KIP MOONEY: This week’s Modern Family strikes me as among the best, if not the best, of a strong season. Even with multiple stories, the writers have woven them together beautifully, delivering an episode with laughs upon laughs and just the right amount of heart.
Much of the episode relied on visual humor, from Cam’s poorly timed accidental racism to Manny’s calamitous prep school interview to Lily with a shirt full of grapefruit asking, “When am I gonna get real boobs?”
That question leads Gloria to take care of Lily for the day for “girl time,” where she quickly announces she’s gay. Cam and Mitch try to talk to her about this, but Mitch can’t help but fall back on uncompassionate phrases like, “This is just a phase” and “You’re just confused.” Turns out she only she’s gay because her dads are, just like her classmate’s parents are Italian. So to get her in touch with her heritage, the dads take her to a Vietnamese restaurant where she promptly announces, “I hate Vietnam!” And the situation only gets more racist from there, in a gentle way of course.
Meanwhile, Manny’s interviewing at a prestigious arts prep school, which Jay initially finds too uppity. But then he turns his childhood frustration at the kids in blazers to jealousy, and pushes Manny perhaps a little too hard to nail the interview. Manny botches it hilariously, but the two have a heartfelt chat on the steps that’s among the sweetest moments the show has ever done. Any time you see the wall Jay puts up get cracked a little, it’s a good episode.
Finally, Claire and Phil have different parenting styles. Shocking, I know! But it’s how those styles are revealed that makes this episode so winning. Claire goes into the hospital for a heart check-up and her roommate has three kids that mirror Haley, Alex and Luke. When she hears how poorly they’ve turned out, she correlates with what those adult children described as a controlling mother. But when Phil hears that the oldest has four divorce settlements, the middle kid has a cat in a suit and the youngest is on probation, he fears the kids will end up like that because of his attempts to always be the good cop.
The kids assume the parents are suddenly reversing course because Claire’s on the verge of death. (Except Luke, who figures the only logical solution is that they’ve been kidnapped.) They arrive at the hospital just in time to get a “mom ok” text from Phil, which produces an outcry of, “You’re the worst parents ever.” Better they get angry now than screw up their lives later.
Cam, on learning about your heritage: “I think we would all be better off if people just went back where they came from.”
Mitch, to a flamboyantly waving Cam: “Just sit on ’em.” (It’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s delivery that kills it.)
Jay: “You know what was a rare book at my school library? One that didn’t have genitals drawn all over it.”