Cam reconnects with his clown side following the death of a friend, while Phil vies for the listing of a lifetime

By Emily Exton
March 15, 2012 at 06:00 AM EDT
Peter "Hopper" Stone/ABC
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Gather round, kids. It’s showtime! Our party starts on a sad note, as we mourn the passing of Professor Ringmaster Al Uzielli. One step below Piemaster General, and he still received a proper clown’s funeral, complete with the inclusion of dynamite, dirt and a banana pie in his open casket. Don’t follow? In addition to being a Leap Day baby, Cameron Tucker is a proud graduate of Clown College and very much connected to his former self, Fizbo. Attending the ceremony in full clown attire, Mitchell acted as his (straight) shoulder to cry on for once in their relationship, while pretending not to find humor in the life choices those around him had made. As Cam reminisced with old friends, he was brought nose to nose with his former partner Louis (Bobby Cannavale), with whom he changed the scope of clowning forever (or at least children’s parties).

Despite being at the top of their game (in children’s parties) Cam ultimately chose love, disbanding Fizbo & Louis and Lennon-ing his own McCartney by running off with a red-headed Yoko. As a wise man once said, it’s hard to maintain a relationship in industry. Between whoopee cushions and squirting flowers, when does the laughing at you stop and the laughing with you begin? But unresolved disagreements are nothing when old friends are concerned. Seltzer under the bridge; drinks all around. Mitchell watched in confusion as Cam and clown people of all shapes and sizes squeezed into a Mini Cooper to catch up, perpetuating just one of the many stereotypes they face daily. The other of course being perpetual single life and irrational love for Stephen Sondheim.

Continuing to stake his claim in the California real estate world, Phil went out and bought a brand new suit to help seal a potentially huge deal. Like, so big he and Claire couldn’t get it on the night before, which he promises to make up for when they’re sleeping on piles and piles of cash. All he needed to do was secure the listing from the prospective buyers, and real estate agents would soon be studying the heralded Dunphy Method for years to come. People are good! Trust people! Ding, ding, ding!

Except when they’re not. The brief taste of success does not come without its respective obstacles. At the listing Phil ran into his nemesis Mitzi Roth, played by the ageless Ellen Barkin, a notorious Freddy Krueger of the local market who knows just how to take advantage of nice guys and their dumb belief that people are innately kind. Phil’s excitement (and accompanying jazz hands) at the possibility of landing the massive deal that could pay for Haley’s college and get him out of eternal condo hell was quickly smashed when Mitzi began playing dirty. Shoving a woman in some shrubbery? Anger problems? Clearly the clients don’t know Phil that well if they believed he’d stoop so low, yet Mitzi’s below-the-belt attempts at sabotage proved only to be a sampling of her quasi-jedi realtor tricks to come.

NEXT: Manny’s friend has a wandering eye and Claire just wants to friend you

To a parent, Manny Delgado is a delight. He’s polite, well-groomed and provide you with some rousing discussion points for light cocktail banter. But to the hordes of bloodsucking middle schoolers, he might as well be Janice Ian. Manny announced the impending arrival of Griffin Cooper, known hot-shot whose version of “lighting it up” does not involve a mustang costume. These two proved to be an odd pairing for an after-school hang (with or without espresso) which led to some parental concern. While Gloria was happy kids were finally understanding her Manny, to Jay’s slightly inflated ego, the coolest 13-year-old in school was obviously just in awe of his motorcycle and overall badass persona. Who wouldn’t be? A regular Ponzi, he is.

This was one of the more recent episodes that didn’t confine Gloria to doggie dialogue, and yet I was consumed with worry that Manny’s potential decision to greet Griffin as Marquis de Lafayette (or some other historical figure) would result in eggs to the face and a cyberbullying PSA. After Happy Days let Jay borrow some clothes, Griffin’s real reason for visiting became apparent. Surprisingly the “cool” kids weren’t using Manny’s love of made-up languages and cultures that encourage foot odors to waft over the dinner table as punch lines like I suspected. The legendary character of Greek mythology just really likes Mrs. Pritchett — especially certain parts of her. Is he too young to think to start a Fountains of Wayne cover band? Kudos to Manny for being slimy enough to use Griffin all the same (or, to get to his older sister), but did anyone else think it was creepy that he was basically ready to pimp out his mother to get to first base?

Apparently seltzer isn’t way to rid one’s memory of past indiscretions, tequila is. Lily’s laughter of approval and their hazy clarity made Cam and Louis believe it would be harmless to revisit the old routine (never a good decision) at an upcoming birthday party. Things started out fine, missing chair and all, until Louis began revisiting his abandonment issues, overdoing it with a frying pan and nearly strangling poor Fizbo to death. Pay no attention to those clowns behind the curtain, boys and girls. That’s just what manslaughter looks like.

NEXT: Luke to the rescue (again)

Despite Mitzi’s cat-like reflexes when in the presence of a Luke Dunphy spy pen, Phil was determined to take his rival down and secure the listing for good. Not man enough to poison her food, he continued to rely on the tips from his youngest child, who we all know is pulling from a mixture of Fast and the Furious and Mission Impossible movies (out of their respective orders, natch). The kid may walk into glass doors and eat Oreos like corn on the cob, but he’s been fake crying since inside the womb; Mitzi’s cold, black heart didn’t stand a chance. Besides, who really wants to make someone teary-eyed over Phil Dunphy anyway? Mitzi doesn’t need the stress headaches associated with strange children getting emotional in the cereal aisle. Listing confirmed, game Dunphy, friend request…pending?

The running gag about Claire wanting Haley and Alex to add her as a friend on Facebook was executed perfectly, albeit a little cliché depending on whether or not your grandma has the new timeline yet. But it was interesting to see Claire appear more vulnerable for a change. During her crusade to boost her virtual friends, she was both intimidated by her girls’ technical knowledge, and hurt by their refusal to take photos with her at sea. First it’s denying a friend request, next it’s a crack den. All in all, a stark departure from making the “special” qualities of her children the butt of every joke. She has a heart!

Because if you squeeze us, do we not honk, MF fans? Now enough clowning around, on to best lines from a bountiful, bountiful night.

QUOTABLES

“Oh! You know what we gotta do? We gotta get a picture of us all on a boat! I think that’s a thing now. So, what do you say? Accept my friend thingy…” –Claire

“Salutations, Wyatt. I’m so glad you’re joining me for an afternoon of mirth.” –Manny

Jay: When did you guys become buddies? Was it the football game in the yard, you made a great catch?

Manny: No, that didn’t happen. But the librarian told me one day I’ll be a great catch.

“We call her The Nightmare on Elm Street, because she’s sold a lot of houses on Elm Street.” –Phil

“It’s all seltzer under the bridge.” –Cam

“Everybody else has accepted my friend requests: your father, Uncle Mitchell, Adele.” –Claire

“We were great together. We had an unspoken language. We finished each other’s balloon animals.” –Cam

“What do you mean? I’m the one with outstanding warrants in Pasadena.” –Louis

“There’s a surprise in every box. Spoiler alert! It’s diabetes.” –Mitzi

Phil: Quick! What’s the trick to those fake tears?

Luke: The Three Stooges are all dead.

Phil: Yeah, that’s good.

Parents just don’t understand… and neither do kids or spouses in this hit ensemble comedy
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seasons
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  • Wednesdays at 9:00pm
Premiere
  • 09/23/09
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