Oh, boy, another "main characters take a vacation episode"! And Las Vegas - that's not formulaic in theÂ least.Â No way will, say, Dylan wake up married to Cam by accident or anything. And absolutely no one will get blackout drunk. Okay, enough with the griping - maybe this episode will work.
We actually get an appearance by jetBlue, which means the product placement in this episode will be rampant, I'm sure. At the hotel, Gloria and Jay delight in their rich-people view of the world while I long for the early seasons ofÂ Roseanne, where sitcom characters were occasionally human. Meanwhile, Cam and Mitch run into some friends, Langham (?) and Tim, who are also getting married in the sping, and are in Vegas for a bachelor party. Gee. I wonder if they'll lose the groom(s). Also, Langham - Fred Armisen, by the way - seems to be Mitchell's bitter ex. Nonetheless, the couple invite Cam and Mitch to "come play", and I wonder if this show's about to get a hell of a lot more interesting. And to be honest, they seem pretty damn happy to get away from all the relatives, no matter how much they deny it. Opening credits.
No sooner do Phil and Claire arrive in their room than Claire takes off shopping, leaving him all alone. He thinks it's because he neglected her to audition for a magic troupe. She confesses it was just to have some alone time. See, like Marge Simpsons, Claire has aÂ littleÂ problem with gambling, which lost her the money saved for their 25th-anniversary trip several years back. She's determined to win it back without Phil knowing. Up in their room, Phil is greeted by the butler, Leslie Higgins (a magnificent Stephen Merchant). Okay, if you can have a hotel room with a butler, surely you can take an anniversary trip. This show makes no sense sometimes. He promptly stumbles across Phil's handcuffs and restraints, and gets an entirely wrong impression.
Cam and Mitch chill at the spa for a while, but are suddenly called out of their treatment by an officious young staffer, bound for separate massages. Soon enough, Cam winds up at the Big Gay Bachelor Party, complete with tickets to a Britney concert. No mention of where Mitch is, so I'm forced to assume that he's at the party too and a hilarious mixup will soon follow.
Phil goes to his audition, which is still sketchy and vaguely sexual. "Rasputin's Dalmatian drowned in the Volga" is the password, and the guy on the other side soundsÂ exactlyÂ like Danny Pudi. I am very sad to find that good old Abed is not, in fact, part of the magicians' circle. Nonetheless, we are promised Phil's charmingly awkward interrogation/audition, so that's something to look forward to.
Gloria and Jay head out on the town, but a crisis occurs when Gloria notices a female version of Jay's dog butler statue, Barkley, in the hotel lobby. She is determined that "Rebarka" will never enter their home, and therefore must carefully steer Jay away. Hilarious hijinks, people. Lots of "look over there" jokes ensue. Meanwhile, Jay is dismayed when he finds out that his special-snowflake membership card won't get him to the top floor of Snobby Hotel. Disappointed that he isn't elite enough, he complains as only a grouchy Ed O'Neill character can.
While Claire presumably gambles away her children's futures, Gloria begs her to charge Rebarka to her room, so that Jay will never know it exists. If this episode doesn't have a scene where Gloria goes ballistic on the statue,Â Office Space-style, I will be highly disappointed. However, Claire refuses, since she just won this round and has decided that Gloria is her good luck charm. Gloria is trapped.
Mitch and Cam come out of their separate massages, and it's quite clear they're both totally lying about them. They decide to go to the sauna - separately, again - which of course means they're going nowhere near said sauna. Also, Cam has glitter on his face.
We see Phil's trick, "The Miracle of Metamorphosis", which may be the only time we hear a Kafka reference on this show. However, he stutters through it, and before he's even tied up he realizes he has to call Claire (like she'd notice in her current condition). It's pretty clear that interrupting his trick will cost him the membership, but good husband that he is, he calls her anyway. She, of course, does not pick up, as she is violently throwing dice around. There's some weird pseudo-lesbian stuff between Claire and Gloria. Not sure whether I would find that sexy or creepy. Probably both?
Jay corners Gloria and tells her all about Special Snowflake Membership Plus or whatever it's called while she steers him away from the statue. She distracts him by getting him all riled up over the card situation, blaming it on a colleague who hooked him up with the Special Snowflake Card for Losers. While he goes to argue with someone important, she secretly buys Rebarka. I have to say, with my bank account at risk of being frozen at any second and the ruble tumbling into oblivion, I'mÂ reallyÂ not sympathetic to these douchebags. With the current economic woes in the US and elsewhere, how on earth did they think this storyline would play well?
Claire waits for Phil in the bar, but she's getting antsy. When Mitch arrives looking for Cam, she immediately tries to drag him back to the casino. Though he protests, he is soon enrolled in the Claire Dunphy School of Gambling. Little brothers remain little brothers for life, I guess. Soon enough he's sucked in - and Claire gets banished for being bad luck.
While he's spending the wedding fund, Langham shows up and they have a heart-to-heart about their failed relationship. Langham appears to be hitting on him. I have to say, for a show that claims to be "modern", they are really the most stereotypical and outdated when it comes to gay characters.Â Queer as FolkÂ was more nuanced and that was fourteen years ago! Anyway, Mitch wins big. He brags about it to Leslie the butler, who is as divine as always. To celebrate, he orders the Technobath, which Leslie is only too happy to draw up. As he goes to make the necessary preparations, he runs into Phil, who is handcuffed and spouting more accidental double entendres than Tobias Funke. He orders a bath, but unlike Mitchell, he goes for the "Michael Buble" theme. I have uncomfortable Hamm and Bubbly flashbacks.
Jay is about to meet with his frenemy who got him the not-so-special-snowflake membership, so he and Gloria go up to get the room ready. The problem is, someone mistakenly delivered Rebarka to their room. She distracts Jay, drags the statue into the adjoining room, and runs into Phil, drawing a fancy bath to seduce Claire. While Jay bullies Leslie all over the place, Mitchell prepares his room for sexytimes (to which the butler makes increasingly indiscreet remarks). Merchant is absolutely killing it in this role, I must admit. "Same price either way", indeed.
Langham walks into the hallway, and asks Leslie where he can find Mitchell. Leslie mistakes him for Mitchell's partner, and invites him in, even mentioning the bath. He then runs into Rebarka, which he mistakes forÂ Phil'sÂ partner, and nonetheless does everything he can to facilitate this unorthodox relationship. In the hallway, Mitchell finds Cam, and excitedly tells him how they're going to shake things up and stop being uptight. He throws open the door to reveal glitter, champagne, porno music... and Langham, happily waiting in the bath. There's a general cavalcade of horrified reactions (though Langham is overal cool with a three-way). Accusations are thrown about. Claire walks in at an inopportune moment and draws all the wrong conclusions. To make matters worse, Langham's fiance, Tim, is hammering on the door. Langham runs into the next room, where Jay mistakes him for the guy who can get him the special membership. Gloria knows who he is, though, and unmasks him, so he flees again.
Just as Phil explains that the dog statue isÂ notÂ his partner, Langham bursts in - and is promptly mistaken by Leslie for "Clare". Phil lets him out into the hallway just as Gloria walks in wearing only a towel. She gets caught in the door between the adjoining rooms, however, and yells for help. Phil meets his magician friend Ducky (Patton Oswalt) out in the hallway. He offers to give Phil another chance, so Phil promises that he'll "like what he sees" and takes him into the room. However, Ducky is distracted by Rebarka. If this sounds complicated, well, it is.
Phil ties himself up in a burlap sack and handcuffs, with Ducky's help. The trick is revealed to be Phil getting into a tuxedo while covered. He gets an "ehh" in response. However, Gloria appears in a French maid's uniform, cribbed from some closet somewhere. Ducky mistakes it for the real trick - switching Rebarka out for Gloria - and accepts Phil into his club. Jay greets the real Bert, a stuffy old businessman just like him, and tells him he's ordered a "Cuban". Naturally, he just happens to open the door on Gloria, still in the maid's uniform...
Claire decides to indulge in some couples' counselling with Cam and Mitch, and tells them she's ordered some guilty pleasure to help them get over it. She opens the door to reveal...nothing. Over in Jay and Gloria's room, a bunch of misdirected Scottish-themed strippers gaily dance around. However, Bert enjoys the audacity and immediately grants Jay special snowflake membership. "Vegas," Jay mutters.
Tag scene - Ducky, revealed to be employed as a butler at the special snowflake level, shaves Jay while they engage in uncomfortable talk. Jay finds out that there's yet another membership level. A new mission begins.
Okay, first of all - it was a gutsy move to ditch all the kids and throw everyone into Sin City for some grown-up fun. For the most part, it paid off. At first, it seemed like just another iffy episode. Claire addicted to gambling was pretty funny. Jay and Gloria's story was inane and insufferable and all those other things, and Cam and Mitch's was rather thin, though it led up to the epic conclusion, so all is forgiven. In fact, the entire final third was a barrel of laughs, in a different style from the show's usual routine and yet drawing on classic comedic setup. They took a risk and it worked. I know I spend much of this review dissing some of the more formulaic conventions, but hey, they're used repeatedly for a reason. Hurray for hilarious mixups!