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Worldly Distractions: Modern Family 5.8 - Closet 'Con 13


crazyforkate

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...cue a Cam and Mitch joke before the opening credits, of course.

Claire and Jay have arrived for ClosetCon, the trade show for all storage-related industries. The problem? They've been given a room with only one bed. Why Claire can't just book her own room is beyond me. Once they get moved to better digs, Claire goes crazy over all the cool events. Cool in her mind, anyway. Jay, weary from years in the biz, insists that seminars and speeches mean nothing - the real work is done at the bar. Somehow Claire's brain can't process this. What, has she never seen Mad Men?

...don't worry, she does get coaxed into visiting the bar with little to no arm-twisting.

Cam, Mitch and Lily are visiting the Tucker farm in Missouri, where Mitch's citified ways are painfully out of place. He hates farming, looks pretentious at all times, and is teased mercilessly by Tuckers of all ages. Cam is just happy to demo his pig-calling skills, which are truly impressive. Opening credits.

Phil arrives to keep Gloria company while their spouses are away. They're going out to a steakhouse, with five kids in tow. Haley and Alex are discussing the hotness of their pizza guy. Alex has a crush, and though she denies it, Haley and Gloria get a knowing look on their faces. Manny, meanwhile, is having a hard time adjusting to football. Though he's a competent player, he doesn't quite fit into the culture. Surprise, surprise. He's also a tad jealous of Joe these days, claiming that Gloria got a brand new security system just because of the baby.

We also get a new story for Phil. For decades, Jay's house has held a perpetually-locked room, just off the kitchen. (Don't deny it, you all know someone with that kind of room.) And today, it is finally unlocked. Phil can hardly wait to explore the "palace of ceaseless wonder". Treasure? Dead bodies? Or just insulation?

It turns out the room does contain treasure of a certain kind, full of knick-knacks and sports paraphernalia and model airplanes and all the stuff Phil goes apeshit for. Manny and Luke are curious, but wary of touching Jay's precious stuff. Unfortunately, in trying to be careful, the three of them (mostly Phil) wind up shattering Jay's model of the Apollo 13. Everyone panics. Dinner is cancelled, glue is summoned, and the race is on. 

Jay is schmoozing with all his fellow closet magnates, though he's embarrassed by his dorky daughter with her lanyard. An "old friend" (an attractive female old friend) waves to Jay, and he goes to talk to her. Claire orders a drink and comments to the bartender about how laissez-faire everyone seems. The bartender says that "the wedding rings come off" at conventions like these. Claire is immediately suspicious. We get an interview scene where Claire wonders, given all the strife in her parents' marriage, if her dad might have taken his wedding ring off a time or two. And she doesn't blame him for it.

Jay, meanwhile, tells of a tradition in which the workers scare new convention attendees by hiding a literal skeleton in a closet. Oh, the closet jokes. I'm sure this will not be the last.

Speaking of which, Cam's mom (Celia Weston) brings Mitch some cider-and-rum. Lily has taken on a Southern accent, which worries one dad and delights the other. This blows up into a big argument about city-vs-country and how Mitch is a giant snob. Which, to be fair, he is.

With the steakhouse dinner cancelled, Alex has taken it upon herself to order pizza. Haley is incensed, as she still believes Alex has a crush. She, of course, has her own designs on him. Gloria urges them to stop it - "sisters before misters", after all. Coolest grandma ever. Just at that moment, Alex accidentally switches the model airplane on, where it promptly tangles in Haley's hair. She's convinced it was no accident, and to tell you the truth, I'm inclined to agree with her. While trying to help her, Alex gets stuck as well. Gloria cheerfully ignores them.

Cam's aunt arrives at the farm with a surprise - Gram (the legendary Ann Guilbert of Dick Van Dyke Show fame)! (Pam, Cam, Gram - do I sense a theme here?) The old lady is delighted to see her grandson, and vice versa. However, now that she's here, Cam has to "straighten up". Yeah, they never told her the truth for fear she'd keel over or something. This was probably a lot simpler when Cam was just a young man on his own, but with a fiance and kid in tow? Yeah, I foresee a problem. Mitchell comes by, dressed in overalls and feeling particularly affectionate. Just as he goes in for a kiss, Grandma asks who this strange man is. Cam improvises. Mitchell is rechristened as Bud, the simpleminded hired hand.

