Election Day has arrived, and every family member aims to do his or her part to help get a vote for Claire. For Manny, this involves a bluetooth

By Emily Exton
April 12, 2012 at 06:00 AM EDT
Peter "Hopper" Stone/ABC
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As we gear up for an election year, Modern Family presented us with an important topic to consider: First Husbands. Much has been said about Michelle Obama and Ann Romney, but if Claire’s political career really takes off, who’s to say Phil won’t be swept up in the Clairemobile, kissing babies and encouraging kids to “move” down in D.C.? But every Jackie has to start somewhere, and last night that would be Claire’s town council race, which also carried the hopes and dreams of every unborn stop sign within a 10-mile radius.

The longest running plot the series has seen — if you don’t count recurring guest characters or mentions of past lives in cheerleading and clowning — which seems like a milestone for a show built around quickfire humor and stand-alone episodes. Each and every family member was ready to embrace Claire’s spastic side, one that thrives on winning, being right and maintaining control. It was nice to allow so much of our own attention to zoom in on Julie Bowen, who is so consistently hilarious, albeit in a much quieter way than Phil and the kids. And of course Gloria. But couldn’t we at least get a tiny glimpse at her competitor, Duane Bailey? This episode could have used a lot more David Cross, but then again, so can most things.

Running for town council has reinvigorated Claire’s ambition and only heightened her competitive spirit, which dates back to the days spent selling rogue girl scout cookies. We’d pay money to the first person who unearths and/or creates photos of Little Claire in a homemade green uniform hawking Thin Mints for twice their face value. On Election Day, naturally she’d hope her inner circle would be equally as organized and committed to winning as she was. Assignments were given, but between confusion over how much change is in a phone bank and Luke’s belief that you can promise anything for a vote (in some people’s minds you can!) the Dunphy clan wasn’t exactly knocking it out of the park on Claire’s behalf. Meanwhile, the candidate herself was having a hard time keeping things together, holding her anxieties inside her tightly wound ponytail and actually losing her front tooth during two separate interviews. (Those figure skating injuries are tough to shake.) Try as we might, but not everyone can be as unflappable as this lady when the cameras are around.

NEXT: Mitchell and Cam aren’t very Claire-ful when it comes to gossip

Which makes it even more important to have a fun brother and brother-in-law with flexible work vacation policies and a knack for flair on your campaign trail. Cam and Mitchell are now proud owners of a Craigslist find, which promised to drive them towards a few more votes or a neighborhood noise violation. Decked out in Claire regalia, the car also came with a working megaphone, always dangerous to those with a taste for power. As they drove around inserting Clarie’s name into any unrelated word or phrase (“The choice is Claire,” “Claire-voyant”), Cam and Mitchell started to realize that a booming sound emanating from a tacky car also worked as the voice of God change. Deciding between lecturing strangers on the importance of traffic safety and getting back at the dry cleaner who ruined a shirt is tough, but it was the complexity of the microphone’s on/off switch that proved the most detrimental. Everybody knows it’s typical to end a long campaign day with gelato and a good gossip session — except for Sandy from Lily’s pre-school with the potentially gay fiance. Well, she does now! And yes those flowers were beautiful.

Phil’s job of the day included helping senior citizens make their way to the polls. First on his list was Luke’s pal Walt, who forgets that he often forgets to take his medicine and reorder his oxygen tanks, serious to-do list items Phil didn’t seem all that concerned about. Of course he was frightened by the possibility that a man could die on his watch — hardly how he’d rehearsed it on the ongoing cop show in his head — but the thought of Claire’s rage face was even scarier. He was already skipping taking her to get pesky tooth fixed in order to help her chances at securing very important votes among the Over 60 demographic. If he’d have to listen to Walt wax on the merits of libertarianism and Greek food while repeatedly convincing him his wife is not an alcoholic, so be it.

