Steven Levitan, co-creator of Modern Family, cracked us up at the Emmys in September during an acceptance speech. Thanking the audience after the show picked up the award for Best Comedy, he told a story about a gay couple who thanked him for making people more tolerant. Levitan quipped, “
there is absolutely nothing wrong with a loving, committed relationship between an old man and a hot young woman.” A beat: “And looking around this room tonight, I see many of you agree.”
Levitan wrote this week’s episode, “Treehouse,” and it showed. There were dozens of quick jokes that kept the storylines moving along, even when a few plots turned left onto predicta-ville.
We thought that Phil would be at the center of this show since he’s the one building the treehouse (hence the episode’s title). Ostensibly, it’s a treehouse for Luke, but we know that the man-child is building for himself, an homage to childhood and lost friends. (And
while Ty Burrell is usually on point, we could swear it looked like he was reading off cue cards in one scene where he talks directly to the camera.)
But the show—and some of the best lines—belonged to Cam. He accepted a bar bet from Mitchell and a friend who said that he couldn’t get the phone number of a woman they picked. He strikes up a conversation with Katie (a funny guest turn by Knocked Up’s Leslie Mann) and he gets the digits. In talking to the camera, he confesses that he would have never been that smooth if he were talking to a gay man. “It’s ironic,” he says, “Like the gift of the vagi.”
Hilarious, Mr. Levitan.
When Mitchell comments that Cam’s usually never that smooth, Cam corrects him, reminding him that he was named the cutest baby at the 1974 Jasper County fair: “People said I could go Gerber.”
In other stories, Jay’s friend Shorty (Chazz Palminteri) and his girlfriend Darlene (an ample-chested Jennifer Tilly) come over for dinner and invite Jay and Gloria to go salsa dancing the next evening. Gloria is all for it, while curmudgeonly Jay isn’t. He suggests an alternative—watching the PPV fight while eating salsa. Gloria says she’ll go dancing alone with Shorty and Darlene if she has to.
Jay asks Manny for salsa dancing tips because he knows he’ll be in the doghouse if he doesn’t. But he’s a hopeless dancer. “Stop marching. You’re dancing, not invading Poland,” Manny says. It’s Mitchell who comes through with encouragement—in the form of a little pill. Jay’s shocked. In the end (and to no one’s surprise except Gloria’s) he shows up at the salsa club a little less inhibited than usual and takes his wife for a spin on the dance floor.
So did Mitchell slip his dad a little X? Nope. It was the placebo effect of orange-flavored baby aspirin. “He could have chewed it.”
And in the throwaway storyline of the evening (though Phil’s treehouse comes close behind), Claire is sick of hearing Haley complain that she was coddled and therefore can’t write a college application essay on life’s obstacles. Claire dramatically asks Haley to go with her on a drive to show her a big secret. Claire asks Hailey to read what’s carved on a tree—and then takes off. “Have fun getting home,” Claire says. “Now there’s your obstacle.”
But Cam’s storyline is well worth wading through the B plots. Katie comes over so that he can tell her in person that—shocker—he’s gay. Of course, Katie already knows. She just wanted a gay friend to go shopping. Cam is bummed knowing that Mitchell will tease him to no end. But Katie—and we hope she comes back—saves the day. She acts
heartbroken in front of Mitchell and plants a big wet kiss on Cam, who plays it up as well: “You’re an amazing girl, Katie. You’re the whole package,” he tells her. “I just prefer someone who has one.”
So while the episode was a little uneven around the subplots, Levitan’s penchant for writing great quips—and Eric Stonestreet’s perfect delivery—made this episode of Modern Family one of the better ones of the season.