On TV, thunderstorms (or, in the coastal states, hurricanes) lend themselves to romance. People are trapped indoors, the power goes out, and the candles come on. Hair becomes attractively wet, and skin dewy. Sometimes there is even wine — unless you’re the residents of a certain cul-de-sac and drain your supply by dusk. Ellie and Jules taught us that you can even get a little off the corks, but it’s not a particularly seductive look.
No, the seduction being done in this episode is in the probably clammy hands of Travis. Cougar Town has tiptoed around a possible Travis-Laurie relationship for a while now. It has felt both earnest (Laurie looking bummed when Travis shut down her flirtations a few episodes back) and wink-y (Hawaii). It’s long been the inappropriate elephant in the room. This episode jumps into it a bit more directly, by having Holly suggest that Travis (with whom she spent the previous episode making out) date her “friend” Laurie. I put “friend” in quotation marks because anybody who plays matchmaker between you, a woman in your late twenties, and a 19-year-old boy is not your real friend.
It’s not just Holly who becomes invested, either — the whole crew gets involved, holing themselves in during the hurricane to take sides. They host a debate that largely falls along gender lines (women against, men for), although Grayson, unsurprisingly, doesn’t care. By setting up the group’s middle-aged members in pro- and anti-Traurie ( … Lavis?) teams, the show knowingly mimics the audience divide, as well as what I imagine their writers’ room has looked like when trying to decide whether or not they really want to go down that road. The group can’t come to a consensus, and neither, we can imagine, can the writers. It’s a decision that nobody really wants to make. Who are any of us to deny young love, right? But also: gross. It’s super gross. Ellie is right — the age difference is just too big. At least while one of the relevant parties is still a teenager.
That it occurs to Laurie’s friends to consider setting her up with said teenager at all is bad enough, but doing so in the immediate aftermath of her fight with Wade (who just reenlisted) is just cold. It’s the sort of band-aid solution that Cougar Town has taken to slapping onto its larger emotional story lines as of late, and one that shaves down the more attractive qualities of its characters in favor of increasingly slapdash comedic bits. The group’s abandonment of Laurie in her time of need — apart from Bobby’s suggestion to Travis that he “be her shoulder to cry on” and Jules mistakenly sending Laurie and Travis up to her room to lie down — feels off track from the way these characters have shown their love for one another in the past.
Of course, there are always sweet little moments, because this is a show that knows how to unite heart and humor when it wants to. Bobby and Andy’s telekinetic-like capacity to understand each other’s clues when the group plays “Celebrity” is precious, and the strategizing Ellie and Jules do to catch up (being that Jules, as we all should be, seems generally unaware of celebrities that aren’t Gwyneth Paltrow) is equally cute. It might just be for the sake of a game they’re only playing because all the wine is gone and there’s a (rather mild) hurricane going on. But it’s still the sort of weird and funny thing that only really, really good friends are able to do — the sort of thing that’s always nice to see from the cul-de-sac.
Back, though, to Traurie. The particular way in which Travis decides to go after Laurie (at the drop of a hat, looking to take advantage of her emotional vulnerability) is decidedly creepy. He’s a “good listener,” but only because he has ulterior motives. He tells her she deserves better, but only because he means himself. This is, of course, the sort of thing that 19-year-olds are known to do. Even as we’re explicitly made aware of his age, it’s often hard to remember just how young the character of Travis really is. He so regularly acts the adult in this crew, especially in times of need, that it’s hard to not hold him to that unrealistic standard. But ultimately, he is a mostly good kid.
When Wade pops up on Laurie’s iPad to talk to her and finds Travis there instead, he asks Travis for a favor. Travis, ever game for having weird things strapped to his head, ends up with the iPad attached to his face, acting as Wade’s “body” so that Wade can dance with his lady. Wade asks Laurie to understand his decision to reenlist, and to wait for him if she’s willing. He also asks Travis to grab Laurie’s butt. Travis might be a good kid, but even he has his limits. He takes off the iPad and is ready to storm off, until Laurie asks him if he thinks she should give Wade another chance. Whether it’s because he genuinely wants her to be happy above all else, or because the writers don’t want to make this decision quite yet, or a little of both, Travis says yes.
Travis having a crush on Laurie makes a lot of sense. She’s pretty and she’s perfect, she bakes delicious foods, and she’s always around. It is a biological impossibility that he wouldn’t be at least a little bit in love with her. What’s harder to accept is the idea that she, who (despite wearing a fair number of ponytails on the top of her head) is an adult woman, could feel the same way. But we don’t have to go there just yet. It’s still a question that feels better unanswered, although one thing is for certain: “Traurie” just doesn’t have that special ring to it.