Cougar Town, “Damaged By Love”

It’s pretty clear that the end of this season is going to primarily focus on Travis’ destroyed state after his proposal. In theory, I am fine with that. But if the series wants to commit to telling an interesting, complicated story about Travis’ life and his place within this weird group, I feel like they have to really commit. “Damaged By Love” is a fine episode, one I quite liked in spots, but the stories not involving Travis ultimately bring it down to a normal episode of the series. There’s really nothing wrong with that, I just hoped the series would continue the momentum of last week’s fantastic episode — especially with Ken Jenkins’ return.

Despite my issues with some of the secondary and tertiary stories, “Damaged By Love” does do a nice job following up on Travis’ post-break up malaise/depression. Kirsten is flat-out gone from town (and the series), leaving Travis stuck on the couch in a deep, dark state. Jules doesn’t really have much of plan but to bring in her father and do some meddling, which of course doesn’t really work. Thankfully, Bobby comes in with a fantastic idea to raise Travis’ spirits: A trip to the local strip club! Ken Jenkins’ Grandpa Chick is such a tremendous fit for this world, as he nails the combination of heart and odd, witty humor. Bringing Chick and Bobby together is really comedic gold, as they both have this really warm, but goofy way about them. I can totally see why Chick approved for Jules’ marrying Bobby all those years ago: they’re basically the same person, give or take a few IQ points.

The trip to the strip club was predictably weird, and not just because Jules showed up at the last-minute. As Darryl from The Office once told us, you never want to go to a strip club during the day shift, and the Cobbs found this harsh truth out the hard way. I was surprised at how, well, not funny, the whole strip club trip ended up being. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but you assume Travis, Jules, Bobby and Chick going to a strip club in the day is going to be hilarious, but the episode didn’t seem too interested in exploring that premise to death. Jenkins got to deliver that fantastic “light three dollar drizzle” line, but mostly Travis just spilled his guts to the one employee and then left. I guess that might have something to do with Chick’s final speech to Bobby and Jules about not being able to fix this problem (which was also good), but I was a bit disappointed with the story altogether. It was solid, but it was neither funny enough or heartfelt enough to really hook me in. And it is especially disappointing in the light of last week’s very, very good episode, particularly as Travis’ is concerned. Obviously I’m happy that the series didn’t let Travis get over his heartbreak in just an episode, but there honestly wasn’t enough time spent on this week for my liking. I hope Jenkins’ sticks around and I’m glad Jules didn’t get too involved (growth!) but I didn’t love it.

Elsewhere in the episode, things were hit and miss. The story with Grayson and his roller-blading might have been my least favorite of the season. Josh Hopkins had a fantastic episode like week, but here, he is trapped in some J.D. from Scrubs-like stupidity. It felt so odd and random that Grayson was suddenly talking about breaking up with Jules because of her suffocating ways, not because it’s an untrue observation but because they’ve appeared to be pretty darn solid. The physical comedy bits were sort of amusing, but Grayson’s desire to be independent and strong as an individual man seemed completely out of nowhere. I really hope that the season’s last few episodes don’t explore this thread further. It’s really not needed.

Ellie, Laurie and Andy were given more entertaining things to do, thankfully. Andy not being able to speak Spanish was awesome, as were all of Ellie’s digs at Laurie. I thought the little beat with Ellie finally recognizing Laurie’s value as a real friend was cute. That’s just one of the things Cougar Town does tremendously well. Small, but effective storytelling that mixes both humor and heart. Nia Vardalos’ guest spot as the overly-touchy sister-in-law was fine and probably worth watching just for the final button, but there’s not really much else to say about it.

This felt like a bit of a transitional episode between the big events of last week and the hopefully great stuff to come in the final three episodes. “Damaged By Love” is certainly not the season’s worst episode, but hopefully the upcoming episodes spend a bit more time on Travis and less on some of the frivolous side plots, even if that means giving other lead characters less to do.

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