Cougar Town Season 5, Episode 8 “Mystery of Love”
Written by Rachel Specter & Audrey Wauchope
Directed by Courteney Cox
Airs Tuesday nights at 10pm ET on TBS
For the most part, Cougar Town‘s fifth season has strayed away from digging into Travis and Laurie’s relationship, focusing more on hijinks with the Cul de Sac and the normal carousel of Bobby/Andy stories – and without a whole lot of wine drinking, I might add. Oddly enough, when Cougar Town did finally decide to explore Travis and Laurie’s budding relationship in “Mystery of Love”, they did it by barely showing them, instead focusing on Jules and her neurotic, made-up Competition of Love with the new, cute couple.
And boy, does it take a lot of annoying Jules to finally get to the point of the episode; but when it does, they do so with a nice twist, with Laurie and Travis admitting they’d rehearsed the entire brunch that made Jules jealous of them as a couple in the first place. Understandably, there’s a lot of pressure on Travis and Laurie as a couple, being two members of the same social circle – and wanting to impress the person at the center of that would likely be on the top of their list, especially after the opening scene, which clearly established that nobody was really taking them seriously as a couple.
When the episode gets away from the broader humor that’s become the norm this season, there’s room for Travis and Laurie to speak (instead of just accentuating Jules’ long-winded diatribes), and “Mystery of Love” becomes a nice reminder that it takes time for couples to work, no matter the chemistry. We can see a success story with Jules and Grayson: they’re able to offload some of their selfish narcissism on each other, which not only makes them a great couple, but better characters, balancing out Jules’ manic energy with Grayson’s laidback, aging swagger for great comedic moments.
The rest of the episode is pretty forgettable: while it’s fun to watch Tom scream at Ellie to write the ending to a teen novel, there really aren’t any stakes to the story. While the execution is poor on Andy’s adventure to be a better father, there’s at least an interesting framework there; but without any connection to Ellie throughout the episode, Andy’s competition doesn’t really have much dramatic weight. This also comes from the fact that Stan is a complete non-character on the show, but that’s largely irrelevant: the point is that the adventure to the beach is grounded in something interesting for the character, not some contrived excuse to have Ellie and Tom talk in loud voices and be bitchy.
For the most part, “Mystery of Love” never really finds its footing: it’s only in the brief moments when Travis and Laurie are allowed to speak honestly about their relationship (and by the same token, Jules and Grayson) that the episode manages to find any meaning, beyond “Haha, Tom is weird and reads books for teenage girls” and “Haha, Andy is pretty shitty at most things in life.” Even the funny moments in those two latter stories feel hollow: without anything significant to attach themselves to (or in the case of Andy, not really making the significance of his relationship with his son hold any meaning), “Mystery of Love” is another average entry in a season that may be starting to flounder creatively.