Recap – Modern Family 1.24 “Family Portrait”

Did you miss last week’s fun in the sun in “Hawaii”? Catch up with a recap here.

The Modern Family season finale begins with Phil loading his pockets with candy in preparation for the Lakers game. The concession prices at the arena get him “a little nuts” (as he points to one pocket. Continuing the word play (and pointing), Phil explains “It ruffles me when goobers tell me I have to spend half my payday on their hot dogs.” (With the last food mention, Phil points to a pant pocket.) Claire reminds her husband that he needs to be home in time for the family portrait she has arranged for later in the day. She asks Phil if he tried on the white pants she laid out for him. When Phil balks at wearing white pants, Claire explains that the entire family will be wearing white, and if he doesn’t, Phil will stand out like Where’s Waldo?. “Actually, Where’s Waldo doesn’t stand out. He’s super hard to find,” Phil corrects his wife. Claire is not in the mood for Phil’s shenanigans; she just wants him to promise to be ready for the pictures. Phil promises, and hugs Claire — crunching all of his hidden candy.

At his home, Jay asks Gloria where all of his good underwear has gone. “The question is: Why isn’t all of your underwear the good ones? You make a good living.” Jay complains that the maid has been mixing up his and Manny’s underwear, resulting in one too many instances of Jay putting on, effectively, a “crotch tourniquet.” Can Gloria speak to the maid? Gloria wonders why she should speak to the maid. “Hola,” Jay replies, “you speak the same language.” “She’s Portuguese!” Gloria retorts. Does Jay know how offensive it is to assume all Latinos can speak to each other? Jay is saved by Phil and Alex entering. Luke was supposed to go to the game, but he has to finish a project for school where he interviews someone who lived through the 1960’s. Jay gives a look to Phil just before his phone rings. It’s Luke. Of course Luke can come over to interview Jay. Gloria will take Jay’s ticket to the game. She calls up to her son to see if he’s ready to leave. He will be down in a minute; he’s getting dressed. “Mom!” Manny yells down to his mother, “I think my diet is working. My underwear won’t stay up!” Jay just gives Gloria a “See?” shrug.

Mitchell is feeding Lily when Cameron enters in a suit. After a rousing night of karaoke, Cameron was asked to sing at a friend’s wedding. He considers himself a professional singer now as he’s being paid. Paid in flowers, actually, but he would have spent the money on flowers anyway. Besides, all of the great divas are paid in flowers. “And paychecks,” Mitchell adds. Mitchell asks if it’s OK that he’s not going; he just doesn’t like to make small talk. Cameron tersely says it’s alright. Mitchell asks if Cameron is sure he’s OK because he’s being rather quiet. “I’m just resting my instrument,” Cameron responds, throwing a scarf dramatically over his shoulder and exiting. “I feel tension,” Mitchell says to his daughter.

Phil, Gloria, Alex and Manny are at the Lakers game, and yelling to Kobe Bryant above the tunnel that leads to the players’ locker room. “What can I do for you?” Kobe asks. Phil, a bit stunned that Kobe is talking to him, asks, “Do you like being a basketball player?” “Serious??” Kobe replies. “Sorry, I choked. I didn’t think you’d look up here,” Phil sheepishly says. “You need to prepare next time. It’s a mental game,” Kobe responds before running onto the court. Meanwhile, back at home, Claire is staring at the house stairs. Haley enters and asks her what she is doing. Claire tells her that the broken step (the one that has appeared a number of times throughout the season) is going to ruin the portrait. Claire confides to the camera that her idea for the portrait is for the entire family to dress in white and stand, single-file, going down the stairs. “Like a skip jump,” Phil notes. No, not like a skip jump, Claire responds. Phil’s idea was for everyone to pile into the bed, Willy Wonka-style. “That’s ridiculous,” Claire comments. “Ridiculicious!” Phil replies. Back to the stairs, Claire says that Phil was supposed to fix it.. Haley asks what the big deal is about the portrait. Claire tells her that she’ll realize, one day when she’s a mither, that time moves very fast. Soon, Luke will be shaving, Alex will be going off to college and Haley “will be…doing something…great.” Claire just wants to freeze this moment in their lives. Haley tells her mom that, although she doesn’t say it often, her family is the most important thi…”I will fix it!” Claire interrupts her daughter’s most honest moment. Claire begins to pull on the step and a whole chunk of it rips out.

