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Worldly Distractions: Modern Family 4.21 - Career Day





Back on the West Coast and up for yet another insane recap. Let’s join the Pritchett clan and see what tomfoolery has transpired.

We interrupt Cam and Mitchell in what appears to be the middle of an argument. Nope – turns out they’re just shushing each other so as not to wake Lily. She lost her first tooth, and they are thrilled to have the opportunity to play tooth – fairy? Wow, that’s awkward. In an interview sequence Cam recalls how he lost his first tooth. It involved a rope, a cow, and a 12-gauge shotgun. Mitchell is not quite as enthusiastic. Back in “real timeâ€, they quietly sneak into the room – and are immediately confronted by a flashlight-wielding Lily, who is thrilled to have caught them. Nothing gets past this kid.

Fortunately, they soon figure out that she hasn’t made the connection, disappointedly sighing that they’re not the tooth fairy.  Mitchell quickly covers by saying that they were just checking to see if she had arrived. Lily broadly hints that “she’s sure taking her sweet timeâ€, proving that she is Cam’s daughter through and through. Waving a net in the air, she tells them that she won’t go to sleep until the tooth fairy gets there. She’s got noooooowhere to be. Opening credits come up.

Alex runs into the Dunphy kitchen reminding them that she can’t be late today – she’s dissecting a pig with Sanjay Patel (the kid from last season with really smart parents, remember?). She complains that he’s treating her like a nurse, doing all the work while she passes the instruments and other such tasks. The Dunphy kids all trade barbs about their perceived nerdiness, sluttiness or stupidity. Just then Phil runs into the kitchen, clutching one of his realty ads with his own face cut out of it. It’s Luke’s career day, and Phil thinks this would be a great idea. Claire doesn’t even have to see it to shut it down, fast. We go to an interview where Phil explains how psyched he is to talk about the love of his life – residential real estate. He’ll be Luke’s hero, someone to look up to. Cue the side eye from his wife.

We finally get to find out how Jay made his fortune. He was  a tycoon in the “closet businessâ€, which has produced many interesting stories, and he’s hurt that he’s not participating in Career Day. Gloria thinks he’s being ridiculous. Especially once she hears the boring anecdotes Jay thinks qualify. Jay concludes that it was pretty boring, and despite his success there were many things he would have liked to do instead – such as write thrillers. In fact, he even has a character in mind, a spy who sounds suspiciously like an American James Bond – Chuck Stone, who solves the case while driving the CIA insane. Unfortunately, “life†got in the way. Gloria points out that he had a three-hour nap on Sunday and a two-hour nap on Saturday. Since he’s never mentioned it before, she can’t really see how it will ever get off the ground.

Cam and Mitch are delighted to hear Lily run in screaming, “Daddies, Daddies, the tooth fairy came!†They feign surprise. Naturally, “she†went a little overboard in preparing Lily’s surprise, with gold sparkles (fairy dust), stickers, a toothbrush and a hundred-dollar bill. Damn, my tooth fairy only ever brought me a loonie. Must be a Southern California thing. Mitchell, who was clearly not in on the tooth fairy thing, gives Cam an extremely venomous look. He ventures a guess that maybe the tooth fairy had a little too much chardonnay last night. Cam contends that the tooth fairy made a mistake because it was dark. Lily exclaims that she can’t wait to tell everyone at the school, and runs to put the money in her clutch. That’s right: Cameron and Mitchell have become Those Parents. You remember them. Everyone had one in their class. Or maybe you were that kid, in which case all the other parents hated yours. Mitchell can’t decide whether it’s worse that Lily has a hundred dollars or that she has a clutch. Cameron argues that the clutch transitions seamlessly from day to night. Flanderization! Flanderization! Just when you think he cannot get more fabulous.

We cut to Career Day, where the class has just been shown a live therapy session and the teacher is in tears. She quickly moves to Phil, who starts his presentation with “I’ve been in your house when you weren’t home.†He explains that he’s not a burglar, but a realtor – and then his nemesis Gil Thorpe walks in. It turns out his daughter is in the class, and Phil will have to carry their competition into the classroom. After Gil gets in a good barb, Phil scrambles back to his presentation. In an effort to be creative and appealing, he shows them a conversation with a man who doesn’t know what to do with his life. This turns out to be a video of Phil in headphones, carrying a skateboard and listening to rock music, complete with the worst attempt at teenage slang ever written. Real Phil awkwardly interacts with Video Phil while the entire class shifts uncomfortably. (Side note: if you want to know what Video Phil is like, picture a really bad attempt at imitating Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High updated for the 2010’s.) Gil Thorpe shakes his head. As Phil stumbles, he steps forward and interrupts. “World without houses? That’s cray-cray!†Video Phil trills. I just about die. Someone give Ty Burrell all the Emmys.

Gil attempts to take over the entire presentation, talking about how wonderful he is at real estate. Phil pushes him aside, but he’s out of sync with the video, and he begins babbling and shrieking like a five-year-old whose mother isn’t watching him dive. He throws a beach ball at Video Phil, who holds up the ball to reveal the Phil Dunphy ad, and shrieks “BALL’S IN YOUR COURT!†He then reveals that he was Phil Dunphy, Realtor the whole time. The adults in the room reluctantly applaud, the children appear traumatized. Gil reveals that he has brought “Gil Pickles†as a snack and instantly wins the class over. I know this seems kind of dry here, but guys, I really cannot stress how funny this scene is. One scene with Phil Dunphy has enough laughs for a lifetime.

In an interview, Phil laments that Gil’s idea was way better than his “Phillowcasesâ€. Claire says one of him is more than enough in bed, to which he says “You hear that, ladies?†His dorkiness and his grin and everything about him are enough to make CrazyForKate reach for her asthma inhaler. Ty Burrell: funny enough to possibly kill someone. Best television dad since Hal from Malcolm in the Middle, by my reckoning. Claire’s expression is no less wonderful.

After the commercial, we return to Gil’s presentation to find that, if not a rousing success, it at least went over better than Phil’s. The students actually appear to be paying attention, which is something. With a little extra time left, the teacher suggests that Claire speak for a few minutes. Claire protests that she’s just a stay-at-home mom. The teacher points out that many people consider that a very important job. Claire can’t very well deny her own importance, so she finds herself presenting totally on the spot. She begins by listing all the jobs a stay-at-home mom does (we’ve all seen a chain status to that effect on Facebook): chauffeur, chef, etc. A girl puts up her hand to ask if it’s what she always wanted to do. Claire replies that no, she went to college for marketing and worked for a major hotel company, but once her kids arrived she just wanted to be there to – here follows a list of incredibly awkward things featuring lots of body fluids. Luke tries to set the story straight. The girl keeps peppering Claire with questions, and Claire attempts to justify herself by saying that she flipped a house and ran for city council and totally wanted to go back to work once the kids were older you guys! Seriously, Claire, this girl is in eighth grade, she doesn’t know a damned thing, you don’t need to make yourself look good. Stay-at-home moms out there, you rock!

Claire gets as far as saying that it’s harder than it seems when Snotty Girl says her mom went back to work. “So there was nobody at home to teach you not to interrupt!†Claire shrieks, clearly at the end of her rope. Gil Thorpe of all people steps up to defend her, saying that SAHMs are heroes. “If I had to do that job, I’d probably drink myself to death!†He leads the class in tepid applause, Phil is left feeling inadequate once again, and Claire wants to crawl into a hole and die. Before they leave, Gil takes it upon himself to dismiss the class – three hours early.

