Cougar Town Season 4, Episodes 15 & 16 ‘Don’t Fade On Me’/’Have Love Will Travel’
Directed by John Putch
‘Don’t Fade On Me’ written by Melody Derloshon & Blake McCormick
‘Have Love Will Travel’ written by Mary Fitzgerald & Peter Saji
Cougar Town returns for season 5 in 2014
It’s been an interesting season for Cougar Town, one that’s had it’s share of emotional highs (‘Make It Better’) and overly broad comedic lows (last week’s ‘The Criminal Kind‘). Tonight’s two-part season finale falls somewhere in the middle: it’s one of the funnier episodes of the season, but is often too sentimental for its own good, despite having its heart in the right place in the most important moments, when the themes of family and hope are at their strongest.
A lot of tonight’s two episodes – ‘Have Love Will Travel’ in particular – felt like an old version of Cougar Town we haven’t seen in awhile: lots of recurring jokes from previous seasons, subtle little Scrubs references, separated by the occasional emotional beat, mostly revolving around Chick and his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Earlier in ‘Make It Better’, Chick and Jules both had to come to terms with the idea of mortality – and the celebratory, wish-fulfilling arc in tonight’s episodes pairs with it well. But it’s quite sappy, and at times, doesn’t quite seem as confident in the emotional parts as it does in the comedic bits, using humor in some scenes as a crutch for it’s emotional moments (like after Chick delivers an emotional speech, he says “Good God, I can land a moment”, but the scene quickly ends after that without reflection).
I wanted to enjoy the culmination of Jules’s efforts to give her dad a memory to remember, but Tippi Hedren’s appearance with Chick is sappy – and utilizes one of my least favorite sitcom tropes ever, where strangers convince a celebrity to do a massive favor for them. Like I said in the opening paragraph, the show’s got its heart in the right place – Jules’s not wanting her father to forget her is a very familiar emotion for people her age, and it brings out classic ‘crazy’ Jules for some fun jokes and missed pop culture references. But I couldn’t help feeling like Cougar Town can do these big emotional moments without relying too heavily on the sappy nature of wish fulfillment, without it having more of an impact on the characters involved.
Take Grayson’s proposal, for example: pure wish fulfillment, but it’s constructed as a climatic surprise, and it really moved Grayson forward, maturing him as a character in a meaningful way. The ending of ‘Have Love Will Travel’ doesn’t quite reach those same heights with the same components, and it leaves it feeling cheesier than it should’ve, especially considering how relatively straight its played in the final, smile-filled scenes of the episode.
Of course, the two episodes weren’t entirely about Jules and Chick: the tension between Travis and Laurie is finally resolved as they decide to embark on a relationship together. Unfortunately, it takes 40 unfunny and painfully trope-filled minutes of the two second-guessing each other, talking about fate – and then spending an episode nearly kissing, but not being able to because of extraneous factors, which causes them to question whether they should date again. Personally, I could’ve done without the sappy Joshua Radin guitar-playing (another Scrubs reference) and sudden meeting of souls in public for the big first kiss, plus it gives ‘Have Love Will Travel’ an ending that the message of their story in ‘Don’t Fade On Me’ contradicts.
‘Don’t Fade On Me’ posits that there’s no such thing as that ‘fateful moment’ when two hearts cross, while ‘Have Love Will Travel’ spends its running time reaffirming that these big moments do happen in life (with both Travis and Chick). It ends a stretched-out arc in kind of disappointing fashion, although I am interested to see what happens next season with the two of them, now that the four seasons of chasing each other is finally over. However, in a way it feels like a Niles/Daphne situation where the writers ran out of ways to keep them apart any longer, after dedicating a lot of time to arbitrary obstructions to their inevitable attempt at a relationship.
Plot wise, I was disappointed in Cougar Town‘s season finale – but at least it was funny, full of great jokes through the two episodes. Everything Bobby says is hilarious, as is Grayson’s sad tale of failing in Hollywood (which has some hilarious manifestations in ‘Have Love Will Travel’) and Andy realizing nobody thinks he looks like a Cuban. But the sappiness underneath it all (which may be intentional in ‘Have Love Will Travel’, taking place in Hollywood and all) just feels insincere, even when everything leading up to the resolutions was interesting and logical.
Some random observations on tonight’s episode, and final thoughts on season 4 as a whole:
– I didn’t talk much about Bobby, but I was disappointed he didn’t really have much to do in these two episodes except be an ad for Auto Trader’s website.
– After being such a focus earlier in the season, Andy and Ellie’s marriage took a backseat in the last batch of episodes. I was hoping to get more development there, especially after the fantastic work to soften Ellie’s character up a bit.
– Lots of broad jokes about actors and Hollywood in the episode, which makes the setting for their adventures in LA pretty lifeless.
– Howard Stern jokes?
– they should’ve brought Riggs on the trip with the group. She’s dating Bobby now (apparently), but hasn’t spent time with anyone except Andy.
– the list of doctors in the town plaza that scares off Chick has many names of Scrubs characters on it.
– R.I.P. Big Lou.
– overall, Cougar Town‘s fourth season wasn’t bad, but there were certainly times when it was aiming too broad or simplistic in its views and/or jokes.
– thanks for reading this season: Cougar Town will return for a 13-episode fifth season in 2014. We’ll see you then!