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Worldly Distractions: Modern Family 5.19 - A Hard Jay's Night




After last week's amusing Vegas adventure, it'll be nice to see the group more settled on home territory. Well, let's hope so anyway - I'm still recovering from the HIMYM finale. Here we go.

Cam and Mitch are busy with wedding plans and swamped with wedding gifts. One gift in particular is downright touching - Cam's dad carved them a custom wedding cake topper, complete with foot-poppin' Mitch. His boyfriend hates it, but they've both used up their allotted "wedding vetos", so it's moot. Opening credits.

Phil is trying to sell Gloria's pre-Jay apartment - wait, she's still holding on to it after five years? - located in sketchy neighborhood just starting to undergo gentrification. Gloria refuses an initial buyer, who seems to be a flipper. While they wait for the next one, she and Jay go for a drink at the hair salon where she used to work. She is welcomed warmly. Her former colleagues mistake Phil first for Jay, then for Gloria's lover, but Gloria takes it in stride (though Phil's a tad squirmy). They're also short of hairdressers, so Gloria is called in as a pinch stylist. However, she has a new nail job and doesn't want to wreck it, which means Phil needs to do her shampooing. He cheerfully agrees.

Claire is going somewhere interesting with the kids, but ruins it by blabbering about work problems the whole way. The event turns out to be Scrabble night at Jay's. Thrilling. It soon emerges that Claire's feeling unappreciated by her dad/boss, which has years of resentment as backup.

Over at the Tucker-Pritchetts', a tragedy occurs when Lily takes the cake topper into the bath, mistaking it for a toy. Mitchell fakes some disappointment. However, the topper has miraculously survived. He vows to live to fight another day. Meanwhile, Manny and Luke plan to sneak out of the house to go to a pool party at some cute girl's place. Even though they're not invited.

Claire and Jay snipe at each other over culinary matters. Claire mentions an improvement at work, seeking praise, but gets crickets. Haley and Alex come to her rescue, remarking on Claire's great skills. Jay praises the dog instead, calling her his "best girl". Luke and Manny try to put their plan into action, but Manny makes them turn back at the last minute.

Lily, Cam and Mitchell show up, where Cam proudly shows off the cake topper. Everyone exclaims over it, though Jay privately tells Mitchell to stay strong. Going a step further, he offers to make it "disappear", saying he "has a friend". It's Stella, right?

The hairdressing is running at full speed, and Phil is proving to be a great success. In fact, they're so caught up that Gloria doesn't want to see the apartment buyer. At Jay's, the Scrabble game is going well, but Luke appears to have fled the coop. Manny goes for a reconnaissance mission. Cam is missing the cake topper. Sure enough, Stella has made off with it, burying it somewhere in the yard. Jay assures Cam that the dog is very vicious and searching for the topper would not be a good idea. Manny tries to intercept Luke, but at the moment the cute girl flings her front door open - and recognizes Manny instead of Luke. This leads to a long argument about how Manny's quirks are starting to look more appealing, while Luke is being left behind. Manny gives Luke some advice on being more attractive, but it's a rather Sisyphean endeavor, I'm afraid.

More bickering about the food, courtesy of Jay and Claire. They wind up struggling over a ladle, and argue about "new ways" and thanking people. Just when food starts to be thrown, Haley and Alex step in to stop WWIII from happening. While they're defusing the situation, Mitchell and Cameron dig up the whole yard. Eventually they find the topper, and starry-eyed Cam tells Mitch about how he plans to have hundreds of replicas made, to be distributed to wedding guests. Mitchell snaps. After he rants about how much he hates it, Cam reveals that he knew all along. Mitchell complains that the pose threatens his masculinity, while Cam insists that it simply represents their love, and his dad's sincere acceptance of their relationship. They agree not to have it at the wedding - and to give each other one more veto each. Naturally, Cam picks the spotlight-seeking wedding singer. We then see him sending a picture to his dad - which is exactly like the wedding topper pose.

At the hair salon, Gloria and Phil are exhausted and decide to reschedule the clients. Before they go to Jay's, however, Gloria has to look her best. Phil settles her into the chair and gets to work. He really did pick the wrong profession. Her experience with her coworkers has made her wonder if she's forgotten who she once was. Phil tells her that she's one of the coolest people he knows. She admits she doesn't want to sell the apartment yet, and Phil tells her that when she's ready, he'll be there.

Everyone finally shows up at Jay's, where Gloria and Phil get caught up in the Battle of the Kitchen. Cam and Mitch bring in all the stuff they unearthed in the yard, which corresponds suspiciously well with all the stuff various family members have hated for years. Gloria's karaoke microphone, Luke's hideous Father's Day gift, and "the other walkie talkie" all return to light. Everyone protests, but Claire notices that Jay has buried a gift from his staff commemorating forty years at the company. Suddenly she realizes what's wrong - he is feeling old, and sees her as a usurper. She decides to put her complaints aside and make Jay the star. To begin with, she asks him a few questions about work. He's happy to answer, but they get interrupted when Phil buzzes in on the walkie talkie...

Tag scene: Claire gets unfriended by her kids. Again. Phil decides to find out all the kids' secrets - through the power of hairdressing. However, Haley knows what he's up to, and soon enough, Phil is the one crying while getting his hair washed.

Though this episode was relatively low on laughs, I felt it addressed some really interesting issues concerning identity. Gloria has a crisis over the person she was before Jay, while Luke considers his sudden role reversal with Manny. Jay worries about age and Cam about acceptance by his family - and even Mitch wonders about his image through that cake topper. It provided many opportunities for bonding between the characters, sometimes in odd combinations, which made a nice change. All in all, it was low-key and focused entirely on the characters, something which Modern Family does well and has been neglecting lately.


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