The guys gather some supplies and "call Florida" - Phil's dad, played by Fred Willard. A bunch of bad references to space movies ensue. I love it. The rocket, however, is still not fixed, and when Florida abruptly gets cut out (bad Skype connection), it seems all is lost.

Jay tries to set up the skeleton prank with his friend Rita, but Claire abruptly shows up from her seminar. Jay asks her to go down to the lobby and get something. Claire hears the empty excuse, sees her dad with Rita, and gets five from two and two. Rita and Jay wonder why she acted so weird, and refer to a long-ago "deal" Claire's not supposed to know about. No, it's not a same-time-next-year kind of thing. We all know Jay disapproves of Phil, but we don't know that back in the day, he asked Rita to offer Phil a job in Texas, purely to separate him from Claire. That is some Machiavellian shit right there. They assume Claire doesn't know, and she didn't, but as she is currently listening at the door, that might change...

Now, for the whole episode I've thought that Rita looked familiar, but Google was not forthcoming. Neither were my own memory archives. But finally I found an informative article, and get this - Rita is played by RANDEE HELLER, otherwise known as the indomitable Miss Blankenship. Yes, Don Draper's aged secretary has come back to life, taken off her glasses, and apparently lost the mild dementia. No word on whether she's still shtupping Sterling and Cooper, but that glorious accent remains. Here's a Mad Men still to keep you happy.

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Mitchell is rightly outraged at his demotion to hired hand. Cameron tries to pacify him, suggesting that he roll with it for a few days (DAYS?!), but Mitchell thinks it's best for him and Lily to just leave. Unfortunately, he has bad timing, as a tornado alarm is wailing - and they can't find Lily. Cam tries a pig call - and it brings her right back, thank God.

Gloria tries to untangle Alex and Haley, but is unsuccessful. Unfortunately, at that moment the doorbell rings. The girls beg Gloria to fix it before the pizza boy sees them. Gloria washes her hands of the situation. Haley awkwardly opens the door, hiding Alex and the left side of her head behind the frame. He is creeped out by her tense manner, especially when she starts randomly bumping into things and crying out in pain. Alex swivels around, opening the door with Haley hidden. He is very nice to her, but only sticks around long enough to grab the cash and get out. The girls alternate their fond farewells through the door. Run far, far, away, Hot Pizza Guy.

The Tuckers have gathered in the cellar. Mitchell says that this is no time to be dishonest, especially in front of Lily. Though Gram might be upset, forcing Lily to deny the situation might have traumatic consequences. Not to mention that the old bat might actually be pro-gay, has anyone thought of that? Aaaand Gram squashes that notion when she calls Lily a "cute little Chinese thing". Mitchell immediately thinks up a scheme that will save everyone face. He steps forward and tells Gram that he "did myself some adoptin', all by my lonesome" in Vietnam, and Lily is actually his kin. Not going to lie, his explanation actually made me burst out laughing. Someone about the nodding head and total discomfort. Sometimes I forget just how funny Jesse Tyler Ferguson is.

However, when Cam sees this, he is heartbroken. He can't deny being part of this family - especially being Lily's dad. When Gram says that "Nothing's more important than family, no matter how they come," Mitchell can't resist commenting on how open-minded it is. Gram adds more sugar by wishing she had another kid around to spoil. At this point, Cam can't take it anymore and admits the truth. She's thrilled to hear he's getting married. But when Cam tells her that his intended is Mitchell, she declares that she knows why God sent the tornado. OUCH. Seriously, fucking OUCH. That is a very painful moment of truth which unfortunately happens all the time - a really, really rare stripping-down for Modern Family. The king of bland just became all too raw.

Cam and Mitchell tells us via interview that Gram has calmed down a little and will be attending the wedding. With a protest sign. Cam marks it up as progress.

Phil, Manny and Luke have reassembled the model, and discuss perseverance as inspired by Apollo 13 and Jay's dogged construction of its replica. Oh, and the heroism of the actual astronauts, but that's just a detail. Frank Dunphy buzzes in from Florida to walk them through the final details. Manny asks why Phil is so freaked out over this. He admits that one of his biggest fears of disappointing Jay. Which just makes Jay look like a bigger asshole in comparison - who would want to send away a son-in-law obviously trying to make things work? Also, is it just me, or do Luke and Manny kind of look like Mormon missionaries this episode? Luke looks groomed. It's like a surrealist film.

