“Don’t get your hopes up” is a piece of advice I wish I took more often in life. My hopes were so high for this week’s episode, and they were quickly dashed. I knew going into this episode that it was not only going to have a return of recurring character Gil Thorpe (Phil’s rival in all things realtor), but three generations of Thorpe that were going to take on three generations of Pritchett-Dunphy. I was expecting a blow-out of laughter; what I got was a few strong chuckles. It’s not that the Phil-Gil moments weren’t funny. They just didn’t get much air-time. What should have been the main storyline took the backseat to some less interesting plot points.
In “The Feud,” Phil finds out that he is not alone in being tormented by the Thorpe males. Gil Thorpe’s dad constantly mocks Jay, and Gil’s son is about to go toe-to-toe in a wrestling match with Luke. Dealing with similar issues of being bullied, Manny goes on a field trip with his class, and Gloria learns that he has become incredibly self-conscious because the kids make fun of him. She gives him a pep talk about being true to himself and not caring what other people think. At first, Manny listens to her, but then he discovers that Gloria lets all the other moms chaperoning the trip bully her and make her feel bad. In the smaller storylines (which got quite a chunk of air-time), Lily has lice and everyone avoids her like the plague, and Alex and Haley get stuck in the basement because they’re afraid to walk past a possum on the stairs.
I’m definitely a faithful fan of this show, but some episodes are just duds. The acting is always brilliant, and I can always count on one-liners to make me giggle, but this season has come under harsh criticism from other reviewers. It seems as if the show is going through an awkward adolescence, similar to some of its characters. It doesn’t know where it’s going to end up, and it’s trying different things. Early on in the season, Manny joined the football team with Cam as his coach. Manny’s character has gotten a little stagnant over the seasons (there is a limit to the “child that acts like an old man” humor). That kernel seemed like a promise of wonderful hilarity to ensue, but the storyline has never returned to that. And a few episodes ago, in “Under Pressure,” we saw a new, sadder, deeper side of Alex and a show that verged on drama without even a tinge of comedy. This week, the Thorpe-Dunphy rivalry should have been the heart of this episode, but timewise, it was treated like a C-storyline that wasn’t really developed. Manny and Gloria’s message of “stay true to yourself regardless what other people think” has been overplayed in this series, and while it’s always funny to watch Cam freak out, his avoidance of Lily just because she gets lice rings untrue. Some people are throwing around heavy words like “jumped the shark.” However, I’m an optimist; I will keep my hopes up. I believe that after this awkward period, the show will come through stronger, better and with a new angle.
Here are some of the memorable lines from this week.
Phil, speaking to Gil about an older realtor: “They took away his realtor’s license after gate-gate.”
Mitch, responding to Claire’s confusion over his getting a “D.P.” for his wedding: “No, no. A Director of Photography.”
Luke, to Phil before his wrestling match: “Got any final Dad-vice?”
Gloria, to Manny when he drags his feet insecurely in the Natural History Museum: “Stop disrespecting your ancestors. It took them six and a half million years to walk upright.”
Phil: “Whatever’s going on in your personal life, when your kid’s happy, you’re happy. A happy kid is like an antidepressant. But a natural one, not the kind your husband has to find in your jewelry drawer. Enough said about that.”
Madina Papadopoulos is a New York-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter.