This week on Modern Family: Claire lives vicariously through Alex at the Academic Challenge; Cam buys Gloria an intrusive baby present; Mitchell and Jay work through some man-issues; Luke and Manny have a bar-mitzvah-crashers adventure; and Phil goes on a date with Matthew Broderick.
Let’s all take a minute to give a big round of applause to those MF writers. I’m not quite sure how they managed to pack five intricate storylines into one episode, but they did, and it was glorious.
Many of you can probably relate to Alex and Claire’s “I’m not your show pony!” story. Alex is returning champion at a weekend overnighter tournament for something that seems to be like Quizbowl, and Claire’s thrilled she gets to spend the weekend gloating to other moms. But when Alex disqualifies after incorrectly answering the first question, Claire is not exactly a good sport. Claire lies to the judges that Alex had an ear infection and couldn’t hear the question correctly (pretty shrewd tactic, if you ask me). Alex is mortified. Ultimately, mom and daughter have a heart-to-heart, in which Claire admits that she sees Alex as an extension of herself because Alex is her only go-getter, competitive, overachiever child. “Haley sends me pictures of her nails. Luke asked me if he was part wolf.” Yeah, we hear you, Claire. I thought it was interesting to have a closer look at Claire and Alex’s relationship apart from Alex’s relationship to her siblings. In future episodes, I hope we’ll learn how Claire was able to navigate being an intelligent, ambitious teenager while still managing to be a cool kid.
Meanwhile, Luke and Manny have also come along for the weekend hotel stay at the tournament, and they’ve apparently been left to their own devices. In an unprecedented move, Manny is the one who instigates an adventure: They have to find the girl who smiled at him in the lobby, which will require them to sneak into three different bar mitzvahs. The two embark on a Wedding Crashers-esque journey, complete with Luke getting hoisted in a strangers’ hora.
By the end of the episode, Manny has very eloquently confessed his feelings to this girl, and she agrees to meet him in the bar mitzvah photobooth. A montage of stills over the end credits tell the story of how she rejected his physical advances, ran away, and Luke and Manny got booted by hotel security. Hijinks! I feel like both boys are growing into their own as actors, so it’s nice to see them entrusted with their own plotline.
Mitchell and Jay have their own weird thing in which Mitchell goes with Jay to pick up the future baby’s crib. The entire day, Jay acts mopey and depressed, even going so far as to hug a person dressed as a bunny. Mitchell doesn’t know what to do; he’s afraid to ask if his dad wants to talk about it because he’d just be walking into a trap of his dad berating him for being too feminine in wanting to talk feelings. But when Mitchell finally inquires as to if his dad has been seeing a therapist, Jay (after some hemming and hawing) admits that he has. Today’s the day they’re converting Jay’s office into a nursery— it’s a physical manifestation of how his freedom will be taken away with the birth of this baby. More on that later . . .
Cam came up with a unique, off-registry idea for Jay and Gloria’s baby present, but in order to surprise them with it, he needs them to be out of the house for four hours to have it installed. So even though Gloria is exhausted from a sleepless night because of her kicking baby, Cam drags her out to lunch and other procrastination activities. It’s annoying to the point that Gloria actually blows up at Cam; he’s too controlling and isn’t respectful of her decisions. Of course, that’s the moment Cam’s gift is ready: a painted fresco of Jay, Gloria, and Manny on the wall of the nursery.
Despite Cam’s last-minute misgivings—maybe it was “too much” and Gloria’s right that he’s too controlling—Gloria loves it. Jay, on the other hand, wanders into the nursery, sees the fresco, and is cured of his anxiety: He doesn’t want that room anymore.
Last but most-show-stealing, Phil has a weekend in the house to himself because everyone else is away for Alex’s tournament. At the beginning, he’s totally happy just wiring the house’s electronics to his iPad (okay, that was pretty cool), but Claire encourages him to go out and play. Phil makes a friend at the gym, Dave (a delightfully awkward Matthew Broderick), and upon discovering they went to the same college, Phil invites Dave over to watch the game. What Phil doesn’t realize is Dave is gay (he’s actually Cam’s friend, so we hear Dave’s side via phone conversations throughout). The boys night invitation seems ambiguous to Dave, who thinks it’s maybe a date. Phil’s naivety, openness with physical affection, sudden penchant for margaritas, and iPad-induced mood lighting doesn’t help the situation.
The episode culminates in both men taking their shirts off (due to spilled margarita) and Phil inviting Dave to watch the game on the TV in his bedroom (due to malfunctioning iPad). Dave, however, has just gotten out of a long-term relationship and can’t go through with it. He kisses Phil (!) and leaves us to watch Phil’s realization of everything that just happened. It’s okay, Phil. You live in LA.
Photos: screenshots from ABC’s Modern Family