Well, Internet, it has been a difficult couple of months since we last saw the good residents of Cougar Town, Florida, and while I hope we’ve all found other shows to fill the time, I don’t know that there’s another show out there that manages quite this blend of absurdism, character gags, heart, and weird running jokes. It’s good to have the show back, and all those of you who think it sucks can go talk in the Chicago Code thread or something. (Or I guess you could, uh, tell us how dumb we are to like this in comments? That should be fun for all of us!)
Anyway, Cougar Town returns with the episode that was supposed to be its midseason finale last February, before the President messed everything up for all of us in that regard, so the “big cliffhanger” (which isn’t really that big at all) will almost certainly be resolved in two nights’ time. On the one hand, it’s great to have two episodes of the show in a single week (and have one of them get a huge potential audience airing after Dancing With The Stars, one of TV’s biggest shows). On the other hand, well, this episode contains some of my less favorite elements of the show, even if this episode seems to be almost entirely about getting rid of them. (And while the cliffhanger isn’t the most dramatic in the world, it still might have been nice to have it to hang on over the past two months, though that’s no one involved with the show’s fault. STUPID PRESIDENT.)
I actually really like the way the show sets the main storyline up in this episode: Bobby is digging around in the backyard for a time capsule he and Jules buried for Travis to open on his 18th birthday. They just forgot the thing existed when Travis turned 18 because, well, who remembers burying a time capsule, especially one filled with Teddy Ruxpin dolls and .38 Special cassettes? Bobby goes looking for it because he needs his lucky visor so he can make the money he needs to enter the big golf tournament, just another little piece of the puzzle that indicates that Bobby’s life subtly turned downhill after he got married and had a kid. (One of my favorite things about the show is the way that it indicates that Bobby and Jules’ marriage was a big mistake but not such a huge one that they can’t still be friends or admit that they learned valuable things from it.) What else is in that time capsule? Jules’ grandmother’s engagement ring.
At the same time, Kirsten has revealed that she’s locked up a good job after she graduates in a few weeks, and the job is going to take her far away from Travis. He’s proud of her, but he also doesn’t want her going far away. And since the show isn’t going to abruptly become a Lost-esque series where the characters are in many different locations, scattered to the winds, we know he won’t move to join her. So he has to come up with a way to keep her around. And at the same time, he starts digging around in the backyard for the time capsule. Which, of course, contains that engagement ring, as Ellie reminds Jules. And even though Jules, having learned from experience, probably doesn’t want her son getting married so young, Ellie lets her know that to interfere in her son’s life is a bad idea. He’s an adult, after all. But then Jules digs up the time capsule herself (after drugging Travis!), and the question becomes whether she’ll let him know she found it or not.
Now, I’ve never been a huge fan of the idea that Jules is a smothering mother to Travis. It’s a joke that’s been funny here and there, but it often goes right by funny and just heads to creepy. There are times when it works—like that scene where Travis was trying to do the sexy photo shoot for Kirsten and his mom interrupted—but for the most part, there’s something so manic in Courteney Cox’s performance that it’s always a little offputting. (Honestly, I think that may be a compliment to the actress.) Plus, it feels like one of the show’s most stock sitcom ideas. Mothers who are too involved in their kids’ lives are a dime a dozen on family sitcoms, and Cougar Town doesn’t really do anything with the idea, beyond making Jules extra creepy. It’s never been a deal breaker, but it can make episodes where it turns up kind of unpleasant, as it does much of the midsection of this episode.
But in the third act, there’s a turn, where Ellie shows Jules the effect that over-parenting can have on kids, even decades later, and the closing of the episode, where Jules and Travis go through the contents of the time capsule together and he pockets the ring, is really quite moving. Jules letting him go off to make what could be a huge mistake feels like a real turning point for the character, and I hope the show’s writers stick to this new character development. (I don’t see why they wouldn’t. The show has been good in the past about letting its characters make small but subtle changes to the way they see the world.) If the major storyline this season has been about all seven of these people growing up, then this storyline is about how when people grow up, sometimes, they have to let each other go away for a while. Now, Dan Byrd being a regular and all, I can’t see how this ends in anything but heartbreak for Travis, but it’s still a nice acknowledgement of that fact.
The other storyline, involving Laurie and Bobby setting up a company designed to sell professional grade Penny Cans, was more of an excuse for the show to indulge its love of inside jokes than anything else, but man, was it filled with some good ones. Penny Can, of course, is the party game all the kids love, but I also enjoyed the new meaning of the phrase “kicks ass” and the return of “slap out of it.” (Over in the other storyline, I also liked Jules’ continued bafflement at why anyone would tip an invisible cap in her general direction.) But this wasn’t just inside joke time. I also liked the utterly bizarre radio ad Laurie and Bobby come up with, and I liked that this storyline, too, had a nice sense of heart, with Andy getting Grayson to admit that sometimes being a realist can seem cruel when you hang out with so many oddballs. All in all, it wasn’t a stone-cold great episode of Cougar Town, but it was a very good, very funny one, and I hope the Dancing With The Stars audience liked it enough to check out Wednesday’s (even better) episode.
- Now, I’m working from a screener, so I haven’t called the phone number yet, but my understanding is that if you do, someone from the show will answer and talk at you. Let’s get a thread started up in comments to see if this is really the case. I wonder if you’ll have to ask for Carol and say you don’t want any sex stuff?
- The plotline where Andy thinks that women are constantly hitting on him when they’re just asking for things like the time or a napkin was kind of a non-starter, though I did like he and Grayson having to run from the large man who overturned Grayson’s car.
- It feels like Laurie’s screenplay pitches are a thing. If they’re not, they should become a thing. I would watch The Blow-Up Pup.
- "You need to carry on their message, bud."
- "Why is she stirring the sauce outside?"
- "Mom, people from Taiwan really are called Taiwanese." "Agree to disagree."
- "We could give her a puppy that would blow up if she took it across town lines. It's from my new screenplay The Blow-Up Pup. It's a prequel to Speed."
- "Bobby Cobb's number one rule of parenting: Do not get involved."
- "You wanna live in his blood."
- "Find me a gay dude who doesn't love cake."
- "Aw, that really kicks ass."
- "Hi, dance fans. Please still be there..."
- "You don't believe in me?" "Jules, I really, really don't."
- "Man, my name's got a lot of B's in it."
- "Like location, location, location. I don't know what that means, but man, I believe in it to the core."
- "Suze Orman called with another hot investment tip: bags of paint."
- "Did you happen to find any of Tom's business in those holes?"
- "Don't you love her fire? ... I brought some stuff for you to bury."
- "Calm down. It's not the real police. It's the fun police."
- "Ask for Carol, no sex stuff, Penny Can!"
- "Imaginary hook hands. I don't know what we're doing."
- "I put some cough syrup in his lemonade, and he fell asleep in a hole." "You know, out of context, that sounds like a horrible abduction story."
- "What do you think this guy eats for breakfast?" "A goat?"
- "One for $19.95, two for $50!"
- "Look at me; I'm a bear!"
- "Truck ghost."