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'Modern Family' recap: 'You can't win Valentine's Day'

February 10, 2011 |  7:29 am

 

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Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a day when couples bask smugly in the warmth of their love for one another, rubbing their noses together between sips of Veuve Clicquot and nibbles of chocolate-covered strawberries: You know the drill. But is this Hallmark holiday really just a competitive event? That was the question posed by this week’s “Modern Family.” Judging from the evidence, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

For Mitchell and Cameron, the competition is instigated by a third party. Broderick, Mitchell’s meddling assistant, has been tampering with Cameron's Valentine's Day plans -- not delivering flowers to Mitchell and scheduling a late meeting for him at the office. Cameron assumes Broderick's got a crush on Mitchell and is trying to tamper with the relationship, but when he confronts Broderick, he discovers that the crush is, in fact, on him. Once these two finally sit down for their long-awaited meal at Ibiza (pronounced "i-bee-thuh," mind you) the question of Broderick's crush escalates into a Valentine's Day spat. Both partners pretend not to be flattered, but each clearly has some ego invested in the answer.

In many ways, Cameron and Mitchell are the most emotionally realistic couple on this show. While they are very much in love with each other, and are acutely attuned to each other's hidden messages -- notice how, at dinner, Mitchell knew almost right away that Cameron had something he wanted to boast about -- they're also competitive. No, it's not in a destructive way -- there's little chance either of these guys are cheaters -- but in a very human one. Who doesn't like to feel wanted?

Claire and Phil are fighting a different kind of battle: one against marital boredom. The Dunphys happily settle into their early-bird dinner at Ibiza, but once Claire realized everyone else at the restaurant is about twice their age, she panics. "I know Phil and I are going to grow old together someday, but today is not that day." Claire decides she and Phil should revive their sexy alter-egos, Clive and Julianna, and retreat to a hotel room for a night of role-playing. The dialogue between "Clive" and "Julianna" was the highlight of the episode, and the fact that we only got sketchy information about these "characters" -- "Clive" is apparently some kind of speaker salesman -- made it even funnier. Predictably, their fantasy tryst does not turn out well, and Phil/"Clive" winds up naked in a stranger's hotel room. For those of you keeping track, this is the second episode in a row in which the Dunphys' "zesty" sex life has taken center stage. It's either wonderfully inspiring or wildly unrealistic that these two are still so hot for each other, though it would be nice to see some of the other couples get some action once in a while, too. Maybe next Valentine's day.

Jay and Gloria's rivalry is much more straightforward: The point of Valentine's Day is to one-up each other, plain and simple. Gloria manages to win this battle handily, outsmarting Jay by relocating his surprise dinner and buying him a brand-new, shiny motorcycle.

As I've mentioned here before, I'm not really crazy about holiday sitcom episodes. They tend to be too sentimental for my taste, especially the Valentine's Day and Christmas ones, and there's just something about them that feels obligatory. "Modern Family" usually strikes just the right balance between biting humor and heartfelt emotion, but occasionally things can get a touch sappy, especially in the last five minutes of the show. This episode had some amusing gags, and the fact that all three couples ended up at Ibiza was a clever touch, but it didn't quite have the usual zing. Or am I just a Valentine's Day grinch?

Lines of the night:

"She's had the romantic, she's had the intellectual, now she's got it all in one fine brown package." -- Manny 

"We walk in the door and -- wham! -- she looks like a big idiot. Isn't that what Valentine's Day is all about?" --Jay

"You look hot enough to cook a pizza on ... in." -- "Clive"

"I don't like to talk about money, but I have exactly $10 million, minus the cost of your next drink." -- "Clive"

"Usually I'm pretty good at catching things from women in bar." -- "Clive"

"Well, pick out China and move to Vermont!" -- Mitchell

"Now we know, you're romantic, and I'm smarter than you." -- Gloria

"I am the second wife, Jay, why do you treat me like I'm the first?" -- Gloria

"Did I validate you?" -- Broderick

"Oh, yes." -- Cameron

-- Meredith Blake

twitter.com/MeredithBlake

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Photo: Phil (Tyler Burrell) is about to give a stranger an unexpected Valentine's Day surprise.

Credit: ABC/Karen Neal

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