Jay summed things up nicely at the end of tonight’s episode: Competition makes people take risks and confront issues head-on, even if they’re not the most comfortable of situations. Phil, being Phil, goes as far as donning Claire’s bathrobe and perfume just so the ducks will imprint on him. Cam asks Gloria to face her fears of the Farmers Market so they can upstage Andrew and Simon. Haley breaks up with Dylan (again, despite the hilarious V-neck business) just because there’s a sliver of possibility her relationship with Andy hasn’t been resolved.
So with that, it’s time to break it all down, family by family…
The episode begins with Luke being arrested for stealing a car (it wasn’t that successful of a crime, but still, Luke is now badass), and it turns out the youngest Dunphy sibling has been feeling a bit insecure, especially around the ladies, because Manny’s getting all the attention — even from the next-door neighbor after a duck escapes. While Claire thinks it’s nice to see Luke being a bit rebellious and not as weird as usual, Phil’s disappointed and shows his disappointment by calling Luke not by his name, but by other names starting with “L.” “It’s your dad,” he says on the phone to Luke later, “a.k.a. your worst nightmare.”
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But then Claire and Phil run into a bigger problem, which makes them forget all about Luke: They spy Alex taking money out of an ATM, visiting a liquor store, and blatantly lying to them about where she is. Instead of confronting their daughter about what’s going on, they decide to tail the sketchy van she hops into — until they realize the van’s destination is the Dunphy house. “Don’t hold me back, Claire,” Phil says, dashing in and finding the culprit in Alex’s closet. He punches whoever’s inside, but it just turns out to be Reuben, who of course, is very much infatuated with Alex. Poor Alex has been feeling down and went to Reuben after breaking up with Sanjay, and she had figured that no one would find out. (Oh, and the liquor store visit was simply for ice to help Reuben with his sprained hamstring.) And so, the family reconciles over this misunderstanding, and Claire even sees Phil as a “bad boy” again — even if it’s because he managed to punch a 16-year-old in the nose. Phil gets one more prize as well: The ducks, by the end of the episode, begin to follow him. Looks like the perfume and this pink bathrobe paid off!
Haley and Her Suitors
The eldest Dunphy sibling, meanwhile, had to pull off a confrontation of her own. When she and Dylan take seats next to Andy and Beth at a zombie movie, she’s confused about why he didn’t seem as uncomfortable as she did. (After all, it’s as weird as “a woman with olive skin trying to pull off red hair,” as Haley puts it.) Case in point, here’s Haley…
…while Andy practically inhaled popcorn (seen in the image at the top of this recap). Speaking of inhaling food, Andy’s no longer overeating because of losing Haley, and that’s why he’s fine with just being friends with her. Haley says that everything on her end is going well, too, until she drives home with Dylan and breaks up with him. At least Dylan could tell what was coming: As soon as she began to talk, he knew she was about to leave him. And as for Beth and Andy? Well, when Beth proposes having Haley and Dylan come to their wedding, he seems a bit rattled. Maybe there’s still more in store for Haley and Andy…
NEXT: Cilantro! Lemon juice! Capers! Jalapeño! Good thing Gloria remembers that secret recipe…[pagebreak]
Mitch, Cam, Jay, and Gloria
At the Farmers Market, Mitch and Cam are doing just fine capitalizing off of the boom year for tomatoes — it was “tomatogeddon,” according to Cam — until they spy Andrew and Simon, who are having plenty of success selling, uh, artisanal trout jerky. (That’s a real thing? I should watch more Food Network or something.) Their rival pair talks about how worthless Mitch and Cam’s stand is, but hey, at least business is far better than the stand for vegan hotcakes.
Meanwhile, Jay is trying to film the perfect video of himself for the Titans of Industry Award he’s set to accept from the Chamber of Commerce. He’s not doing too well coming up with the right concept and feels even worse when Gloria, Manny, and Joe react apathetically to his presentation. Luckily, help arrives in the form of Mitch and Cam after their time at the Farmers Market. Mitch becomes Jay’s director, handling the camera and taking pride in being Jay’s pick for his partner on the video. Unfortunately, the setup backfires, as Jay takes so long coming up with the right words, Mitch nearly falls asleep standing.
Gloria’s feeling just as down, as well. She offers a special sauce with a secret ingredient she learned from her great-aunt Miranda to Mitch and Cam, but the pair manage to ruin the secret recipe by dropping it in the carafe of water on the desk. She’s upset about losing her connection to her past, but Cam goes to comfort her. He tells her to try re-creating it, and though she pushes back at first, various images trigger her memory, and it all comes back. Eventually, they’re able to produce enough jars of sauce to go back to the Farmers Market and really dominate business.
As for Mitch and Jay? Well, after Mitch fails to capture the video, he manages to tell Jay about what’s keeping him from focusing on his task. Mitch tells Jay about the job offer he received earlier at the Farmers Market (Andrew and Simon may suck, but they acknowledge Mitch’s litigation talents) and wonders what he should do: Should he take a new job at a firm, or should he go after his dream to begin his own firm? When Jay dismisses him, he storms out (along with Gloria, whose sauce Jay did not respond to enthusiastically) but goes ahead and begins a firm.
At that, Jay figures out exactly what he wants to say. He sets up the camera, sits down in front of the fireplace he’s set up, and muses about how he was driven by people telling him he wasn’t good enough. And as the montage goes from Alex helping Reuben to Gloria and Cam at the Farmers Market, he emphasizes that “competitive fires” will always motivate and that everyone should take risks and tackle new opportunities. It’s a poignant ending for an episode that was otherwise scattered and spread a bit too thin among all of the plots. Still, there were some laugh-out-loud lines from the show, including the…
Line of the Night: “What drives Jay Pritchett? An Audi.” —Jay, trying to come up with the best funny intro to his video and managing to insert a product-placement line instead.
Family MVP: I’m going to give it to Jay tonight. He framed the episode with his worries over what he should say in the speech, and his story nailed the theme of challenges that come from competition and confrontation. Plus, there’s this super-cute shot of him and Joe…
…that’s just as cute as this one:
Say it with me: awwwwwwwww.