This episode was all about imparting wisdom…and how badly that can turn out sometimes. Phil’s “teachable moments” shouldn’t be considered wise words of wisdom from an adult. They’re more like evidence of said adult being complete a doofus, and thankfully by the end of tonight’s episode, Phil learns the difference between being mature and being stubborn, Jay learns the difference between being too cool for preschool and being a good dad, and boy, oh boy, does Claire learn the difference between the three Herms at the office. But parents, whatever they’re like, whoever they are, will always want to impress their children, and that’s why they attempt these “teachable moments,” even if in the end, they really don’t work out. And maybe that’s way too deep a way to look at an episode of Modern Family, especially one this thin, but hey, it’s true. So with that, I’m splitting up the family by teachable moments this week, which means we should start with:
Gloria and Mitch and Cam
Sure, Gloria’s not trying to instill a “teachable moment” on her, um, sons-in-law, but she does bestow a good amount of wisdom on them this episode. After she loses her spot on during jury duty because of her over-enthusiasm about the job, she ends up helping Mitch and Cam out of their party pickle. See, Mitch had invited the pathetic Raymond, who’s still getting over a breakup of a long-term relationship, and it’s driving guests away.
And so, Gloria thinks she can channel her unused jury-duty energy into solving the issue. Her analysis: Mitch must be in love with Raymond and won’t stop worrying until Cam is out of the picture, which is why he invited him. Mitch, of course, knocks some sense into this assumption, explaining that he’s just nervous about the fact that he would be the Raymond of the relationship if he and Cam ever split up. He’d be the one moping around going grocery shopping in his pajamas with nothing to do! But then Gloria catches him lying, calling him out for playing with his hair, his one tell. Because of that, Gloria explains, it’s not Mitch himself he’s worried about; it’s Cam. And Mitch admits it: Cam would be the Raymond of their relationship, because he’s just so…opinionated and attention-seeking. Luckily, before things get out of hand, Gloria steps in and reminds them that they might as well keep Raymond invited to the party — after all, what’s so bad about letting a guy in need of some happiness attend? (Teachable moment mission accomplished!)
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Jay and Joe and The Learnin’ Barn
And then there’s Jay, the one parent who’s least into impressing his child. Because Gloria had to go to jury duty, Jay has to head to The Learnin’ Barn with the wide-eyed Joe. Instead of committing himself to the job, he brings along Margaret, an assistant who happily announces, “I couldn’t have children.” (Wow, Jay, couldn’t you have found someone who didn’t have such a personal connection with kids?) Eventually, Jay gets over the hippie vibe of the place and even starts to feel a kinship with Larry the Lonely Leopard, as read by Joe’s teacher:
…with this adorable reaction from Joe (and the Jay-dubbed “Big Ears,” whose ears really aren’t that big) that I couldn’t help but screenshot:
Unfortunately, Jay gets mocked by Big Ears and leaves feeling down, until Joe reveals that Jay was a hit with the whole class, and they’d love to have him back. Aw, Jay! Good job parenting — now all you have to do is convince Big Ears to give you your wallet back!
NEXT: Claire tries to be a good leader, but mint chocolate chip ice cream cake gets in the way [pagebreak]
Claire and her daughters
The Dunphy household’s split by gender this week, but both plots take the same route, as each parent wants to appeal to the children. Claire gets to play Jay for the day as he’s out of the office, but she quickly learns that no one trusts her opinion. That’s okay at first; as she puts it, “Men are often intimidated by a strong, powerful woman.” Although that may work for Phil — earlier that day, he talks about her “tough side” as they prepare for the day — it doesn’t work on the jaded workforce.
Because of that, Claire tries a different route: She takes Haley and Alex on a tour of the office, leading them to a design meeting before accidentally running straight into the glass door. It’s embarrassing for Claire, but rather than sitting down and examining whether those dilated pupils are really pointing to a concussion, she pushes ahead. This leads to, well, the expected consequence: By the end of the episode, she’s stumbling around and even manages to fall on her face on stage, when she’s asked to deliver a speech for Herm, a man retiring that day. She may have ordered a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake for the man, but nothing will make up for her confusing him with one of the two other Herms at the site. Sorry, Claire, you tried so hard even your hand’s bleeding from your efforts. “Okay, I’m out,” Claire says, finally realizing she’s been beaten by her circumstances. It wasn’t the moment she wanted to teach, but at least Haley and Alex saw that sometimes you just have to back down from getting everything your way.
Phil and the boys
The Dunphy patriarch met similar challenges. This week, he takes Manny and Luke to pick up trash for community service and tries to mold the experience into a character-building lesson. Instead, he runs into a suspicious man — suspicious because Phil can’t remember his name — who asks Phil to pay for cab fare, as his car just got towed. Luke is very dismissive, telling Phil after the man leaves with the money that he must have just scammed Phil. (Wow… From now on, I’m never trusting anyone I don’t remember again. I don’t want to lose $20 bills over altruism!)
Phil first denies it was a scam, but after a while, he realizes Luke may be right. By the time he sees the man again asking another passerby for financial help, Phil has decided to trash the man’s car. And he does, with the help of Luke, Manny, and their hipster friends. But then, the man reveals himself to be Dr. Monty Lemon, the man who delivered Luke. After all this, Phil had simply forgotten his name because the good doctor no longer looked the way he did when he brought Luke into the world. Awkward? Yes. Teachable moment? Oh, absolutely. Speaking of which, here’s this week’s…
Line of the Night: “Grow up, Manny. Human beings are ultimately terrible.” —Phil, telling it like it is, in the night’s most teachable moment
Family MVP: This might be a rash call, but I’m going to give this week’s title to Luke. Yeah, he was wrong in the end about the good doctor stopping by asking for money, but he was only trying to help his father and his friends. Plus, he managed to subtly undermine his own father with this pose: