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Cougar Town Recap: Predictably Sweet

COUGAR TOWN - "Ain't Love Strange" - Jules is miffed when Grayson (who has an ulterior motive) calls her "predictable"; Ellie frets that little Stan is turning into a "devil child," or even worse, could grow up to be like Laurie; and Travis likes his new off campus housing, until Bobby tries to convince him to take dog Travis in, on the Third-Season premiere of "Cougar Town," TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14 (8:30-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/RICHARD FOREMAN)
COURTENEY COX, BUSY PHILIPPS

It’s been ages — almost nine months — since we’ve been able to spend time with the Cul de sac Crew, and I’ve missed this big bunch of weirdos. It makes sense that in this first episode after the long hiatus they’d come back to us drinking wine from glasses hung around their necks like horse feeders, cheers-ing themselves, I’m imagining, for finally making it back on the air.

Grayson and Jules share a coffee date (thankfully not outside a Subway), and he takes what is apparently a big step for him: a public kiss on Jules’s cheek. For someone who used to stand in his driveway with a different 22-year-old girl every morning, this seems unusually chaste. (I am still learning to accept Grayson into my life. Give me time.) Jules spends the rest of their date sharing her desire to have a “life of surprises” and scolding the dirty yet inexplicably attractive skater boys from the courtyard. This sets the stage for a potential turf war.  

Among the major life developments that have taken place since the last time we were with these folks, Laurie went and got herself an ankle monitor, à la Lindsay Lohan. Apparently she visited Tampa, slept with a married bartender, and got into a brawl with his wife. Laurie took a stacked heel to the wife’s eardrum, so, note taken: Don’t mess with Laurie. That lady wears way too many potential weapons on her person at all times.

Stan, the mostly invisible offspring of Andy and Ellie, has aged about two and a half years and is now a “demon child.” This is what happens when you leave TV babies to fend for themselves. Mark my words: He’s just eight years off from a Very Special Episode about peer pressure and drugs, and he’ll be the one doing the pressuring. For now, he’s mostly tearing up pillows and drawing scary pictures. Ellie’s worried he’ll turn out like Laurie — who teaches him to raise the roof and makes him a fake ankle monitor to match her own — but Laurie assures her that she and Andy are good parents. Are they, though? I suppose Ellie must crack a smile at little Stan now and then, so long as nobody’s looking.

Bobby makes a visit to Travis, who has apparently returned to college and is now shacked up with eight roommates in a two-bedroom house. (Boys.) For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, Bobby wants to get rid of dog Travis, so he decides to unload the beast on human Travis. I am sure that a house full of nine 19-year-olds will do a really excellent and thorough job caring for that dog — 19-year-olds who have, as it happens, decided that painting a green screen in their living room would be, like, totally sweet. It makes for some cute moments. The tight friendship between Bobby and Andy is always charming, and to see them “flying” and holding hands was adorable. Later, too, Travis and Bobby film a “rainy” father-son moment about … dog Travis. No, it was about more, but … mostly it was about Travis keeping dog Travis.

The main story line hinges on Jules’s alleged predictability — Grayson calls it first, and Ellie and Laurie join in to mimic her. Grayson even writes a song about it, detailing Jules’s morning routine (which includes checking her nose and picking her mouth guard out of the trash) while everyone else in the group dances along. When she comes downstairs, Jules tells him “no singing,” and I have to agree with her on this one. The people’s court rules in favor of less guitar playing, more Penny Can, if at all possible. The dance party ends soon after, upon Laurie’s declaration that Jules’s car has been “sharked” — or covered with toilet paper and be-finned (?). She suspects those meddling skater kids from earlier. I was hoping for a return of the Chalk Children, but no such luck — yet.

On a fact-finding mission to Grayson’s bar, Jules and some of the gang spy on the skater kids. They don’t find out much, but we do get to hear Jules’s weird/funny story about being embarrassed by sneezing and having her therapist tell her to counter it by making a “happy noise” afterward. She also tells Tom and Laurie about her ideal proposal, since Tom happens to be curious for totally non-suspect reasons. (No really! He’s a good guy, Tom.) Jules wants it to be like a fairy tale, and to be surrounded by everyone she loves. Something tells me she just might get it!

Jules decides to T.P. the skater kids’ house for revenge, but because everyone knew that’s what she’d want to do, they show up in her house wearing black. And, in Laurie’s case, an eighties roller-skating outfit. The repeated suggestion that Jules is predictable bothers her, which is understandable because that is an incredibly annoying thing to be told. It will only ever be heard as “boring,” so that’s how she feels. In an attempt to break the mold, Jules decides to have mouth guard sex with Grayson. It appears that she used her mouth guard as a sort of removable chastity belt of the mouth until this point, but all bets are off now that everyone thinks she’s so dull. After they have sex, Jules sneaks off to find a sleeping (and naked!) Tom, and beckons him to head out on the T.P. mission, just the two of them.

Laurie finds Jules and Tom sneaking off and joins in on the mission, having given Jules what she says is the address to one of the skater boys’ homes. (This is a poorly distributed revenge tactic.) They carry out a truly magnificent, improbable T.P. job — Jules, hilariously, yelling “REVENGEANCE IS MINE!” — and finish just as a cop car pulls up. Laurie runs off to avoid her third strike against the law, Tom offers to “create a distraction” and gets himself tasered, and Jules is forced to fend for herself. She sneezes, though, and gets caught in the light.

It isn’t a cop, but Grayson, dressed as one. It wasn’t the skater boys who sharked Jules’s car, it was him. He even gave a fake address — the empty house is one of Jules’s real estate listings. Jules, top-notch real estate agent to nobody, doesn’t recognize the place. Everyone she loves shows up to surprise her (even her ex-husband, awkward!), and it really is a fairy tale. A beautiful, touching, toilet-paper-covered fairy tale. Grayson gets down on one knee and proposes, and Jules is speechless. For Jules, anyway. She manages to say yes, and to tell him how happy he makes her. Then they kiss in front of everyone, and it’s completely perfect. They later “re-create” a romantic mountaintop proposal in front of the green screen, but even that can’t touch the real thing.

Photo: Richard Foreman/ABC