The adults in the family attend an unconventional therapy session. What could go wrong?
Does Jay have a soft side? Can Claire and Mitch not be neurotic? Will Cam ever turn off the lights when he leaves a room? And most importantly, according to this therapy session, is it at all possible for anyone in the Dunphy-Pritchett clan to actually clean out the junk from their metaphorical drawers?
All of these questions — plus a few other, less pressing, ones — are answered in a strange, thoroughly uncomfortable seminar full of exposed secrets like a slumber party gone wrong. The session, held by Clean Out Your Junk Drawer author Dr. Deborah Radcliffe (guest star Catherine O’Hara — I’m sure you’ve seen her before), acts as an excuse for everyone gathered in the room (Gloria made them go, saying she bid on Dr. Radcliffe at a school auction) to reveal all their secrets about what they dislike about each other. Obviously, everyone ends up saying too much.
So, just like the seminar, let’s break this down by couple, shall we? Then we can really make this a competition. (You can thank me later, Claire.)
Phil and Claire
Claire, of course, considers group therapy a competition, while Phil misunderstands Dr. Radcliffe’s instructions right off the bat. When she asks them to participate in an exercise called “Tiger Rockstar Bunny,” he immediately lists which he would marry, which he would kill, and…yeah, you know the rest.
The pair’s biggest challenge comes when they’re required to write down what they’re annoyed about in their relationship. When Mitch goads Phil into talking about how he dislikes “Me likey,” Claire’s go-to phrase for approval, Claire retaliates by trying to prove that she’s relaxed enough to have a go-to joke about, uhh, tents. (We get it, Claire, it’s “tents,” not “tense”!) Eventually, she blames the lukewarm reaction to her joke on Jay, which prompts Jay to go on a rant and, in Claire’s eyes, win therapy. But before we get to that rousing monologue, I first want to highlight Phil’s cryface from the end of the episode, just because:
Mitch and Cam
These two also thought they had the right approach to group therapy, agreeing to lay as low as possible, considering the presence of both Mitch’s father and sister. Instead, they focus on participating in the activities, which leads Cam to volunteer the pair for Dr. Radcliffe’s face-to-face exercise, in which the two of them must acknowledge each other’s gripes.
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The complaints start off small, but things quickly go from passive-aggressive — Mitch says Cam wearing blue bothers him because the color no longer looks as good on Mitch — to just plain aggressive: Mitch accuses Cam of never turning out the lights, but Cam says Mitch never uses enough coasters to protect their furniture. Eventually, their bickering leads to an even more heated argument down the line, during which Mitch accidentally utters the fact that the two of them, uh, haven’t played with each other’s pogo sticks in a month. (Unlike the real pogo stick Claire and Phil hop around on in the neighborhood. Yeah, those two are weird.)
Mitch, mortified, ends up hiding in the curtains to give us this shot summing up how the session went:
NEXT: Unexpectedly, no one gets as far as Jay in expressing how they feel…
While the therapy’s going on, Haley and Alex meet to discuss their boy problems, effectively providing sisterly therapy for each other. When Alex spills that she’s been seeing high schooler Reuben and Haley reveals she hooked up with Andy in Phil’s sexy, sexy house (it’s a long story), both agree to stop toying around with the wrong partners.
Although Alex manages to end things with Reuben, Haley’s Andy situation is a tad more complicated. She and Andy meet to talk, but just as they agree to remain friends and to always keep their clothes on when they run into each other from then on, they end up in bed together once more. And Haley, racked with even more guilt, lies to Alex when she calls to check up on her. Speaking of feeling uncomfortable feelings…
Jay and Gloria
Of all the people in the room, it’s Jay who manages to get the most out of therapy — though he’s reluctant to admit it at first. When the session begins, Gloria pushes him to take things seriously, but he refuses to do anything other than pretend to play the accordion when they’re prompted to move on to the “Rockstar” phase of the first exercise. He even devises a plan to get himself out of the session: He pretends to be reminded of a painful memory and rushes into another room, locking himself in there and pretending he’s too pained to come out. Unfortunately, Phil succeeds in using a paper clip to get inside, and everyone finds Jay watching football, without a tear in sight.
Later in the session, after Dr. Radcliffe leaves for a family emergency (and hurriedly tells them she hates the title of her own book, has been on The Ellen Show, and did not know she was only being paid $84 for this), Jay finally cracks. Having been told by Gloria, Claire, and Mitch that he’s always acted tough and refused to help even his children understand emotions, he reveals that he didn’t grow up in a household that taught him to wear his feelings on his sleeve. Instead, Jay admits, he could never properly talk about emotions, not even when he went through heartbreak. And as he remembers his most painful instances, he starts crying. It’s not quite Phil’s cryface from the end of the episode, but it’s close:
And from there, when they all turn in for the night, Jay reads Dr. Radcliffe’s book out loud to Joe and Gloria. As he reads, we see Mitch and Cam reconciling when Cam manages to turn off the light, Claire wondering if Phil will realize she’s crazy when the kids leave (only to have him tell her he already knows how crazy she is — aww), and Joe and Gloria curled up to him as they fall asleep.
It’s a sweet wrap-up for an episode light on plot, delving just a little deeper into the psyche of the Pritchett patriarch. Gloria says she purposely bid on the session only so she could get Jay to open up and prevent Joe from growing up to be like Claire and Mitch, but considering how everyone at the session learned much more about each other by the end (including that bit about pogo sticks), the therapy turned out to be valuable to everyone in the room. Poor Dr. Radcliffe. Those results should really be worth at least a hundred bucks.
Line of the Night: “You can’t compare yourself to me. I was in Cats.” —Cam, taking “Tiger Rockstar Bunny” in a totally different direction. (Runner-up: “When did you get so old — I mean I love you!” —Phil, if only for Ty Burrell’s one-breath delivery.)
Family MVP: How can I go with anyone other than Jay? Just look at this adorable family photo: