This week on Modern Family: Claire and Phil meet future versions of their children; Manny applies to prep school; and Lily says she’s gay.
In what I thought was one of the most well-written episodes of the season, “The Future Dunphys” tackled difficult, controversial issues. Claire’s minor heart issue has led to her needing surgery, and everybody’s in denial about actually being scared. Right before they leave for the hospital, Claire tries to dictate some choices the kids should be making: Haley needs to get used to not quitting jobs and relationships, Alex should loosen up and go on spring break instead of studying for the PSATs, and Luke can’t do destructive things in the kitchen. But Phil says just the—he thinks the kids should be who they are, do what they want. Thus launches the great parenting debate: How long of a leash?
Claire’s hospital roommate is an old man who advises Phil and Claire to leave their children be. But when the man’s three adult children show up, bearing a very close resemblance to Haley, Alex, and Luke, Phil and Claire get a glimpse of what their future could be like. In a somewhat farcical turn, the Dunphys hear these people interact at differing times throughout the day, so Phil hears the negative and Claire hears the positive. Phil’s perception is that the children are struggling: “Haley” has had several divorces; “Alex” is a cat lady; and “Luke” has a dubious relationship with the law. But all Claire hears are how the kids are doing fine and care deeply about their father. From different rooms, Claire and Phil simultaneously call their children and give conflicting advice—now it’s Claire who’s saying “Do what you want” and Phil who’s trying to corral them. Back at home, the kids are like, WHAT is going on over there? Haley and Luke worry that maybe the parents are acting weird because something went wrong with Claire’s surgery, but Alex calls it: They’re not being honest about their own fears, so they’re focusing their energy on the kids. Which is how they end up looking like this:
Something we never knew about Jay: He grew up poor and always resented the privileged kids who would “throw their coats at him” at the country club where he worked. So when Manny wants to apply to a fancy prep school, Jay drags his feet in bringing him to his interview. Once on campus, however, Jay realizes that he had always been jealous of the luxuries afforded to private school kids, and now he wants Manny to have them . . . very badly. For his part, it’s obvious that Manny would fit right in at this place that puts a ton of emphasis on the arts and gentlemanly manners—a connection I never realized, but yeah totally—Manny is a Prep School Fish out of water. Jay puts so much pressure on Manny that Manny ends up completely blowing the interview (come on, questions about his favorite authors?). Oh, and this happens:
As you might have already guessed, Manny doesn’t get in. But he and Jay have a phenomenal heart to heart (the writers have been rocking it with those two this season). Jay tells Manny, “If today was the first time you felt that I was proud of you, then I should be apologizing. Because I’m proud of you every day.” Awwww!
And finally, Cam, Mitchell, and Gloria have a smart and hilarious storyline in which the dads draft Gloria to help Lily sort out some “girl issues,” but Lily starts the day by asking Gloria, “Did you know I’m gay?” *Record scratch.* The adults sit Lily down to ask her why she thinks she’s gay—and she says because her daddies are. It’s just like her friend in class who’s Italian because his parents are. Ohhh. Mitchell lets some stereotypical anti-gay rhetoric slip (“You’re not born gay, sweetie”) as they do their best to explain to Lily that “gay” isn’t her heritage, Vietnamese is. Gloria chides them for not teaching Lily anything about Vietnam, so the four go to dinner in a Vietnamese restaurant. Lily’s not at all interested, and more homophobic, nationalistic, and racist sound bytes slip from a group that clearly doesn’t mean it that way. In the end, Gloria figures out that Lily wants to be “gay” because she realizes she’s different from her daddies. They all hug it out . . . and run from the restaurant. I thought it was interesting and brave of Modern Family to tackle how gay parents deal with children coming out or being “confused.”
Photos: ABC’s Modern Family