'Modern Family' Season 2, Episode 18 Recap
by Joel Keller, posted Mar 24th 2011 12:30AM
['Modern Family' - 'Boys' Night']
You've got to love a show that takes a big star and integrates that person into its rotating family of guest players. 'Glee' has done that with Gwyneth Paltrow, and it seems that 'Modern Family' has done that with Nathan Lane.
How else can you explain his appearance as Pepper this week, appearing without fanfare and without any of the plot revolving around him (at least until the end... more on that later)? We knew that Lane was coming back, but what we didn't know was going to happen was that we would see him as just one of Mitch's and Cam's buddies, out for a night of absinthe-laden fruity drinks and randy conversation?
Anyway, tonight's episode was solid, mainly because we saw some characters out of their comfort zones, but also because an episode with both Nathan Lane and Philip Baker Hall in it is bound to be pretty good.
You folks remember Philip Baker Hall, right? He's one of the great "that guys" in Hollywood, spotted over the decades in one memorable role after another but whose name never immediately springs to mind. Jimmy Gator in 'Magnolia' was his most memorable role, but anyone who saw 'The Loop' or list Bookman the library cop as one of their favorite 'Seinfeld' guest characters (like I do) knows how funny he can be, uttering funny lines in a super-serious way.
Here, he's more grouchy than funny, but it works. Walt Kleezak is your typical grouchy old TV neighbor everyone is afraid of but no one takes the time to get to know. Heck, I'd be grouchy too if I spent my twilight years hooked to an oxygen tank.
Luke, bless his dopey heart, wants to get to know him. I will say that a little bit of Luke goes a long way; he's usually good for a big laugh or two per episode like "I'm still growing into my tongue," and that's all we're really looking for. I'm not sure how I feel about hearing Nolan Gold give long speeches bout his parents never liking his friends or telling Walt that "some people think I'm adorable!"
As usual, Phil was priceless in this plot: not only did we find out about his joy of violent cowboy movies and competitive cheerleading flicks, but we now know that when he's afraid of seemingly dead old people he says "there's only one way to find out" right before shoving Claire in front of him.
OK, over to the absinthe klatch Cam and Mitch were in. Not only was Pepper back, but so was Longines, the man who got chased by Phil around the department store earlier this season. The key to that story, though, wasn't the fact that Cam and Mitch could be themselves around their gay friends, though that was pretty funny. It was how comfortable Jay was with those friends that was the shocking part. Maybe it was the booze, but it seemed like he was tossing around the zingers as much as anyone else at that table.
How Jay got to that table was a bit of a stretch -- he encouraged Manny to try new things but balked when 'The Four Seasons' Gloria took him to watch was Vivaldi and not Frankie Valli -- but it was worth the journey, mainly because of how happy Mitch was to see his dad fitting in so well.
Of course, the next day, Jay wasn't so accepting, especially after Pepper called about their "date" to Palm Springs. This is where Gloria did a great job, promising to cover for Jay then turning her splitting headache into an "ice cream headache." The sight of a hungover and pained Jay in the car with Pepper and his pooch was extremely funny.
More fun stuff
-- Not sure where Alex's apocalyptic fears came from, since she seems to be such a rational person. It was so completely random, but in a good way.
-- We all knew that Haley had Dylan over while watching Lily. The funniest part of that plot was Dylan talking about how he doesn't always wear shoes. What a lovable dope that kid is. Second best part: Haley saying about his uncles: "They're gay. They know what shoes they have."
-- Manny is the only 12-year-old who likes soft-boiled eggs. It's consistent with his old Manny personality. When Jay told him the story about him liking crab cakes after hating them, Manny's response was priceless: "Did you sell the movie rights to that story?"
'Modern Family' airs Wednesdays at 9PM ET on ABC.
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Watch the full episode here: