It’s unclear if we’re watching the final run of Cougar Town episodes at this point in the show’s third season. While there was a lot of social media momentum heading into the Valentine’s Day premiere, that hasn’t exactly translated into ratings gold. Personally, I’m hoping the show gets six seasons and a wine tasting, but if not, we’re now getting an incredibly strong, consistent set of episodes. “Full Moon Fever” puts “all wedding, all the time” on the back burner in order to explore how that engagement has affected the others in the cul-de-sac, either overtly or subtly.
Last week, Andy got some of his strongest material on the show to date, waxing poetically with Grayson about the lack of autonomy he has in his own life. Anything he gets usually occurs due to subtle manipulation rather than overt action. So it’s only natural that the show extend that thought into more concrete action, in the form of his role within the cul-de-sac. We’ve not gotten much of a sense of what happens on that dead-end street outside of the homes of Jules, Ellie, Grayson, and Tom. Ostensibly, others would be involved in the neighborhood activities and petitions that Andy mentions tonight. But in some ways, it doesn’t matter. The fight over the King of the Cul-De-Sac isn’t about an accurate portrayal of neighborhood politics and law enforcement. It’s about Andy feeling ownership over something in his life.
Naturally, Jules stomps all over his assertion that he’s king at the outset. The cul-de-sac has other denizens (and we hear about a few of them tonight), but the only ones that ultimately matter to her are the ones that gather around her kitchen island on a daily basis. And in terms of the subsection, she undoubtedly rules the roost. Andy may have written up the petition to stop the newly constructed mall behind their abodes, but that doesn’t represent power so much as a document nobody remembers signing. The document is devoid of power on both a practical level (the mall got built, complete with stores like “Short and Wide” and carts that sell hot dogs on sticks) and a social level (no one takes Andy and his neighborhood proclamations seriously).
Jules comes around upon realizing that even the illusion of power will sate Andy. After all, it’s not like he’s suddenly drunk with real power, affecting social change like a bald, Cuban Leslie Knope. It just gives him an excuse to dress-up like Braveheart and utter ridiculous cries before luring the trespassers into a giant mound of sand. Very little of it makes any sense, but Andy’s happy, which makes Jules happy, which makes us happy. Ellie railed against Jules earlier in the season for being a people pleaser. And while she’s not always good at reading the desires of her friends, she’s always quick to act once she gets the correct diagnosis. (Even if she’s still unclear on what Braveheart actually is. Then again, she wouldn’t be Jules if she did.) The individual scenes with the Bicycle Boys sometimes dragged, but the payoff to them was so gut-bustingly funny that it pays off.
If Andy’s story is about a way to reclaim some aspect of power in the wake of his bonding with newly-engaged Grayson, then the other two storylines were about the single members of the group trying to find love in their lives. Laurie’s story is classic Laurie, and thus classic Cougar Town: She meets a man online through her Twitter account, believing everything he says about himself and in return sending him everything from naked photos to her social security number. Ellie is horrified at Laurie’s naiveté, both from an online perspective and an emotional one as well. But the story takes a turn when Ellie and Grayson re-enact the tweets between Laurie and her virtual Army boyfriend Wade (who is, to Laurie’s unending delight, “super dark black…blacker than space”). Busy Phillips’ line readings this year have been spectacular, as she’s honed Laurie’s essence into someone both confident in her convictions and ever positive about life in general. She is a key component in a group whose default mode points toward sarcasm and cynicism about the world outside of their group.
That optimism feeds into Bobby’s storyline, as he becomes instantly smitten with Travis’s photography teacher Angie, played by Scrubs alum Sarah Chalke. They meet due to Travis’ helmet rendering him unable to complete an assignment for class. Turns out, it’s really hard to photograph strangers while wearing a helmet without capturing peals of laughter as the would-be subjects call you “Dork Vader.” So Travis takes pictures of Bobby aboard his boat to fulfill his assignment. Angie instantly becomes smitten by him, saying extremely inappropriate things in French about what she wants to do to Bobby in front of a horrified Travis. Chalke instantly fits into the world of the show, establishing her presence by noting, “Wow, it is not easy to have an honest moment with a kid wearing a helmet. But I'll push through." Her ease at fitting in on Cougar Town should be no surprise but is a delight to watch all the same. (While she’s great here, next week is the real showcase for how smart this casting choice was.)
This leads to a host of scenes inside Travis’s new campus digs, which allows for more green screen scenes, Sig’s increasing exasperation at the perpetual presence of the Cul-De-Sac crew, and opportunities for Brian van Holt to tap into hints of Laurie’s optimism. Still, that optimism is suppressed beneath layers of insecurity, past indiscretions, and ultimately loyalty to Travis. After all, Travis is not only creeped out about the idea of Bobby dating his teacher, as introducing the pair would reveal that Travis had been cheating on his assignment. Eventually, Jules and Grayson work together to convince Travis to do the right thing, proving that a family that eats cavemen style together can do anything together. The final smiles between Angie and Bobby are fantastic, and set the stage for next week’s episode effectively.
- Jules and Grayson role play with the cop uniform used during the proposal.
- I want a wine fountain something fierce. I need all the excuses I can to “wine watch” television programs. Sadly, The A.V. Club frowns upon its staff “wine writing.”
- Laurie calls her sexual organs her “Berts and Ernie.”
- We learn that Grayson was once an underwear model, and male prisoners still maintain a website dedicated to his work.
- First Penny Can of the year, along with a new saying we can add to the repertoire. After a game ends, those playing have to yell “Penny pick up!” So, update your rulebooks, all.
- Looking is important when it comes to high fiving. Just ask Beef and Bubbles.
- For those looking to add footage to your Bobby/Andy fan videos, look no further than the two talking about how one’s sad heart looks like the other’s sad eyes. Touching stuff here, people.
- During the Boston Cougar Town viewing party in February, I talked briefly with Ian Gomez about this episode. The two things he mentioned? One, it marks Courteney Cox’s directorial debut on the show. Second, the one note Bill Lawrence gave him during its production was to turn his head around awkwardly during the Braveheart speech in order to mock Lawrence’s favorite part of that climatic speech. Once you see that homage, you can’t unsee it.
- Because it deserves a full quote, my favorite line of this season of Cougar Town, and maybe 2012, all due to Busy Phillips: “Know who looks great in racer briefs? Probably? Wade, my Army boyfriend. Who is, fingers crossed, super dark black. Blacker than space!" Coming in a close second: Ellie’s meek “What what!” at the end of her Twitter recitation.
- Next week’s episode is the best of the five initially sent for review, and will be something no Scrubs fan will want to miss.