S02E23: "See You Next Fall" managed to pull off a pretty incredible feat last night. It gave us all the qualities of a classic episode of Modern Family, gave every character a chance to be hilarious, delivered a voiceover at the end that wasn’t a voiceover, and to satisfy the comedy nerd in me, summed up the entire theory of humor for the show in a single line. So yeah, I kinda liked this episode.
"Our hubris will be our undoing." - Phil
The central storyline was Alex’s impending graduation from middle school. Now, I know it’s been several years since I’ve graduated, but are these graduations an actual thing? I mean, I can totally see them happening, but people actually do this? Really? Wow. Anyway, since the best episodes all revolve around a central issue the rest of the family’s stories connect through this. Phil wants to hurry up Claire’s impending meltdown, Jay has a botox job go wrong, and Haley tries to stop Alex from giving her speech that will alienate her from her peers. Mitchell starts laughing at Cam at an inappropriate time and while this doesn’t have anything to do with Alex’s speech, he does manage to sum up the show’s philosophy quite succinctly.
Let’s go into Jay and Gloria’s storyline first, if only so I can go ahead and get the champagne problem of Gloria’s boobs out of the way. That was fun. So their storyline opens on such a simple concept: Jay is stuck out in front of the gate and gets Manny and Gloria on the line. Neither of them understand that he’s trying to get in and really, had this been acted by anyone else or written by anyone else it would’ve fallen as flat as can be. Luckily these guys know what they’re doing and it was wonderful. Turns out Jay got some botox and it went wrong. Everyone thought he had a stroke (Why? Age, diet, he forgot Gloria’s bread) and he gets self conscious about it. But the Gloria reminds him that she likes that he is old and he should accept who he is. It was really sweet and even though I think Ty Burrell is funnier on the show, Ed O’Neill is absolutely killing the acting. Emmy nomination? Locked.
Next up is Phil and Claire. Phil knows that Claire is going to break down at any point over Alex’s graduation and unfortunately he needs that to happen before he goes off to Vegas with his old college cheerleading buddies. Of course he does it in the most hapless way possible, but it was still sweet to see him be that noticeable. Eventually when Claire does break down she manages to bring him down with her when she reminds him of how Haley used to greet him at the door. It was a moving moment but for all the talk about sentimental feelings, these two got a lot of laughs. They have to take a tandem bike in order to barely make it to the graduation, they pratfall down the large hill, and Phil’s cheerleading advice to Jay to help him boost over the gate? Absolutely hilarious. And for all of Claire’s shriekiness that has come out in full force this season, the writers really played it to their advantage by having Phil expect it. Plus she got to do some great physical comedy which really counter-balanced it.
"It’s completely different. It’s the juxtaposition of absurdest comedy against the backdrop of a formal setting. Not a big boned man falling into a pool." - Cam
Once again we find Cam being upset about something Mitchell does, only this time it’s Mitch laughing at Cam falling over and running into a screen door. Normally I can kind of agree with Cam on his complaints, but this week? Come on, get over yourself. Anyone falling into a kiddie pool is hilarious, big boned or not. And THEN running into a screen door twice? That’s comedy gold. Even better was seeing all of the Pritchetts get into it. Then Cam manages to sum up half of Modern Family’s philosophy of humor after he watches Phil and Claire tumble down the hill. Of course, they use crazy physical humor but they also recycle old sitcom tropes in unusual ways while also playing up the emotional aspect of said tropes. For this story to be about laughing at a large man falling into a pool, it really made us think about the nature of comedy. And how Cam really did look like an iceberg.
Finally, the most surprising story of the week: Haley helping Alex with her speech. Alex had this big plan to show up all the popular kids in front of the whole school but Haley steps in to stop her from alienating herself in front of the entire school. Now, a commenter over at the AV Club made an interesting point that Haley basically told her to not do what she wanted to do and fall in line, but I disagree. Her message wasn’t fall in line, it was don’t shoot yourself in the foot. It isn’t worth it when you can reinvent yourself in high school and it's better to build bridges than burn them down since you’re stuck with these people for the next four years. I’ve really enjoyed watching Haley and Alex grow closer. They're a dynamic duo that work very well together. Their biting, sarcastic remarks are funny, but I think there is a more powerful relationship between as a team than as enemies.
Of course, our two main comedians in the show, Manny and Luke, didn’t have their own story but they still managed to steal the show with their minds. Or at least Luke did. Manny would be the kind of kid who rushes over to WebMD at any chance and Luke is totally a kid who would think an automatic door opens because of his mind. If there ever was a spinoff from this show I would hope it would be these two. Manny and Luke, two beat cops on patrol? Tell me you wouldn’t watch the hell out of that show.
And now we’re one week away from finishing up the second season. Modern Family really knows what makes a great episode but they’re still working their kinks out. I’ve always considered the second-to-last-episode of a season the season-ender since the final episode tends to bridge everything to the next. And honestly I can’t think of a better way for Modern Family to go out.