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Worldly Distractions: Modern Family 6.4 - Marco Polo




First up, a confession - next week's recaps might be a bit late. I'm going out of town to write the exam I'm supposed to be studying for instead of writing this, so my Sunday and Monday shows could be somewhat behind the eight ball. We'll play it by ear, and at least it's not next spring, when I'll be writing seven shows a week (sweet Jesus, what have I gotten myself into?), so you'll get your recaps in good time. Pinky swear.

As you can probably tell, I'm making excuses just to stall the next episode of "Modern" Family. What the hell. Let's take the plunge.

Phil and Claire arrive at a hotel, though it's not what you think since they have all three kids in tow. Turns out the Dunphy house is riddled with mould, so while it's being cleaned, they have to spend the night in a shitty motel with feeble WiFi and almost no space. Within minutes, chaos erupts. I'm not sure what's going on, but I'm terrified. Opening credits.

Jay is saddened when he learns that one of his old navy buddies died. Meanwhile, Gloria is concerned that Manny is spending too much time with an older boy named Sam. And yes, I'm wondering the same thing as you - it could go either way, folks. She gets Jay to spy on them, where Jay finds out that Manny is riding in a Mustang, Sam is a girl, and they're dating (Manny and Sam, not Manny and the Mustang). Gloria is crushed that she wasn't told beforehand. Manny returns home, and everyone pretends to play it cool even though they all know that the others know. Jay gets in another quip about Manny's sexuality and/or taste in women, of course.

Cam indulges in one of his pregame rituals, eating chicken-fried steak with his hands. Mitchell gets increasingly exasperated, especially at Cam's lucky hat, which hasn't been washed in decades. In fact, he's openly dismissive of all things football, which is causing more than a little tension.

Back at the hotel, Phil notices the undoubtedly amoeba-ridden pool and challenges the kids to a game of Marco Polo. While they're getting ready to leave, Luke takes out a can of body spray called "Sex Grenade" (obviously an Axe rip-off) and accidentally gets the button stuck, spraying the entire hotel room. Trying to protect his kids, Phil heroically takes the spray in the face  and is given a state funeral for his sacrifice. He leaves the hotboxed room and runs into clear, where he realizes that she has moved into another room, betraying her family and their forced togetherness. They immediately call a family conference in the original room, which sounds suspiciously like  the divorce talk 50% of your parents gave you at some point. It could have a shot at being funny, if 30 Rock hadn't done it better a few years back. Phil urges the children to choose, and they all go with Claire, having no concept of his heroic body-spray related actions earlier that day.

Cam keeps receiving gifts in honour of the football game. Americans, is this a thing? Even at the high school level? Is it some kind of bribery, or is a minor game between teenaged boys a cause for celebration? Next time I go over the border to visit my aunt, should I bring some local specialty jam in case it's Game Day? I mean, in hockey only two things can happen: you win, or you're left out on the prairie to die - so merciful sports like football are totally unfamiliar. Cam participates in more silly traditions, Mitch rolls his eyes a lot, and they get into a fight, in which Cam is about 80% in the right, telling his husband that football is the only place where he ever fit in. Once Cam leaves in a huff, Mitchell waxes eloquent about how he never fit in, all the while completely ignoring that Lily is apparently getting bullied at school. See, this is what gives Focus on the Family their fuel, guys.

Manny douses himself in Sex Grenade body spray, then finally admits to his family that he has a girlfriend. He begs his mother to stop interfering with his life, which has absolutely no effect whatsoever. Gloria decides to sic Jay on the intruder. Jay goes out and gives the girl what appears to be a talk about the car, but is really about another thing. However, the girl doesn't appear to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, and assumes he just wants her to be a careful driver. Jay attempts to spell it out, but ends up sounding like a pervert.

Thankfully, we cut to the game, where Cam's team is winning and Gloria is still pissed off about Sam. However, she comes around when she realizes that Sam has made a sign out of glitter to cheer on the team. Mitchell arrives, and his presence immediately causes a storm of bad luck for the team. Okay, we're just going to replay that awful episode with bad-luck Alex, then? Where's the fast forward?

The bad luck goes on. It's tedious. Cam is apoplectic. Meanwhile, Jay catches Sam kissing another guy. Mitch pretends he's totally into the game, oblivious to his jinx status. Back at the hotel, Phil meets up with some other guys whose wives have gone to another room. An attractive neighbour comes by and asks Phil to join her in the pool. He turns her down, and the guys mock him. They suggest that he move on with his life already. Meanwhile, Claire is happily guzzling a bottle of wine and ignoring her daughter's complaints. Alex has discovered that the hotel was half full along along, which means that they didn't need to share a room the night before, which means that Phil's forced togetherness campaign was completely unnecessary. The outraged Dunphy kids find their dad teaching Marco Polo to their Nigerian neighbours in the pool. Recognizing his fun-loving nature, they feel guilty for ditching him, though frankly, if I were them I'd already be in the next county.

The game continues to tank. Manny reflects that at least he has a hot girlfriend in his time of trouble. However, they pull off a miraculous win, mostly because Mitchell has left the field (and impaled himself on the fence in the process). Dear God, they seriously did that plot like three episodes ago. Mitchell admits that he kind of got into the football game after all. Just then, the players douse Cam and Mitch in an entire tank of Gatorade, thus sealing Mitch's hatred of sport forever.

Manny returns to an awkward Jay, who tries to cover his knowledge about Sam by offering Manny his first taste of Scotch. However, Manny has already been dumped. Turns out he was the classic "rebound guy", and has since been pushed aside for the ex. Jay points out that many guys his age would love to even be used by a girl like Sam, which is the worst parenting advice I've heard this year. Quick, cancel the banquet.




Manny says about as much, so Jay admits that getting dumped sucks and there's no way around it. He gives the kid a hug, and Gloria gives them an approving look from the staircase. However, she puts the kibosh on the Scotch tasting.

Phil returns to his lonely room, filled with the kids' stuff but devoid of human company. As he is about to go to sleep, he hears a cry from outside - "Marco!" The kids and Claire are in the pool, ready to play. Phil jumps right back into family life.

Tag scene - back at home, Claire and Phil freak out when someone rings the doorbell in the middle of the night. Turns out that Phil accidentally invited the Nigerian neighbours to stay. It's going to be a much more active household, for a while...

It's hard to describe this episode without using "insipid" about five hundred times. But that's what came to mind. It repeated already-hackneyed plotlines, it was boring, it never went anywhere, the jokes were mostly pretty wretched. Overall, it didn't leave much impression. Try again next week, I guess. In the meantime - I'm off to find a can of Sex Grenade.

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