December 9th, 2015, 9PM, ABC
Gloria’s plan for a perfect family getaway on a snowy mountainside to celebrate her first Christmas as a legal American citizen is repeatedly complicated by the weather (which is dry, warm, and snow-free), and an unexpected guest, a strange woman who apparently spent every single Christmas with her family, who promptly abandoned her and went off to vacation on Hawaii. The family instantly regrets offering her shelter – everyone except for Alex, who discovers that she’s her astrophysicist heroine whom Alex happens to be studying at the moment (played by The show’s sole guest star, Andrea Martin, injects a lot of humor and life into the proceedings). When the woman points out her closed-off behavior might result in loneliness, Alex tries to ratchet up her positivity only to be met with suspicion. Meanwhile, Gloria continues to stubbornly stick to tradition, even though the idea seems completely foolhardy and she soon runs up against family resentment of her own. Meanwhile, Mitch and Cam try to make up for their humiliating (thanks to Mitch’s drunken wailing) Christmas musical performance with a stellar performance this year, but Lily’s lack of performing chops sink them; Haley and Andy are in the midst of trying to deal with their friends with benefits situation but are unable to resist one another in a mature way and end up boinking in a variety of locales – a situation that gets complicated when the entire family sees them together and Gloria makes the mistake of inviting Beth. Luke and Manny, meanwhile, try to scare Lily with The Legend of the Forgotten Boy, a story that they’ve made up and one that pretty much instantly frightens them instead of her – so they redouble their efforts to stun, and Jay announces his semi-retirement, and his choice for the next company head startles Claire and causes an explosion of resentment in her – though she’s unaware that Jay is fudging the truth to make sure she’s picking a career path that she truly desires. All of these plotlines collide in one moment of panic, leaving the family wondering how they might recover from the disaster.
Family conflict is the order of the day in this week’s Modern Family, with Claire and Jay trying to negotiate a passing of the torch – something that Phil quasi-does for Haley and Andy in both the romantic sense (The twosome are a bit of a copy of a young Phil and Claire) and in a financial sense (he gives Andy his Century 21 blazer as a gift for passing his real estate exam). This does pose a question – how is Andy still working for Gloria and Jay? I thought he left to work for Phil? They even mention that he passed his real estate license test, which Haley had been (humor, ar argh) literally helping him cram for. Gloria’s dream is the center focus of the episode, her wish for that perfect sense of family togetherness – but as we know, unity for the Prichett and Dunphy clan means competiveness and a dash of self-centered bitterness. Mitch ends up deep in his cups, tuneless, Lily turns the tables on her cousin’s attempt at throwing a little horror into the holiday, and Andy, Claire and Haley? They get what they want, in miraculous ways – perhaps a bit too miraculous and neat but hey, it’s Christmas, which seems to demand a vacuum (and, as Mitch noted, booze). Everything works – the chemistry is perfectly well-tuned and the character’s interactions sharply focused. Ultimately, White Christmas is a fun little vacation to the ordinary and the disorganized – another decent entry in the show’s long canon.
Chaos, black comedy and traditional sitcom whimsy collide, but the show manages to pull it together, keep us watching and bring about some thankfully not as annoying as they could be plot points.