Gloria digs out Jay’s old typewriter, telling him that if he wants to write, he should write. She’s cleared time for him, and now he has to live up to his dreams. He takes it as a challenge, of Gloria saying he can’t do it. He says she won’t be able to get away with this kind of stuff when she loses her looks, to which she replies that he’ll be long dead. Can those two do anything unless it’s some kind of competition? For that matter, can anyone on this show?

Claire runs out to her car looking like she’s just been kicked in the gut. Gil Thorpe shows up and tells her not to feel bad, that the girl’s a smartass. He also apologizes for interrupting Phil. Claire thanks him for both offerings and admits that the interruption probably improved Phil’s presentation. Gil suddenly comes up with an idea. He needs a liaison with a planning committee for the new office he’s building. Could Claire do it? For a moment she wonders about Phil’s rivalry with Gil, but Gil points out all the benefits as well as Claire’s qualifications. His motives seem a tad fishy, but Claire decides to think it over anyway and accepts a business pickle.

Cam and Mitch have hit on a solution for their tooth fairy problem. A mysterious letter arrives in the mail for Lily from “Tooth Dakotaâ€, complete with glitter. Lily naturally expects another hundred dollars, but instead she gets an explanation that the tooth fairy left too much money. If she leaves the bill under the pillow, the tooth fairy will replace it with a dollar. Cam and Mitch did not raise a fool, and she grabs the letter from them.  Fortunately, she can’t read. This doesn’t stop her from wanting to keep the hundred dollars. She runs away, clutch in hand. The guys are stuck.

Jay has launched into his spy novel. Chuck Stone, a real Marty Stu if there ever was one, is being interrogated and his mind is a blank. A complete blank. Hmm, sounds familiar. Jay struggles. He really turns it into a sort of stream-of-consciousness narration of his morning. Maybe he is destined not to be the next Ian Fleming, but the next Virginia Woolf?

Phil rails at Claire over her new job, which is no surprise. He thinks Claire was hired just to mess with him. Claire is insulted by this, telling him that maybe she got hired for her good qualities. Phil breaks out his “vetoâ€. Oh, no, you did not just do that. PATRIARCHY ALERT! PATRIARCHY ALERT! Claire is rightly outraged. Phil claims that she vetoes his decisions all the time. Cut to Phil in an interview saying that the argument went on for a while. We go back to the argument, where it sounds like Claire is listing all of Phil’s zillions of stupid ideas. She ends up storming out. That got bad fast.

Manny returns full of news of Career Day and Claire’s meltdown. Jay isn’t listening, engrossed in his writing struggles. His stepson encourages him to keep going, that writers need to be critical on some level. Apparently this means all levels, because when Jay shows him his work, he can’t find anything good to say. Jay complains that he’s stuck on a plot point. Manny gives him a sample sentence, which impresses Jay so much that he moves aside and lets the kid take over. Manny gets down to work and sends Jay for coffee. So who’s writing this again?

Cameron insists that they have to turn the Tooth Fairy Incident into a “Teaching Momentâ€, which of course means a needlessly complicated scheme. Mitchell protests, but his boyfriend insists. Haley, in a sparkly winged costume complete with hot pink wig, steps in for the greatest heist in tooth fairy history.

They wake Lily from her nap. In a disturbingly high-pitched voice, “the tooth fairy†explains that she needs a favour. Lily wants to know if she’s really the tooth fairy, and if so can she see her fly. Haley stammers. Cameron steps in to say that the tooth fairy’s too sad to fly. If Lily can help reverse the mistake, she’ll be happy once more. Instantly, the kid figures out that it’s about the money. Looks like Cam and Mitch are going to have their hands full with this one. The tooth fairy says that she needs enough money for all the children’s “toothsâ€...at which point Lily immediately recognizes her cousin. Oops. All the fairy dust in the world isn’t going to fix this. Lily challenges her dads, pointing out that they said lying was wrong, to which Mitchell says that they also told her to help people, to which Lily wonders how she could know they were telling the truth. Smart kid.

