May 20th, 2015, 9PM, ABC
This week, Alex finally graduates high school with honors…and Phil is stuck in Seattle after an ear infection gained during a business trip makes it impossible for him to fly home in time, forcing him to attend the party that takes place afterwards through Skype and a robotic servo (sidenote: how much money did Skype give ABC this season?). Nearly everyone finds robo-Phil’s presence uncomfortable and strangely embarrassing, and Jay spends much of the party trying to lock the Phil servo out of sight. Meanwhile, Claire fusses over getting Alex the perfect graduation gift and suffers spurts of inferiority when her relatives repeatedly show her up, switching presents numerous times along the way, and then she breaks Phil’s heart when she refuses to sing the song he wrote for the occasion. Also, Jay repeatedly tells Gloria he’s sick of her cousin - whose visit has outlasted its welcome – but when he reaches the uncomfortable conclusion that the man’s smuggling drugs a rift opens up between Gloria and her husband. Elsewhere, the tension between Haley and Andy comes to a head when he brings his fiancée Beth to the party. The sight of them fuels Haley’s desire to get over Andy and let him go because Beth seems like such a nice girl…until Beth’s possessive streak shows up and Haley starts to worry that Beth’s out to kill her just as Andy is prompted to choose between the two women and make a proposal. Lastly, Mitch, fired from his job at the nonprofit, tries not to admit to Cam he’s been unemployed for a full month. The truth gets harder to hide, especially while Cam struggles with his brand-new braces, is terribly insulted by Mitch’s lack of sexual interest and is confused by his partner’s underwhelmed reaction when they announce that they’re finally going to buy the apartment upstairs. All of that inattention causes Cam to presume that Mitch is cheating on him, and then the text messages from his (chess) buddy start rolling in…
The season finale of Modern Family wraps up a lot of the themes the season’s undertaken in a neat little bow. Alex finally graduates high school and is lauded with trips to Europe and fancy gifts. The show has a fondness for conspicuous consumerism with a heavy dash of sentiment, and for once the sentiment wins out – even though the big speech of the episode isn’t being given by Claire. That plotline kind of clatters to the floor with a shrug, semi-solved, as do many of the stories in this episode. Meanwhile, Mitch and Cam finally rent the apartment above them, but not without sitcom complications. At least the story seems to be leading to Cam playing breadwinner in the sixth season, a role reversal of their lives over the past few seasons. It’s something that feels repetitive and sort of gutless, especially when you realize the show could be delivering the two of them actual marital tribulations to spice things up.
Elsewhere, the Andy/Haley romance story, while being charming and frankly the most interesting part of the show, has gone on such a slow burn that it feels like they’re never going to end up together. The last scene provides a true idiot plot moment that fits Ebert’s definition with breathtaking symmetry.
All of the other characters get to flail around stereotypically. Horatio Sanz pops up in the thankless role of Gloria’s layabout and possibly criminal cousin, and the show tries to subvert ugly stereotypes yoked to Latin characters only to turn about and seemingly confirm them all. Funny? (!) Nah. And yeah, we get yet more of Luke in creep mode in this episode. The end result is a finale that leaves us in suspense in only one way, and if you’re not invested in that situation you won’t care.
Modern Family has a long climb to make before it gets close to its old heights. Hopefully an invigorating hiatus will renew writerly enthusiasm.
- “It was a nice reversal from when I had to pull the plug on my dad in the hospital.” Oh Andy.
- Quibble: why can’t Phil drive home, take a bus or a train? His doctor said no air travel, but the Dunphys are rich enough to swap out the tickets for express passes.
- Claire was stuck holding her Ipad aloft for two hours so Phil could watch his daughter graduate. Phil: “I bet I was the only dad there without pants!”
- Andy continues to accidentally dress Joe in outfits identical to his own. Andy also once wore light-up sneakers to a Radiohead concert so he wouldn’t get lost (and he didn’t even though Haley tried to lose him).
- Mitch has been hiding in the park playing checkers during the months of his layoff.
- “And your little heads were stuck together like the cutest teepee ever!”
- ”Crocket and Tubbs, that’s heroin!”
- Alex once gave Mitch a B- as an uncle in a mock-report card she gave him years ago because he ‘wasted his vote on Ralph Nader’.
- ”You didn’t laugh at my robot joke! Is something wrong?”
- Lily doesn’t appear in this episode.
- See You Next Season!
Some stories finally crest and fade; others seem to last for freaking ever. The Gloria subplot is just plain weird and somehow offensive, and many of the surrounding issues just seem to exist to tread water. For all of its positives the show still bears major flaws that’re only growing more severe as time goes on.