Phil's decision to purchase the car of his dreams causes him to reevaluate his priorities, while Cam and Mitchell look for bunnies in the subway

By Emily Exton
Updated May 03, 2012 at 06:00 AM EDT
Peter "Hopper" Stone/ABC

Modern Family

S3 E21
  • TV Show
  • ABC

Given his bevy of talents and face only a few people can say no to, it’s only a matter of time before Phil Dunphy’s real estate ventures really hit it big. And if he’s going to be competing with the likes Ellen Barkin and Frederick Eklund, he can’t show up to open houses in the family minivan. Alas, these ambitions have always been somewhat latent, held back by the overwhelming need for “practicality” that comes when you have a house, three children, and an overbearing wife watching your every move. Yet as he was browsing the For Sale lot, Phil was swayed by the memories of his imaginary Hall & Oates-fueled joy rides that ruffled the waves of his (DIY?) perm. A note to Lloyd and Levitan: Next time a visual flashback is a must.

Because he’s always followed orders, Phil feared he’d never really get to experience all of life’s pleasures, which in his world aren’t that elaborate. Still FOMO is a valid concern made even more frightening as we get older, and passing up on the car of his dreams was something his friend Andre (Kevin Hart) would not drop. Above anything else I want Phil to be happy, but trusting the judgment of a man (No. 1 movie in America or not) who’s too scared not to jog everywhere, doesn’t seem like the best idea. Speaking from experience, shopping with friends who talk a big game always leads to trouble and regrettable tube top decisions.

With little concern for Claire’s overuse of the word “beautiful,” Phil bought his dream car, a mid-life crisis mobile that brought tears to the eyes of his children for different reasons: fear, jealousy, embarrassment. He embarked on his first workday with the bute, only to find the engine is actually in the trunk. Huh. That’s not something you see in a sedan! Obviously his signs require the space of a van, which Claire was willing to lend to him for the day to prove her point and get out of carpool duty. Being right and having to deal with a world full of dummies is tiring, so why shouldn’t she crumple up that list of errands and drive up the coast? The high school slackers eager to score the day’s first batch of 7-Eleven Taquitos practically forced her to. Plus, the woman just lost a city council election, coordinates soccer games, keeps track of Haley’s dating life, and tries not to call Alex “weird” to her face. She deserves to eat fish tacos for lunch and do cartwheels in the sand, without her collegiate cheerleader of a husband stealing all the glory.

NEXT: Missing Vietnamese baby, $25 reward

In effort to raise Lily as a worldly young woman, Cam and Mitchell took her on ride through the Los Angeles subway where trains don’t catch up with one another (they collide) and “home challenged” like to sleep by the ticket machines. Once they moved their wallets into their front pockets, everything was going according to plan — Cam was even wearing his cowboy hat in honor of the excursion — until Lily’s beloved bunny stuffed animal got left behind. After some debate over proper recovery tactics ($25 is much too low a reward for your child, in case you were wondering) the pair tried to convince their daughter that her friend was a heterosexual rabbit who decided to move to St. Louis without saying goodbye. Apparently the additional therapy costs years down the road seemed like less of a hassle than sleepless nights and Daddy(s) having to admit the truth.

But Lily’s longing for her missing Bunny brought back memories of Mitchell’s own shorty robe Luke Skywalker doll, who his father conveniently left on an airplane. Even back then, Jay was always one step ahead of the children. Despite the fact that their fliers were done in the wrong font and hanging them around the subway platform guaranteed not even tourists from Milwaukee would pitch in, Cam and Mitch couldn’t stand the thought of their daughter hating them. Until they got a smell of the homeless man who was using poor Bunny as a tissue, sniffling and grunting and getting all up in there with his snot projection. When it comes to mucus, the Pritchett-Tuckers have a line. Therapy it is!

