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Worldly Distractions: Modern Family 5.11 - And One to Grow On


crazyforkate

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Happy 2014, FJers! I am back from the Holy Land and ready to get caught up with the Land of Television. This weekend will be spent recapping everything that happened in the past week. This spring's lineup: Call The Midwife, The Simpsons, Girls, Mad Men, Modern Family, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, and Community. Have I gone completely batshit? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, here is something nice and safe - The Family Who Pretends to Be Modern.

Luke thinks he's off to "autopsy camp" (which admittedly does sound pretty cool), but Phil confesses that it's a ruse - he's actually going to ballroom dancing classes, in the proud tradition of Dunphy men everywhere. Still can't get over how grown-up Nolan Gould is looking. Alex wants to practice her driving - oh, God, not another repeat of the Haley-learns-to-drive storyline - but Claire is reluctant, mostly because Alex is so cautious that the lessons are dull as crap. Haley volunteers, and once Alex is out of the room, Claire pays her quite handsomely for it. Opening credits.

The autopsy camp is revealed as fake, and Luke is outraged, even insulting Phil's love of Footloose. This is dangerous territory, but Phil is determined, saying that no son of his will go to high school without learning a box step. Okay, I have to love Phil - how many dads would go to that kind of effort besides Hal from Malcolm in the Middle, to whom Phil is an obvious Expy?

It's Joe's first birthday. If you'll recall from last season, Manny and Joe actually share the day, so Gloria is desperate to make sure that they have completely separate celebrations, no matter how much Jay gripes about the cost of two sets of streamers. Elijah from Girls Andy the manny is on hand and making wholesome suggestions, as usual. How, how could you have resisted the urge to cross this over with Girls? I would have had way more fun recapping this if Andy kept sneaking out to do cocaine with Lena Dunham.

Meanwhile, Manny's overjoyed because a girl left her coat at his party the night before, which is clearly a signal that she is in love with him and receptive to overwrought love poetry. Jay, meanwhile, thinks the girl is way out of Manny's league, and his stepson is being set up to get hurt. Come on, old man, can't you have a little faith in the kid every once in a while? This has been going on since the pilot.

Cam and Mitch are investigating a picturesque wedding venue. Cam is in love with the setting and is prepared to fork over their life savings, while Mitchell almost has a heart attack at the price list. They decide to go with it, but try to bargain it first. This results in a hilarious "poker voice" on Cam's part. The man cannot play calm. Fortunately, he doesn't have to for long, because the salesperson has much better negotiation techniques. Seriously, this guy could bring about world peace in an hour. However, all the money in the world won't get them their venue, because a girl just booked it for her Sweet Sixteen. The kicker? She's one of Cam's students. Cam's face begins to take on a Machiavellian look, and Mitchell trembles.

Luke hated his dance class, and remonstrates with his father for trying to force him to like the same things. Phil is heartbroken and reluctantly drives away from the studio, but as they're leaving the parking lot, they get pulled over by the cops. Nothing major, just a broken taillight. While the cop is sorting things out, Phil and Luke continue to argue about how neither of them have anything in common anymore. The cop returns - only to arrest Phil for 18 unpaid traffic tickets. While Luke taunts him, he is put in the back of a police car, and they're taken to the station.

Once there, Phil is faced with a dilemma - the ticket debt is $1600, and they don't take credit cards. (Which I find really implausible, but okay.) Since it's Sunday, there's no way to take out a large sum of money. Phil instructs Claire to use the emergency cash they've got squirreled away, presumably left over from Y2K. However, Claire's forgotten the hiding place. Phil has a series of complicated passwords to reveal the hiding place, but the cops take him away before he can tell her. Luke gleefully snaps a picture of his jailbird dad.

Cam has tracked down the two Sweet Sixteen girls, Tracy and Sophie at their mall retail job. They were BFFs who planned a joint party, but they broke it off after fighting over a boy. This led Tracy to take Cam and Mitchell's venue. If Cam and Mitch are experienced at anything, it's reconciling friends who have boy trouble, so the plan is on. They each talk to one of the friends, proving that they have no idea how to talk to teenage girls.

