KIP MOONEY: Modern Family has a gift for extracting great moments out of unnecessary plotlines. That makes this episode’s title especially true. This episode really only needed one story: Claire and Cam’s dreams of flipping a house from a Rockford Files extra (a detail I absolutely loved). Yet the other stories—the baseball field, Manny’s “hitting practice” and Jay and Gloria’s no-fighting pact—felt absolutely inessential. I think the writers’ room fails to realize that jamming more stories into an episode diminishes the quality of all the stories. But I can let this slide when there are so many top-shelf jokes here.
This week’s episode harkened back to season two’s “Strangers on a Treadmill,” in which Mitch and Claire promise to do the dirty work of the other and crush their respective spouses. But here, Phil pulls a switcheroo. He agrees with Mitch that Cam and Claire trying to flip a house is a recipe for financial disaster, but pins all the blame on Mitch and speeds away with Claire before Mitch can call him out for being a fellow dream-crusher. This led to one of the funniest scenes the show has ever produced: Mitch revealing a fiendish plot to expose Phil while stroking a cat. Then Phil screams into the phone, only to hear dial-tone on the other end, so he sits on the piano, which bellows an ominous tone. It’s just a wonderfully constructed gag.
As I mentioned above, there are at least three other storylines, none of which carry much weight, but each provided some genuinely hilarious moments like Luke finding a dead snake that’s not really dead, Gloria inserting the line “Papa’s gonna kill that billy goat” into a lullaby, and Manny repeatedly getting pegged with a baseball.
I still wish the writers would remove some padding in order to beef up the main stories, but season four has been such an upgrade from season three that I can’t complain too much. This is still one of the most winning, easy-going half-hours on TV, and I’m happy to make it appointment viewing.
Manny: “I got mustard on [my jersey] from Reuben’s reuben. This is what happens when you have a narcissist running concessions.”
Cam: “So how good’s Luke’s team anyway?”
Claire: “Well, you may have seen them on YouTube under ‘Boy Stuck in Batting Helmet’ or ‘Pitcher Beans Self.’”
Cam: “You’re preaching to the choir director.”