S3E12: If these past two episodes of Modern Family are any indication, I’d say that the show is beginning to remove any significant value it once placed on story structure. That being said, whereas last week’s episode felt unfinished, this week’s installment, “Egg Drop,” has a particularly bizarre charm to it. The episode is disjointed to the point of incepting new plot devices halfway (or further) through each of the three (four? five?) storylines. But some might chalk that up to realism. After all, life is disjointed, and hardly respectful of any sort of structure. So let’s just give Modern Family the benefit of the doubt that that’s what it is going for this week.
The titular story ignites a lifelong competitive edge that exists between Jay and Claire. As Mitchell points out to the audience, Jay embraced Claire’s love for sports and competition early on in her life, fueling her passion for winning but he never let her win (mostly, as a somewhat resentful Mitchell explains, to compensate for not having a son who had any athletic interests or talents).
Manny and Luke are both struggling with a science project that demands they create a container of sorts that allows them to secure an egg sufficiently so that it will not break after a one-story drop—cue Manny’s deliberations about how the egg is a metaphor for humanity, and Luke’s bright idea that he, himself, is the appropriate container (it’s a good thing that the shot of Haley placing an egg in Luke’s mouth while he straddles the upstairs banister in preparation for a drop is followed immediately by the opening credits, because you can’t see that image without laughing out loud for a straight minute).
Jay and Claire both get it into their heads that the other will undoubtedly do the project for his/her respective child, so each takes control over the egg drop experiment to create the superior device, leaving both Manny and Luke free of the assignment. The story has value primarily because it gives us some more back-story on the Pritchett Generation Two’s upbringing. Although it’s not particularly new information that Jay raised Claire to be competitive, it’s extra-interesting to see it transpire in a particularly Freudian manifestation. Claire loses it in this episode—as she often does—trying to manipulate Alex into revealing her secret designs for the egg drop project that earned her an A back when she was in Luke’s grade, trading uncomfortably bitter insults with her father, and throwing in a fair amount of twitches for the audience’s benefit.
Jay isn’t much better—he loses his grip more than once throughout the episode. But Claire’s realization that their behavior is inherently flawed provokes him to reassure her that her competitive strength is something he loves about her. The ending harkens back to an earlier Season 3 episode wherein Claire discovered the discomfort she had with her own attachment to her father and the need for his approval. Without that to contextualize the ending of “Egg Drop,” it might seem either a bit hack or just plain bizarre. But one thing Modern Family does fairly well is make its character development work—for the Pritchett trio especially (double-especially when in accordance with one another).
“The five keys to investing wisely in a down real estate market are: Keyp your cool… Keyp informed… Legwork…” – Phil
Meanwhile, Phil is throwing himself full force into a public real estate presentation on which he has worked tremendously hard. He enlists the help of Haley and Gloria to make the show run smoothly, but has clearly picked the wrong duo. An hour before the show, Haley and Gloria go to the beauty salon, and do not make it back in time because Gloria parked her car in a tow-away zone. At this point—long after the plot of this storyline has been established—Haley mentions offhandedly that Phil won’t be mad at Gloria because he puts her on a pedestal. Phil’s boyish affinity for Gloria has always been a running joke, but they’ve never really addressed it with any sincerity. Personally, it made me a bit uncomfortable to hear Phil’s own daughter utter the words aloud. Phil is nothing if not a devoted husband, but if Haley (of all people) is well-aware of her father’s fondness for Gloria, then it’s clearly something that goes beyond a running joke for the audience’s benefit.
Early in the episode, Jay walks in on Gloria screaming bloody murder at one of her relatives on the phone, only to tell whomever it is that she loves them before hanging up. Gloria explains that yelling and screaming honestly at someone is a true sign that you love and respect them. Thus, when Phil refuses to admonish Gloria for ruining his presentation (she and Haley return after it ends to find a shattered Phil cleaning up the wreckage; although, the presentation didn’t seem to really go all that terribly) she gets upset with him. Eventually, her demands are met, and Phil lashes out at her for being selfish, which only makes her hug him happily. This whole aspect of the story did seem to come from nowhere and I personally think something about Phil being upset with Haley for letting him down would have had more value—but, again, I’m going with the whole “realism” thing. Phil scrambling to put on a perfect presentation is worth giving the episode the benefit of the doubt elsewhere—it is quite a funny set of events.
“I thought she could use a basic biology lesson.” – Mitchell
Finally, Mitchell and Cam interview a prospective surrogate mother. This storyline especially has such an aversion to structure that it might as well be found footage. At first, it’s about Mitchell’s compulsion to correct people. Then, it’s about Cam’s insecurity over his singing abilities. At a few points, it seems to be about the fact that this batty woman is not the person they want to be dealing with. Ultimately, it ends up with her deciding to keep the baby after Cam serenades her with a counterproductively inspiring “If You Leave Me Now” by Chicago. Plus, the fact that this story first begins about ten minutes into the episode is notably bizarre. But kudos for a joke about Mitchell and Cam reluctantly admitting the nutty lady’s feng shui layout actually provides for some pretty convenient frustration venting.