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Worldly Distractions: Modern Family 6.2 - Do Not Push


crazyforkate

247 views

blog-clairealex.jpgclairealex

I like to think that the title originally ended with "Your Luck, Writers, The Ratings Can Always Fall". Or "...the Remote Button, Because You'll Really Regret This". Or "...Any Further Attempts at Plausibility, Or Nuanced Female Characters". Anyway - on with the episode.

Cam and Mitch are taking a family photo, since Lily's jealous that she's not in the big one over the fireplace. However, since Cam is involved, it's more like getting ready for the Oscars. To his frustration, though Lily is a cute kid, she's not particularly photogenic - it has something to do with her Joker-like smile. Which come on, you totally knew she'd have. Opening credits.

The Dunphys are trying to get rid of the only sane person in the family, taking Alex on her first college tour. Haley is bored, Alex is snippy, and Luke is...wooden. (Seriously, Nolan Gould was funny for the first couple of seasons, but his acting skills have not aged well.) In an aside, Claire explains that she wants to steer Alex towards CalTech (please Big Bang Theory crossover, please Big Bang Theory crossover) because Alex is clearly destined for greater things far away, and so Claire wants to cling for just a few more years. Which, to be honest, just sounds like one more reason to send Alex as far as possible. Phil and Luke sign up to be experiment subjects, while Haley keeps hinting to her parents that they've invited her along so that she can be inspired to re-enroll after her brief, ill-fated college career. In fact, they've given up on her by now. Remember that, kids - one chance at academia, and you're done!

Because the show suddenly remembered that Jay and Gloria haven't had a plot yet, we get...some kind of argument about presents. So the same as last week, only with a slightly different topic. Gotcha. Moving on.

The guys debate whether or not to tell Lily that her smile is forced. Why everyone is so frightened about this, I don't know, unless they've caught on to the fact that Lily may well murder them in their beds one day. (Although since last season, I've revised her future from "psychopath" to "next Dorothy Parker".) Finally, they call her in and try to frame it as "let's see how we could do the picture differently". It doesn't work, as she naturally throws all her criticism at Cam.

Okay, I've finally cared long enough to pay attention to the anniversary present storyline, and here it is - instead of jewellery or whatever, Jay has made Gloria some kind of godawful monstrosity in pottery class. Manny is agog. Jay brings out the gift - a terrifying pink rabbit. Trust me, this is worse than Donnie Darko, and it's supposed to be cute. Aaagh, kill that thing.

Though Alex admits that CalTech is impressive, she really doesn't want to go there - because she wants to get away. Claire is torn apart like this isn't a perfectly normal thing for someone in their late teens to want. I mean, she does realize that many kids have to go away for access to places like CalTech, and do just fine, right? Phil, Haley and Luke arrive for the experiment, which consists of a waiting room with a giant red button marked "Do Not Push". Luke immediately goes for it, but Phil is not a newbie in the college-experiments scene, and cautions him against it. Meanwhile, Haley is confused by the "fuzzy mirror" which happens to be directly facing the button.

Cam and Mitch's grand plan has kind of fizzled, so they decide to confront the Smile Issue head-on. They gently explain to Lily that her smile is not ugly, just a bit stiff, because this is something you can really explain to a primary-schooler. She freaks out and runs to her room. They coo about how beautifully melodramatic she's getting, and no, I did not just make that up. I think by now Modern Family is actually sending gay causes backwards. 

Gloria gets the bunny thing and thinks it's awful, ho hum. However, due to a misinterpreted comment from Jay, she thinks that there's something special inside it, and smashes it against the table. Jay, showing quite a presence of mind here, claims that the jeweller forgot to put a mythical bracelet inside. Fighting back tears, he bravely heads to the jewellery shop to get her the gift he never wanted to give.

On the tour, Alex meets Jason, another high school senior who is just as intelligent - and competitive - as she is. He's from out East, and is actually pretty bummed about moving so far from home. However, CalTech has a better applied physics program, and you shouldn't apply to a college based on where your parents live. Oh, Jesus no, Alex, don't listen to him, he's a wimp. Send in some application materials to, like, Oxford or the University of Tokyo and get out fast. There are plenty of good reasons why location would matter in a college application, folks.

Alex immediately assumes that Claire hired Jason to say all this, but he claims he was just hoping she'd go to CalTech too, because, you know, she's cute. The presence of a boy immediately short-circuits her brain, and she stammers and stumbles just like all teh wimminz do, finally bumping into one of those campus police alarm things and setting it off.

The Battle of the Button continues over in the psych department, where Phil has somehow turned the red button into a test of character that will define Luke's future. See, the kid was recently caught skipping school, so Phil wants him to learn restraint, and therefore get into a good college/have a career/not move into the basement Haley will perpetually occupy. (Remember - if you aren't great at school, you're never going to amount to anything! Thanks, Outdated Family!) Luke correctly (and accidentally) diagnoses that Phil is not mad at Luke, but at himself for his past mistakes, which is saying a lot when you consider that Phil can raise three children in a huge house on one income. Someone is either seriously good at real estate or seriously defrauding the IRS. They decide to push the button as an "act of rebellion", but Haley stops them, believing that breaking the rules is what kept her from achieving more. Phil and Luke, having already moved on to "screw the rules", dismiss this immediately.

Manny tells Gloria the Story of the Bunny. She's immediately contrite and attempts to glue it back together, which is extremely tedious.

Haley, by now almost hysterical, goes on and on about being a failure and a loser and how her family doesn't think much of her - and to be honest, yeah, the Dunphys are horrible to both girls. Phil assures her she isn't a loser, and that she's just finding her way in life. They all decide not to push the button in solidarity with each other. However, their resolve lasts about five seconds. It then turns out that there was an actual reason not to push the button - it connects to the A/C, which is on the fritz. The mirror is just a mirror, and meanwhile some beleaguered grad student has brought them their real tests. Oops.

Jay returns from the jeweller's to find that the Bunny From Hell has been resurrected, and Gloria thinks it's a symbol of their love and bla, bla, bla. Meanwhile, she has an equally terrible gift - a bookmark made of movie tickets from their first movie trip - and I suddenly remember that they totally had an episode exactly like this with Phil and Claire. They decide materialism is bad, but they'll keep the shiny gifts anyway. Oh, and can someone do something with Joe this season, please? I know babies on television are basically props, but at least Lily was an entertaining prop.

Mitchell consults Claire on the Lily problem, which I had forgotten about by this point. She tells him that all kids go through "awkward photo" phases, AND he was really stupid to say something about it.

Alex and Jason continue to awkwardly flirt, and declare that they'll look each other up if they ever find themselves on the same coast. Claire arrives and apologizes for pushing Alex to stay. Alex decides that maybe California isn't so bad. And so she throws her dreams aside for a boy. I kind of want to puke.

Tag scene - the dads show Lily the picture they've chosen, and assure her that she has a beautiful smile. They then find out she has a http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eX45Ce_MW8. And so they set out to change everything about their daughter that isn't perfect, therefore nullifying any progress made this episode. Next time, Archaic Family, next time.

So this was an improvement on last week, definitely. The story involving Alex was just horrendous, and I kind of want to smack whoever wrote it. Also, Jay and Gloria definitely need some better stories, though Gloria hasn't been well-written since the first season, so this is a hopeless dream. Cam and Mitch were not just filler, but somewhat annoying filler, perpetuating all kinds of problematic messages. Really, the  only one that sort of rang true was the psych experiment, which gives the episode some redeeming points, even if it was mostly talking in circles. The fact is, Modern Family needs to clean up its act. Is it even possible? I guess we'll find out.

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