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Worldly Distractions: Modern Family 5.7 - A Fair to Remember





Is it just me, or did this show have an episode with a similar title a few seasons back? Oh, well, if Simpsons already did it, I guess we can live with it.

The Dunphy kids bring their parents breakfast in bed on their anniversary, shouting loudly so they won't interrupt their parents mid-coitus like they did a few years back. Wait, what kid does anything for their parents' anniversary? I could see grown kids throwing a party for the 50th, but teens? Come on. Fortunately, Phil and Claire are dressed and at least a few feet apart. Phil explains that it's their twentieth wedding anniversary, and he plans to surprise Claire with a band at the school fair, taking place the same day. What's more, Phil is the lead singer. Cam coaches him, proving that Phil's songwriting and singing skills are both wretched. Lily disapproves. How can this go wrong? Let me count the ways.

Is it just me, or does Mitch look like a priest in the opening credits?

We begin at the school fair, where the Tucker-Pritchetts are in attendance, but somehow Cam's heart doesn't seem in it. Mitchell explains that Cam's football season (oh, yeah, he's a football coach now as of two or three episodes back) isn't going well. We get a montage of Cam's unique coaching style. "That's the worst call since they cast Russell Crowe in Les Mis!"

Side note: since when do high schools have fairs, outside of Grease? I wish my high school had a fair.

Cam is convinced everyone is judging him, but Mitch advises him to relax. Just then, a dad approaches Cam. He's so upset about the poor coaching that he's considering pulling his son from the team. Cam begs for more time. Football Dad says one week. Mitchell suggests that Cam feel better with a churro, while Cam favors a decidedly violent coaching style. He settles on both. "He's a mess," says Lily.

Manny has entered the cake contest, and Jay thinks it's an invitation to be bullied. Manny's argument is that first place is first place no matter what the discipline. Gloria points out that Jay wasn't complaining when he was eating all the practice cake. Just then, Jay and another guy pull up to a parking spot at the same time and get into an argument. Out of stubbornness, they both decide to stay there and block the parking lot. Gloria and Manny leave in disgust, toting the cake with them.

At Jay and Gloria's house, Haley is wandering around the place when she runs into Andy, Joe's nanny. He thinks she's a threat to the household security, she thinks he's a taletelling snot. They're both right. Haley wants to hang out by the pool, but Andy won't let her until he gets the go-ahead from Jay. She tries to manipulate him with cleavage. It doesn't work, especially since Andy has a girlfriend - in the Coast Guard - in Utah. Okay, so maybe he's not a great liar. Haley's won this round, and she struts out to the pool with Jay's beers in hand.

Luke comes to Alex asking for advice about a girl he likes. The problem? It's Alex's new friend, Sienna, whom she is desperate to impress. Having a dorky little brother with a crush is not going to help her campaign.

Manny brings his cake to the competition, where a bunch of boys laugh at him. Jay doesn't help, encouraging him to drop out and calling him a "girl". Hey, when did Jay go from curmudgeonly to asshole? This type of stuff fits All in the Family, not this bland fuzzy-wuzzy sitcom. However, before they can get to the cake judging, Jay is pulled aside. His wife volunteered him to be a "fair cop", some sort of novelty booth I've never heard of. Stuck with responsibility, Jay is left behind while Manny and Gloria go to kick culinary ass. And what's more - his partner happens to be Parking Space Guy, who won the contest out in the lot and is set on humiliating Jay even further.

Claire gets a call from a Mr Chang, who has arrived at her home early. No, it's not her secret lover, nor is it a bad-tempered community college professor. With her long history of bad anniversary gifts, Claire has finally arranged for the surprise of Phil's dreams. All she'll say is that the traditional wedding gift is china. China, Chang...whatever this is, I can't see it passing any political correctness tests.

Claire asks to go home, but Phil understandably wants her to stay. They keep throwing excuses at each other. Then Jay shows up to arrest Claire, which is gross because her charges are "unlawful sexiness and possession of a hot booty".

Haley's by the side of the pool drinking beers, and Andy is snapping pictures of her as evidence of her treachery. Okay, I'm officially Team Haley on this one, Andy is a weird brownnoser. They get into a tussle, and wind up breaking the beer bottle. Andy indulges in some weird old-time swearing. I think he's supposed to be this show's version of Kenneth Parcell. He insists Haley pick up the bottle,  which she refuses because of...some hair thing. He tells her that "it has not been a pleasure meeting you" as if it's the worst thing in the world (yes, definitely a copy of Kenneth) and storms out. Haley continues to taunt him about the fake girlfriend.

Cam berates his football team, even though it's not a practice or related to football in any way. To show his ferocious strength, he hits the bell-ringing booth with a mallet and hits "sassy granny", and then tells his team that they all play like sassy grannies. With any luck, they can upgrade to "girly men". Frustrated with the results he's getting, he proceeds to hit the machine several times. Mitchell and Lily walk by, carrying a million prizes from the booths. Mitch explains that "Daddy's smashing his demons."

Jay and his fellow cop stop for some ice cream in their golf cart (yeah, fair cops get a golf cart, too). Jay teases the man over his protective instincts towards his shirt, or "blouse" as Jay calls it. Fortunately, Fellow Cop can give as good as he gets. Then Jay starts getting all sensitive about his age. Where was this concern for others when you were destroying your stepson's self-image? So Fellow Cop has to build him up again, and Jay wins the argument. If there was one to begin with.

