Believe it or not, it has been a long three weeks since we last saw the funniest families on TV. If you don’t remember the last episode, “My Funky Valentine,” check out a recap here.
Everyone is afraid of something, and this week’s episode, “Fears,” looks into what spooks the Dunphy and Pritchett families. For Alex, it’s global warming…and getting a B. Claire is afraid of the phone ringing in the middle of the night. Phil, perhaps confused where he is, says “being too much of a perfectionist.” “This isn’t a job interview,” Claire tells her husband. “Oh,” Phil sighs with understanding, “oh man, job interviews!” he finally responds to the question. Jay insists he isn’t afraid of anything, until he’s reminded by Gloria of his fear of pigeons. Well, they’re shifty, Jay explains. Cameron is scared of losing Mitchell, but is disappointed when Mitchell doesn’t reciprocate and responds, “Hotel bedspreads.” Haley is afraid she’ll never get her driver’s license, or even worse, having a license picture that sucks. Finally, and of course, Manny is afraid of dying alone.
It appears Haley should be afraid of not getting her license: she’s failed her test twice already, and if today she fails for a third time, she’ll need to have Claire drive her around for six more months. One would think Claire has seen a ghost as she flashes to the last time she drove Haley: with a friend in the back-seat, Haley animatedly told her friend a story, throwing the word “like” into the conversation every three words. Each time, Claire yelled “Like!” back at her, to the point the two just started screaming incoherently at each other. That is certainly a situation Claire does not want to be in again. When Alex brings Haley her jacket, and Haley flips out on her, Claire tells Alex to not mind Haley’s outbursts; Haley can’t focus on two things at once. “Always a good quality for a driver,” Alex sarcastically points out. Claire, ignoring Alex’s slight against her sister, tells her younger daughter that she will take Alex to buy new shoes for her school dance after Haley’s test. Alex says she’s not going because dances are stupid, but before Claire can get to the root of why Alex really doesn’t want to go, Phil enters the kitchen in a jumpsuit. “Ready to go down under, mate?” he asks Luke in a ludicrous Australian accent. Phil and Luke are going “tray-shure hahn-ting” under the house. When the cable guy was leaving the other day, he told Haley, “You’ve got quite a collection down there,” and since Phil had no idea what the guy was talking about, he figured there must be some booty hidden under the house (yes, pun intended by me). The boys start theorizing what treasures might be found: necklaces made out of animal teeth, expensive bottles of wine, ancient Indian arrowheads, gold bars…”Why don’t you just go look under the house?” a clearly annoyed Claire finally interjects, and sends the “men” of her family off.
Mitchell is cleaning up his house and picks up one of Lily’s dolls. He wonders why their lesbian friends gave Lily such a “frilly” doll. Cameron admonishes him for playing into stereotypes. Mitchell apologizes and asks if the women had brought back the coffee maker they borrowed. Cameron says no — they couldn’t fit it on their motorcycle. Cameron and Mitchell are cleaning because they are having Lily’s pediatrician, Dr. Miyora, over for lunch. Cameron wants to make sure that if a flu outbreak happens, they are in good with the doctor so Lily can get her medicine first. Mitchell thinks Cameron is nuts. Then why does the dentist give Cameron a bunch of free stuff? “Because he’s a big queen and he has a crush on you,” Mitchell explains. A clearly flattered Cameron responds, “Really? You think so?” At the Pritchett home, Manny tells his mother that he can’t go to a party because he has a fever. Gloria feels his head, and he’s perfectly fine. She knows why he doesn’t want to go to the party: Manny is afraid of roller coasters. She confides that she can’t understand why Manny is scared; his father isn’t scared of anything. Well, Jay can think of one thing, “Go out to dinner with him and wait until the check comes. Then you’ll see fear in his eyes. Like the waiter is a ghost!”
Back at the Dunphy’s, Phil and Luke are preparing to enter the hole under the house. Phil feels like they are Ponce de Leon and son. Luke points out that Ponce is a funny name and that if he went to Luke’s school, Ponce would be called “Pants.” An amused Phil continues, “Fancy Ponce!” Ah, father-son bonding. Phil explains to the camera that a parent should never want the kids to see him or her scared. A parent needs to be like a rock in the ocean the kids can hang on to. But rocks sink, Phil realizes, so parents need to be like a floating rock. That’s not right either. “OK, say it’s windy and there are a lot of papers…,” he trails off. When Phil looks under the house, there is a squeak. Phil shrieks and recoils. This is a job for goggles and barbecue tools. Dr. Miyora has arrived and is playing with Lily. Cameron compliments the doctor on her figure and how nice it is to see her out of her white coat. “We’re trying to make a friend, not initiate a three-way,” Mitchell warns Cameron. Dr. Miyora comments that Lily is a perfect child. Cameron is relieved that the doctor will be a “friend through good times…and flu season.” Then the worst possible thing happens: Lily says, “Mommy.” With a clearly distraught Cameron beside him, Mitchell exclaims to the camera, “It’s the ‘first word’ of every gay father’s nightmare!”
