Phil battles smoke detectors; Cam ushers Lily into an ill-conceived acting career

Modern Family Ty Bowen
Credit: Michael Desmond/ABC

It was fitting for tonight’s episode to open on Phil Dunphy, because this was, in my opinion, his strongest showing. He had a few challenges to defeat: A smoke alarm beep that couldn’t be quelled no matter how many of the buggers he shut off, a month-long realty dry spell (was this MF’s first reference to the economy?), an out-of-commission Claire, or “Typhoid Clairy,” as he called her, sick in bed for the day. To compensate, Phil donned an apron and readied ladyfinger cookies for a bake sale, only to rue the favor later when Claire’s hunky gym instructor stopped by. “I burned my ladyfingers,” Phil said, wincing at a handshake, the smoke alarm negating his manhood with every beep. In the end he did manage to remasculate, but not before going medieval on every smoke alarm in the house with his “burglar basher,” aka college cheerleading baton.

I loved the secondary storyline to this – Claire in bed with Haley – because it led to a spot-on breakdown of the Claire/Phil chemistry. “He’s kind of a dufus I guess, but I thought you liked that about him,” Haley says. Phil is a dufus, Haley. Claire does like that about him. (Beating heart: still, please!)

Meanwhile, in the Pritchett/Delgado household, Gloria was busy celebrating an anniversary all on her own. It seems Gloria likes to celebrate anniversaries of everything, even the anniversaries of fights that stem from Jay forgetting anniversaries. Jay’s only hope was to wheedle the information out of Manny, only there was a cold front on that end, since Jay fired an employee Manny considered a friend. Their face-off was classic Modern Family gold, sweet and clever. When Jay said he’d fire anyone who endangers his kid (the employee let Manny drive a forklift to semi-disastrous ends), Manny widened his eyes and chirped: “Did you just call me your kid?” But because this is a show careful not to dwell too long in the sap, Jay rolled his eyes without skipping a beat, and we pulled right out of it. The back-and-forth that followed was equally deft. Manny: “First kiss.” Jay: “No. Just tell me.” Manny: “I mean your first kiss. With my mom.”

There wasn’t much sappiness over in Cam’s and Mitchell’s world, where Cam’s decision to put Lily in a commercial despite Mitchell’s opposition led to a predictably bad end. The commercial was a tin-eared “parody” that got Lily on the floor with another Asian baby while a voice-over actor and actress, both white, screeched out their desire for well-priced baby furniture in exaggerated Asian accents. This was one of those moments where what was not funny in the reality of the show was also not funny in real life. It took Cam a skip and a beat to ignore his own stage dreams enough to see the set for what it was – “not MGM,” according to Mitchell but “a warehouse behind a mattress store.” A sight gag followed à la the creampuff in the airplane, with Cam delivering a ringing speech against stereotyping only to pick up the wrong Asian baby. Lily’s stoic game-face aside, this was my least favorite storyline of the night. Compared to the other arcs, which moved the characters into different positions in relation to each other, Cam’s too-provocative-to-actually-be-provocative parenting mistake was a resounding meh.

Because move they did, Manny and Jay to a clearer understanding, and Phil, who is reliably bumbling and likeable to the point of verging on caricature, to a natural vulnerability. He’s been edging toward it this season, but I thought it worked better here, with his job prospects left unresolved and still worrisome. If only I could coin new aphorisms as easily as Phil (tonight’s bon mot: “Can’t get back on that horse unless you fall off”), I’d spin one for him, something to do with “tears of a clown” or “still waters” and “deep.” What did you guys think? Was Phil the star of his own inspirational phrase tonight? And speaking of inspirational phrases…how about a rundown of tonight’s best?

NEXT: The ten best lines from last night’s show!

10. “With all you do for me including going to the gym four times a week to keep me interested, I got this.” –Phil, reassuring Claire of his fitness to bake

9. Jay to Manny: “It wasn’t your fault. It was Jack’s. And I took care of him.” Gloria: “You killed him?”

8. “You can’t lose something you never had.” –Phil telling Luke why he didn’t “lose” a client

7. “Maybe last resort.” –Gloria, on Jay’s re-framing of his sweats as “resort wear”

6. “It’s just a cold silly, you don’t have to conceive of a world without me!” – Haley removing Dylan’s fears

5. “You care about germs? I’ve seen you kiss a pigeon on the mouth.” –Phil to Luke, who’s wearing a helmet so he’ll stay well enough for a class trip to Disney Land

4. “So quiet! It’s like Christian Silence Reading Room.” — Gloria walking into Jay and Manny’s silent-off

3. “I think I found a place where I can sell this organ. Can you drive me to the black market?” –Luke holding a keyboard/”organ” to trade for the money Phil’s not making

2. Jay trying unsuccessfully to work information out of Gloria: “You know how when people are in love sometimes they finish each other’s sentences? Like tonight we are going to…” Gloria: “Have fun!”

1. “I’m just in bed with my mom. Stop freaking out! It is not coming true.” –Haley on the phone with Dylan, whose nighttime fantasies apparently involve Claire

So what’s your verdict on the episode? Any favorite lines I missed? Comment away!

DO YOU AUDIBLY GASP WHEN YOU MEET SOMEONE AT A COCKTAIL PARTY WHO CLAIMS NOT TO OWN A TELEVISION? (WE’RE GASPING JUST THINKING ABOUT IT.) Then don’t miss this week’s TV Insiders podcast! Annie Barrett, Dalton Ross, Michael Ausiello, Michael Slezak, and Clark Collis talk about their favorite Halloween episodes, plus the creepy new series Dead Set and The Walking Dead. Plus, our EW couch potatoes dish the latest happenings on Survivor and Dancing With the Stars. Click here to download the TV Insiders podcast to your MP3 player, or listen to an embedded version below!

Episode Recaps

Mitch and Cam, Modern Family

Modern Family

Parents just don’t understand… and neither do kids or spouses in this hit ensemble comedy

  • TV Show
  • 10
  • Wednesdays at 09:00 PM
  • ABC
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