It’s been a couple weeks since we last saw our favorite American funny family, so catch up with a recap of the last Modern Family, “Game Changer.”
How do people react when they aren’t needed and are pushed to the side? That was the question for this week’s episode, “Benched.” The episode begins at the Dunphy residence where Phil is grilling steaks for a family get together…and Jay is criticizing the manner in which Phil is cooking them. Luke and Manny make a break for the door to play some basketball when Claire stops them, telling them dinner will be ready in five minutes. The coach, Luke offers, told them to practice their layups. “Layups: a curious mix of dance and strength. They’re deceptively hard,” Manny posits. “You’re making it lame again,” Luke warns his “uncle” as they run off. Claire and Gloria tell Jay that the boys’ coach is a real bully, with Gloria noting that if the coach was in a Colombian soccer league, someone would have slit his throat by now. Jay looks to Phil to prove that the moms are being ridiculous. “He’s a real mean man,” Phil says. “Ugh, you’re such a woman,” Jay tells his son-in-law. “Yeah, he’s a real mother-scratcher,” Phil continues, before apologizing to Gloria for his bad language. “If he’s not careful, he’s going to get introduced to Captain and Tennille,” Phil boasts, referring to his fists.
Cameron and Mitchell arrive with Lily. Cameron gives Claire a “Happy Barbecue” card. It seems, with Mitchell out of work, Cameron has picked up a part-time job at a card company. Cameron confides that he is very excited about the job because of the great discount he gets on cards. Showing the camera the ream-thick stack of greeting cards he has purchased, Cameron notes how much money they are saving. How is it saving, Mitchell wonders. “It’s math,” Cameron replies. “It’s really not,” Mitchell fires back. “Uh-huh. Look it up,” Cameron. trying to maintain his composure, retorts. Mitchell grabs the cards and starts reading off their prices, with Cameron yelling “40 percent!” over him. Back at the Dunphys’, Jay tells Mitchell that one of his golf buddies is looking for a lawyer, and he told him about Mitchell. He wants Mitchell to call the guy, Charlie Bingham, in the morning. Mitchell doesn’t really want a new job right away because he and Cameron decided Cam would work for a bit and Mitchell would stay home. The father and son argue a bit, before Jay decides he’s had enough — not about the job, but he just can’t take how Phil is murdering the steaks, a double indignity for the cow sacrificed for the meal. Mitchell apologizes to Phil (who has heard Jay’s rant against the steaks…again) for his father’s behavior. “Oh, that’s just Jay being Jay. One day I want to be a grandfather and then everybody better hide their meat.” Cameron’s expression at hearing this says enough about Phil’s unintended double entendre.
At their home, Cameron and Mitchell are looking at an online profile of Charlie Bingham. Charlie has started a number of environementally aware companies, the area of law Mitchell specializes in. He even owns a clothing company from which Cameron has purchased ski pants. Mitchell comments that Cameron doesn’t ski. “I have cargo pants and I don’t work on the docks,” Cameron replies. The couple debates whether Mitchell should call the potential employer, as they had agreed Mitchell would stay home; but what is that look that crosses Mitchell’s face? Does he really want to be home and unemployed? In a word, no. He confides to the camera that he is losing his mind at home. It’s Cameron’s time to be out in the world, while Mitchell stays home and plots the death of Dora the Explorer. She better not cross Mitchell’s path as she’ll end up with a backpack full of bricks at the bottom of a river. Cameron, too, isn’t happy. He tells the camera that he’s in a “really dark space.” Being away from Lily is literally torture. Beginning to weep, he says that all he wants is “to be a stay-at-home dad slash trophy wife. With their inner feelings controlling, both men agree, “begrudgingly,” that Mitchell should call Charlie. Mitchell does, and they are invited over to Charlie’s beach house for dinner. Mitchell assures Cameron that he won’t take the job, but both agree Mitchell should hear Charlie out.
The Lil’ Dribblers basketball team, on which Luke and Manny play, are getting killed in their game. Their coach, played by Radzinski from Lost!, is berating them left and right. Alex, watching in the stands with her parents, wonders why she has to come to Luke’s basketball games. “Because you love your brother,” Claire reminds her. “Well, then why doesn’t he come to my orchestra concerts?” Alex replies. “Because we love your brother,” Phil returns. The coach’s criticisms finally become too much for Phil (who is there watching Manny with Gloria). He walks over to confront the coach, but Jay intercedes. They want the coach to realize the team is just a bunch of kids — he should stop yelling at them. Well, if they know what the team needs, maybe they should just coach. He throws the clipboard in the air and walks out. Phil tells Jay that he was handling the situation. “Yeah, I saw how you were breaking out Peaches and Herb,” Jay mocks, showing his fists. Phil takes over the team. In the huddle, Luke wonders what happened to their coach. Is he sick? He is, Phil tells his son. “Is he gonna die?” Manny wonders. “Everyone dies boys,” Phil replies, trying to get them to focus on the game. Before Phil can fully illustrate his “five fingers become a fist” strategy, Jay interrupts, telling Phil that he used to coach football, so he’ll coach. “But I used to coach basketball,” Phil tries to argue. That’s OK, Phil has already secured the assistant coach position, Jay tells him, before slapping Phil on the butt and asking him to go get some water. Phil confides that one has to walk a tightrope when it comes to fathers-in-law. He can do it too because he went to trapeze school, and Jay didn’t. Back in the bleachers, Claire tells Phil she’s going to take Alex to the mall to buy some clothes. She asks Phil why he’s not coaching anymore. “Because Jay coached football,” Phil ruefully replies. Claire tells Phil not to worry, she’ll make it up to him tonight. “And I’ll be thinking of your dad when you do,” Phil says. “Disturbing,” is all Claire can muster as she kisses her husband and leaves.
Mitchell and Cameron arrive at the gym, and thank Gloria for agreeing to watch Lily on short notice. It’s not a problem , she tells them. Cameron wonders if they should stay for a few more minutes because Lily usually gets fussy when her dads leave. Gloria reassures him that the baby is fine; Lily is getting used to Cameron being away. The comment cuts Cameron to the quick, and all he can do is bite his lip to keep from weeping. As the men leave, Gloria walks over to her son, kisses him on the head and wishes him luck. Manny asks for a word alone with her. He tells her that “her words of encouragement encourage his teammates to make fun of me.” Gloria says she’ll sit quietly during the next game. Manny notes that is unrealistic, “We both know your Latin blood makes that impossible.” It will be better if she’s not at his game. Getting the picture, Gloria leaves with Lily.
Cameron and Mitchell arrive at Charlie’s house, parking their car on a large circle in the driveway. They are greeted at the door by a body-suit clad Charlie. They ask if it is OK that they parked on the circular part of the driveway. Sure, that’s a turntable to spin the car around so one doesn’t have to back out of the driveway. “Wow, you have a car turntable and wear rubber. You’re like Batman!” Cameron says. “I really am,” Charlie, seriously, replies. Charlie introduces the party-goers to Mitchell and his partner Cameron. “Business partners,” Cameron quickly adds, “M & A. I’m kidding. We’re gay.” “Shut up,” Mitchell mutters to his nervous better half. Cameron explains to the camera that “when things are relaxed, I’m great in social situations. I would’ve fit in at the Algonquin Round Table. But when the stakes are high, I get a little tense. I’d be the guy to knock over the round table. Dorothy Parker would make a quip. James Thurber would laugh, and I’d end up crying.”
At the mall, Claire comments on Alex’s constant looking around like the Feds are watching her. Alex sees some girls from her class and asks if she can just meet her mom in an hour at the car. Claire is devastated. She laments to Phil and the camera that her little girl has become a teenager; moreover, a teenager that’s embarrassed just to be seen with her mother. “I can help,” Phil syas, presumably stopping the cameraman from assisting Claire. Looking at his wife, he says, “You’re not your mom.” When Claire’s head whips at his direction, he shudders, “Wow. That’s your mom. I just got chills!” Back at Charlie’s house, Mitchell, Cameron and Charlie move to a room hanging over the beach. Charlie mentions that he knows Mitchell is a great lawyer, having seen him argue in court. Cameron keeps interrupting, bringing up Mitchell’s former career as a figure skater, as Mitchell tries to get his partner to keep quiet during the obvious interview.
