Modern Family: Season 4, Episode 4 — The Butler’s Escape

KIP MOONEY: There’s a great episode of the radio show Radiolab about probability that explains that, despite appearances, hot streaks simply don’t exist. Every shot a basketball player takes or question a contest on a game show gets right, he still only has a 50/50 chance of getting the next one.

So despite three very good episodes in a row, Modern Family turned something less than excellent this week. True, there were some great scenes showcasing the best physical comedy in quite some time, but the episode felt overstuffed and underwhelming.

I will never understand why the writers simply refuse to leave out an adult character or two for an episode. For me, I’d much rather have two strong, well-written stories than having to waste time on a subpar one just because that character wouldn’t have anything to do otherwise.

This week’s installment featured great interaction from the Dunphy clan, with Luke and Phil’s scenes providing maximum laughs and awws. See, Luke wants to quit magic and Phil starts acting like Jay, refusing to let Luke take what he sees as the easy way out. Phil forces Luke to perform the titular trick – similar to Houdini’s straitjacket escape – so Luke will prove it’s not just the increasing difficulty of the tricks that are causing him to bail on their shared hobby.

I also loved how snippy Alex has become (yes, even more so) in Haley’s absence, chastising Claire for her crossword puzzle bewilderment and choice in TV shows. Turns out everyone needs a foil, and when that person’s not there, it gets ugly for everyone else.

As we learned last week, Cam is now Luke and Manny’s music teacher. As he practices day and night for his first day of class (which he thinks will end with a slow clap from the students whose lives he hopes to transform), he overestimates both his ability to inspire and Mitch’s ability to do his errands. This leads to a hilarious scene at the grocery store as Mitch tries to search for the right granola while searching for Lily, who’s run off again. Cam knows right away that she’s made a beeline for the dairy case.

But that leads to the least well-drawn storyline: Gloria is snoring loudly. That’s pretty much it. Jay and Manny try in vain to sleep and to bring it up without incurring the wrath of the woman who once decapitated a rat as an example to any other vermin that might come inside. There is a great scene when Gloria catches Jay in a lie, but it was a very thin set-up to get here, and I know – as the last three episodes have proven – the writers are capable of much more.

BEST LINES:

Cam, wearing a yellow sweatshirt with a treble clef on it: “Here comes treble!”

Jay, to Gloria, upon returning from San Francisco: “Don’t call it Frisco, they hate that.”
Gloria: “How do you know they hate that? You’ve only been there twice in your life.”

Phil: “Giving rise to the popular expression, ‘Percy jumped the Gert.’”

About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney is a recent graduate of UNT's Mayborn School of Journalism and big-time opponent of going to grad school. Working as a freelance writer in the DFW area, he's always ready to go in-depth with his opinions on film, television, music, religion and the sorry state of politics in America. He continues to work independently, as each of his non-college jobs has resulted in the company experiencing serious financial troubles once he leaves, including Blockbuster and the trashy restaurant D's Country Kitchen. (The lesson here is hire him, but don't let him leave.) His literary heroes include Roger Ebert, Donald Miller and Matt Taibbi. Kip has written for The Dallas Morning News and Pegasus News and served as editor-in-chief for the North Texas Daily, but he is perhaps best known as the inspiration for Christian Lander's well-known blog Stuff White People Like.
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