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Cougar Town Recap: Helmet Party

COUGAR TOWN - "Lover's Touch" - There is no time for romance when you're planning a wedding, and Jules is in full "AWATT" mode (All Wedding All the Time), until Travis is in an accident and rushed to the hospital. Meanwhile Grayson is feeling neglected by Jules, so the guys try to cheer him up by inventing a new game called "D-Ball," and things get dangerous when Laurie and Ellie want to play, on "Cougar Town," TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 28 (8:30-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/CARIN BAER)
CHRISTA MILLER, BUSY PHILIPPS, BRIAN VAN HOLT, COURTENEY COX

Cougar Town is a hard show to describe, and perhaps that (and, yes, the title) is part of the reason why it doesn’t always make a great showing in the ratings. It’s just a show about ... life. Not too much happened this week. Jules and her family ate dinner (terrifyingly) without silverware or even plates. A new game was invented. A man felt neglected by his fiancée. Someone suffered a minor head injury with no lasting consequences. This could be a show about your neighbors, if your neighbors were well dressed and hot and never had to go to work.

This is not to say that I don’t find it all completely charming, because of course I did. I feel relatively certain that I would hate almost all of these people individually, if we were ever to meet in real life. But somehow, together, they are the most loveable bunch of lunatics. They bring out the best — or at least the most entertaining — in each other. They care about each other, and you can tell. Even when they’re pelting frozen mini soccer balls at each other’s heads and torsos.

Dominance Ball is no Penny Can (Penny Can Watch: high alert!), but it does lend itself to a tidy little battle of the sexes, as Laurie, Ellie, and Jules have to convince the men that they can play without crying. That Ellie is the one to almost lose it is completely unacceptable to me. There is just NO way that that woman has the capacity to produce tears. In any case, she and the other ladies carry out a very handy revenge; Jules even uses Grayson’s neediness to her advantage, using the promise of a kiss to lure him into her dominance trap.

Grayson feels unattended to, or unloved, or something, this episode. I guess this is because Jules is trying to plan their whole goddamn wedding by herself and because he’s sad he’s only No. 5 on her speed dial. Did it ever occur to Grayson that No. 5 is the most important speed dial there is, coveted for its centralized location on the keypad?? No. 5 is for moms and current or future spouses. Anyway, I’m RSVP-ing “no” to Grayson’s pity party, but he IS cute when he’s needy. He tries to make up for the missing affection by getting overly friendly with his customers and hugging his guy friends a little longer than they’re used to. Which is great! More man hugs for everyone, I say. Grayson also vents to Andy, telling him that all he wants is for Jules to treat him “like a baby.” Cougar Town’s emasculation jokes feel smarter than your average guy/girl comedy — we don’t laugh with Grayson because he has a point, but because it’s hilarious that he’d feel threatened or lonely by Jules having her own agenda.

Jules’s primary concern is, of course, Travis, who seems to be having a hard time actually getting himself back to college. He “dogboards” back to school, but crashes when he sees a butterfly (understandable) and lands in the hospital with a minor skull fracture. Everyone rushes to the hospital (it is SO lucky none of them work so that they could all visit together) to check on him. There they find Tom, also known as Head Neurosurgeon Tom Gazelian (!), who tells them Travis will be okay, but that he’ll need to wear a protective helmet for a few months. This is not a thing!! This is definitely not a thing. Maybe it was a thing in 1850, but I can personally attest to the fact that, if you hurt your head, you will almost certainly not have to wear a helmet when you leave the hospital. I did know someone, once, who had to wear a helmet to protect himself from the sunlight, but that is an entirely separate kind of tragedy.

To make Travis feel better for having to look even more ridiculous than he usually does (no face can really support a chin strap, least of all his), everyone shows up in Jules’s kitchen with helmets of their own. Ellie and Laurie look quite fetching in theirs — and it is no surprise that Laurie owns an Amelia Earhart hat. Her outfits throughout this episode got progressively more maniacal, and I mean that in the best way possible. Where does one find a giant, neck-eating lobster necklace? Can she show me how to do my hair in that side-braid thing with the ribbons? Laurie would be fun at a sleepover.

Jules prepares to send Travis back off to school, helmeted, by bringing out Big Carl (and, in a surprising twist, her ears! Who knew she was hiding those things under there??). Travis, alas, is not willing to wear his helmet to college, for obvious reasons. This is one of those doctors’ orders that are implicitly meant to be broken. What, really, is living, when you’re 19 years old and wearing a helmet to class? His refusal (and near Dominance Ball attack) upsets Jules, who tells him that she’ll never stop worrying about him. Travis is hardly in the position to expect her to stop worrying, too, right?? Remember when he fled the mainland like five seconds ago to drop out of college and be pale in Hawaii? Jesus, kid, it takes longer than that to get back on your mom’s trusting side.

When Travis leaves (helmet on head), Jules and Grayson head to the dog park with Ellie and Andy. It’s Andy’s feel-good solution of choice, but even it can’t shake the parenting blues Jules’s speech brought down upon all of them. However, for Grayson at least, the affection well starts flowing again soon enough. After Andy coaches him to play it cool and wait for her to come to him, Jules takes a break from wedding planning to couch-make-out with her fiancé. Andy watches, from behind a chair, like the little lawn gnome of a person that he is. I’d probably watch a whole show about Andy popping out from behind things, now that I think about it.

Photo: Carin Baer/© 2011 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.