphor,” remarks reporter Trent Crimm (James Lance) during the second episode of Ted Lasso’s third and (maybe?) final season with a twinge of meta-self-awareness.

That’s the MO of the Apple TV+ comedy series in a nutshell, where events on and off the pitch ouroboros themselves together, informing one another in equal measure. In the spirit of Crimm’s remarks, let’s continue the metaphor: Lasso’s newest season starts with the otherwise confident comedy on the wrong side of the ball, struggling to find proper footing before returning to form.

Picking up after the off-season break, Richmond FC is fighting its way up the table after making it back into Premier League after a year of relegation, where the stakes are high. Ted (Jason Sudeikis) is still reeling in the wake of his divorce and being away from his son, and that’s exacerbated by Nate’s (Nick Mohammed) betrayal and defection to manage West Ham United—Richmond’s rival team owned by Rebecca’s (Hannah Waddingham) ex-husband, Rupert (Anthony Head).

Meanwhile, Keely (Juno Temple) and Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) take on more responsibilities in their respective careers, causing their relationship to strain. The resulting stakes keep the dramatic tension from last season, but Lasso largely rejects that darker tone it adopted throughout its prior outing for a return to a more outright comedic form.