Meanwhile, Gloria wants to take Manny out so he’ll forget the party. Jay says he should have known Manny was scared of roller coasters, “He gets dizzy at the the barber shop when he’s spun toward the mirror.” Gloria suggests to Manny that they go fishing. An elated Manny agrees, “There’s no place I’m more at home than…” “Just get your coat,” Jay says to cut off another of his stepson’s Romantic soliloquies. At the DMV, Alex pesters her sister by asking Haley is she’s nervous for her driver’s test. Haley doesn’t need Alex to make her more nervous as she’s ready to jump out of her skin, especially when she sees the examiner that failed her last time. He sees hundreds of teenagers a day, he probably doesn’t remember Haley, Claire reassures. “Let’s move it ‘Two Strikes,'” the examiner bellows. I guess he does remember Haley. Back at home, Phil is rigging Luke’s remote control truck with a video camera and lights. “Are you scared to go in?” Luke asks his dad. “No, why?” “You screamed a little.” “I told you, that was the house settling,” Phil covers. Luke wonders how Phil is going to be able to control the truck if he can’t see where it’s going. Not to worry, Phil is going to “get all Jedi on it.” Of course, he gets the truck stuck immediately.
Mitchell and Cameron, clearly still shocked, are eating lunch with Dr. Miyora. She comments on how good the meal is. “It’s a recipe from the now defunct Gourmet magazine. Why do all the things I love go away?” Cameron whimpers and gestures toward Lily. As he begins to freak out and cry, Cameron wonders if they’re not providing Lily with sufficient feminine energy. “I wouldn’t worry about that,” Dr. Miyora retorts to the blubbering Cameron. “You know it’s because you’re Asian, right? Should we ignore the giant panda in the room?” the previously politically correct Cameron charges. “Pandas are from China, and…it doesn’t matter,” the doctor calmly responds. She’s not concerned with what Lily said; she probably just strung together a couple of syllables that sounded like “mommy.” This calms the men, until Lily speaks again. “Mommy!” Cameron is now inconsolable, “She’s made her choice!”
Cameron isn’t the only one freaking out. Haley is bombing her driving test, again. When asked to make a left turn, she starts moving to the right. When she pulls over and is about to lose it, the examiner calms her down by telling her that she reminds him of his daughter. Haley can start over, but she asks if she can see him smile first, as that will make him less scary. He forces out a smile, but it’s no help. Manny is all smiles as he, Gloria and Jay walk down the pier. Dressed in what can be described as his “Hemingway Best,” Manny remarks that it’s a “good day for halibut.” He notices, however, that they are not walking toward the water. When he spies a roller coaster, he realizes he has been duped. Gloria wants him to face his fear, like he did when he was scared of lighting the barbecue grill. “Your eyebrows have grown back and your salmon is legendary,” she reminds him. Manny agrees to go on the coaster, but now it is Jay who protests. Claiming, at first, back troubles, and then an inner ear condition, Jay tries to get out of the adventure. Seeing that Jay is scared, Manny backs out again. Gloria has had enough; she will go on the coaster by herself. She gives Manny her purse to hold, puts her large, floppy beach hat on Jay, and storms off. “I’m not man enough to fight this. Hold my purse,” Manny tells his stepfather, and follows his mother. Alone, and looking ridiculous, Jay finally relents.
As they wait on a bench, Alex wonders what is taking Haley so long. Claire says the only reason she’s not panicking is because she doesn’t see a giant geyser. She quickly moves on to Alex’s fears, though. Claire thinks Alex doesn’t want to go to the dance because she doesn’t know how to dance. If Alex wants, Claire can show her a few moves, as she begins to do the worst Molly-Ringwald-in-The–Breakfast–Club imitation ever. “Now you and dad make so much sense,” Alex notes. Claire knows the true root of Alex’s problem: she’s afraid no one will want to dance with her. Despite her repeated denials, Alex eventually admits her mother is right. Claire reassures her that she is a beautiful girl and that boys will want to dance with her. She also tells Alex the same thing she told Haley: if she gets nervous, just take three deep breaths and calm down. “Great, even the advice I get is hand-me-down,” Alex responds. At that moment, Haley pulls up, screaming out the window that she passed. She jumps out of the car and runs to her mom, but has neglected to put the car in park. With the car rolling and the examiner having to throw the parking brake, Claire rushes Haley inside to claim her license. Back at home, Luke wants his truck back, but Phil, still not wanting to climb into a dark confined space, suggests he just let it go. Luke refuses, he wants it back, and he wants to find out what’s under the house. It could be pirate maps! Luke crawls under the house, but quickly get snagged on a pipe. He yells for his dad to come help him, so Phil moves to climb into the hole. Luke wants him to hurry because the pipe is hot and there are spiders. Phil recoils upon hearing this and hesitates, but eventually moves to help his son.
