TV Recap: Modern Family, “Under Pressure” (5.12)



January 15th, 2014, 9PM, ABC

After a mini-breakdown/tantrum during her sixteenth birthday party, Alex arranges for her own therapy sessions. Meanwhile, Mitch clashes with new neighbor Asher over Cam and Mitch’s commitment to green living, and he soon rues following Hayley’s advice in the matter; Cam fights with the principal over his plans for the school’s open house; Gloria, Jay, Claire and Phil also attend the open house, where Gloria gets into a fight with the tough Doctor Donna Duncan over a trip their sons are competing for that ends in a dodge ball-related brawl in Cam’s class; Phil and Jay sneak into the teachers’ lounge to watch football and Claire is stressed out over her children’s pre-SAT curriculums; Manny and Luke go out on a date with a set of twins, and each thinks they’ve been mismatched with the “wrong” twin on a personality basis – but the girls refuse to switch partners.

“Under Pressure” is another good episode from the Modern Family crew, and it’s even a couple of cuts above an average episode of the series its biggest problem lies in making a cohesive episode that flows from the more dramatic scenes to the utterly goofy sight of Gloria having a kickball fight with her PTA rival.

To be fair, I enjoyed Alex’s plot quite a lot, and I quite enjoyed watching a teenager have a realistic reaction to the pressure foisted upon them by adults and by their scholastic worlds. Her mother/daughter chemistry with Julie Bowen is touching and feels quite true to life; it’s just quite a mood swing to go from those scenes back to the silliness of Cam and Phil and Gloria.

That said, the rest of the segments dovetail together well – as the child characters on the show grow older and end up attending the same high school, it’s just easier to get all of the adults involved in the same plotline and in the same location without jiggling too much of the storyline about. Claire was particularly funny as she rushed from class to class trying to figure out how to work a different schedule, and it’s always fun to watch Gloria get angry about something to do with Manny’s life. There was surprisingly little Cam and Mitch this episode, and Manny and Luke’s plot was blessedly brief, but the big surprise was how Jay and Phil’s plot played out, with the two men nearly reversing roles in the process of sneaking in to watch a little football. It was odd to see Jay behaving so mischievously, and Phil so staid. It’s sometimes amazing that this show can cram six different plotlines into a single episode, but they always manage to do it decently. Sometimes the achievement is greater than the sum of its parts, sometimes not, but
“Under Pressure” will tug at the heartstrings of most everyone who watches it. The tones are a little uneven, and yet what works really does soar. I just feel that its seriousness doesn’t work alongside the super-ridiculous plots across the rest of the episode.

The Roundup

  • Cam was sixteen when Moonstruck came out; you do the math!
  • Oh Alex. You’re going to need to have Velcro sewn into your chest to accommodate your multiple heart surgeries…
  • Hayley’s role as advisor continues in this episode, and I can only hope they’ll keep going along with it.
  • Cam and Mitch’s neighbor is played by Juno star Jesse Eisenberg.
  • And Donna Duncan is played by Jane Krakowski.
  • Next week: Follows a combative dinner between the Dunphys and Haley, a contemplative Jay as he learns something new about his friend Shorty, and Cam and Mitch take in a romantic dinner date in “Three Dinners.”
[notification type=star]88/100 ~ GREAT. Works all around, even with the Alex plot sticking out like a sore thumb.[/notification]

About Author

Staff Television Critic: Lisa Fernandes, formerly of, has been watching television for all of her thirty-plus years, and critiquing it for the past seven. When she's not writing, she can be found in the wilds of the Northeastern United States.