Back at the game, Gloria asks if Phil wants any snacks, but he tells her he brought his own. “I’m not cheap, it’s a matter of principle, and there’s a rush of danger!” Phil explains. He begins to give Gloria some candy but an arena employee walks by. “Be cool! Be cool!!” Phil exclaims, bringing more attention to himself. At home, Claire realizes she made everything worse. She dials Phil’s cell phone and the same moment Haley sees her father on TV. As the phone rings, Claire asks Haley for something she can tell Phil to have him freak out on TV. “Tell him I’m pregnant,” Haley answers. “No, I’m not going to tell him that,” Claire responds. They see Phil reach into his pocket, retrieve his phone, look at the caller, and deny the call. “Well, that was pretty funny!” Haley remarks.

In his living room, Mitchell is reading, when out of nowhere (seriously, there wasn’t even an establishing shot of Mitchell opening a window or something), a pigeon flies into the room. Mitchell starts to lose his mind, and screams as he runs into, and locks himself inside, Lily’s room. He calls Cameron, whom answers the phone, “Who is this?’ “Never funny, and not funny now.” Mitchell tells Cameron about the pigeon, summing up the fearsomeness of the birds, “Pigeons aren’t scared of anything. They stand on electrical wires!” Cameron tells Mitchell that he’ll be fine “as long as they don’t….oh, they’re starting. I’ve gotta go.” “As long as they don’t what?!?” Mitchell exclaims, now left alone with the bird in the house.

During a timeout in the game, the scoreboard displays the fan favorite, the Kiss Cam. Seeing it, Manny notes to Alex, “Wouldn’t it be funny if they focused on us?” “Gross. We’re related,” Alex responds. “Not by blood,” Manny answers back. “Touch me, and there will be blood,” Alex ends the conversation. The camera focuses on Gloria and Phil. Phil explains the gag to Gloria, adding that the two of them kissing would be “legally OK, but weird.” Phil shoos the camera away, but it comes back. With the crowd cheering for them to kiss, Gloria says, “Ugh, it’s no big deal,” and plants a big one on Phil. Back at the Dunphy home, Claire voices her anger about Phil denying her phone call. Haley, hearing this, texts Alex. Alex reads the message to her father, “Mom saw you on TV. You’re dead.” Phil confides to the camera that the Kiss Cam is only supposed to be for the enjoyment of those at the game. It’s not even supposed to be seen on TV. “What people do in the privacy of their sports arena is their own business.”

At Jay’s house, Luke interviews his grandfather for his project. Jay tells Luke about how he used to work in his dad’s office supply business, and spent summers sweeping hair at his grandfather’s barber shop. Not satisfied, Luke asks if Jay did anything interesting? “You’re killing me!” Luke admits. One of his classmate’s grandfathers marched on Washington with Martin Luther King, Jr. “Well, do you know who cut his hair?” Jay asks about the civil rights leader. “You did?” replies, in awe. Jay then asks the camera, “Do you know who cut Martin Luther King’s hair? Neither does Luke’s teacher.” Jay continues to Luke, telling him that he cut hair for the Kennedys, Nixon, and even astronauts. How does Luke think Buzz Aldrin got his name?

Meanwhile, Mitchell is playing with Lily in her room, trying to not be freaked out by the pigeon. When Lily starts to cry, Mitchell knows she’s hungry and needs to get her a bottle. He steels himself, and makes a break for the kitchen. Immediately, the bird attacks (and by attacks, I mean it flies around being scared of Mitchell). Mitchell, while shrieking at the top of his lungs, somehow makes his way to the kitchen, grabs some milk (not formula?), and heads back to Lily’s room. Unfortunately, the pigeon lands right in front of the door. With Cameron intoning a rendition of “Ave Maria,” and in slow-motion, Mitchell grabs a tennis racket and chases the pigeon away. He swings the racket and smashes the portrait of he and Cameron above the fireplace. Still in slow-motion, Mitchell grabs a pillow and tries to beat the bird, sending (pillow) feathers everywhere. He grabs some logs from the fireplace and hurls them at the pigeon, missing, and smashing bric a brac. He finally grabs a fire extinguisher as Cameron’s song ends.

Jay continues his story, telling Luke that he cut Wilt Chamerblain’s hair, who, in turn, brought in Elvis, the greatest singer ever known, except for Frank Sinatra; and Jay will fight anyone who says differently. “My Dad says the best singer ever is Peabo Bryson,” Luke says. “Guess I gotta fight your dad then,” Jay responds. “Yeah, I guess,” Luke replies. Alex receives another text, this time from Luke. “Grandpa says he has to fight you,” Alex reads the text message to her father. Phil, already worried about Claire, becomes even more ashen at the perceived threat to his safety.

