Cougar Town Season 4, Episode 6 ‘Restless’
Directed by Courteney Cox
Written by Austen Faggen
‘Restless’ is a very… weird episode of Cougar Town, for lack of a better term. It feels like it has its intentions in the right place, and starts out as a very funny, promising Valentine’s Day-themed episode. Unfortunately, it slowly falls into redundant material and lazy jokes (a few that border or disturbing), and by the end, it’s just flailing at big emotional moments in predictably sappy scenes.
As usual, ‘Restless’ revolves around Jules Cobb, who can’t get any sleep after Grayson injures his face in a roller hockey playoff game (it’s always great to watch Grayson “play” that sport, isn’t it?). With Valentine’s Day right around the corner and the two only able to share high fives, it becomes clear early on that her insomnia is something more emotional.
This is the first story line to go awry: Grayson seems largely ignorant to her problem, shrugging and suggesting she take a sleeping pill. When she does and goes nuts around the neighborhood instead of passing out, nobody can get any sleep. But for a man who just got his hands on the only copy of The Jules Rules – a Valentine’s Day gift from Bobby: “I’m so happy, I can only express myself through a metaphor” – he seems rather flippant to her problem. There are times when Cougar Town stretches the definition of a “healthy” marriage (mostly with Andy and Ellie), but Grayson’s behavior in the episode is noticeably off for someone’s partner – not to mention the really off-putting suggestion that he had sex with Jules while she was drugged up, a throwaway joke that holds some eyebrow-raising connotations if looked at under a microscope.
The pattern continues from beginning to end with Andy and Ellie: their conflict in the episode is also related to intimacy (turns out Jules is a princess, and can’t fall asleep without a good kiss… I’ll get back to that). Andy’s been holding onto his Valentine’s Day sex cards for 10 years, and decides to cash them in during a three-day period. Of course, Ellie isn’t going to go along with this plan… except that she does, acquiescing to Andy’s demands when he completely ignores her clear reluctance to want to have a bunch of sex. More jokes about somewhat disturbing sexual situations? What is this, 2 Broke Girls?
And like Grayson/Jules, the Andy/Ellie plot comes to a very shallow, redundant conclusion. Through the help of an enlightened third party (Grayson talking to Bobby about The Jules Rules, and Laurie talking about why Ellie should be happy about the Cuban man climbing all over her), both Grayson and Ellie reach out to their partners in ways that feel emotionally dissonant with their behavior through the episode (and the series). Grayson goes for the slow moving, super romantic kiss (with his broken mouth), and Ellie says the Thing Ellie Never Says: that she loves her husband, and appreciates him.
All the components are there for a great Cougar Town episode: the recurring jokes of the episode tie into the narrative well, and there are plenty of funny, quirky moments the show is known for (like Travis trying to escape from his harness during his “date” with the sci-fi girl). But the tonal shift in the final third towards overwrought sentimentality (underlined by the curious sexual dynamics) undermines the emotional points it’s trying to make, which themselves are redundant material for the show. We know Grayson doesn’t understand Jules quite the way Bobby does – just like we know that Ellie doesn’t like Andy in any episode until the last five minutes. ‘Restless’ does nothing to further these relationships, funny but shallow in all the wrong places.
– Tom does his night thinking outside the window.
– Is this the first time we’ve seen Laurie’s house? If it’s not, we haven’t seen it since she dated the lawyer back in the first and second seasons.
– How did Travis go from getting no girls, to getting all the nerdy hot girls?
– Ellie: “that was the verbal equivalent of huffing paint.”
– Don’t be alarmed if you come home and Bobby’s cooking a whole chicken in your kitchen.
– I’m hoping the Wade/Laurie relationship goes somewhere this season. The long-distance relationship jokes are slowly getting old.
– Randy Dankievitch