Modern Family, Season 6, Episode 9, “Strangers in the Night”
December 3rd, 2014, 9PM, ABC
Claire and Haley are convinced that Alex’s honor-society member trainee doctor model boyfriend is imaginary, causing Phil to firmly back Alex – a process that grows complicated when the boy dumps Alex on the verge of Phil and Claire inviting him to dinner, leaving both parents to continue to presume that the boy’s been made up by their middle child. Meanwhile, Gloria experiences discomfort while attending Jay’s dog park friend’s barkmitzvah, and when Manny talks her into rejoining the celebration he quickly learns that Jay would rather attend the party alone (And that he wants to avoid Gloria’s party for her naturalization ceremony), and Mitch deals with an emotional and physical mess of a co-worker named Brenda, whose disintegrating marriage means she might disintegrate all over Mitch and Cam’s sparklingly clean new white designer couch in the process.
This one’s all over the place. It would have been a neater conclusion to have the boy from this episode be Jason Darling from “Do Not Push.” The family’s persistent belief that Alex is making up her boyfriend’s existence is pretty funny, but the ending to the storyline is sort of limp and ultimately pointless (and what is it with the Dunphy girls and stereotypical bad boys?). It needed one more narrative nudge to really shove it over the top and make it perfect.
A little more amusing was the Jay and Gloria plotline. Though the sight of a barkmitzvah was truly hilarious, Jay’s sort of cruel not to want to attend Gloria’s slightly more important party. The sight gags ultimately made it worthwhile as a storyline. The Manny character manages to hold the whole plot together but I absolutely can’t account for the bizarre Joe mini-plot where we learn he throws violent tantrums whenever somebody switches the channel while he’s watching TV.
Then there’s Cam and Mitch’s plot. Kristen Johnston is, sadly, completely wasted in her role as sad sack Brenda; she gets one good scene where Brenda confronts her misery, and the rest of the appearance is eaten up by sneezing and snoring. The couch plot makes Cam and Mitch look like a couple of jerks, and while I absolutely believe they’d consider their commitment to style an important one, they value their designer couch over Sal’s messy vulnerability and Lily’s general happiness. Thus, they remain mostly unappealing throughout the episode. Thankfully, we have Lily. I maintain that Lily is the best character on this show – she has the best line of the episode (Cam surprises her with the new sofa. Lily: “It had better not be a baby!”), and the dry sarcasm and writing they’ve given her is positively enchanting.
“Strangers in the Night” looks great on paper. That’s the problem – it works well as a comedic premise but never seems to take off in the execution. While the performances are fairly strong, they’re defeated by plots that abruptly dead-end in a confusing mess, minus moral and message but also without rhyme, reason or sense . It’s an all right outing, but could still bit better with more polish.
- Aww, come on, Dylan wasn’t that bad, Claire!
- Lily’s anti-BS detector is indeed brilliant and the most redeeming feature of the post-wedding Mitch and Cam storylines.
- If you get bored watching the episode, try to imagine that Kristen Johnston is playing Sally Solomon, her 3rd Rock from the Sun character, undercover, It does wonders.
- Mitch and Cam have a seemingly endless string of messy straight female friends. Never forget the ever-entertaining recurring presence of Sal.
- As tracked throughout the previous two seasons, Jay’s managed to bond with Stella and often does activities with the dog, including dog shows.
- Next Week: Haley turns twenty one! This requires the entire family to descend together on a bar to celebrate the occasion, where Claire tries desperately to be seen as more than a nagging mom in her daughter’s eyes. Meanwhile, Mitch and Cam realize they’re less cool than they thought they were, Phil and Jay run into trouble while trying to pick up Haley’s present and Lily gets three different stories when she asks Alex, Luke and Manny where babies come from in “Haley’s 21st Birthday.”
A bit of a muddle, with good performances that save everything. It’s easy to laugh at what we end up with and yet it’s possible to yearn for more.