As we get older, we approach impending reunions with people from our past with less trepidation and more excitement at the potential of throwing whatever modest achievement we can in the faces of those who doubted us and hopefully have gained 50 lbs. after the fact. Even if he was a living legend to his high school football squad, a Big Kahuna like Jay would undoubtedly like to remain that way in the eyes of those who worshipped him. Which meant he’d be needing two watches (showier and expensive), Gloria to wear her tightest dress, and Manny to keep his taste for bread pudding to himself for 24 hours during a trip to Pebble Beach. Like any practical traveler, Mr. Delgado consulted Travel & Leisure and called ahead to arrange spa appointments at the trio’s hotel. Those early days of eating cereal from a bucket have not prevented him from enjoying the luxury of private planes or Panama hats today. His mother, much more practical and knowledgeable of rock star plane crashes, would rather remain grounded both in regard to transportation methods and socialization.

After the ghost of John Denver warned Gloria to do her best to stay out of Rock ‘n Roll heaven, a pothole risked to keep Jay from rubbing his success in the face of the dweebs all together. Passing up on a helicopter ride in a shoddy piece of ramshackle machinery from a creepy mechanic who had no problem hitting on her in front of Jay, led the three to waste some time sitting around dingy comforters and putting quarters into their vibrating beds. Not exactly the relaxing getaway young Manny had in mind. The modest housing probably bugged Manuelo more than his mother, but it was Jay’s suggestion that they get a running start (no high heels allowed) before Slumdog-ing their way atop cargo trains just to get within the vicinity of the reunion that had Gloria throwing up her ice bucket. This led to Jay’s confession that maybe he wasn’t the biggest, baddest athlete at school. Maybe he was a shy benchwarmer who only dreamed of talking to, let alone marrying, a woman like Gloria. Turns out all he needed to do was say the magic word (“trophy,” as in “trophy wife”) and Gloria would throw caution to the wind to pose for photos and laugh on cue. Safety pales in comparison to getting gawked at by a couple of overweight, middle-aged retirees.

NEXT The downside of beach gymnastics and the night’s best quotes

In the end Claire’s day of fun got the best of her, when frolicking on the beach sans practical fanny pack allowed her to lose her keys. Reliable Phil drove up to her rescue and marveled at what he was able to hear from the driver’s seat of the minivan: Haley’s dumping her boyfriend, a girl named Olivia likes Luke (or soccer), and Alex is teaching herself Chinese. The two shared a sweet moment with Claire lamenting her constant need for regimented activity that led them to agree to secret beach days once a month. As long as they make room for gymnastics, too…

Overall this Freaky Friday-esque transfer of priorities (fun vs. responsibility) was my favorite arc of the night. There was something about Claire’s consistent ability to unravel even when she’s supposed to be having fun that hit (a little too) close to home. Rules can be fun! Her need for practicality works best when paired with Phil’s tendency to see the goofy side of things. And their sensible vehicle allows them both to learn important details in the kids’ lives they’d likely never be privy to if they knew the were listening — or thought they understood Chinese. But the most important lesson here is to always send flowers to your hotel concierge, complete with a lengthy note about the importance of journeys. We’ve all got vacation days to burn, should Manny ever need a travel buddy.


“I used to imagine the wind blowing through my perm, blasting some Hall & Oates, maybe horsing around with my Mr. Microphone…” –Phil

“My friend Molly’s dad bought a sports car, and now he lives in a studio apartment and dates a girl who works at Forever 21 — which she won’t be for two years.” –Alex

Haley: It’s just like last year when you wouldn’t take off those skinny jeans!

Alex: Wouldn’t or couldn’t?

Phil: Hey! I looked hot.

“If you were a straight white guy who played football, you really couldn’t have a bad day.” –Jay

“It was my turn to be irresponsible. And luckily, I had sunscreen in my purse.” –Claire

“Whoa, nobody said anything about three people. I’ll just need some weight information.” –Pilot of Doom

“I don’t like the sound of that. A lot of amenities disappear when an ‘H’ becomes an ‘M.'” –Manny

Mitchell: I’m sorry but these signs are ridiculous.

Cam: You’re right, I should have used Helvetica, it much better represents the urgency of our situation.

Cam: You know how many times I had to say goodbye to a furry friend on the farm?

Mitchell: And didn’t it make you stronger?

Cam: Yeah, because I was a growing boy and they were chock full of protein!

Claire: Phil, I did cartwheels.

Phil: Without me?

Episode Recaps

Modern Family

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

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