KIP MOONEY: There are good episodes, and there are classic episodes. The good ones give you some good scenes, some memorable lines, but plenty to complain/nitpick about. But those classic episodes make you forget all that because they do everything the show did to make you fall in love with it in the first place AND add some new wrinkles that make you love it even more.
Tonight’s episode was simply, a classic. It’s top 5 for sure.
For starters, everything centered around a big event, instead of a few tangential storylines that can’t all be winners. That big event–which made everyone, especially the audience–was Alex’s eighth-grade graduation, an event that means a lot for her, mainly because she’s giving an eff-you commencement address that would make Holden Caulfield proud. In many ways, I wanted Alex to stick to her guns and give that speech, since kids treated her as someone less than a victim of bullying–someone invisible.
But there are several scenes with Haley that not only earn their emotional impact, but are making a lot of these past few episodes make more sense. Before now, Haley giving Alex any sort of advice that wasn’t solely to prevent her from being embarrassed would only feel forced. So when Haley tells Alex that such a speech will just solidify her status as an outcast, not just because she’s pointing out the flaws of the majority of her class, but because she’s being an elitist.
Haley also reveals something she’s never revealed before: sadness. Sure, Haley has all the things (boyfriends, party invitations) Alex despises because she lacks those things in her life. But Haley’s also flunking biology and may not get into college. The acting from Sarah Hyland and Ariel Winter sold this story completely. Take notice, Emmys.
But kudos are also in order for the rest of the cast. Each cast member was at his or her peak in each of their specialties. Cam’s drama, Mitch’s “you’re-kidding-right?” reactions, Jay’s deadpan, Manny’s shock, Luke’s brilliant-but-dumb ideas, Gloria’s enthusiasm and American idiom-butchering. But Claire and Phil completely took this episode over as they raced to see one of Alex’s defining moments. When their tandem bike breaks down (had to when the gate to leave the driveway wouldn’t open–desperate times, desperate measure and all that), so do they. Just an incredibly touching scene.
Much like the two-part Hawaii episode last year, I kind of want Modern Family to end here, on the highest note possible. I feel like next week’s finale can only disappoint. But that’s only because this week was so strong.
BEST LINES (All Phil Edition):
“It’s real, people. Our hubris will be our downfall.” – after hearing Alex’s Indian classmate missed several weeks after the robot he built attacked him
“It was kind of a grande deal. I was up against an actual Puerto Rican.” – about giving a speech to the Spanish National Honor Society
“Oh, I can’t go to Vegas because my wife’s freaking out. That is not a call you want to make to a group of male college cheerleaders. They will mock you with a hurtful, rhythmic taunt.”
HOWARD MEGDAL: Only thing that made no sense to me in this episode: Cam, who is a former professional clown, doesn’t see any humor in falling down? Once again, this is a ridiculous misuse of is character as it was originally constructed.
However, the remainder of the episode, in my opinion, was every bit as good as Kip says. Some additional highlights for me included small touches- seeing Sofia Vergara running out of the garage with the hughe tandem bike, yelling, “I save the day!” The proper English of the men in a pickup truck Phil insists on addressing in Spanish- “You’re quite welcome!”
And I am glad to see Kip come aboard the Sister Express. This struck precisely the balance between the two sisters I wanted last week.
To be clear, one final episode of this show is not to be dismissed. It is one final gift.