I haven’t seen all of Cougar Town‘s first season, but one of the biggest concerns of this season has been finding the right balance between Jules, the forceful,, but ultimately helpful friend/person and Jules, the awful shrill who bullies everyone into doing whatever it is she wants. It’s been really hard for the series to find that balance and that’s probably always going to be true for Cougar Town because it’s a goofball comedy that doesn’t want to take any of its characters too seriously.
However, 2010’s final episode, “The Same Old You,” leaves us with a more likable and stabilized Jules in her efforts to help Bobby get back into professional golf. To be honest with you, I had forgotten that Bobby used to be a pro golfer since the series is more interested in having him say ridiculous things while doing even more ridiculous things, but this episode featured a nice story to remind me of both his former profession and why Jules ever liked him in the first place. It’s another instance of the season dipping back into the character’s past, but because this one is more about the distant past instead of the recent season one-y past, “Same Old You” works on a number of levels.
Here, Jules is certainly in control of the group’s actions with her desire to fix up Bobby’s boat as a way to make him feel confident in his ability to place in the local golf qualifier, but she doesn’t really do anything awful or forceful to get everyone to help. Instead, Grayson, Ellie and Andy are more than willing to paint, clean and improve Bobby’s boat without question because they recognize that as much as they love him in his current state, it’s probably best for everyone if Bobby finds some motivation and direction in his life. He can’t eat uncooked biscuits and let them rise in his stomach forever, right?
Even when Jules tries to dictate what kind of montage the group will have when cleaning Bobby’s boat, Ellie stops her. No happy ’80s montages, damnit, just angry, sweaty ones. It’s a hilarious moment, but also a quick indication that sometimes the characters around Jules aren’t willing to let her completely control the processes and events that they have to take part in. And when Jules’ idea actually goes horribly wrong and Bobby’s boat ends up sinking into the pier, there’s again no real indication that she’s going to do something even more horrible to fix that problem. Instead, she recognizes that she made a major mistake, but optimistically sees the value in that mistake. In other episodes, Jules would have not apologized for sinking Bobby’s boat or something awful like that, but here, she understands that she was wrong, even if she does think there is some sort of “message” underlying that mistake.
With any overly broad character like Bobby, it’s difficult to decide when to pull back and make them more like human beings, but Cougar Town seems at least somewhat consistent in their characterization. So even though this episode focuses on Bobby and Jules’ relationship and his lack of drive or determination, it doesn’t feel like an overly special event or anything like that. And the episode uses a nice framing device of Bobby actually on the golf course playing well so we actually get to see him be the productive, confident guy that Jules loved before. Of course, he’s still a goofball and still hitting a few ridiculously awful shots, so it’s not as if the Bobby we all love is going away anytime soon — he’s just getting something to do!
The B and C plots of “Same Old You” were also strong, as Grayson and Ellie continue to expand their friendship by digging up hilarious dirt on one another via the glorious helper that is Google. While I can’t imagine they’d find that much dirt on one another, Grayson and Ellie are a really great pairing and it’s been fun to watch their relationship grow over these first 10 episodes.
Finally, this episode finally made the sexual tension between Laurie and Travis a thing and executed it pretty well. It looks as though Travis is going to be crushing after Laurie now while still dating Kirsten, which could be too melodramatic, but surely won’t be played for too much seriousness. I think the first batch of episodes has done a nice job of putting Travis out there on his own, away from the rest of the group (at least with women), so it seems believable that he’d be able to handle a relationship with Laurie at this point. I don’t think the series is really interested in putting them together yet, but I could absolutely see them hooking up randomly in such a way that Jules finds out, which would just be amazing and hilarious.
Good way to close out 2010, Cougar Town.