April 1st, 2015, 9PM, ABC
Jay’s birthday arrives, and the family tries to decide how to best surprise him and show their appreciation for his existence. While Phil gets his father-in-law a deluxe grill that soon turns into a deadly chicken-spewing hazard, Claire and Mitch decide to pay back Jay for various loans he’s given them over the years, jeopardizing the money Cam’s recently inherited and that Mitch and Cam have planned to invest in the apartment upstairs from them (Mitch doesn’t know that Cam already spent the money on faux fur jackets for himself and Lily) and leaving Phil to struggle with the fact that he’s owed Jay money for twenty plus years and Claire never bothered to tell him. Meanwhile, Claire worries that she’s not making a big enough fuss over Alex’s academic successes and then deals with her daughter’s annoyance over her fawning; Gloria tries to keep Luke out of her tequila to only have Luke and Manny steal the booze and then learning a valuable lesson about drinking…when they get stewed on the water Gloria replaced the alcohol with. And Andy becomes awkward around Haley and her new doctor boyfriend in light of the confession he overheard on his sickbed and getting into the kind of situations previously experienced by Jack Tripper – and Andy finds himself playing Cyrano for the romance-challenged doctor.
This week’s Modern Family draws its inspiration from one specific fellow: O. Henry, who’s “Gift of the Magi” forms the basis of the ridiculous sacrificial monetary roundelay between the Dunphys, Tucker-Pritchetts and Jay in this episode. Phil seeing the money as a way to worm his way into Jay’s good graces makes perfect sense; the rest of them squabbling over money – with the jobs they have, with the accumulated wealth they’ve always had on display throughout the series – seems ridiculous. Phil’s stated concern that he and Claire might not be able to afford Alex’s “safety school” feels patently absurd. This is a family that’s never gone without, never had to pinch pennies or struggled for their next meals – especially trendy, social-status grubbing Mitch and Cam, who have always had enough money for any little creature comfort they wished. It leads the audience not to sympathy or laughter but frustration. The only thing that saves the plot is a lovely scene between Alex and Jay that Ed O’Neil acts the holy heck out of.
Manny and Luke’s subplot makes them look like total idiots, which is no big change from the way they’ve been written over the past few seasons. How can kids with internet access not be aware that tequila worms won’t live in their stomachs? It demands willing ignorance out of the viewing public, which they may or may not be willing to offer up in return. So that brings us to the Haley and Andy plotline, the show’s saving grace thus far. The actors continue to do well in the subtler moments, but the cornball situational humor they’re put through in this episode doesn’t make for interesting entertainment. This is entertainment of the most mindless sort, and while Modern Family’s never been highbrow entertainment it’s always at its best when it provides a little bit of heart to wash down the treacle, something two segments dare to provide us with.
- To bring a conclusion to Alex’s subplot from last week, she gets into Cal Tech in the first few minutes of this episode.
- “You’re Eva, the classy one!”
- Phil takes a brand new car off on an ‘extended test drive’. Don’t ask me if you can actually legally drive off with a car.
- Andy gets his first solo couch interview in this episode. And it appears he’s still working down at Jay and Gloria’s while working for Phil’s agency.
- “If God wants a hamburger, this is what she cooks it on!”
- “You had your summer of the red afro and I dated the whitest Puerto Rican on earth.” – Claire summarizing her and Mitch’s teenage attempts at rebellion.
- That mural on Joe’s wall will never not be funny.
- “Lily! We can get the hats!”
- Next Week: The show takes a weeklong hiatus. See you after Easter!
Some good moments, the Phil/Alex pep talk and most of the Haley/Andy storyline salvage the episode.