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'Modern Family' recap: 'The adults are the big ones, right?'

April 21, 2011 |  6:52 am

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No one likes to talk about dying, but questions of mortality are a surprisingly reliable source of comedy -- or at least they are on "Modern Family." A few weeks back, Gloria and Jay went grave shopping; hilarity ensued. This week, it's Mitchell and Cameron who are contemplating the worst: Who will get their beloved Lily if, God forbid, they should both perish?

Since this is, after all, a television show, Mitchell and Cameron don't have that many options. It basically boils down to the Dunphys or the Pritchetts; Cameron's family in Missouri is ruled out for a variety of reasons involving frozen livestock and tax evasion. Cameron and Mitchell decide to stop by unannounced at both houses, the idea being that they'll get to see how each family really works.

First stop is the Dunphy household, where things are a bit chaotic: Luke is teaching himself to juggle with knives; Alex, on a mission to fetch rat traps, gets locked in the garage; Phil leaves flaming frying pans unattended on the stove. They're quickly ruled out.

Next stop is the Pritchetts', where Cameron and Mitchell find the family in the midst of preparations for Manny's school camping trip. Cameron, who wants to buy a new pair of boots for his mom back in Missouri, decides to tag along. Gloria, unprovoked, offers to stay behind and watch "da leedal preensess." Just like that, the Pritchetts take the lead in the Great Guardian Race of 2011. Mitchell makes the mistake of mentioning this to Gloria, and she reacts with unbridled enthusiasm to the possibility of raising Lily -- never mind that both her dads would have to die first. It's vintage Gloria, an overflow of warmth and affection tinged with a little of that Colombian morbidity. It also made me wonder when Gloria is going to get pregnant -- I mean, it's going to happen at some point, right? This is a sitcom, after all.

Naturally, the decision is not quite as simple as it initially appears. Cameron expresses his reservations about Jay's parenting skills, concerns which seem validated when Jay gives Manny a hard time about the camping trip. Then Jay drops the ropes while Cameron's climbing the wall at the sporting goods store, sending his son-in-law plummeting to the ground. When Gloria swans in seconds later, having "punctured" Lily's ears with two sparkly stud earrings (Who else knew this twist was coming the minute Gloria mentioned getting some "hair rings" at the mall?), his qualms only intensify.

Claire and Phil are hardly doing much to instill confidence in their parenting skills, either. Claire, worried about Luke's development, takes him to a child psychiatrist without telling Phil. The story lines between Phil and Claire often cut a little close to the bone -- as in the recent episode which depicted the aftermath of a huge fight -- and this is another one of those occasions. Taking your child to see a shrink without telling your spouse? Not to be a buzz-kill, but that seems like a pretty egregious, and not particularly funny, thing to do. 

Phil seems to think so too, especially since Claire's main concern is that Luke will turn out like his father. Not surprisingly, Phil takes offense at this, and a fight erupts on the way out of the doctor's office. Both storm off in their separate vehicles, leaving Luke alone in the parking lot, "Home Alone" style. It's not until hours later, while sincerely discussing the issue, that they both realize that they've forgotten Luke. Happily, he's managed to hitch a ride home in a limo.  (Side note: Did anyone else think it was odd that Phil opened the limo door, cringed, then closed it? What was in there?)  It's not that this plot line didn't yield some great comic moments -- Phil pretending to be "slow" in the parking lot was pretty funny -- but, as I've said before, the depiction of Claire worries me. Julie Bowen is such a great actress, but I wish the writers wouldn't reduce her character to such a shrill, controlling clich√©.

Phil and Claire's marital woes aside, there were some genuinely touching moments in this episode. Haley and Alex, constantly at each other's throats, finally share a bonding experience. Manny also sticks up for Jay, telling Cameron about a conversation they shared in the car. Jay, concerned about Manny's reluctance to go camping, encourages him to come clean, and Manny confesses to being insecure about his weight. Jay tells him that he's the "bravest kid I know," and that he doesn't have to go if he doesn't want to. The fact that this was shared via flashback from Manny's point of view added an extra layer of sweetness: It was a private moment of kindness that Manny felt compelled to share on Jay's behalf. Somehow, the scene managed to be totally heartfelt, and not the least bit cloying.

All I can say is, it looks as if Mitchell and Cameron made the right decision.

Lines of the night:

"It's butterflies." -- Jay
"Where?!" -- Manny

"I had them since I was 2. Huge ones." -- Gloria

"I didn't even have to take my pants off ... found that one out a little late." -- Luke

"It smells like feet." -- Alex
"That's not feet." -- Haley

"I didn't say 'hair rings,' I said 'hair rings.'"-- Gloria

"But did you see both sides? I didn't just do the gay. Look!" -- Gloria

"If I move my head fast enough, it looks like the can is standing still." -- Luke

"No offense, but the family's hopes and dreams kind of depend on me." -- Alex

"Smell Heather for me." -- Luke
"I always do ... not." -- Phil

"Oh no, where'd everyone go? Oh, just a blink." -- Phil

-- Meredith Blake

twitter.com/MeredithBlake

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Photo: Eric Stonestreet, Rico Rodriguez, Ed O'Neill, Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Credit: Michael Desmond / ABC

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