April 29th, 2015, 9PM, ABC
Claire refuses to let Phil buy a vintage, fully restored Miss Pac-Man video game cabinet so Phil turns to Jay for advice, but his father-in-law’s abrupt solution to the problem results in Phil having to assert himself with Claire, garnering unexpected results. Meanwhile, Jay and Gloria fight when Joe shows an interest in non-stereotypically masculine toys and Gloria paints his toenails – the final straw involves a pink princess castle and a semi truck; Haley, tired of being trampled by her boss at work, tries to stand up for herself with Gloria’s encouragement; Manny is rejected by his lab partner but tries to appeal to her romantic side only to have her date Luke and Claire tries to bribe the high school principal with favors when Luke is neglected during awards day at school and resorts to dirty tricks to get what she wants; Mitch and Cam try to convince each other to adopt another baby, but their test run babysitting for Joe turns into a disaster as he quietly destroys their whole house.
Modern Family’s racial and gender politics have, for all protestation contained in the title, about as traditional and retrograde as you can get. They’ve tried to respond to the unacknowledged elephants in the room by giving us three-dimensional (well, as 3-d as characters ever get on this show) glimpses of Gloria as the years have gone on, but oftentimes they fall on easy jokes and cornball characterization. This week’s weirdly wishy-washy treatment of Joe’s interest in non-traditional gender expression isn’t quite as awful as some of the other faux pas the show’s pulled, but it’s still worth a groan; the show, much like Cinderella in Into the Woods, decides by not deciding whether or not non-traditional gender roles work for a child with a heavy lean toward hetero tradition. Gloria paints her son’s toenails red but demands Jay turn the castle’s theme from princess to pirate ‘because he’s a boy’; Jay rebuilds the destroyed castle without altering it, yet acts as if his son’s nontraditional masculinity (at the age of barely two!) is a deep insult to his own sense of pride. The end result is a storyline that’s not as offensive as it could have been, but that’s not much of a compliment.
Meanwhile, Phil and Gloria’s nothing argument over the Ms. Pac Man system seems to exist only to take up space. Units like the one Phil’s interested in cost a thousand dollars or less, a price the white-collar bearing Dunphys could likely drop in an instant even with one daughter on her way to college.
Haley’s plotline would be a lot more interesting if we had a better idea of what to root for. If Haley’s miserable shouldn’t we be rooting for her to leave? Or is the ultimate moral about sticking it out until you advance up the corporate ladder? The plot is wrapped up in two scenes and it, unlike Manny’s, actually reaches a decent solution.
As for Mitch and Cam’s storyline: we’ve been here, we’ve done that and there’s no reason for us to think an extra kid in the home will somehow work better now.
This episode isn’t the worst thing the show’s ever produced but it also serves as an example of how far behind American society it’s fallen. In a world where transgender rights is being celebrated and the struggle for acceptance is reaching a new fever pitch, we should be beyond plots like these.
- “I wanted two rough and tumble boys and I ended up with a Manny and a pedi!”….yep.
- Miss Pac-Man was a huge hit in 1982, which, in canon terms, is just before Phil met Claire and conceived Haley.
- Claire still remembers Luke’s rival Scott Wheeler for narcing on her during the school carnival.
- Mitch and Cam previously spent much of season four talking about adopting another child before deciding against it.
- Haley started working for the imperious Gavin Sinclair in this season’s “Queer Eyes, Full Hearts.”
- Alex proves to be fluent in Spanish.
- Mitch and Cam’s couch was a plot point in “Strangers in the Night”, and their designer bowl was one in “Valentines Day 4: Twisted Sister”.
- “No, nothing in English is easy for me to say…”
- Next Week: Alex’s principal allows her to compete in a one mile run with her co-valedictorian to establish one of them as the sole head of the student body after their final grades result in a tie. Meanwhile, Gloria studies for her citizenship test and receives an unexpected visit from her ex-husband Javier, and Mitch and Cam protest the gentrification a local restaurant will bring to the neighborhood while secretly yearning to eat there in “Patriot Games.”
Embarrassing gender politics combine with decent humor. Kudos to Ariel Winter for providing the episode’s biggest laugh with Alex’s multiple acceptance speeches over the credits.