Modern Family Review: "Hawaii" (1.23)

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<em>Modern Family</em> Review: "Hawaii" (1.23)

After a string of episodes where we saw Modern Family split into several largely unrelated plots, my favorite thing about last week was seeing everyone together.

Not that everyone has to necessarily interact for it to be a good episode, but I’d really prefer not having characters entirely than giving them a C-plot and four minutes of screen time that are largely wasted. The show tends to feel short as it is and necessitating a minimum of three different foci for each episode just cuts into valuable time—there’s never been an episode of the show that I wouldn’t enjoy seeing extended, and frequently plots are rushed to their conclusions.

“Hawaii” had this problem of everything immediately resolving at the right moment, but oh well. Everything else was so purely enjoyable that you can’t care, and this came from another instance of really using its large, well-developed cast to the best of their abilities. At the end of the show’s first season, we’ve now seen every pair of characters mix together and not one of these mixes is dull. Every character is equally capable of delivering great lines (despite her seriousness this includes Claire) and, well, in this case they all did. It was an ensemble episode in the best possible sense, just as well-constructed as last week’s with the added bonus of being, for the most part, more plausible.

Like last week both of the Pritchett siblings were going against their spouses in how they wanted to spend their vacations. Perhaps in reaction to their father’s willful laziness, both want to spend their time in Hawaii as far away from relaxing as they can be. Mitchell wants to go “adventuring,” which is to say sight-seeing and doing normal tourist-y things. How visiting a lavender farm is adventuring to anyone is beyond me, but it goes against Cam’s desire to just sit by the side of the pool at a resort. Likewise, Phil wants to relax and go on the honeymoon he never had with Claire while she wants (or rather, feels she needs) to supervise her children. As she puts it, “I’m a mom traveling with her kids, to me this isn’t a vacation, it’s a business trip.” Cameron tells the truth about how he’s always just gone with his man on these “adventures” to keep Mitchell happy and they finally relax, with some extremely light drama about them losing Lilly along the way. Claire taking the day off has slightly larger repercussions when Hailey gets drunk and spends the day throwing up, but even this is played up mostly for laughs. It’s clear that she was never in any real danger.

Outside of this, Jay’s trying to live right in reaction to remembering that his father died at his age, and Luke and Manny have a wonderfully hilarious feud about the cleanliness of their room—needless to say Manny is for and Luke is against. It’s clear that most of these plots are slight, but that’s fine. They don’t have to be big, and in fact usually it’s the episodes of Modern Family that try too hard at being meaningful that fall flat. The show’s much better when it’s about the little things in life than the big ones.

After all of that, Phil goes ahead and gives Claire a vow renewal ceremony in Hawaii as a surprise. The moment is extremely saccharine and maybe a bit over-the-top. That being said, it’s not too long and it’s still quite amusing and had just the right amount of sweetness. Modern Family sometimes takes criticism for its big hug endings, but this wasn’t really that. It was more about just showing a family in celebration and the whole event felt true to what we’ve seen of the characters and the world of the show. It was, like most of the episode, a bit of unbridled happiness that—despite the cynic in me—I couldn’t help but enjoy.

Stray Observations:
“Instead of salad I want fries. Instead of fruit I want chili fries.”
“I just ordered an extra long straw to avoid the chance of doing a sit-up.”
“He did die doing what he loved, refusing service to hippies who came into his store.
“The lavender ranch, it’s something two men are meant to do together.” (This episode made me truly thankful that I’ve never been forced to visit a lavender ranch.)
-If I knew a child as quiet as Lilly I wouldn’t mind traveling with her either. Seriously, do they sedate her in order to film this show or what?
“Let me paint you.” “Oh, sweetie, that is so creepy.”
“I had bread, I had cheese, and I had an iron. What was I supposed to do?” – Luke on making grilled cheese.
“I used to lose Manny all the time. Now I lost your father. These things happen.”
“I still can’t tell if you think this is lame or cool.”

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