'Modern Family' Season 2, Episode 22 Recap
by Joel Keller, posted May 5th 2011 1:00AM
['Modern Family' - 'Mother's Day']
Well, the Dunphy kids tried their hardest, didn't they? Alex, Haley and Luke all tried to outwit their mother in the emotional manipulation department, but Claire's got too many years and too much guilting experience to lose the war with them.
That was the best part of what was one of those episodes that was good but could have been better. Usually when the family gets together like this it's comic gold, but for some reason this week didn't reach those usual heights. But it's one of those things that's hard to put a finger on; it could be that most of the plots were a series of funny events in search of an ending, but it was mostly because they simply weren't as funny as they could be.
Mother's Day is always a prickly topic on sitcoms because it usually involves stories of guilt and overworked mothers and more guilt and kids who feel the day is a burden on them and even more guilt. It's funnier when the mother's not the martyr and instead is turning the tables on her kids.
But you generally never see the battle of wills that Claire engaged in with her kids. They were complaining throughout the hike they were taking with Gloria and Manny -- well, Luke wasn't complaining, he was looking out for coyotes -- so Claire and Gloria just leave them there to contemplate how mean they were to their mothers.
At this point, you knew that Luke, the one who can be manipulated the most, wanted to cave. But Alex and Haley have the steely resolve to wait Claire out, which is where the story took off. It's not their fault that they're complaining, it was their mom's fault for purposely making them miserable on Mother's Day. The best part was when, when they got to Jay's place for dinner, Claire tried to guilt "baby Luke" into asking for forgiveness, but his sisters intimidated him out of it with the classic line, "We're your mommy now."
The second half of the story wasn't quite as successful. Claire talks Gloria into letting out her complaints about Manny, something she never does. Claire's entry into the conversation was gold, though: "Sometimes I just want to punch my kids." I liked how she'd envision lining them up and felling them all with one punch, while at the same time regretting that she couldn't throw three punches.
When Gloria finally got going, the complaints are what you'd expect, at least when your son is Manny Delgado: he follows her around, his poetry is mediocre, he doesn't go out and throw a ball around like a normal kid. It was funny when Manny overheard her, but her way to resolve it is to basically blame Claire. "El diablo!" she says to Claire after Manny discovers them. That resolution was unsatisfying, because now Manny knows that Claire wants to hit her kids. That's nothing to tell a 12-year old, even one like Manny.
It's been rare to see Phil and Jay together alone this season, which is a shame, because that dynamic of overly-emotional manchild vs. tough as nails man's man has always been funny. This week was no exception, as Phil catches Jay in a moment of teary reflection about his mother. It's understandable: it's Mother's Day, he's making his mother's sauce, memories must be flooding in already. Then Phil comes across that adorable "Recipe for a Perfect Mom" little 9-year old Jay wrote, and you can understand why he broke down.
What's interesting about this story, though, is that Phil was relatively restrained about the whole thing. Yes, he tried to pull some emotional talk out of Jay, and did give him a weird reach-around hug, but the humor was more in Jay resisting than in Phil prodding. And, of course, as soon as Jay related a story about his mother at the dinner table, the bawling started. Have we ever seen Ed O'Neill bawl in any role... ever? This may be a first.
Cam and Mitch's story had its funny moments, like Mitch saying to the interviewer that he never classifies Mitch in a feminine way, right before we cut to examples of him calling him "the wife" and saying "she likes to shop." You also had to appreciate Mitch saying that Cam was "a little mom-er" than he was.
But my favorite part of the story was when Cam, in trying to demonstrate how much of a man he is, nails the guy on the bike with a football, and runs in his Cam-ish way towards him. Mitch calls "Hands!" and Cam immediately drops his hands to the side and runs in a more manly way. That's why Cam is such a great character: he's simultaneously tough as an ox and sensitive as a lamb. I just wish the story had more of a resolution than Mitch telling Cam that he was manly because he was such a good nurturer to Lily.
More fun stuff:
-- Of course Phil would have onion goggles. Phil to Jay: "You should get a pair." Jay to Phil: "I was going to say the same thing to you."
-- In trying to demonstrate how manly he is, Cam lists that he doesn't like pink. When Mitch corrects him by saying "you love pink," Cam retorts with, "No, pink loves me."
-- During the hike, Luke says that they should eat what they kill, which leads to one of Manny's most clever lines: "Then I guess we'll be eating the mood."
-- Gotta love how Phil tried to get a 'Big Chill' vibe going in the kitchen, which Jay put a stop to immediately with a "we're not going to be doing that."
-- Another Gloria language misunderstanding, which seems to get mixed reactions from the crowd. If someone can give me the exact line, I'd appreciate it, but she seemed to mix up "bitch" and "beach" a couple of times. Yet, she has no problems saying the word "persnickety."
'Modern Family' airs Wednesdays at 9PM ET on ABC.
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