Cam's a Leap Day baby and Phil just wants to trapeze on this once-every-four-years extravaganza

By Emily Exton
March 01, 2012 at 07:00 AM EST
Peter Hopper Stone/ABC
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Happy March, readers! In case you didn’t notice, the calendar gifted us with something very special yesterday, something that only happens once every four years and deserves to be taken seriously: Leap Day. Hopefully you all celebrated this rare occasion by doing something extraordinary and shocking, like totally not watching that Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercial over and over from your couch. (Save that for the regular days.) We only get this fancy bonus day every four years and it’s imperative you make the most of it — like by watching a great episode of Wednesday night TV with your friends.

Naturally our beloved Cam is a Leap Day baby, which explains his flair for the dramatic, home decor and paisley cuffs. Growing up on the farm with a scant amount of actual birthdays must have been tough, yet also taught him to live each day like he’s 39 going on 10. Because he takes these birthday celebrations very seriously, every four years Mitchell is given the task of planning a kick-ass soirée that somehow doesn’t involve Appletinis, ice sculptures, synthetic napkins or mylar. Easier said than done. For the big 4-0 1-0, Mitchell pulled out all the stops to create a homemade version of The Wizard of Oz, yellow brick carpet, waiters in character and personalized ruby slippers included. Wassup! And they say lawyers aren’t creative.

But you don’t need a birthday to have enthusiasm for February 29, also known as Phil Dunphy’s favorite day of the year. Are you surprised? Every four years, the entire Dunphy clan makes a huge stink about the extra day, foregoing work and school for the chance to do something spontaneous (or, strum up some Claire-approved spontaneity). Work and school? Excuse me as I attempt to relive my childhood under the tutelage of Papa Dunphy. What I may have missed on balancing a checkbook, I’d make up tenfold in potential uses for fake blood past Halloween. This year’s Leap Day would see trapezing, a totally safe activity that fewer people die from each year than those who shake hands with a knife-wielding stranger. Safe, yet not entirely appropriate (or fun) when attempted with a trio of “emotional” (menstruating) women. Using his heightened sense of FemDar that comes with being a father to girls, Phil was able to deduce that the urban legend doctors and comedians like to joke about had proven itself to be true: women can link up. Down there. And in the Dunphy household, might as well call it Satan’s Trifecta — just not to their faces.

NEXT: Mitchell throws a new party and everybody cries

As Sarah sang straight to our souls about animal cruelty, the female tears continued to flow and orange juice spoiled perfectly good cereal. Manny, who has spent most of his life in the company of women, wondered why they can’t just broach the subject with Wolfman, Dracula, and Frankenstein. They’re reasonable! As a more veteran in the war against The Cycle, Phil knew this would never work. “The woman’s actually taking great pains to hide the monster she’s become, but if you acknowledge it, that brings the monster forth,” he explained, turning this into a makeshift biology lesson and a Lord of The Rings-esque adventure for good old Luke.

In effort not to insult or upset them, Phil thought Luke feigning an illness — and later, minor bloodletting — would be the best way to get them to stay home, leaving stress-free swings on the trapeze to the boys. Only his plan backfired completely, staining his bathroom walls with Halloween blood and leaving Claire, Haley, and Alex to cry and scream some more over insensitive males, and the leprous stereotype society places on “monstrating.” 10 years from now Luke still won’t be able to revisit that word.

Someone who has a bit more experience navigating the waters of the femininity is Jay. Two wives, one daughter, and the man has managed to remain the epitome of calm. A reformed hot head, he now saves his temper flares for the cleaning lady, who always turns his whites a slight shade of pink. (But he really just talks behind her back, in order to spare her hurt feelings. Softy!) While Gloria can still get into it with a chippy Netherlands fan at the bar (and implore her breadth of country-specific sports insults) Jay would much rather buy everyone a beer and relax. Combine this with the fact that he’d begin to lose battles against his saltines and preferred lukewarm soup, and suddenly he’d realized that female method of not saying anything was Gloria’s way of requesting he reevaluate his manhood and irrationally come to her rescue every so often. Noted.

With so many plans for a sea of Technicolor life-sized poppies and makeshift twisters, it was easy for Mitchell to forget the roof had been literally blown off of Cam’s Kansas family’s home just last month. The worst tornado they’d seen in years destroyed Grandpa’s farm and killed the family pig. (Baby Lily, meet your namesake.) Despite being a historic moment in gay cinema, Mitchell realized an Oz ball would be far too painful for Cam, who expressed how much he wanted to just “forget” about the damage and move forward. That night. At his fabulous birthday party that wouldn’t bring back memories of a childhood friend now six feet under. What to do with the lingering Scarecrow and Tin Man on one’s front lawn? Link arms and sing “We’re Off To See The Wizard,” then figure it out.

Turns out pushy party planners can book boat parties in two hours, and Leap Day babies will believe anything if it’s centered around them. The entire family gathered at Mitchell’s last-ditch attempt at a bash at sea, in honor of Cam’s “life voyage” (which everyone else does not have, thank you). Things almost went off without a hitch, before the bloody curse of being too popular for ocean safety codes struck again. Confused as to whether Mr. Captain was explaining the maximum capacity laws or calling his son a lady, Jay threw his weight around for the first time in years. Only he was too slow to the punch so Gloria did it for him. She was a late-night cab driver, remember! Those self-defense moves probably helped her hold on to her tips one too many times.

NEXT Luke’s continued strokes of genius and the night’s best quotables

Just as everything was about to cycle back to screaming, yelling, and bleeding, Mitchell realized Cam’s obsession about turning “10” stemmed from a fear of getting older. And thanks to the close proximity of an amusement park, he made his dream double-digit birthday a reality. Who needs to impress Pepper and the other frenemies when you can enjoy a real birthday with real family and friends who’ll let you forget about getting older for one night? And yet there’s nothing like cotton candy til you puke and too much money spent on Whac-A-Mole to make you thankful for being a real adult.

While Phil’s fear of The Cycle and his description of its terrorizing effects stole the show, there were so many minor details that had me rewinding this episode again and again. From Luke’s Lost-quoting vote of confidence for Phil (“See you on the other side, brother”) and bloody handprint on the bathroom mirror, to the mostly silent unraveling of the always put together Alex (“This isn’t milk”), and the discreet arrival of Oz characters, it was hard to pick a favorite. One thing I will have a hard time doing, though, is thinking of Jay in anything other than that pale pink robe, blowing on his soup. Too warm for me!

QUOTABLES

“It happened. Satan’s Trifecta. The day I most dreaded had fallen on the day I most loved.” –Phil

“It’s kind of traditional for people to lean in when somebody says ‘I have a plan.'” — Phil

“Si, si, si, si! GOOOOOOAAAAALLLLLLLL!” –Gloria

Monkey 1: Hey.

Monkey 2: Hey.

Monkey 1: We’re the monkeys. (RIP Davy Jones.)

“I’m doing my ‘I Love You Dance’!” –Mitchell

“Yeah, I get a little moody. But unrelenting physical discomfort will do that to a person.” –Claire

“See you on the other side, brother.” –Luke

Luke: It smells like puke married poop and had the ceremony in my nose.

Manny: You paint with words.

Gloria: Nobody call him Grandpa!

Luke: I do.

“I have been on an emotional roller coaster all day today. I’m afraid, I’m mad, I’m mad because I’m afraid, and now I can’t even think straight because I’m in so much pain over what just happened over there. And the whole thing makes me so sad, and I’m not every sure why I’m nauseous from that smell but I’m so hungry!” –Phil

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