S02E18: Now this was a fantastic episode of Modern Family. It was funny, heartfelt, and so endearing; but let’s be honest, what really made it awesome was an extended Luke scene that actually saw Nolan Gould really acting. THAT was AWESOME.
We find Modern Family, once again, with two stories that more or less resolve with the same lesson being learned. This time our big, profound lesson is that we should try new things and not be scared of change, differences, etc. It’s not a bad lesson and the parents that learn it (Jay and Phil/Claire) are the ones that needed it the most. Strangely enough, they both learn this lesson from the child they probably thought would not teach them anything. That’s a really strange concept, but it’ll make itself clearer as we go along.
"We were just concerned that you looked dead." -Phil
Follow me now to the Claire and Phil story, won’t you? Oh yeah, we’re going all Mister Rogers this week. *slips off loafers, puts on slippers, bitch* Anyway, Phil and Claire have a neighbor, Mr. Kleezak (the amazing Philip Baker Hall), who terrifies them. It’s strangely funny to watch them just give up on a ball that travels into his yard, but that doesn’t stop Luke from going over there to get it back. When he does, he develops a very Dennis the Menace-like friendship with Mr. Kleezak.
Unfortunately, Claire and Phil find it a little strange that their son is hanging out with their cranky old neighbor so they go to investigate. They find Kleezak sprawled out on his recliner and think he’s dead (of course). When they go to check his pulse, he wakes up and they confront him. They then ban Luke from seeing him and Luke storms off. But then Kleezak shows up with some onions from his garden and apologizes to them and says that he might have come off as a bit gruff. He also assures them that he wouldn’t hurt their kid, he was a firefighter after all.
There were several things that just worked with this story. The first was the relationship between Hall and Gould. They absolutely nailed everything this week. From Hall’s line about being a firefighter to warning them to not get so excited over the onions, it was perfect. Gould showed some range which was a welcome surprise and hopefully we’ll be able to see more of it in the future. Claire and Phil continued to have great chemistry together. They topped it this week with Phil pushing Claire forward into the house. The only thing that kind of bothered me was their reaction to Kleezak waking up. It was a great bit of physical comedy for those two, but it felt a little forced. It's only a small complaint though for a fantastic story.
"... and don't anybody go there!" -Jay
Next we have Jay who learned that his son is gay. No, I mean, REALLY gay. And I say this is Jay’s story and not Cam and Mitchell’s because Jay was the one that underwent the change, so he gets his name on the story; but Cam and Mitchell are very much a part of it. Cam and Mitchell decide to have a boys' night out with their gay friends. Gloria and Manny try to drag Jay to see a classical music concert. Jay backs out in fear of trying new things and winds up at the same restaurant as Cam and Mitchell’s boys' night out, but things turn out for the better after the drinks are served and they all wind up having a great time.
However, the next morning Jay wakes up with a killer headache and Pepper (Nathan Lane) calling him to see if he’s ready for the big adventure. Jay can’t believe he agreed to it and tries to get out of it, but Gloria is still fairly upset at him for bailing on her and Manny the night before so she kicks him out to go with Pepper.
All in all, this wasn’t a bad story. It's definitely one of the better Jay stories of the season. What really worked for me was Mitchell’s gradual relief of seeing his dad accept and participate in his lifestyle. That sigh of relaxation was almost palpable and you know a show is firing on every cylinder it has when it is able to conjure up emotions like that. As for the Nathan Lane guest starring, he was fine. We’ve seen him before in the series and in other shows basically playing the same person. Then again, it’s hard to compete as a guest star when you’re going up against Hall. I was initially worried when I saw the table and people Cam and Mitchell were sitting with; I thought it would inevitably be just one big table of gay stereotypes. It did turn out to be that, but just with surprising depth to it. Each character at that table had their own personality and characterization that it never once threatened to delve into broad comedy.
"I go a lot of places without wearing shoes." -Dylan
Meanwhile, the other Dunphee children rounded out the minor story lines this week. Alex has been watching the news and is terrified of the world happenings. It's a fairly typical story for her; there was nothing exactly shocking about it. Haley, meanwhile, volunteers to babysit for Cam and Mitchell when they go out on their date. Cam and Mitchell were rightfully nervous about having her watch Lily, but in the end she managed to take care of her. The story was fairly weak, but it was worth it to hear Dylan wax poetic about losing his shoe and hear him say "uncles's." Simply delightful.
While I could have done without the music playing over the lesson being learned at the end, it was still a great Modern Family episode in its classic vein (can a show have a classic vein three quarters of the way through their second season? You betcha!). Thanks for stopping by neighbors, you’re always a friend.