TV Recap: Modern Family, “iSpy,” (5.14)



February 5th, 2014, 9PM, ABC

It’s all cloak and dagger for the Pritchett-Dunphys as Claire and Phil team up to conduct an elaborate bit of espionage on Luke and Manny’s afterschool activities, but Manny and Luke aren’t taking drugs – they’re busy with a new project; Gloria’s furious with Jay over a dream he had, and Jay thinks she’s mad at him for an entirely different reason; Cam and Mitch fight over their mutual addiction to gossip; Haley’s secret flair for photography is revealed to the family thanks to Alex, who’s on a Claire-directed snooping mission, and the whole family congregates at her first showing against her wishes.

In case you didn’t guess, this week’s episode is all about sneakiness, and the ridiculous lengths people will go to just to cover up a secret. The most outlandish plot belongs to Claire and Phil, who launch a spy cam and use their son’s cell phone to track his whereabouts. There are lots of outlandish hats and a truly ridiculous sequence involving a remote-controlled helicopter camera, but I’d’ve rather spent more time with Manny and Luke and their fairly ingenious and yet perfectly silly idea.

Jay and Gloria’s plot is hilarious –in the right way. It’s dumb-funny, but the sort of dumb-funny that feels relatable. It’s surprising that Jay has enough of a handle on email nowadays that he can actively keep any sort of digital correspondence from Gloria a secret – Gloria was once the one who handled most of the correspondence for the family, if I remember canon.

modernfamily2This is the third intriguing skill set the writers have developed for Haley, factoring in her web-savvy fashion blog and her propensity for giving smart advice, as developed earlier this season. As I seem to say every week, I’m all for anything that develops a fresh thoughtline for her, but I’d really them to settle on something and give her some direction already. The show’s developed quite a propensity for giving her disposable ‘careers of the soul’ before throwing them away and throwing her into uncomfortable scenes with older men.

As for Cam and Mitchell’s plot, it was remarkably brief. I wanted a little bit more, and I wanted to see their gossip issue effect Lily in some way; they’re rather underusing Lily this season and a bit more of her might have made it more memorable. How did they resist a guest appearance by Cam and Mitch’s snarky friend, Pepper Saltzman? It would have pushed the entire plotline to a new stratosphere.

Even with its flaws, iSpy is a pretty funny little chunk of sitcom goodness. It manages the usual ‘aww’ moment every Modern Family strives for (the final scene with all of its family photographs, complete with a shot of Claire and Gloria reenacting a famous photo of Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe), but has room for wackiness, verbal sophistication and even a little bit of basic gag writing. It’s a nice episode, but it’s not perfect, yet it’s delightfully and utterly watchable. And it has something interesting to say about trust.

The Roundup

  • Of course Phil’s the sort of parent who has 80’s retro movie nights with his kids. Of course.
  • Phil’s fake Facebook account, used to track the kids: Margo LaCroix.
  • Next week: there is a repeat of the episode ‘Larry’s Wife’.

[notification type=star]80/100 ~ GREAT. iSpy is well-written witty and amusing; above the show’s average but not among its best episodes.[/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.