In the car, Alex is in the midst of boring her sister to death, so Claire's irate phone call is actually a welcome distraction. Claire rages at Haley for being irresponsible, all the while frantically searching for the money. Alex smugly lectures her on driving regulations, leaving Haley to slip about being paid to help her drive. Whoops.

While Andy is playing with Joe, the baby calls him "dada". Jay overhears this and tries to hide his hurt, not very well. Gloria counsels Manny on his new would-be girlfriend, gently suggesting that he back off a bit. No way! Nothing will get in the way of Manny and his creepy romantic gestures! Gloria is won over by his perceived sweetness and offers no more advice.

Claire runs through the house screaming nonsensical rhymes, finally finding the money...under a couch cushion.

Jay sneaks in and tries to get Joe to say "dada". Yeah, you fooled no one with the poker-faced act, did you? He gets a little too enthusiastic. Soon, Joe's in tears, and he has to shout for Andy.

Cam and Mitch have gotten nowhere with the girls. They discuss the situation, and soon get involved in the teenaged drama themselves, each taking a side. It's actually kind of adorable. And truly, Jesse Tyler Ferguson should be reincarnated as a sixteen-year-old girl. They get a call - the girls have reconciled, which is great! But they're still using Cam and Mitch's venue, which sucks. Cameron complains that this is all because of Mitchell's characteristic indecisiveness, citing several missed opportunities in their past. The arguing continues.

Gloria and Jay trade banter about the birthday while Andy is creepy. Manny's upcoming declaration of love is mentioned, and you can guess what everyone's opinion is. Phil shows up fresh from the hoosegow, and the entire family fusses over him. Claire is still mad at him over the dumb money-hiding system, however, and Luke has all but disowned him. Family!

The Tucker-Pritchetts are faring no better, as they continue to have the same argument they have every week, about how Mitchell is all stodgy while Cam is a frivolous free spirit and oh my god will you give it a rest. Haley shows up and begs her dad not to get mad, but he's long past that. Alex is mad about Claire's lie, Luke's mad about Phil's lie, and Haley is pretty much in deep shit. Nonetheless, there are three kids and two parents, so the elder Dunphys get ganged up on. However, Haley soon senses an opportunity and crosses over to Team Parent. She tells Alex that Claire is not bored, just sad about seeing her little girl grow up, and mom and daughter hug it out. As for Luke, Haley spins the story of how Phil's nerdiness in college kept him from ever dating Claire - until he won her over in a single dancer. Father and son hug it out, and Haley has successfully maneuvered herself out of hot water. They are called in for cake and all is well.

Manny is bragging to a friend about Amy when Jay pulls him aside. He loudly stages a "Manny's Love Life" intervention, so that he'll pick a less hot girl who's into him rather than making a fool of himself over the head cheerleader. Jay asks him why he won't give it a shot - to which Manny replies that she's six years old and a relative. Yes, Lily is in love with her teenaged step-uncle. Might as well go for the head cheerleader after all. They talk about love at first sight and its dubious existence, which leads Cam to complain about Mitchell's lack of spontaneity and Phil to glorify the creepy romantic gesture. It's too bad Phil's not gay, those two would actually make a hilarious couple. I'd even settle for an episode in which they hang out a lot. DO THIS, WRITERS. One person in each marriage admits that it took them a while to like the other - Gloria for one month, Cam for two, and Claire for six months (though by the time she finally made her mind up she was already living with him and pregnant with Haley). Soon they're all arguing again. Smooth.

Mitch saves the moment by pointing out that if it took Cam two months to make up his mind, the real anniversary is two months later, meaning they can still book the wedding at their chosen venue to correspond with their anniversary. While they're phoning the place, Joe finally says "Jay", which thrills his dad to no end. The doorbell rings. Everyone encourages Manny to go for it. Lily continues to creep after him, which does not impress her dads. We end on Manny opening the door...

Tag scene: Phil and Claire stand outside of Luke's room and discuss what he might be doing in there, and we all know exactly what they're implying, which means it will turn out to be something different. And lo and behold, he is not committing self-abuse, but practicing his dance steps. Phil assures him it's all perfectly natural.

Well, it all felt like a retread, but I suppose they're just easing back into the new year. Nothing terribly special, and indeed the characters felt like whinier versions of themselves. I'd call it passable. Let's hope for a shakeup in the last half of the season - this show could use it.

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