Gloria continues to wrestle with the girls' hair while they continue to bicker. Finally, she can't stand it anymore, goes insane and grabs the scissors, determined to end this shriekfest in a manner most Gordian. The girls scream some more, and each demand that Gloria cut Alex's hair. Alex admits that she thinks Haley values her looks more, and Haley admits that she thinks Alex is a threat vis-a-vis the pizza boy. Not that she'll say it in so many words. They cry, make up, and Gloria easily loops their hair over the plane nose, setting them free. She only kept them there so they would be pushed to a reconciliation, dontcha know.

Claire and Jay chat about their day, but there's something empty about the conversation. Soon enough, she starts pressing him about what he and Rita did twenty years ago. She, of course, means the same-time-next-year scenario she dreamed up in her head. He means the Phil situation - and assures her that if he'd known Phil like he does now, he would never have done it. Claire is stunned. This happened when they were already engaged, and she's horrified that her father would think so poorly of her judgment. Jay tries to frame it as a test proving Phil's love for Claire, but no one's buying it. She is about to storm out of the room, but has to grab her coat first, so she opens the closet. Jay tries to warn her about the skeleton, but since she's so busy yelling at him, she never bothers to turn around. We all wait for the big reveal, but when she does notice, all she can say is that it's "real mature". I guess after being married to Phil and mother to Luke all this time, she's been scared into desensitization.

While she's on her high horse, Jay reminds Claire that a certain immigration call was placed several years back about a certain hot second wife, leading to the FBI on Jay's doorstep. Okay - Season 1 Claire thought Gloria was a bit of a gold digger. Bad, but everyone has flaws. Season 5 Claire is revealed to have called immigration on her legally-in-the-country future stepmom, purely out of racist spite. What the FUCK, guys?

Anyway, they both admit that they've learned to love each other's spouses, and Claire even points out that Phil would have loved the skeleton, blah blah blah. They confirm that everything's out in the open and go to sleep - but not before Jay admits he did make out with Rita once, a long time ago. Hey, Roger and Bert have already been there, why not? Seriously, though, this particular plot was gross. They may be a modern family, but at times they're a bloody awful family.

The guys are just about done with their rocket model. Phil gives them an energizing pep talk with phrases like "Now you listen to me" and "we've got one shot at this". Frank coaches them from Florida. Eventually, Phil banishes the boys and takes the task himself. As dramatic music plays, he holds his hands steady. Gloria and the kids worry outside. As everyone holds their breath, Phil attaches the last piece - and it holds. An enormous celebratory dance ensues. Space movie cliches, triumphant music and high fives abound. "Son of a bitch, he did it," Frank crows.  Damn, it feels like 1996 in here.

Unfortunately, Joe has gotten hold of the remote control, and sends the plane flying across the room - whereupon it smashes Phil in the face. But hey, at least the rocket's okay.

Tag scene - Claire hides the skeleton in her bed and calls Phil to join her. She turns off the light. While she crouches beside the bed, he cuddles up to the plastic creature. He comments that the yoga is working, and she needs to "slow down" with her fierce lovemaking. Beside the bed, Claire gets perturbed. She flips on the light. Phil works into a hilarious show of terror, but no one's fooled - he knew the second she didn't complain about his socks. Apparently, he noticed the skeleton ages ago because he checks the closet for killers every night. Of course, Claire notes, a real killer would hide under the bed. She says goodnight - but Phil can't sleep.

I wish Cam and Mitchell's storyline had been given better service - it could have been truly searing, and would have with more time. However, they did well with what they had. Phil and the plane was a cute diversion, with the space parodies mostly working. Calling Frank in Florida was especially good. The story with Gloria and the girls wore thin pretty fast. Haley and Alex fighting! Oh, boy, call the newspapers. As for the Jay and Claire story - ehhh. It got into some very uncomfortable territory, but other than actually trying to explore it, they just had the characters snipe at each other, which just felt bad all around. Not the way you handle it, guys.

But hey - at least we got another adventure with Miss Blankenship. Er, Randee Heller, that is. TV, thou art a cruel mistress...

 

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