Modern Family, Season 6 Episode 4 - Marco Polo
October 15th, 2014, 9PM, ABC
Close quarters have never really suited the Dunphy family; they can barely stand to hang out together during an arranged vacation. Now imagine them all stuck in living in a single motel room, dealing with their neighbor’s barking dogs, an extremely weak wifi signal, an exploding can of knock-off Axe spray and a vending machine that spits out decades-old candy bars. That’s the basis of this week’s episode, Marco Polo, and things don’t get any easier for them as time goes on and things get so cramped that Claire takes a room of her own behind Phil’s back and the kids all want to follow her there. Phil quickly finds himself acting like a divorced man and bonding with their Nigerian nextdoor neighbors. Meanwhile, Gloria protests Manny’s dating an older girl named Sam, worrying that she’s a bad influence on him while Jay has a much different reaction to the situation (and Sam’s lovely car) – the second Jay convinces Gloria to trust the girl he catches Sam making out with another boy and must decide between keeping mum and . Rounding out this week’s stories, an anxious Cam worries his perfect 5-0 season will be spoiled by sports-ignorant Mitch, who refuses to participate in Cam’s game time rituals and whom he thus feels is a jinx, while Mitch is annoyed by Cam’s enthusiasm for all things athletic.
On mediocre weeks, physical comedy is a key ingredient to the success of Modern Family. Sometimes it means a cringe worthy episode – and sometimes the sitcom’s use of stupid, silly, flailing physical comedy just plain works. I admit to laughing very hard at the sight of Ty Burell throwing himself over a spewing can of body spray while trying to protect the rest of the family from getting spritzed; it’s an extremely simple joke that works very well due to the escalation of the situation, which manages to avoid humiliation and instead make the audience laugh at the ludicrous nature of the situation. Not that physical comedy’s the only draw; there’s a scene between Jay and Manny that takes place at the end of the episode that works beautifully and somehow combines tenderness and humor (with an able assist from Sofia Vergara and her miming abilities).
The general plotlines work well, though one wonders why the Dunphys don’t move into the single room and abandon their Nigerian neighbors to their devices (The whole Nigerian subplot has Unfortunate Racial Implications that are pointless and add nothing to the episode). They’d still be on top of each other, but at least the noisy dogs wouldn’t be problems.
Meanwhile, Cam and Mitch are the best part of the episode, with Cam tasting football success and Mitch awkwardly trying to support his husband as best he can in his own way. The tensions balance out beautifully, with genuine humor and slapstick milled to equal effect.
Manny’s subplot is relatable and funny, giving us another Jay vs Gloria plot that resolves itself via outside forces. Manny’s maturation has been handled a thousand times better than that of Luke last year, and this episode is a particularly good showcase that proves that point.
A solid episode, if not an excellent one, “Marco Polo” has heart, some humor and a lot of good slapstick. It’s not highbrow, but it’s funny.
- Items in the gift basket given to Cam on game day: eggplant jelly, pink salt and chocolate-dipped sundried tomatoes.
- The family with the barking dogs are Nigerian. IDEK.
- Gloria having no idea that Sam’s a girl is somehow the funniest part of things.
- Cam’s team’s name: The Dolphins
- Favorite sight gag: the hotel’s manager randomly strolling into the shot while Phil meets up with the divorced dads and dumping a whole container of boxed wine into a dispenser.
- Next Week: An obnoxious couple tries to buy the house next to the Dunphys’, leaving Phil and Claire to dissuade them from moving in; Cam and Mitch are scared of Lily’s tough teacher (played by Tyne Daly) and Manny and his girlfriend become star-crossed crushes after Jay figures out that she’s the daughter of a business rival of his – after he forbids Manny to see her in “Won’t You Be Our Neighbor”.
Sometimes frantic truly equals funny.