Modern Family Recap: When A Tree Falls

This week on Modern Family: Cam and Mitchell defend a tree; Gloria and Claire cause trouble at a Costco; Manny has to endure a sports-themed birthday party; Jay and Phil duke it out in a boxing ring; and Alex embarks on a quest to take an embarrassing photo of Haley.

Cam feels overwhelmed—he’s got the music teaching job, is serving as an understudy in a local musical, and wants to save “Tree-ona Elmsley,” a tree that’s in danger of being taken down. Apparently “Tree-ona” has sentimental value for Cam and Mitchell. (I wondered if “Tree-ona Elmsley” was a reference to someone. Upon researching, I think it’s a reference to this woman. Moving on.) Mitchell, of course, rolls his eyes at the prospect of going to any lengths to save a tree; they have more important things to do. But Cam prioritizes teaching Lily the lesson of “taking a stand,” and next thing we know, Cam’s sitting in a tree with a disgruntled maintenance crew staring up at him. When Cam gets a call saying he has to go on for the lead in the musical, he needs Mitchell to take over the tree-sitting. Mitchell reluctantly agrees, but only if Cam rushes back immediately after the show. Cam obliges, which is how we get this amazing visual:

. . . and that’s pretty much the point of that plotline.

Jay asks Claire to supervise Gloria on a trip to Costco, since Gloria’s “pregnancy brain” has her forgetting things. Throughout their shopping excursion, Gloria proves that Jay’s concerns are true; she’s unable to read her own handwriting, forgets eggs, almost closes the trunk on Claire’s head. Claire begins to snap at her in the parking lot when a security guard approaches them: Claire accidentally stole a hoodie she that she had forgotten she was wearing. The women are escorted into the Costco manager’s office, where the manager (Paul Scheer?!) tries to ban Claire from Costco. Just when it seems they’re not going to be able to get out of this, Gloria GOES INTO LABOR. Like, water breaking all over the floor. Gloria and Claire run to the car, where Gloria tells Claire she doesn’t want to go to the hospital; she faked the whole thing by spilling a bottle of water on the floor. Turns out she’s still lucid when it counts.

Luke and Manny attend a friend’s sports-themed birthday party, for which Manny begrudgingly wears his “sports shoes.” Gloria reminds him to take the paper out of the shoes before he puts them on. (I feel your pain, Manny; I would never subject athletic friends of mine to a showtunes sing-along party.) He has to suffer through inane games like “Frisbee Smash”—wherein the kids whip frisbees at each other as hard as they can to see who quits first. (Full disclosure: I actually did throw a showtunes sing-along birthday party at one point, but I don’t have that many athletic friends.)

Jay and Phil attend the party as chaperones, where Jay feels out of place because he’s 20 years older than most of the other dads. Manny encourages Jay to do as Jay taught him and go out of his comfort zone, and Jay tries to engage the dads. Turns out, the easiest way to do this is to tell embarrassing Phil stories. Phil gets angrier and angrier until he breaks, telling Jay he’s not over some of the things Jay was making fun of him for. Jay (somewhat out of the blue) insists they settle this in the (blow-up) boxing ring, and the two men duke it out. Phil, however, is uncharacteristically mad at this point, and he ends up beating the bejeezus out of Jay. It was kinda awkward to watch.

The two men have a heart-to-heart, in which Phil calls Jay out as “a shy bunny.” It seems like the writers are making an attempt to soften Jay this season, as week after week ends in some admission of insecurity about his fatherhood.

Alex and Haley had a smaller story: Haley’s been sentenced to community service for her falling-on-a-cop-after-underage-drinking stint. Luke tries to give her a “shiv” made out of a knife, but Haley insists she’ll be fine; she’s just going to be working alongside “drunk drivers and vandalizers who were stupid enough to get caught.” In my favorite line of the season so far, Alex retorts, “Or stupid enough to use the word ‘vandalizers.'” No one else gets it. “It’s ‘vandals,'” she explains . . . and no one cares. She sighs, “I’m so alone.” No, you’re not, Alex! Join Figment!

Alex tracks down Haley as she’s picking up trash on the side of the road. She wants to get an unflattering photo of Haley because, although Haley has plenty of bad pics of Alex, Haley has never looked disheveled in a photo. Alex laments, “Even her mug shot is cute!”

But when Alex drops her phone in the gutter and has to kneel down to pick it up, she ends up getting filthy. That would be the moment Haley drives by and snaps an embarrassing Alex photo. Karma. This season, Haley seems like she’s a caricature version of the way certain relatives perceive her (in the busted episode, it was Claire and Phil; this episode, Alex). I hope they do a Haley’s P.O.V. one soon.

Modern Family Photos by: beta.abc.go.com

2 thoughts on “Modern Family Recap: When A Tree Falls

  1. The whole Costco routine was a great advertisement but was cheesier than usual, even for Modern Family. The only thing that saved it was when Gloria pretended to break her water to save Claire from going to jail. Her “lucid” moment “when it counts” as you said, was a nice finish. I’ve been a big fan of Modern Family since the beginning but I just started recording all of this season’s episodes on my DISH Hopper HD DVR my DISH coworker bought for me. It has 500 HD recording hours so I keep a lot of my favorite shows on there rather than spend lots of money on the DVD each season. The money I save goes straight to the things my needs and for more entertainment.

  2. Yes, “Treeona Elmsly” was a reference to Leona Helmsley. She married money and ran the lavish Helmsley Palace Hotel. She was known for being way over the top, expecting the best, and a real character. She’s a perfect reference for the campy Cam character.

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