Claire is still working on the stairs. She tries to remove the step with the claw end of a hammer, but it slips from its hold, and smashes some pictures hung on the wall. “Why does everything have to suck?” Claire wonders. Haley asks if they should just take the picture another day. Absolutely not. Claire worked very hard to arrange this portrait. Maybe they can shoot it in front of the fireplace, but she never had a chance to paint the wall like she wanted. She calls Mitchell to see if they can shoot it at his place, but amid the rubble caused by his fight with the pigeon, he tells his sister that his house will not work.

They end up at Jay’s house for the portrait shoot. Claire wonders where the basketball contingent is; the game went into overtime, so they should be back soon. Luke enters with Haley, complaining that it is hard to breathe — Claire has Saran Wrapped Luke to keep his white clothes white. Phil, Gloria, Alex and Manny return home. Upon seeing Claire, Phil immediately exclaims, “There’s my beautiful wife!” He continues, “I know you’re mad and that a foam finger can’t make up for everything…,” giving her the novelty item. Claire cuts him off, telling him to just get changed and they can talk later. With Haley helping Luke to lay down on the couch in the background (this was such a small sight gag, out of focus, in the back, but I laughed hysterically), Jay tells Phil that Gloria said they had a good time. “Not really. God, I love your daughter,” Phil nervously replies. He tries to escape upstairs, but trips over and breaks a step. “I’ll come by and kiss that step. Uh…fix that step,” Phil bumbles. Cameron enters, having just changed clothes at home. He says to Mitchell that, somehow, all of the items smashed were things Cameron’s mother gave them. “Yes, while fighting the bird, I took time to destroy the kitschiest objects,” Mitchell sarcastically responds. This never would have happened if Mitchell had just gone to the wedding, Cameron notes. The two bicker, with Cameron stating that being scared of birds and small talk, Mitchell is lucky the pigeon didn’t want to chit-chat about the weather.

Phil comes back downstairs in his white shirt and tight white pants. “You look like the guy from Dance Fever,” Claire worries. “Oh, thank you!” Phil replies, oblivious to the insult. Haley tells her mom that they can’t take the picture becuase she has a pimple that’s getting worse. “Oh, I’m sorry honey. Can you stand?” Claire asks. “Yes,” Haley responds. “Good, then you’re taking the picture,” Claire orders. “It’s all anybody’s going to see!” Haley whines, as Gloria comes downstairs in a very tight, very cleavage-revealing dress. “I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Claire remarks upon seeing Gloria. As Gloria passes by, Claire whispers to Phil, “Did you get a look at her dress?!?” “Why would I do that? I love you!” Phil replies. As they make their way outside, Jay warns them that he just stained the patio furniture. “Is there anything else?” Claire, now exasperated, asks, “Are your neighbors having a paintball fight?”

When the family gets outside, Claire points them to the grasssy backyard, but the sprinklers turn on. Jay asks Gloria how to turn them off. “Of course youa sk me because I’m Latina and know everything about gardening and sprinklers!” she exclaims. “You were here when they installed them,” Jay says. “Oh yeah,” Gloria replies, “The switch is across the yard.” No one can go across because they will all ruin their white clothes. Well, not everyone. Phil notices that they haven’t “unwrapped” Luke yet. Phil places a flower basket on his son’s head, and tells Luke that, Hurt Locker-style, Luke needs to cross the yard and turn off the sprinklers. “Put the ‘he’ in ‘hero,’ son,” Phil encourages. As Luke crosses the yard, Cameron jokes, “Hurt Locker? More like Squirt Locker.” When no one laughs, he comments in a huff, “Really? Not funny? I actually pity you guys.”

With the water now off, Claire organizes everyone for the picture. Phil tries to apologize for the kiss, but Claire says they’ll talk about what he did later. “I didn’t do anything. She kissed me!” Phil explains. “What?!?” Claire asks. “It was the Kiss Cam,” Phil replies. “Why did you kiss, Cam?” Jay asks Gloria about Cameron. “Phil told me I had to,” she tells Jay. “Was it before or after I called you?” Claire asks her husband. “You saw that too?!” Phil asks. With the photographer having to run to a bar mitzvah, Claire orders that they just take the picture. As the photographer clicks the camera, Cameron admits to Mitchell that he ismad at him. Mitchell freaks out and the two start bickering again. Claire asks if they can just have their hissy fit later. Maybe they shouldn’t take the picture today, Mitchell remarks to his sister; the sentiment is seconded by Haley. Cameron tells Claire that you just can’t tell Mitchell to do something he doesn’t want to do. “Oh, shut up, Cam,” Mitchell fires back. Cameron responds with bird noises that freak Mitchell out again. Claire says she is going to get this picture taken, and asks if Mitchell if they can act lie a normal family for a tenth of a second. “Make me!” Mitchell yells at his sister. Claire tries as end up in a slap fight.