Gloria sees Manny's competitors, who are not exactly the top of the social heap, and she starts to wonder how this will affect Manny's image. Logically, this means that she must destroy his cake. What? What the fuck is wrong with you?! You are a terrible, terrible parent! Smashing your kid's hard work because you have a preconceived notion of what he should be? That is low, really low. So disgusted with Gloria. Unfortunately, a little boy witnesses the destruction...

Alex is arrested, though fortunately no charges are read this time. To her horror, Sienna and Luke are left to socialize.

Manny discovers the cake carnage. Gloria's reaction is more or less "Oh well", but she's not getting away that easily. Her son is out for blood. Unfortunately, he suspects the little old lady in charge of the cake contest. Gloria is faced with a Jean Valjean dilemma. "Who am I? I SMASHED YOUR CAKE!"

Meanwhile, Manny has begun his Javert-like vengeance...

Claire is in jail, desperately trying to get to a phone, when the cops turn up with Alex. Her charge: "being an aggravating big sister". She explains that she and Sienna were just looking for the girl Luke likes. Claire points out that it is Sienna, because he looks at her "like he used to look at Halloween candy." I fall in love with Julie Bowen all over again.

Alex and Claire agree to break out together. Claire begins to formulate an elaborate plan. Her daughter, on the other hand, reaches through the bars, pushes the latch open, and is free once more. Time to ruin her brother's life!

Andy comes up from the bottom of the pool, where he's been collecting pieces of glass like the devoted doormat he is. In the process he's cut himself, and since he can't handle blood, he begins to panic. Haley promptly becomes Hello Nurse, tending to his wounds. They start to talk. He tells her all his hopes and dreams, being a nanny to pay for school. Haley rewards him with caustic barbs.

While they look for "the girl", Sienna and Luke get talking. Luke admits that he's never kissed a girl. She offers to let him try it out on her. Just as they are about to kiss, Alex interrupts them, screaming out that Sienna is the crush. In retaliation, Luke blurts out that Alex is a desperate nerd whose whole focus is on making Sienna her friend. Sienna, understandably, is weirded out by both of them and makes her departure.

On their patrol, Jay and Fellow Cop arrest a jean-jacketed teen who is clearly related to Daniel DeSario from Freaks and Geeks. However, the teen is not interested in being detained and punches Fellow Cop. He also spills his red drink all over the precious blouse. Screaming, the cop falls onto a bench. Jay assures him he's going to be fine, but the damage is done. "So cold," the cop says, before asking Jay to tell his wife. "You'll tell her yourself!" Jay cries. "Because she's standing there and looks pissed." Oh, a cop movie parody. I bet he had two minutes until retirement, too. Well done, Modern Family, well done.

While the cop is getting the third degree from his wife, Claire keeps begging Phil to go home. However, the Dadbeats have begun to play, and Phil's plan is going into action. Phil convinces her to stay for one more song, and the Dadbeats announce a special guest - Harold Grossman! Harold gets up on stage and begins to sing (and no, we've never seen him before) while Phil stammers, dumbfounded. To top it off, the man is really talented, and when Phil suggests they leave, Claire refuses. And for the icing on the cake - the Dadbeats haven't forgotten about him. Phil Dunphy has to follow the show's hottest act.

Rather than taking a chance, Phil freezes, and instead makes a fake "car with lights on" announcement. One look at Claire tells me she sees right through it.

Manny has fixed his cake, rearranging the town it used to be into a town after an earthquake (or "earthcake"). Furthermore, as a crowning achievement, he plans to smash it on the cake judge's head. Gloria is spurred to come clean, saying she cares more about fitting in than he does. Manny...does not go on a rampage like I would have, but explains that he wants to do what he's good at, even if it's unpopular. The cakes are called to the table, and Gloria and Manny race to get there in time.

Cam comes back, sheepish and without a mallet. Mitch calls him juvenile, he counters that he's frustrated. Hey, we've all been there. It hurts not to be a winner, especially since (as Cam explains) football was a big deal to him as a teen - his only ticket to acceptance in a small town. Just then, Manny and Gloria run by. Cam gets an idea.

Cut to Gloria and Jay proudly explaining that Manny not only won the cake contest, but is now a part of the football team. The team is a winner now, and get delicious baked goods for their trouble.

Claire brings Phil home for his surprise. She tells him she worked really hard on it, and she loves him very much. They turn the corner to find a group of Chinese acrobats, who perform a routine for them. Phil gets the reference right away. In fact, he has to be stopped from joining in!

Tag scene - Gloria accepts Haley's phone apology over the pool glass incident. Once she hangs up, Jay comes in wearing a uniform and arrests her. Andy comes by and takes the blame for the beer incident, but Jay is so interested in his wife waiting upstairs that he barely hears what the guy's saying.

Loved the Haley-and-Andy storyline, and I feel like Andy could become a very interesting character as the show goes on. The Phil/Claire story was sweet but nothing new. It was nice to see some Luke/Alex interaction as well. I loved seeing Cameron throw his tantrum - believe me, when you're a teacher of any kind it's hard NOT to throw those at least once a day - and Mitch's random walking around with an increasingly large pile of stuffed animals. The Manny/Gloria story was just awful. What kind of mother would do that to her son? And Manny is practically unreal to have forgiven her that fast. Jay-as-cop stands out as a perfect illustration of absurdity and parody. Something a bit different for this show - but fun to watch! Like most Modern Family episodes, this was uneven, with some storylines holding better than others. In other words, par for the course.

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