After a few weeks off, ABC’s top-rated comedy Modern Family returned this week with a Valentine’s-themed episode. Sort of. Unlike the past Valentine’s Modern Family episodes, which focused on Phil wooing Claire (remember his alter ego Clive Bixby?), this episode spread the love—and the green-eyed monster—equally among the Dunphy and Pritchett family members.
Greg Kinnear takes a turn in a guest role as Tad, one of Phil’s potential real estate clients. He’s a big shot, and Phil has a bit of a man crush. When Luke asks how he got so rich and successful, Phil doesn’t mince words: “He got divorced and his whole life opened up. He’s living the dream.” We see that Phil is horrified as the words leave his mouth because he knows Claire is right behind him.
During dinner, Claire becomes a little uncomfortable because she thinks that Tad is hitting on her. She’s even more convinced when he gives her a lingering goodbye kiss on the lips. Does Phil notice all the nonverbal cues? Not at all. Is he a jealous hubby? Not at all, and this leaves Claire a bit miffed.
Meanwhile, Cam, Mitchell and Lilly are staying a few days at Gloria and Jay’s house while their own home is fumigated. At first, we think we’re going to be treated to loud and raucous humor—like a teenage slumber party—when Cam and Gloria are together, but this dynamic takes an unexpected turn when they play against type. They unwittingly touch upon each others’ insecurities: Gloria thinks that Cam is calling out her lack of domestic skills when he decorates a little and rearranges her kitchen; he’s a little insecure about Lily not having a female “mom” and gets jealous when Lily bonds with Auntie Gloria.
If looks could kill, there would be a massacre in TV land when, after finding that Cam added flowers to “brighten up the room” she says, “I didn’t realize that my house needed brightening up.” Likewise, when Gloria “fixes” Lily’s hair for school, Cam retorts, “I didn’t realize her hair was broken.” Manny tries to patch things up (because conflict resolution is his specialty), but we like their tension. The end scene, though, of an orchestrated kitchen salsa dance while cooking is brilliant. We’ll have seconds of that, please.
A less successful pairing focused on Jay and Mitchell. Jay is constantly teasing Mitchell about lawyer jokes: “As far as you’re concerned, all a lawyer does is walk into a bar with a rabbi and a polar bear.” Jay corrects, “grizzly bear….” In an out-of-character move, Jay intrudes on Mitchell’s business meeting because he wants to meet the client (a DJ that used to do the best on-air practical jokes). Jay and Mitchell argue, and we can smell the resolution—a crank call—a mile away.
Even though Phil describes himself a detail guy, he’s completely oblivious to the scene that unfolds at Tad’s house. In a scene that rips off the Saturday Night Live kissing family skit, we watch Tad say goodbye and send off his friends and family—with lingering kisses on the lips. We do find out, though, the one thing that will get Phil jealous: Someone else making Claire laugh.
In an aside to the camera, he says, “You can kiss my wife, you can take her to bed, but you cannot make her laugh.” He does a do-over for the camera: “Only I can take my wife to bed, comma, and make her laugh.”
Not to be left out of the fray, the Dunphy kids deal with their own petty disagreements. Alex is jealous when Haley treats her adopted little sister better. Phil and Claire forced Haley to do the Big Sister program when she listed herself as a “Big Sister” on a college application. (“Technically, I am,” Haley says. “She capitalized the B and the S,” Claire explains. “Which makes sense, because it was.”)
Alex and Haley end up arguing over their sisterhood, and it’s crazy little Luke who talks some sense into them. And what do they do? They put up a unified front and turn their little brother into their little sister—Betty Luke.
As a whole, the episode was average for Modern Family (though better than most half-hour sitcoms on TV). We did appreciate the usual pairings, especially the dynamic between Gloria and Cam. They were petty without being annoying or shrill—which is usually what happens when Jay gets stuck with one of his kids. However, our biggest pet peeve was the blatant copying of the SNL skit (a G-rated version, of course).
Where’s Clive Bixby when you need him?