Dr. Miyora is leaving Mitchell and Cameron’s house. She tries to reassure the men that she never had a great relationship wither her Japanese immigrant mother. Her father was the one who actually listened to her. A child doesn’t always need a mother, and with two dads like Mitchell and Cameron, Lily is the “luckiest little girl in the world.” This brightens the dads. Cameron asks Dr. Miyora how her relationship with her mother is now. She replies that her mom is only happy if the doctor is some Asian stereotype, but that’s not who she is. She puts her car in reverse, and proceeds to back over the men’s garbage cans. Her mother would be happy.
Phil, now finally under the house, gets Luke free. Luke calls his dad a hero, but he still wants his truck. Phil is able to reach it, and since they are down there already, pivots it around so the lights will show them what the treasure is. Through the view of the attached video camera, the lights pan to…a couple skulls! The men scream and quickly escape. Phil tells the camera that they called the cops to come investigate, but it turns out that the skulls are just the previous owners’ Halloween decorations. Over scenes of Manny, Jay and Gloria on the roller coaster, Alex dancing with a boy (and keeping his hands in a proper place), and Haley backing the car out of the driveway, Phil comments that everyone is scared of something, but adults are most fearful for their children. Will their kids fit in? Will they be safe? Sometimes, all a parent can do is take a deep breath, pull the kids close, and hope for the best.
As Mitchell and Cameron put Lily to bed, Cameron steps on Lily’s “frilly” doll. When he does, it says, “Mommy.” He picks it up and squeezes it again. “Mommy.” The doll says, “Mommy!” That’s where Lily learned to say it. She wasn’t rejecting her dads in favor of an Asian woman with breasts and all of her Asian-ness (as Mitchell reasoned earlier). Lily was just copying the doll. The men celebrate with a huge hug, as Phil notes, “Things don’t always work out, but you got to love it when they do.”
In the episode tag, Phil and Luke sit on the front stoop. Luke asks his dad about an old trunk in the attic. Phil explains that it is his grandfather’s trunk. Luke tells his dad about a movie he was watching where a trunk had a secret compartment that contained old, expensive paintings hidden during the war. “Grandpa was in the war,” Phil says, as the gears begin to turn in his head. Father and son begin to dream about what might be in the trunk in the attic: diamonds, a samurai sword, the Declaration of Independence. “You know, it almost doesn’t even matter what’s up there. What matters is what you do with the money from what’s up there,” Phil explains. “We could get a motorboat,” Luke fantasizes. “Or a robotic gutter cleaner,” Phil dreams. “Or an indoor pool,” Luke offers. “Or a two-man submarine,” Phil counters. Undoubtedly, they will go on like this for a few more hours.
I’m not sure if it was because the show hasn’t been on for three weeks, but I loved this episode. Yes, there was no inter-family interaction, as I think the best Modern Family episodes contain, but I laughed pretty heartily at what was on screen. This episode was light on the physical/slapstick-y comedy (no dog butlers being dragged up stairs, flowers bursting into flames, or coats being caught in escalators), but I thought both the script (written by series creator Steven Levitan) and direction were strong. We also had a healthy dose of the kids, who are, as we have discussed here before, always a highlight for me. Even the costuming was great, from Luke and Phil’s jumpsuits to Manny’s fishing outfit. Seriously, I laughed probably the loudest at seeing Manny dressed in that sweater and hat. I appreciate the series moving up and down the comedy scale from physical comedy to “mental” comedy; it offers a fresh take every week and allows the series to not feel stale. If I had one complaint about this episode (no, not the voiceover set to music at the end. I thought that was one of their better ones), it would be that I wish they didn’t shoehorn in the “stereotypes” banter. Not because it wasn’t funny, because it certainly was. I would actually prefer an entire episode poking fun at stereotypes/political correctness. This isn’t to say they can’t do one in the future, I just wish they left those couple gags/lines to their own episode.
What did you all think? Did you enjoy the episode as much as I did? What lines made you laugh the hardest? Please drop your comments in the section below. Be sure to check out photos for next week’s episode, “Truth Be Told,” and check TVOvermind for more Modern Family news, and all of your TV needs. I’m off to use peanut butter and jelly for bait.
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