A lot of shows have characters whose stories are significantly worse than the rest, ones we groan about when it becomes clear where an episode is going. In Cougar Town, Jules’ dad Chick is that character, partially because he’s dull an undeveloped, and partially because he’s not even really in the cast. He just shows up every now and then and takes the show’s focus away from the more interesting characters we actually care about. That being said, “Yer So Bad” at least worked around this problem by giving him a more peripheral role than he sometimes has.
The reason why Chick is even on Cougar Town is because of Jules, so naturally what matters is how she feels and reacts to him. When she finds out that he’s cheating on his current girlfriend (or rather, when she thinks he’s cheating on her), she reacts like an idiot throughout a dinner party hosted in their honor. Chick and the girlfriend are just kinda there, pretending for the most part that it’s not happening, but this is actually Jules’ story and that’s what makes it work. She yells and makes a lot of weird comments and has to be carried off, and back on, the scene, all of which is pretty broad. The story still isn’t terribly good, as there just isn’t all that much story here, and Jules’ reaction isn’t nearly as interesting as it could be, but it works enough. At the very least, Chick’s time doing more than reaction shots is happily minimized.
At the other side of the table, while they’re not being entertained by Jules’ passive-aggressive gestures and delicious sex rolls, Ellie and and Andy spend the episode trying to find out who Tom’s celebrity patient might be. It’s such a small story that it works for what it is, and the three of them do a good job making the dinner party more interesting. But the story was also forgotten almost as quickly as it aired. The final revelation of who this patient is… won’t blow anyone away, either.
The only part of Cougar Town this week that felt like it really mattered was when Laurie and Travis go out to find out who has been ripping off her cupcake recipes. While searching for this woman, Laurie intuits based upon champagne, flowers, and a suspiciously non-ring shaped box in his pocket (no one ever said she was smart) that he plans on proposing. She is dead wrong, but they end up in a large fight anyhow, because he’s offended that she feels they shouldn’t get engaged. Of course, he doesn’t want to get engaged either, but it’s a pretty big mess nonetheless, up until the point Grayson defuses it by pointing out that if neither party wants to get married right now, there’s no conflict. All of which completely ignores the story about what Laurie and Travis did about the cupcake lady, but alas.
The saving grace of these three somewhat lackluster stories was that the writing between them, particularly how Grayson dances from one to the next and defuses every explosion he sees looming, is very good. It was a funny episode with some good running gags (“Emma Watson?”), but unfortunately free from substance. Laurie and Travis’ story almost went somewhere interesting, but it didn’t get enough time to go beyond a pretty facile disagreement. Plus, considering that the two of them live together with a child, it’s a little hard for me to empathize with their hatred of getting married (how is that a bigger step than raising a child?)—it felt like most of the time Laurie would shrug about this and Travis would be elated. They weren’t acting quite in character, because that’s what the plot needed, which always leads to problems. Not a bad episode, but there’s that sort of running-on-fumes feeling here that the season has slowly dipped into.