Because the show does its best to leave reality as far off to the side as it can, it’s a surprise to be reminded that time in the Cougar Town universe is still passing by. While this isn’t particularly important for most of the cast, Travis and Stan are still going through major life changes, so Cougar Town decided to put these at the forefront of “Time to Move On,” making it an episode that has more of a story than just “the gang hangs out and drinks wine.”
Like most sitcoms, Cougar Town usually splits into multiple storylines, with at least one of them being a misfire. This time out, though, they all stuck, probably because they were all unlike anything we’d seen before. The most important of these may have been the least interesting, with Jules concerned for Travis’ post-college future, but even so, it worked well. Jules and her ex-husband are always an entertaining pairing, as between the two of them there’s essentially no competency whatsoever. They try to scare Travis straight, i.e. into finding work, but that can only go so well when your father lives on a boat in a parking lot and is perfectly happy with it. By the end of the episode, he’s still working at the local coffee shop, but the journey there is entertainingly bumpy.
With Stan, Ellie is concerned about getting him into the nicest school in town. His test scores alone won’t help him out, but the school is interested in a child with parents living “an alternative lifestyle.” Laurie hears this and jumps to the rescue by…making out with Ellie immediately and posing as her partner. Ellie isn’t fond of any of this, but is willing to give it a shot if it helps Stan out. They attend a recruitment picnic together only to fight through the affair. Apparently this means Stan won’t be going to the school? In any case, the story worked well because Ellie and Laurie are such an entertaining pairing; it doesn’t really matter where Stan ends up.
My favorite story, though, was Grayson, Andy and Tom left to their own devices creating a really stupid cat video for the internet. What makes all of this so excellent is that it’s essentially unmotivated. While the rest of the crew is off doing relevant things and moving forward, these three characters, when left to their own devices, simply agree that they’re bored together and want to make a cat video. And it’s great. It’s the type of unmotivated weirdness the show excels at, and the video itself is everything that could be hoped for.
Three strong storylines without repeating anything the show’s seen before make for a much better episode than most of what we’ve seen this year. We’re more than halfway through this season of Cougar Town, but it still feels like it needs to demonstrate why the show is still around, even if it’s just a consistently good 30-minute distraction. By acknowledging that things do need to change, though, the show illustrates it still has some ambition left, even if it’s Gulfhaven ambition, which is to say tinged with wine and laziness.