'Modern Family' Season 2, Episode 17 Recap
by Joel Keller, posted Mar 3rd 2011 1:30AM
['Modern Family' - 'Two Monkeys and a Panda']
Not every episode of a comedy has to be fall-down funny to be effective. One of the things that 'Modern Family' had been lacking a little bit this season was some of the heart that carried it through last year's infrequent misses.
Tonight we saw an episode that had much of the heart that we saw last year, and it made for three satisfying stories. That doesn't happen much in an episode where the three families are in their own separate universes, but when all three stories are well thought-out and not used as filler, these are the results.
And it's interesting that there was an inverse relationship between funniness and emotion. The Cam/Mitch story had the least number of laughs but the most heart, and the Dunphy story was the funniest but least emotional. The Pritchetts? Equal amounts of both.
What struck me about the Cam/Mitch story is that it wasn't about Cam's histrionics or about Mitch's uptightness. The emotions were real, dramatic, and a little raw, especially for this show. Eric Stonestreet did a very good job of conveying Cam's heartbreak at learning that Lily's name on her adoption papers was 'Lily Tucker Pritchett' and not 'Lily Tucker-Pritchett.'
But Jesse Tyler Ferguson did an equally impressive job of conveying how afraid he was that Cameron was going to freak out over being a father. The flashback scenes of Cam screaming "I can't do this" and running as they tried to get ready for the big day helped. But Mitch's move to un-hyphenate Lily's last name wasn't borne out of of anal retentiveness; this time real fear drove him to fill out the forms like that. So the hurt from Cam and the fear from Mitch both seemed real.
Of course, there was funny stuff in the mix, like Mitch's "What did Oprah do now?" after Cam applauded for Lily every time he said the word "adopted." There was also Mitch's assertion that he took on filling out the forms in the family after Cam signed them up for a 12-year gym membership. "The more you spend, the more you save," was Cam's defense.
Over to the Jay/Gloria/Manny story, which was pretty well-balanced. First, there was the couple who wanted to get to know their "neighbors" at the mausoleum. "You're not crazy at all," said Gloria to them sarcastically. Then, there's Jay's manic cackle at the prospect of torturing the "putz" that marries Gloria after he's gone from the comforts of his coffee can urn. Then there's Manny talking about dating a younger girl and "I feel like I'm in fifth grade again." There was also Gloria's lament that being in a drawer leaves you as "a bag of bones rotting for eternity" as a mourner lingers nearby.
What made the story, though, was Manny's story to Jay about how Gloria knew that Jay was the guy for her. "She fell in love with you during your first fight." He could keep up with her in that department, and isn't cowed by her hotness. It was a great sentiment and one that you could see being the exact way the two of them fell for each other.
The Dunphy story was mostly goofy, but the advice that Phil got on how to deal with Claire was pretty spot on. Listen. Sympathize. Don't tell her what she should do. It's hard to do as a man, but nothing a day of beauty won't cure, right? Phil's the perfect guy to take advantage of a spa day on his own, as he's not exactly the world's most rough-and-tumble guy. I kind of wish they carried that little joke at the end where Phil gets upset that Claire didn't notice his clear skin or buffed nails a little further. But just the sight of Phil in an avocado mask getting his hand dipped in parafin made the story work.
Of course, there was the rivalry between Alex and Haley, and Claire's extraordinary attempts to cover for Alex when she tears Haley's sweater. The lines written for Sarah Hyland and Ariel Winter in these arguments are priceless. Haley: "The sweatshirt should be grateful. The upper part of it got a workout for the first time." Alex: "The entire 11th grade has been in this sweater." Alex again, after Haley wishes Alex was never born: "Our parents wanted to make one with a brain."
More fun stuff:
-- The title of the episode refers to the book that Cameron wanted to write, with the title characters being Coco and Mico (Cam and Mitch... get it)? Why monkeys? "I can draw monkeys." Why he wants to represent their Vietnamese kid as a panda is beyond me.
-- Manny on the generational "gap" between him and his new girl: "When I talk to her about the Wiggles, it goes right over her head." Jay: "I don't know what you're talking about." Manny: "It's an expression that means she doesn't understand."
-- Of course Phil had to use the spa coupon. He didn't want all their money to go to charity, did he?
'Modern Family' airs Wednesdays at 9PM ET on ABC.
Watch the full episode here: