Cougar Town Season 4, Episode 10 ‘You Tell Me’
Directed by Michael McDonald
Written by Brad Morris
Airs Tuesday nights at 10pm ET on TBS
The first half of ‘You Tell Me’ was… interesting. There’s a lot of broad jokes about disabled people, Jelly Hulk, and a general aura of negativity that doesn’t usually serve a show like Cougar Town very well, if not contained to characters like Ellie and Grayson. But once the episode stops being about Target and characters taking pot shots at each other, it recovers nicely and closes with some great emotional beats.
‘You Tell Me’ is an episode about the unspoken: a great date whose number you never ask for, the uncomfortable truths you don’t want people to tell you, and the unfulfilled desires of not being able to share your feelings with everyone. Some of these are framed well: Jules freaking out about everyone keeping vaults is terrific, knowing how often she shares too much information, or how insufferable it makes her when someone’s keeping a secret from her. It’s the one arc that’s executed well from start to finish; in the end, she realizes that using her crazy therapist as a vault-breaker isn’t really a solution. Instead, the vault becomes an opportunity for her to bond with Grayson (in a world where trust is hard to her, having been lied to by both her family and first husband), for them to open their own vault to hide from the rest of the world (one of the best advantages of having someone to share your life with).
For the most part, Andy and Laurie’s frustrated adventures worked, too – although it’s a little heavy in the first half on Laurie trashing everything and anything around her. But even though their two situations are quite different (Laurie’s dealing with her feelings, Andy’s upset because nobody came to his bike rack opening), it brings two characters together who don’t share a lot of scenes and plots on the show. Like Andy says after Laurie beats the crap out of him: “it’s not fair to act like people let you down, if you never told them what you wanted.”
Which brings us to Travis and Bobby’s adventures in the magical Target – it’s not the first time the show’s done this with Bobby (remember Diet Dr. Pepper?), but what’s troublesome is how it treats him. Here’s a man whose spent the better part of the season finally starting to deal with the harsh realities of his life choices… and then he goes to Target and spends a fantasy day with a pretend woman, completely avoiding his life and what spurns him to go on the date in the first place: he’s lonely as hell.
Fortunately, the show utilizes it smartly with Travis, who doesn’t understand why his father would just want to throw something away, that he clearly thought he might have a chance with. It’s a big wink, wink to the audience (Laurie and Travis are coming soon, but I’d bet Travis has to date someone in front of her first), but it gives a valid reason for Travis to start thinking about them being together again – something the show needed to do post-Wade to get viewers to re-invest in their ‘ship.
The last eight or nine minutes of Cougar Town really worked well: away from the Target montages and Lynn the therapist being random, ‘You Tell Me’ serves a purpose, in terms of moving its characters and relationships forward (except Bobby – the way he’s handled in the episode still sits false with me) in a meaningful way. It’s definitely not Cougar Town at its funniest, but it’s still a wholly enjoyable half hour with the Cul de Sac Crew.
– Grayson was in an Alanis Morrisette video (and so was Andy, whose apparently been bald for 15 years). Of course.
– unfortunately, after Jules and Grayson have a great moment, the show comes full circle to the laughless humor of the beginning: Jules makes a poop joke about lipstick up her ass after insulting Grayson’s daughter. Odd.
– Lynn works much better as a character if she’s only in one or two scenes an episode. More Tom (“this is going to make brain surgery really difficult”), less Lynn.
– the Seinfeld jokes didn’t really work, especially when it was an “inside reference” to Friends and Must-See TV.
– On the map of vaults, Grayson’s spot is marked ‘Dime Eyes.’
– why does Jules idolize Michael Jackson?
– Lots of gay jokes with Grayson: his modeling career draws humor from him bathing his agent, and that maybe Alanis stuck a finger up his ass.