S.02.E.11: As much as I like to insist that Modern Family is at its best when it involves all three families coming together to deal with a common situation, I have to admit that I am wrong sometimes. Case in point: 'Slow Down Your Neighbors' had no such connecting theme running throughout the episode, yet it was hilarious. Such critical conundrums I face!
Let’s start with Cam and Mitchell. The cold opening was the teaser used for the episode where they are first horrified to discover someone using their hot tub. But when they discover said hot-tubber is the rather good looking James Marsden they agree that they might have been overreacting. My favorite part of this whole gag was their initial reaction as it really underlined each of their characters. Mitchell wanted to call the police while Cam went to grab his bat. Cam’s natural athletics (he’s also a huge football fan) provides a wonderful bit of depth for his character. It would be so easy to paint him as a broad stereotype, but the writers have given him something better.
But things weren’t exactly what they seemed with Mr. Hot New Neighbor. It turns out he was sleeping in Lily’s castle, which in turn led to some great physical comedy. The shot of Phil and Barry in the castle sitting down to discuss the situation was simply hilarious and when it took a turn for the worse, seeing them try to talk to Mitchell through the tiny windows as the whole castle shook from their struggle was a perfect ending.
This story really worked on so many levels because (like most great Modern Family storylines) it was a twist on a traditional sitcom story. Usually, the Dad/Mom would discover the hot new neighbor of the opposite sex while one spouse was left fuming in the background. But with having Cam and Mitchell both attracted to Barry it created more opportunity for humor. And while Mitchell became disillusioned with Barry in the middle of the episode, it served as a big character developing moment as we learn that he instantly writes off potential new friends if he gets peeved at minor character flaws (like with the girl who said “but yet”). Oh snap! Look at Modern Family taking traditional sitcom narratives and turning them on its head!
The next two storylines were incredible all thanks to Luke. Nolan Gould simply owned most of the show this week thanks to his startling distrust of the police and his new found teaching abilities. Having recently discovered Gould was on Twitter, I think this kid might just be a genius. He’s not the idiot that Luke is (though that should be obvious considering how smart someone needs to be to play stupid, much like being drunk doesn’t help acting like you’re drunk) and is frighteningly aware of his role on the show. I’ve always said we needed more Luke on Family, but now we need more Luke in the show so we don’t piss this kid off. He’ll be around for a while.
Anyway, the Phil and Claire story had the unusual predicament where both of them had very strong stories seemingly independent of each other that, of course, came together in a train wreck. A very funny train wreck mind you. Claire has noticed a speeder careening through the neighborhood and has made it her mission to stop the driver. Phil is one big sale away from taking over salesman of the quarter and needs to move this hard-talking woman’s house. Turns out said woman is the speeder (kind of obvious in hindsight, but whatever) and thus Phil has to balance out placating his wife and making the sale. Phil actually showed a remarkable amount of shrewdness in this story despite what the fluke in the house suggests. His innate desire to satisfy Claire, but also trump his rival, created great little moments that, for my money, showed that Ty Burrell deserved the Emmy over Eric Stonestreet.
Luke was relegated to the sideline for the story but killed every line. Apparently, he has a strong distrust of the police that showed up out of nowhere and was hilarious (a sample: "Police, ha. Order a pizza and call the cops. We'll see who gets here first."). Then, when Claire was looking for faster objects he offered up the following: a bullet, a laser, a falcon, and a laser falcon. Good ole Luke. Never change buddy.
The Gloria and Jay story dealt with Gloria’s inability to ride a bike. Jay was shocked at this revelation and, thankfully, this situation came from Gloria’s personal family and not some Colombian stereotype. Her mother was always afraid that someone would “grab” Gloria off a bike thus scaring her forever from two wheeled modes of transportation. Jay (if it weren’t for Luke) would’ve had the line of the night when he addressed Gloria’s concerns with the bike standing upright said “there’s no reason you should stay upright but it just works.” Brilliant Jay.
When Jay’s methods don’t work, Gloria seeks the guidance of someone a little less harsh. She goes to Phil first (of course) but he was preoccupied with making the sale. Luke was free due to a playdate cancellation (“I never taught anyone anything, but my playdate was canceled so I was wide open”) and takes the responsibility. In what I consider to be one of the wisest teaching methods ever, he gets Gloria up on her bike by taking her mind off of the fears of riding. Luke might just be an idiot savant with his practices, especially when it works with teaching Haley her history lesson.
It might not have been the traditional “recipe” for a great Modern Family episode, but it was still hilarious thanks to Luke. Its a shame we didn’t have any Alex, but with Luke tearing it up I wasn’t too disappointed.