“Square One”/“It'll All Work Out” S3 / E12-13
- B+ Community Grade
When last we conversed in this space, the fate of Cougar Town was unknown. I noted that I would love the show to run much longer past this season, but could imagine a scenario in which the finale few episodes this month might bring some amount of closure to the proceedings. Now? Eff that noise. I’m happy TBS is going to be airing the show for its fourth (and mostly likely fifth) season starting this Fall. The time to worry about what future seasons may hold can wait for another day. For now, let’s be happy that we don’t have to form a series of sad two-person zipline tandems to mourn the loss of the show. After all, ABC seemingly can’t burn episodes off fast enough at this point. Instead of seeing this as the unceremoniously rushed end, we can view tonight’s two-fer as a double delight. (I’d make some allusion to double fisting, but somehow that seems like a terrible, terrible idea.)
“Square One” and “It’ll All Work Out” both give the sense that while the show could have ended this season with many ends tied off, there’s still plenty of growth for these characters that can unfurl in subsequent years. “Square One” re-addresses a concern that has hung over the show since “Money Becomes King,” in which Jules and Grayson essentially decided to table the discussion about which of them was going to give up their home. Last week’s hurricane essentially has solved the problem, having decimated Grayson’s home. (Not that there was ever much of a problem to begin with, although “It’ll All Work Out” may have thrown a wrench in that plot which I’ll discuss a bit further on down the line.) But while the pair insist living together will be a breeze, the baggage that underlies their relationship quickly spring to the surface.
Whenever I describe the premise of Cougar Town to those that haven’t see it, I often get a reaction along the lines of, “All they do is drink? What sad people!” After I throw a burrito at their pristine white shirts, I calmly explain that the show isn’t an emo endeavor. Still, the show does occasionally lift open a concealed emotional wound and have cul-de-sac characters poke holes in them. Usually, it’s Ellie doing the poking, wielding a metaphorical electrified stick and going to town on her victim. In “Square One,” Jules and Grayson unwittingly damage each other by exhibiting behavior that undid the other’s previous marriage. One can rightly call Jules out on her occasional bouts of overcontrolling bullshit throughout the course of the show, but her overreaction to Grayson’s tardiness made all the emotional sense in the world tonight. Even if she’s OK with Bobby in her life now, she’s still never truly gotten over the hurt he caused her, no matter how much the joke about it.
In “It’ll All Work Out,” Ellie’s lack of parenting skills takes center stage once again. We’ve seen increasing instance of Stan’s psychopathic tendencies, but they have been played for laughs for most of the season. (Awww, his best friend is the monster that lives in the sewers!) But as he gets older, more ambulatory, and more proficient in the art of destruction, it’s causing more of a problem for those not in the Torres household. Sure, Ellie and Andy employ a full-time nanny, but it’s clearly not a substitute for actual parenting. “All she does is drink! What a horrible mother!” might exclaim the aforementioned non-watchers, were they to read this paragraph. And they don’t have a point…except they totally do. Luckily, Cougar Town understands those complaints, and addresses them tonight.
When Stan murders Big Carl in a fit of malevolence steeped in scientific method (“If I throw this down to the ground, will it break as have all other clear objects I have heretofore hurled towards the earth?”), Jules breaks out The Insult of All Insults: She calls Ellie a bad mom. Everyone prepares for another hurricane, this time in the approximate shape of Christa Miller. Instead, Ellie emotionally implodes, retreating to the same couch Andy did after Jules usurped his position as the neighborhood king in “Full Moon Fever.” In an episode based around the concept of “buttering up” friends in order to receive favors down the line, Jules offers up her help to be the “bad cop” free of emotional charge. Ellie’s reticence to discipline Stan comes not from a place of apathy, but rather from fear that Stan won’t love her as a result of its implementation. That’s a far more recognizable position, emotionally speaking, and fits within her general reticence to show how she truly feels.
There were plenty of other purely comedic storylines woven through these two episodes as well. Jules and Bobby had a contest to see which of them could keep their white shirt stain-free the longest. Ellie and Laurie fought over who was the sexier of the pair. Travis employed Laurie and Bobby to help write Jules’ wedding vows. Grayson helped Andy learn how to toss a pizza as part of his mayoral campaign. But this last plot also potentially heralds some interesting developments down the line, with Grayson seeking a partner in Andy to avoid being slaves to the whim of their wives. It’s interesting not only because Grayson has historically been a loner (even within the group), unwilling to emotionally commit to anyone besides Jules. It’s also interesting because it perhaps signals that the transition from Grayson from his house into Jules’ may not be as straightforward as it seems. Sure, crows are now living in his stove, and the whole place looks like part of the set of the upcoming NBC drama Revolution. But while I appreciate how strong the women of the cul-de-sac are, and want them to continue along that path, it will be nice to see the men be able to find places of autonomy as well, whether it be in political office or the home.
- The cold open of “It’ll All Work Out” was really funny, but I think I like leaving my meta out of my Cougar Town. Luckily, the show keeps such wink wink stuff either before the title card or during the final credits. If the fourth season opener is filled with jokes about how everything looks the same, but feels different, you’ll hear my eyes rolling.
- Speaking of title cards: Cougarton Abbey, everyone! It’s a thing now. I wonder if Abed from Community knows this show is on the air yet. Or if he can afford cable to watch it on TBS.
- Bobby’s idea of spontaneity? Cutting off Andy’s air supply. Seems only fair after Bobby nearly died on that hike a few weeks back.
- Speaking of Bobby: Brian van Holt doesn’t get nearly enough credit as the emotional bedrock of this show. When Bobby tells Jules, “Please don’t tell me my mistakes make you a coward,” it’s straight up heartbreaking. Here’s a guy that will never be able to undo his actions while married to her, but really tries to make her remaining life as fulfilled as possible.
- Dan Byrd? Funny. Dan Byrd with something covering his face? Funnier. Last week it was the iPad with Wade’s visage. This week, the cardboard box with multiple faces.
- Tom's at the table now! That made me happy.
- I could just drop thirty quotes in here, but somehow that might be cheating. Still…why not? “I will have my revenge. But I need to shut it down for a second.” “I’m like the Dexter of sex.” “The horse that wanted to look away but couldn’t.” “This really isn’t the right bra for this.” “I’d take a whole pot roast for you, sir.” “I passed out on a booze cruise. Turns out it was a cruise cruise.” “Your son just killed one of my best friends!” “I’ll see you at the crossroads, homie.”