At this point, Cougar Town’s characters have been around for a long enough time that they have plenty of largely extraneous parts of their backstories that can nevertheless serve as storylines when the writers need them. Remember that Ellie was a very accomplished lawyer before she quit to have Stan, or that Jules is a real estate agent? Okay, the latter may be more memorable and generally relevant to the show, but it gets brought up almost as often these days, and in any case, “Depending on You” returns to these oft-forgotten aspects of the characters, which was a nice change of pace from just hanging around Jules’ house drinking wine (not that hanging around Jules’ house drinking wine was absent, of course).
The bigger of these stories was Jules’, which focused on the way she’s a pushover to everyone except for her husband, from whom she expects complete obedience. She can’t say no to a wedding invitation even when she barely knows the couple getting married—so much so that she even agrees to be the sole bridesmaid. It’s a problem that spirals out of control unrealistically but with entertaining results, the type of Cougar Town story that exists on its own little planet. At this point, though, that escape from reality is what makes the show so enchanting. The moments where Jules was asked to purchase Girl Scout cookies during the ceremony and when she and Grayson talked across the bride and groom for their speeches made for great jokes and a satisfying story, strange universe it all existed in be damned.
Speaking of strange universes, this was also the episode where Tom showed off the creepy scale-model of the cul-de-sac that he’s been building, complete with realistic versions of the entire cast (well, perhaps not an entirely realistic Tom or Grayson, but some exceptions on behalf of poetic license are necessary). One thing I liked about this was that his craft project wasn’t given its own story but rather was something that just affected the rest of the cast in various ways as they discovered its existence. Most noteworthy was Laurie and Travis’ small fight about her makeup, which was kind of rote and largely just there because the characters needed something to do.
For once, this was an episode where Tom’s over-the-top weirdness didn’t annoy me, probably because it was natural to the episode rather than intrusive. Sometimes it feels like he kills the entire pacing of scenes he butts into, even when he’s funny, but here he was just backdrop and it was the rest of the cast coming to Tom rather than the other way around. I didn’t particularly like or dislike the actual model cul-de-sac, but as a plot device it worked very well and helped solve Cougar Town’s constant Tom problem, at least for the moment.
Lastly, there was the cute side story about Dog Travis’ puppies and Ellie’s attempt at intimidating their owner into giving Bobby dual-custody of them. This was, if anything, the silliest storyline of them all (I particularly loved the point that yes, he was neutered, and no, that didn’t matter), which is also what made it pretty wonderful. Again, there was no sense of reality here, but in its place we had cute puppies and Ellie as a giant dragon toy. It was weird and small, but also perhaps the most consequential story, though I was unclear what the implications of the puppies at the end of the episode meant—was that to imply that Tom will be adopting them, or just that they like wrecking his models?
“Depending on You” was a small, goofy episode, but I mean that in the fondest way I can. Cougar Town is frequently at its best when it just has characters screwing around, and that was largely the case here. It was self-indulgent, but that also meant it didn’t try to be anything else, instead offering us up a pure piece of Cougar Town’s unreality without concern for how the world works outside this little haven, and was all the better for it.