Jay’s lone task for the day was to just make it to the polls and vote, which is harder than one might think when you have to tip-toe around a former fling. Having met Gloria’s ex, it was interesting to see her non-reaction to one of Jay’s past lovers (conquests?). After his divorce from Didi, JP was somewhat of a “hit it and quit it” type, going so far as to back out of a driveway in neutral lest his bedroom companion start sniffing around for pancakes. Gloria didn’t seem too fazed by his run-in with Dottie, who now mans the local polling station, which was either an acknowledgment of her stable relationship or a silent recognition of her superior youth and beauty. Pair the latter with her throwaway line about not doing radio because “people need to see [her]” and she’s now become a walking boob joke. Both were minimal, yes, but struck me as rare instances when Gloria’s “lost in translation” schtick finally transformed into what the worst part of you always expected her to be — vapid, ditzy — based solely on hair and cup-size. Apologies to the Sofia stans in the building, but following her Saturday Night Live performance, I think I’ve finally reached my limit on Gloria-is-hot scripts. Then again maybe I’ve just been hurt by the promise of free breakfast one too many times.

NEXT: The importance of having a back-up sign and the night’s best quotes

When the voting was complete and those pretending to campaign had finished negotiating their own mini-crises, Claire returned home, having to reassure her entire family that she was not doing that thing where you pretend to get bad news when it’s actually good. She lost. At the end of the day it wasn’t the missing tooth or drunk voice that would keep Claire from a seat on the town council. It was her trusty team of family volunteers too caught up in their own lives to get out the vote—and the strong and familiar platform of her accomplished incumbent. In local elections, people tend to vote who they know. So what could Claire have done better? Educated herself on the issues most important to voters, rather than just act like a broken record obsessed with all things red and octagonal? Scheduled a preventative dentist appointment to check up on that nagging figure skating injury? Yes and yes. But then she wouldn’t be Claire, single-minded to the point of recklessness, who will always find the speed bump alternative to your proposed solution.

Same goes for Haley. Poor, not-so-sweet, stupid Haley. Yes, she really did start trying this year, but she had to have known that applying to Northwestern was a bit of a reach unless she thought she’d been promised a spot in the forthcoming alternative geography department. The college application process can be stressful, and it’s understandable to be distracted from family affairs when your entire future rests on the contents of one letter. We all know the timeless thick vs. thin lore, but pulling the entire family into the kitchen to cheer on her tiny envelope just created more pressure for Haley, who would likely dry her tears and blow snot on Alex’s sweatshirt, then update her sister’s Facebook profile with an embarrassing status if rejected. Luckily higher education institutions have developed the Wait List to lead you on, which is enough of a dangling chad to give Haley ammo to hold her own among Duck in Training, Becky, and the entire family reason to not throw away that “Congratulations” sign.

The Dunphys: Not complete losers for at least another day. Now for the night’s best lines….


“High-five! Old people occasionally forget things.” –Luke

“The only good news I’ve gotten is that my annoying neighbor Becky is moving back East to Oregon.” –Haley

“We’re here, we’re Claire, get used to it!” – Cam

“She feels great. Her spirits are high. The whole family’s high. There’s your headline” –Phil

“They moved me over from ad sales. We take turns reporting.” –Ad sales rep turned roving political reporter

“What a beautiful name! I’m calling on behalf of Claire Dunphy for town council.” –Manny, on his bluetooth

“Climb above the Dunphy Express! Next stop: Democracy” –Phil

Mitchell: Turns out we had a lot of axes to grind.

Cam: And a hybrid, so there was virtually no stopping us.

“Why would I say something and not do it? That would make me a liar, instead of a trusting widow who fell asleep in the warm embrace of a man who promised to make breakfast.” –Dottie

“Our daughter might be going to college!” –Phil

Episode Recaps

Parents just don’t understand… and neither do kids or spouses in this hit ensemble comedy
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  • 10
  • TV-PG
  • Wednesdays at 9:00pm
  • 09/23/09
  • In Season
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