Modern Family: Season 4, Episode 18 – “The Wow Factor”

KIP MOONEY: Much like family, sometimes it’s good to take a break from Modern Family. When you see them again, you’re hopefully happy for the reunion, but a little wary of their habits that drive you nuts. So it was this week. The jokes zipped by quickly and there wasn’t anything egregiously wrong, but there’s no need for four storylines in an episode, ever. Thankfully, the low stakes of this episode kept it from feeling like any of the stories got the short end of the stick.

We’ll make this easy and just go story by story…

1. The inspiration for this week’s title (“The Wow Factor”) comes from Cam hoping to find something to impress potential buyers for the house he and Claire are flipping. Did you remember this was happening? I sure didn’t. And that’s one of the problems with this show’s big pile of plot threads. You forget some even exist. Anyway, since Claire shoots down Cam’s plans for a fountain that includes a “fire feature” for the backyard, he recruits his lesbian friend Pam (Wendi McLendon-Covey from Bridesmaids and Reno 911!) for back-up. Of course Claire, a pro at manipulating people to get what she wants, flirts relentlessly with Pam to keep her on the within-budget side. Realizing he’s no match for Claire’s feminine wiles, he goes behind her back and installs a fountain anyway, but one that’s less dangerous. That is, until the fish inside the tank get sucked into the jets and become adorable projectiles.

2. Neither Gloria nor Jay want to take Manny to a stage reading of Moby Dick, but Gloria gets stuck because Jay promised to spend more time with Baby Joe. Emasculated that he’s going to have to sit through a puppet show, he lets a friend of Claire’s he runs into at the mall watch him while he takes her two sons to see Skyfall. As the rules of sitcoms dictate, Gloria has to see a strange woman holding her own baby and grills Jay. But the tables turn when he asks what she was doing at the mall in the first place, and realizes she lied to Manny about the reading being sold out. Then Gloria plays the ESL card, and everyone has a good laugh.

3. My favorite story had to be Phil’s attempt to teach Alex and Haley how to do simple chores like changing a light bulb and sweeping. Even though this seemed really hard to believe, especially for Alex, I always love seeing Flustered Phil. But when he can’t fix the water heater, even after Haley’s brilliant suggestion of filling it with hot water from the tap, he has to swallow his pride and “call a guy,” his dad Frank. Now, I think Fred Willard should be in just about every episode of every comedy (and probably even a drama or two—just look what Bob Odenkirk did on Breaking Bad), so any episode he drops by for will automatically bump it up a few points.

4. Finally, Mitch trying to beat a bully at Lily’s school in handball. This storyline didn’t provide a whole lot of laughs until after the credits, with Luke going all R. Lee Ermey on Mitch to whip into shape. “Close your eyes. It’s OK. We’re off the court.” Luke slaps Mitch, screaming, “You’re never off the court!” Any time Luke shows his evil side, I start smirking like the Grinch.

Claire to Pam: “Oh, look. My shirt is see-through.”
Cam to Claire: “And so are you.”

Phil, pointing at the water heater: “Let’s start with this baby right here. What are we looking at?”
Haley: “Photosynthesis.”

Frank to Phil, via Skype: “Are we gonna do that thing again where you try on different outfits like in Pretty Woman?”

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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