At this point, Mitchell realizes the farce has gone too far. She needs to put the bill under the pillow, and that is that. “Because it’s the right thing to do,†Cameron belatedly adds, which does not convince their kid. She wants to keep it. Haley says that’s what she would do, “Because who cares what Santa thinks, right?†Brilliant. Haley Dunphy is freakin’ brilliant. Cam and Mitch’s jaws drop. Lily asks for time to think about it. They go out of the room, where Haley asks to borrow the tooth fairy costume for undisclosed reasons, because that’s exactly the type of thing you want your uncles to hear about. Sheesh.

Driving home with a very embarrassed Luke, Phil receives a phone call from Gil, who teases him mercilessly. This includes many innuendoes about Claire’s new job “under meâ€, as well as a dig at Phil’s parenting skills once he realizes Luke’s in the car. Ha ha we get it go away. Phil tells him not to bring the family into it, but when he lectures him for “Getting Claire’s hopes upâ€, Gil assures him that it’s a real job. Not that he won’t make the most of it, as his crude double entendres indicate. Phil and Luke decide to warn Claire before it’s too late. Because she can’t just quit or anything, right? Nope, little woman can’t make her own decisions about what she can tolerate.

Manny continues to write Jay’s novel. When Gloria comes home, Jay shoves him aside and jumps in front of the typewriter. She asks to take a look at his work. Aaaand she hates it. Manny keeps piping up with protests from the other side of the room, but since she thinks it’s Jay’s work, she is much less careful about sparing feelings. Within seconds, the work is torn to shreds. (Not literally.) Gloria suggests adding a robot. Outraged, Manny tells her the story is his. Gloria has won their little competition, and gives him a gloating smile. Charming. Honestly, I’m feeling these two less and less as the series goes on. There are some really iffy dynamics here.

The Dunphy men run home to find Claire polishing her old briefcase. She tells them how happy she was to get validation outside the family, even if it was Gil, and she wants to be something more than just the mom. Phil immediately says she should take the job. Luke is incredulous, but Phil’s mind is made up – if it’s that important to Claire, then the rivalry doesn’t matter. They embrace, and Phil retracts his veto. This brings on another argument about why he never had a veto in the first place. Mercifully, this is cut short by another segment of Phil telling the camera that it went on for a while. Claire happily runs off to get ready, while Phil receives a text from his nemesis that reduces him to tears. Life goes on in the Dunphy household.

Manny narrates about how everyone weaves a web of lies, for a variety of reasons. Lily slips the money under her pillow, Jay puts his typewriter away, and the camera cuts to Jay and Manny on the interview couch – where the narration turns out to be one of Chuck Stone’s (terrible) soliloquies. Jay thinks it’s amazing. I guess there’s something for everyone, right?

Closing credits: Phil delegates chores to each child so the house will be clean when Claire gets home. Luke is assigned to clean the bathroom, which turns into an argument about why he can’t pee straight. To break it up, Phil tries to get a “Team Dunphy†handshake going on. The kids walk off exasperated. Claire walks in, having quit because her boss is a pig. Phil assures her that she did the right thing, then asks what’s for dinner. She stomps off. So...continuity reset? Continuity reset. I hate when they do that.

On the other hand, we now know that no Career Day is complete without a visit from Video Phil. Ty Burrell’s performance in this episode was just flawless. Practically in tears when he told Claire to take the job, playing the skater kid in the video, desperately trying to save his presentation, he was hilarious and utterly lovable. The Jay-Manny storyline was not nearly as successful, being rather predictable and verging on the dull. Cam and Mitch’s story, besides bringing up nostalgic memories of Grade One, had a wonderful moment for Haley and a great showcase for Lily the Budding Machiavellian, but Phil was no question the MVP. The stellar title story made up for some rather uneven twists and turns. And if Ty Burrell does not win this year, I think we’ll have to bring the Emmy Fairy in to tear them a new one.

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