This week on Modern Family, the whole family flies down to Florida for Phil’s mom’s funeral at his parents’ retirement community. Phil and Claire attempt to fulfill an awkward last request, Mitchell goes to bat for Gloria as her attorney, Cam gossips with old ladies, Jay reconnects with an old flame, and Alex learns a lesson from her deceased grandmother.
So many storylines – what an epic season finale! This episode paralleled its own giant fireworks display in terms of rapid-fire diversions.
Death is always an interesting subject for mainstream sitcoms to tackle, and this episode did feel less funny than the rest of the season. But I think that’s okay; it’s nice to envision America sitting down to feel things with this family they’ve grown to care about. Phil reads a note from his now deceased mother requesting that he now fix up his dad with this other lady in the retirement community. She knew he’d be “eaten alive” by the ladies waiting to snatch up this catch of a man, and she wanted him to land in the right hands. Phil resists, but Claire is convinced Phil’s mom knew best, so she marches up to the lady’s front door and is greeted by … an old man! Yikes. After a terrible “we’re selling vacuums but don’t have any with us” lie, they skulk away, mortified that they tried to ask out a lady who’s in a relationship. However, Cam, who has been right in his element gossiping with the old ladies of the community, reveals that the man wasn’t a boyfriend figure, it was a brother! Phil revisits the house, proverbial hat in hand, and painfully explains his mother’s dying wish. In what I would consider a brilliant display of dramatic acting from Ty Burrell, he starts to cry when remembering all the sweet things his mother would do for others. This lady hugs him, and he might have had a moment when he saw his mom was right – she could be good for his dad’s future. Wow. This dramatic storyline was on a sitcom. Everybody goes through hard times, and it helps to have humor to deal with it.
Meanwhile, Alex can’t understand why her grandmother would leave her behind a lighter. It feels odd, passive-aggressive even, until her grandpa shows her that the card was stuck together – there’s an explanation. Alex opens it, and at the end of the show reads a beautiful monologue about how this lighter once belonged to Paul Newman, who left it behind at a restaurant where Grandma was waiting tables. Grandma did something out of character and took the lighter, even though she wasn’t supposed to, and it has remained meaningful all this time. The lighter was her way of encouraging Alex to break the rules sometimes – because that can make for life’s greatest thrills. After her eulogy, Alex lights off a fireworks display for the entire funeral (okay – that might have been HIGHLY breaking the rules?! what about the unsuspecting neighbors with Pacemakers?). It was pretty.
Jay notices one of Phil’s parents’ neighbors looks familiar … turns out, she’s a gal who took his virginity right before he left for ‘Nam. You know, if there is one thing I never cared to spend a half-hour envisioning, it’s Jay Pritchett having sex. But here we are. Over the course of the episode, the lady has trouble remembering who Jay is/was, until she finally brings out a little box of trinkets that beaus have left her over the years. Jay realizes there are a lot of trinkets in the box; he can’t even find his, and this encounter might have meant more to him than it did to her. I guess he’ll have to settle for his consolation prize, Sofia Vergara.
Speaking of – Gloria had a bizarre plotline in which we found out she’s “wanted” in the state of Florida. Apparently she once cosigned on a lease of an apartment there and then moved to California while subletting it out. Her Floridian roommate then turned the place into a brothel, and Gloria was held liable since her name was on the paperwork. What kind of a person was she living with, anyway?! This plotline seems a bit out of the blue. Mitchell comes to Gloria’s aid and, while waiting in the courtroom, decides to come to the aid of all the other disenfranchised innocents who needed to plead their cases. He gets really into it, starts doing a Law and Order dramatic orating thing (or To Kill A Mockingbird? He was living his life.) and ends up getting everyone, including Gloria out of their issues. By the end of the episode, he has confided in Cam that he wants to go back to being an in-courtroom trial lawyer. Next season: how Lily handles that.
And in my favorite storyline – Cam OF COURSE charms all the little old ladies and ends up knowing all their gossip and stirring up fights among the longtime friends. Drama just follows him everywhere, he says. And lucky for us, it makes good comedy.
To tide you over until next season, I’ll leave you with this picture of Luke and Manny old-manning it on a porch. Adorbs.
Photos: ABC’s Modern Family