Phil Dunphy once again saves the day in this week’s middle-of-the-road Modern Family episode.
During a father-daughter visit to his alma mater with Haley— who we didn’t think would end up anywhere but a local community college (if that) — Phil gleefully relives his college days. He’s like a kid in a candy store, and Ty Burrell plays it without nearly a trace of creepy old-man-on-campus syndrome.
He’s joking with the college kids, reminiscing with Haley and, at one point, nonchalantly busts out his old routines with the cheerleaders who are practicing on the lawn. Even 20 years later, he still remembers the steps and does them while on the phone with Claire. Go Bullfrogs!
Or is that Bulldogs?
Claire never gets the name of the school’s mascot(s) correctly— it’s Bulldogs —much to Phil’s annoyance. “I say ‘bull,’ and then I can’t remember whether it’s ‘frogs’ or ‘dogs.’” He exasperatedly counters, “When I talk to my old friends from college, do we croak or do we bark?” In the next scene, we see (and hear) why Claire is confused: Phil’s bark sounds like a croak.
Phil lets Haley go to a mixer with new friends, but then realizes that she’s at a frat house. He runs through campus tracking Haley via GPS on her phone, and finds her at the party drinking — ginger ale. She runs off embarrassed by her father, and in typical Modern Family resolution, they have a heart-to-heart talk that makes everything OK.
The tugging at heartstrings at the end of this storyline was a little too schmaltzy for our taste. Burrell’s Phil is proving to be a standout this season, and we’d rather have seen Phil in a Bring It On male cheerleader backstory than in the warm fuzzy moments with Haley.
With part of her brood on the college visit and the other two kids at sleepovers. Claire decides to paint the town red. She forces Cam and Mitchell to take her to all the gay hotspots about town. At first, they end up in a country kitchen restaurant known for their pot pies—much to Claire’s disappointment. “I need music and dancing and second-hand smoke,” she declares. Mitchell and Cam do know of one fashion party, and they go for Claire.
Cam and Mitchell act like a couple of wet blankets, wanting to go home at 9:30 on a Friday night. What happened to the guys who loved to socialize, Claire asks. And we wonder, too. After all, wasn’t it just last season that we watched Mitchell ditch a very sick Cam to sneak off to a Lady Gaga concert? But the “tired” excuse moved the plot along, where Claire decides to go clubbing alone with a guy who she thinks is gay. He’s not—just French. The writers should have let Cam and Mitchell go clubbing with Claire rather than their lame we-got-the-wrong-Prius-at-the-valet story.
Over at Jay and Gloria’s house, they fear that they’re going to have “the talk” with Manny, who’s being secretive about what’s inside a plain, brown paper package delivered to the house. Gloria is neurotic about what her son’s hiding, but Jay’s more interested in watching Gloria’s Columbian soap opera to “free up space on the DVR.”
Funny thing, though: Jay cares more about what’s going on in Fuego y Hielo (“apparently Spanish for big hair and yelling”) than Gloria does. In one humorous touch, we see Jay on the phone with the housekeeper trying to get the scoop on the episode and Reynaldo, the judge who can’t seem to keep his shirt on. His conversation is interrupted by Gloria, who’s upset about Manny, a 13-year-old boy alone in his room doing who knows what. He hesitates to pry, but then Manny calls for help. They find him stuck hanging upside-down in gravity boots that are supposed to help him grow taller.
Whew. Manny was just being Manny, trying to grow faster to impress the girls. Gloria is relieved—and frankly, so are we that this lackluster Modern Family episode is over.