Modern Family recap: Thunk in the Trunk
An indestructible cardboard cutout of Gloria terrorizes Jay and Manny
Modern Family sure went creepy this week, with three stories that felt oddly familiar — literarily speaking. First, a guilty Jay and Manny drove around a moving cardboard cutout before destroying in a shredder. (Call it The Tell-Tale Cardboard Cutout.) Then, Cam and Mitch couldn’t quite figure out what was going on with the three adults staying upstairs. (Call it The Landladylords’ Tenants.) Finally, Claire went through some severe impostor syndrome — something Phil didn’t realize as he quickly submitted to Claire’s every whim now that she’s the boss. (Call it The Invisible Man Turned Housewife.) Still, every guilty, nosy, and meek family member learned something valuable…
Lesson of the Week
What we imagine is always scarier than the truth.
Look at it this way: If Jay had simply told Gloria he was uncomfortable with the sexy cardboard cutout of her placed at the market to promote her salsa that men couldn’t help but ogle at and take pictures with, she would have told him right away that it’s okay to feel protective. Instead, he thought she’d be furious he had stolen it to stop people from harassing Cardboard Gloria, so he went to great lengths to cover it up. This took everything from dunking it in a lake to driving over it with his car. None of it worked, even after he roped Manny into helping him dispose of the cardboard body. They finally used a shredder, but with the head left behind, Gloria was able to get Jay talking. The only snag? She suspected rival salsa maker Auntie Alice (played by the Oscar-nominated actress June Squibb!), who may or may not have some trouble headed her way, thanks to Gloria’s shady contacts.
The same lesson goes for Phil as well. With Claire as the new Jay at the closet company, Phil’s been relegated to the role of the obedient housewife, sipping white wine while asking Claire about her day after she shuffles in from work. After gabbing with the actual housewives of some of Claire’s male colleagues, Phil realizes Claire’s been gifting him “hush” presents, including a flashy hoverboard. He fears becoming Invisible Housewife Phil, but the truth isn’t that he’s fading: It’s that Claire’s been trying so hard to be her father and to do her job that she has been too stressed to thank and listen to Phil. The two help each other regain confidence — and height when it comes to Jay’s old chair:
As for Cam and Mitch, well, their pursuit of the truth only made them more paranoid about what was going on with their mystery tenants. Desperate to keep their rating above three stars, they’re worried about spooking their tenants by investigating why the threesome staying there are three adults: a married couple and a man named Tommy. Eventually, they discover through a series of high jinks — like hearing the woman sneeze “Help!” and snooping in their room, only for them to return — that the threesome are just lonely people enthusiastic about ceramic figurines. Too bad that just as Cam is learning all this, Mitch knocks every single pristine figurine over. Bye bye, three stars?
Most Unexpected Combo
Jay and Manny
It shouldn’t be that unexpected — Manny’s his stepson, after all! — but having the pair work together to hide a secret from Gloria was fun to watch. When Manny goes to stop the episode’s titular trunk-based noise from the cardboard cutout, Jay works on distracting Gloria. That’s teamwork! For a poor cause, but still.
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Sure, he was the one who wanted to snoop from the start, but who wouldn’t be curious about what those strange tenants were doing upstairs? They were three adults, a Mr. and Mrs. Wilkerson and then a Tommy, without a surname. Besides, he was smart about his methods: He had Lily go through their garbage (no danger of the tenants getting in the way there), propped up a ladder to peek into the room (unlike Mitch, who just walked right in), and later devised a fake complimentary cocktail hour to keep the three downstairs and talking. Plus, his theories about the three — “Is he their captive? Is Mrs. Wilkerson their captive? Is the captive in their trunk?” — were hilarious. Hilariously terrifying, that is.
The only “kids” who showed up in the episode were Lily, Luke, and Manny, and Manny easily did the most legwork by helping Jay take care of business while also being his practical, indulgent self. Even when Gloria wants a bath and he knows they need to keep her happy, Manny is careful to mention that he was saving his nice bath salts for himself.
Funniest Phil Line
“Throw on a black turtleneck and some mom jeans, and it’s like I’m married to Steve Jobs.” —Phil, clearly proud of his wife’s ability to think of a travel mug as “a closet for your coffee.” Oh, and just as a bonus, here’s the funniest shot of Phil:
Snarkiest Lily Moment
It has to be her first line: “Pass.” One small word for a child, one giant disappointment for Mitch, who just wanted a foot rub from his daughter.
Best Out-of-Context Screencap
Did Everything Turn Out Okay?
Yes for Jay, Gloria, and Manny (they cleared up the cardboard cutout snafu after all) but a resounding Probably Not for Auntie Alice, making it unlikely June Squibb will return to Modern Family anytime soon.
Almost for Cam and Mitch, who managed to cheaply buy new figurines for their tenants but also really made a mess of things when they weren’t trying to. No more meddling, you two! You’re not Shaggy and Scooby.
And finally, a Yes, Sort Of for Phil and Claire: Phil no longer feels like he’s become the Dunphy housewife, but he’s also getting up at night and dangerously zooming around on the hoverboard. Claire is reassured she can be the boss, but she still needs more time to actually be the boss. At least now she knows she’s definitely not into the heartburn-inducing trio of steak, scotch, and cigars. It really is tough to be a powerful white male, Claire!
Parents just don’t understand… and neither do kids or spouses in this hit ensemble comedy