It’s late. Everyone’s still awake; there’s conflict and unhappiness. The cold open of this episode accurately reflects how many viewers feel about this season of Modern Family: we’re in season four (when a show should be past the phase where it’s finding its legs); people are still watching, but we’re conflicted—the show has had its ups and downs, but it’s still a show we’re invested in. And so we’re a little bit unhappy.
It wasn’t a bad episode, but it wasn’t great. Each household had their own storylines this week with very little overlap. Some of the best moments of this series have come from the big family get-togethers. Instead we got mildly interesting vignettes from each family that didn’t add up.
In the Dunphy house, they’re all woken up by smoke, coming from Luke’s magic chest. Phil is thrilled that his son is following in his footsteps and that he has a natural aptitude for magic (if there is such a thing), but Luke confides in Claire that he wants to quit. In order to test if he’s a true magician, Phil puts Luke into a straight jacket and chains contraption so he is forced into performing “The Butler’s Escape” (hence the episode’s name). He’s Lukini-ed his way out in a matter of minutes, but still is adamant about quitting. Meanwhile Alex is making snarky remarks every time she opens her mouth. It boils down to Luke being bullied at school and Alex missing her sister. Neither of these situations are particularly deep—resolved within 30 minutes as per usual sitcom fodder. The new queen bee Alex had the best lines and delivery. Luke and Phil can have great chemistry together (remember the fake blood?), but they didn’t connect in this episode.
Over at the Pritchett house, Jay and Manny are being kept awake by Gloria’s snoring. Manny tries to remedy the situation by giving Gloria nasal strips, but she doesn’t take the news that she sounds like an old man well. Jay chickens out, and won’t back up Manny’s story. This leads to Jay renting a hotel room, Gloria finding out and thinking he’s having an affair, and him finally telling her the truth. It’s a tired, overused sitcom gag that didn’t look much better or worse on this show. The best part was that Stella got screen time—twice.
At the last house, Cam is preparing for his position as music teacher at Manny’s and Luke’s middle school. He’s spending countless hours—some late into the night—to prepare for his new “role” while keeping his family awake. It’s taken me a long time to warm up to new Lily (and I’ll never stop calling her that), but I think she may have won me over with that death look she gave Cam as she unplugged his keyboard and threw the cord. She had quite a few lines in this episode, which I’m still unsure about, but if she can keep making looks like that, I’m sold. As Cam takes this new job, he’s also nervous about Mitchell taking on more of the “Lily load.” They both struggle on their first day: Cam’s is awkward and nearly uncomfortable to watch, whereas watching Mitchell take on the home-maker role was only slightly more entertaining.
All in all, as stated before, it wasn’t terrible, but we’ve definitely seen this show much stronger. Four episodes in, the biggest change we’ve seen from past seasons is Claire. She seems to have a new tolerance for Phil; rather than shooting him down or showing outright disdain and annoyance, she has developed these great new facial expression responses mostly directed at the camera, not Phil directly (the one where he wants her to finish the comedian’s “well-known” phrase: money shot). I hope we get a Claire-centric storyline soon, so she can work those Emmy-winning skills more.
“I got you these nasal strips. In the commercial, the old man’s angry red sound waves turn to gentle blue.”—Manny
“I highly doubt some teenagers are going to throw rose petals at my feet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I got slow-clapped out of my class.”—Cam
“Yeah, something is bothering me, too, but I think it’s going to be rich, so we better be nice to it.”—Claire
“I’m just saying, mix in a book every now and then.”—Alex
How many times a day is it OK for a college student to Skype her family?
Do they really hate it when we say ’Frisco?
Is it possible for a child to fit in the dairy case?