Claire runs into Gloria and Lily at the mall. Seeing an opportunity to dote on a little girl (like the one she thinks she lost in Alex), Claire picks up Lily and says she wants to buy her a dress. Gloria, feeling the weight of abandonment by a child, too, says, no, Lily needs new shoes. Claire pretends Lily is whispering in her ear, and says, “Yes? You want a new dress Lily?” before leading the baby off to shop. Gloria begrudgingly grabs the stroller, following after her daughter-in-law, “She didn’t say ‘jeyss.'” During a time-out in the game, Phil tries to jump into the huddle and tell the team to remember to use the pick and roll offense. “Don’t confuse my boys,” Jay warns him. “I sleep with your daughter,” Phil mutters to his father-in-law, trying to establish some dominance. Luckily, Jay didn’t really hear Phil’s comment. Phil quickly moves on, telling Jay that he’s done some scouting and that they need to isolate two of the opponents’ best players. Distracted by the squabble, Manny gets smacked in the head by the ball, to the chagrin of both would-be coaches.
Back at Charlie’s, Cameron is slurping the remnants of his margarita. Mitchell finally shoos his partner away, but that only leads to Cameron knocking over a few items, loudly. Charlieoffers Mitchell the job, but wants to know right away if Mitchell is in or out. As Cameron knocks over another set of valuable articles, Mitchell says he just has to talk to his “bull in a china shop.” Meanwhile, at the mall, and six dresses later, Gloria wants to, finally, buy Lily some strappy shoes. Claire sees Alex with her friends, so she tries to get her attention. Alex just puts her head down and briskly walks away. Seeing the scene, Gloria gives Lily back to Claire and says that she misses babies — they never tell you to go away or wait in the car. Claire says they shouldn’t feel sorry for themselves. “You know what we should do?” Claire asks Gloria. “Get pregnant,” Gloria offers. “I was going to say ‘get ice cream,'” Claire replies. “OK, yours first,” Gloria agrees.
Luke is dancing around the center of the court waving his arms around. Jay shouts that his grandson needs to actually be near an opponent to defend him. Phil wanders over, and Jay notes that “this is a uniquely frustrating group of boys.” Phil suggests the team switch to a man-to-man defense. “I got this,” Jay insists. “Oh yeah? The scoreboard says you’ve only got four points,” Phil retorts, slapping Jay on the butt and walking off. Back at Charlies, Mitchell pulls Cameron into the garage to talk. Mitchell slowly says that he might want to take the job. Cameron wants Mitchell to take the job! Mitchell loves Lily, more than anything, but he hates baby talk. “I wuv baby talk!” Cameron replies. The men joyfully embrace, and go to make their way back to the party, but the door back into the house is locked. Mitchell tries to open the garage door, but nothing happens. A security camera reveals that the button actually makes the turntable spin, and it has spun their car right into Charlie’s very expensive one. Unaware of this, Mitchell pushes the companion button and the turntable spins back. He tries the first button again, to the same result. With Cameron imploring Mitchell to push the buttons harder, their car spins into Charlie’s numerous times. Eventually, Mitchell sees a third button which opens the garage door. The men walk out and are horrified by the destruction done to Charlie’s car. At that moment, Charlie walks outside. Mitchell says, “I’ll take the job.” “I think you kinda have to now,” Charlie calmly replies.
Frustrated by their play, Jay berates the team. He can’t take it anymore, so he hands the clipboard over to Phil, telling his son-in-law to take over. Phil resists, saying Jay always pushes him out of the way. “There are somethings that I am better than you at. Bam! It’s out there,” Phil says. Jay explains that he’s just used to taking charge. He should have let Phil be the coach from the get-go. “And?” Phil asks. “I love you,” Jay replies. “No! The barbecue!” Phil responds. Jay sighs, before continuing, “I’m sure your steaks would’ve been delicious and chewy.” Phil gleefully grabs the clipboard, noting that the student has now become the master. He designs a play for Manny to take a shot, despite the fact he hasn’t taken a shot all season. As the play unfolds, Phil describes his coaching philosophy in a voiceover. “What’s my coaching philosophy? Give a kid a bird, and he becomes one of those weird guys who walks around with a bird on his shoulder. Give him a pair of wings, and he can fly.” Under Phil’s speech, Manny’s shot rises in slo-motion, but doesn’t even come close to reaching the rim. “Unless he has no hand-eye coordination,” Phil concludes his speech.
Claire is waiting in the car when Alex finally arrives. Alex apologizes for her behavior. She’s feeling a lot of pressure at school with friends. Alex appreciates everything Claire does for her, and insists that she’s still Claire’s little girl. Claire is touched…until Alex asks for twenty dollars. Recognizing the con Alex is pulling, Claire actually gives her forty dollars. When Alex jumps out of the car to rejoin her friends, Claire shouts after her, “You might want to pick yourself up a training bra. I know you don’t need one now, but your little boobies are going to come in soon. Mommy loves you kitten!” She blows two exaggerated kisses to her stunned daughter and starts up the car. “Teach her to screw with me,” Claire mutters as she drives off.
In the episode tag, Manny is telling a disinterested Gloria about his basketball shot. Although he is ignored, Manny continues. Gloria pretends not to hear her son, telling Jay that she had the best day with Lily. Manny asks his mother if she wants to come to his next game. No, she doesn’t want to embarrass her son, so she’ll just take Lily out again. Gloria exits, leaving Manny with Jay. He turns to his stepfather and asks, “Any suggestions?” “I usually go with earrings,” Jay replies. Manny just shakes his head as he and Jay lift their coffee cups in unison and take a swig.
It was great to have Modern Family back after a week off, but this was a middle-of-the-pack episode for me. The comedy was little more subdued, and I didn’t riotously laugh during it (as I usually do), until Claire’s calling after Alex about the training bra. Then, I lost it. That line, and Alex’s stunned reaction, were absolutely hysterical. Even though I did think the episode was alright, there were some definite pluses and interesting places I think the show is going. First, we saw a less slapstick-y Phil. I really liked seeing him be funny, but also manipulative and, at times, hurt. Not the goofy hurt he felt two weeks ago about not getting his iPad, but rather an insulted kind of hurt that caused him to stand up to Jay. Good stuff there, and a nice chance for Ty Burrell to show his range. We also got mingling of all three families, which is always fun. Next, I liked the introduction of Charlie. I have no idea whether he will appear again, but I thought his crunchy, “green,” yet still arrogant character was pretty hilarious. There could be some great interactions between he, Mitchell and Cameron in the future. Imagine Cameron at one of Mitchell’s work functions. Hilarity would certainly ensue. Lastly, I think the seed may have been planted that Gloria is going to want to get pregnant. Yes, the “husband doesn’t want to have more kids” storyline has been seen a million times before, but the Modern Family writers have such a way of refreshing old ideas that I think there is comedy gold in dem dar hills.
So, like I said, not my favorite episode (it was all fine, and performed well, just not the funniest script to begin with), but any episode of this show is light-years better than most comedies on TV, and I really think there is some potentially great comedy on the horizon for the show. What did you think of the show? Was this episode in the pantheon of Modern Family episodes for you, or do you rank it lower like I did? Did you miss Haley (the only regular not in the episode), and where the heck is her boyfriend, Dylan? Anything else you liked or loathed? Please leave your comments, questions and theories below. Be sure to check out TVOverMind for photos, promos and news on Modern Family and all your favorite shows. I’ll be back next week with another recap. Until then, I’m off to grow a beard. The beard is on!