Jay puts and end to the fighting, saying they are both uptight about everything. He tells Mitchell that small talk was how he met Gloria, and the Claire would be happier if she didn’t always try to make everything perfect. Why are they all wearing white? They look like a cricket team. “You think I like acting like this?” Claire asks. “If you have a solution, just give it to me right now.” With that, Jay picks up a heap of mud and slams it right into Claire’s chest, all over her white shirt. “This is for ‘kitschy,'” Cameron says as he slams Mitchell with mud. “Mud fight!!” Luke exclaims as the family does just that. The photographer interrupts them, “Are we doing this?” “No,” Claire replies, seeing that Gloria is still perfectly white. Claire gabs mud and smears Gloria’s dress, “Now we are.”

Jay, in his house, says that in 1968, he was sweeping hair, dreaming of having a perfect wife, with perfect children. He didn’t get that; he got this sorry bunch instead. But he’s thankful for that every day…well, most days. The camera pulls back to reveal he was talking to Luke. “I think I’m going to go with the Elvis stuff,” Luke says. “Yeah, I would,” Jay replies.

In the episode tag, Claire is advising Phil as he hangs the family portrait. To the right, now a “scoche” to the left. Not that it matters anyway because they are just going to have to take it down so Claire can paint the wall. Hearing this, Phil gives the camera a sideways glance. “Kill me now,” Phil mutters. “What did you say?” Claire asks. “I…don’t know how…I got so lucky!” he replies, putting his arm around her as they look at the photo. “I love that picture,” Claire says, but then looks closer at the portrait. “Is that a chip on the frame?” Phil immediately grabs Claire in a bear hug and turns her away from the portrait. “No! No! No! Honey!” Phil exclaims as Claire tries to find the flaws.

Commentary

As I first watched “Family Portrait,” I thought that “Hawaii” may have been a better episode on which to end the season, as I felt “Hawaii” was an amazing episode. I had one major problem with “Family Portrait” (more on that in a second), but as I rewatched the episode when my wife came home from work, I realized that while it was not a perfect episode (like I thought “Hawaii” was), it was a nice bookend to the season because of what Jay said at the end. This “family” isn’t perfect (what family, or show, is?), but I’m thankful every week that I get to spend time with them.

“Family Portrait” just went out and out funny, without really trying to develop the characters any more. I am fine with this, because at this point in the season, we’ve seen so much growth, and have learned so much about the characters, that it is sufficient to take a break from all that, and just be reminded how freaking funny the show is so we’ll come back in the fall. Again, there was a great diversity fo comedy from the slapstick (mud fight), to the situational (the kids’ text messages), to the witty (the Latina/language/gardener jokes). The only part that really fell flat for me, was Mitchell and the pigeon. Yes, I know there needed to be something for Mitchell and Cameron to fight over, but Jesse Ferguson’s performance was so over the top, that I had to imagine he was directed that way, because he is usually such a fine actor. I’m not the first to say it (Alan Sepinwall of HitFix.com has mentioned it, for example), but the creators of Modern Family have been running the risk of Mitchell and Cameron become too much like caricatures. I recognize that they are the funny gay couple, and I think it is wonderfulthat two gay dads are being portrayed positively on network TV, but with every over the top, shrieking hissy fit they have, the pair move closer and closer to being stereotypical “queens.” I do not want to see this because 1) I don’t think that is the creators’ intention; and 2) the actors are too good for that. I hope that come the fall, the characters will be toned down a little and we can see that they are just like everyone else. The show has managed to tone down Phil’s bumble-headedness without losing the funny, so there’s no reason they couldn’t do it with Mitchell and Cameron, too. I say all of this, though, still absolutely loving the episode, and, of course, loving the series. It will be a long summer with out the Dunphy, Pritchett, and Pritchett-Tucker clans.

So, what did you think of “Family Portrait?” Was it a good summer send-off for the series? How do you feel Cameron and Mitchell have been written and played recently? Anything else you’d like to see the creators change or modify for next season? Please leave your questions and comments below, and be sure to check out TVOvermind all summer long for the latest TV news. If there are any Modern Family developments over the summer, I’ll have them for you. Until then, I’m off to have chocolate and fruit, but not together.

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