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Cougar Town Recap: Beach Party

COUGAR TOWN - "Cougar Town" wraps up the season with two back-to-back episodes for the Season Finale, TUESDAY, MAY 29 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on ABC. In "Your World," Part 2, fed up with the lack of privacy, Grayson convinces Jules to elope to Napa . . .  but then the cul de sac crew happily tags along. In this episode, David Arquette guest stars as a hotel concierge who'll go to great (and possibly illegal) lengths to help the wine wedding go off without a hitch. (ABC/ERIC MCCANDLESS)
BUSY PHILIPPS, CHRISTA MILLER, COURTENEY COX, JOSH HOPKINS

The season finale of Cougar Town had the feel of a show not sure whether it was staying or leaving — the title card even said as much. As expected, the “four months away” wedding between Jules and Grayson got a big bump forward, in a finale ceremony that was sweet if somewhat rushed — and not just because the cops were chasing after the procession.

Before they know they’ll be marrying on the lam, Grayson and Jules try to work out a few final arrangements before beginning their new life together. Of particular concern to Grayson is his lack of privacy now that he’s sold his home; the Cul-de-Sac Crew aren’t known for their alone time, and while Grayson certainly belongs, he has always been the most independent among them. He is, after all, the only one we ever see spending time at work. He wants privacy in the mornings and when he reads, but finding it can be hard when Jules has provided everyone in the neighborhood with a key to their home. Having someone lotion your elbows when you’re trying to scan the newspaper is (I would imagine, this hasn’t happened to me) irritating, but Grayson’s reaction — screaming, punching a hole in the wall — is violent and overblown. Naturally, Jules takes him to therapy and promises to be different, because apparently she’s the one who needs more help in this scenario.

When Jules breaks her promise to Grayson that she’ll respect his “island hideaway” (their bedroom), he gets back at her in the worst, most childish way possible: by telling Laurie that she is only Jules’s co-maid of honor out of pity. Perfect Laurie is obviously devastated, which makes Jules unhappy, but this little act of vengeance hardly makes her want more alone time with her fiancé and less time with her friends. The ensuing Groundhog Day game that Grayson, Ellie, and Laurie play on Jules typifies the sometimes convoluted pathways Cougar Town develops when it wants certain plot points solved but cares more about the madcap comedy being delivered than whether anyone is acting like a recognizable human being. Jules apologizes to Laurie for a white lie she was never meant to know, and Grayson gets to elope because Jules feels like she owes him. Now they have their reason to get married in a season finale, but everyone came out looking like a jerk on the way.

The planned elopement takes place in Napa Valley, and though it displeases Hulk Grayson at first, Jules brings her friends and family along with her. Coincidentally, their “wedding day” happens to be the same day as Travis’s 21st birthday. Once the phrase “21st birthday” was uttered, half the people watching the show groaned because they knew Traurie was back in the picture, and the other half (or probably fourth, really) squealed for the same reason. I fall in the former camp, so when Laurie nearly allowed Travis to lick wedding cake frosting off her finger, I hid behind pillows. And when Travis leaned in to kiss her, I wedged myself between the couch and the wall. I was as happy to see Wade’s miraculous arrival as Laurie was — and for both of us, at least some of that was relief in knowing that this decision could be put off yet again.

Even we anti-Traurie shippers had to feel for the kid when he hears Laurie and Wade recapping their high-volume sex from the previous night — sex that he heard through his hotel wall. That’s cold. It would almost be irresponsible to NOT get drunk on fancy wine, get naked, and confess your love to your older crush in front of your friends and family after hearing something like that. It might not have been the impression Travis wanted to leave with Laurie, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt his chances all that much, either. Maybe that significant look over her shoulder just meant she was letting it go. Maybe it meant she was sorry she couldn’t be what he wanted. Maybe, but hopefully not, it meant she wished it could be Travis’s arm around her shoulder. I know Laurie’s thing is that she’s an airhead, but I just don’t think Jelly Bean would be that dumb.

I’m not, however, one to be right about what characters on this show will and will not do. For example, I would have told you that Ellie, though we don’t always see eye to eye, is incredibly loyal to the two people most important to her: Andy and Jules. That this is something she has so consistently displayed makes her story line with David Arquette’s concierge character, Daniel, incredibly difficult to swallow. She wasn’t playing up his crush on her to make Andy jealous, or to prove a point. She was just flirting because she wanted to, and it was more weird and uncomfortable than it was funny. It was an unfortunate end to the season to close with her texting sexy pictures (that Andy took!) to Daniel, right after the dedication and romance so present in Jules and Grayson’s wedding. It undercut the sweetness for empty snark.

The wedding, of course, was enjoyable. It could have been lovelier if it were longer — more time for those vows everyone was agonizing over, more involvement from the friends Jules wanted there so badly. Still, rules are rules: beach weddings are illegal, so if you’re going to escape the cops, you had better keep walking. Everyone kept it together: Chick didn’t cry, and neither did Jules. Stan didn’t lose or eat the rings. And Jules and Grayson make it off on horseback, right into the sunset, before the cops could catch up and end their illegal ceremony, I mean, party.

Sometimes the people and things that we love can’t always be everything we want them to be. Grayson and Jules are like that. Travis and Laurie (for now) are like that. Apparently, even Penny Can is like that. Seeing the miserable looks on Bobby's, Andy's, and Travis’s faces during that round of the game was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen on this show. Can it be that it’s time for a change? (Get it? Change?) Ellie says that Penny Can needs a reboot, and maybe the show does too. Not because we don’t love it, but because we’re all growing up — turning 21, getting married, seeing our friends (Big Carl) pass away. There are things I hope stay with the show when it moves to TBS, and there are things I hope get left behind. But whatever happens to them, I’m sure they (and we) will all still want to have a glass of wine and talk it over, together.

Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC