...Or, for Haley, Mitch, and Jay: 'Summertime Sadness'

Credit: Eric McCandless/ABC

TV’s modernest of families is back, and they’re feeling the love! Well, some of them. Mitch is floppy-hat-over-stained-heels for his new painting hobby, Alex and Sanjay are like two atoms in a strong ionic bond, and even Joe got some of that titular summer lovin’ — sort of. It turns out the youngest Pritchett has a way with, well, chickens and outdoor life. Of course, summer can only last for so long, and the season 7 premiere wisely skipped ahead through the months. Let’s take it away, a family at a time:

The Dunphys

The entire household backed Haley’s decision to go after Andy at the end of last season, but when she reached the beach, Claire just had to make her doubt her choices. Claire’s being the protective mother, sure, but even though Haley and Andy could have had different long-term plans, Claire’s stalling winds up making Haley stop her plan to tell Andy how she feels — which results in Andy proposing to his psycho girlfriend, Beth.

Still, it’s not all bad for the Dunphys from there. Claire gets some one-on-one time with her broken-hearted daughter at first, making quilts out of old clothing taken willingly from Haley’s closet (and unwillingly from Phil’s). When the entire family hits the mall to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (I’m with Luke, the first one was a total emotional roller coaster), though, they stumble upon Dylan, who promptly asks Haley out to coffee. Claire can’t stand it, but what can she do? Dylan’s always around, and besides, he’s got a new business venture now. Make that business “enture” — the “v” is in the V-neck collar, duh.

And so, Haley once again finds herself in Dylan’s arms, and all is well — until Andy returns in July and overhears Claire and Phil talking about that one time Haley nearly stopped him from proposing to Beth because she loved him back. Instead of talking to Haley about it or admitting his feelings, Andy wolfs down a cupcake to avoid confronting his problems. (Same here, Andy.) He keeps downing sugar for the rest of the summer before his wedding, and by the time September rolls around, he’s gained plenty of weight, causing Claire and Phil to freak out because they think they caused it. Once again, they talk way too openly around the house, and Haley overhears that Andy knows she tried to stop his proposal.

Haley and Andy finally get a chance to talk their feelings through, but end up arguing over his weight and whether he’s still in love with her. The two leave things on bad terms, but hey, at least Phil and Claire were listening and will get to repairing that relationship ASAP, right? …Right?

Good thing Alex’s relationship with Sanjay wasn’t this tumultuous. Throughout the summer, the pair held hands and recited the periodic table to each other like the 99th-percentile-scoring lovebirds they are. They even established a deadline for their relationship, citing statistics that show that 86 percent of high school couples break up in college. Of course, that backfires by the time they have to break up in September, and Alex has a last-minute change of heart, realizing that if she and Sanjay have always been the top of the top statistics-wise, they definitely won’t end up in that 86 percent of couples that fail. Oh, boy. Alex and Sanjay, you two are smart. You do know correlation does not mean causation, don’t you?

Mitch and Cam

The Tucker-Pritchetts didn’t have the greatest start to the summer: Mitch is unemployed, Cam is struggling to stop taking Ubers, and Lily… well, Lily seems to be fine. In fact, it’s mostly Mitch who transforms over the months. When Cam encourages him to channel his unemployment frustration and energy into something zen like painting, Mitch throws himself into it, slathering canvases in his bold images and speaking in dulcet, Bob Ross-like tones. Through June and July, not even his old boss Charlie can snap him out of it. That’s because Charlie doesn’t bother: When he sees Mitch’s paintings, all he wants is to be as at peace as his former employee.

It all drives Cam up the wall, of course. Mitch may be doing yoga and painting what he says is the Chrysler Building (it looks more like a grapefruit, per Cam), but Cam has to support the budding Van Gogh and their daughter by working non-stop. “I’m dying here,” he pleads when the family gathers at the Dunphys.

Thankfully, Jay listens and talks to Mitch about his mid-life crisis that’s just, er, “a little gayer” than the mid-life crises people tend to think of. Mitch knows this in the end. “I’m not a good painter, Dad,” he says. “I was just hoping I would feel a little better.” By next week, his wardrobe, diction, and bee-stung ear will all hopefully have returned to normal.

Jay and Gloria

It’s time for Joe to go to pre-school, and there’s no way Jay’s letting him go to some shoddy school that Bruce Willis didn’t personally build a jungle gym for! Gloria has a different perspective: Where she came from, the richest kids got to go to school in the barn — a low bar to clear.

Either way, the family realizes they’re too late when the competitive pre-school they were gunning for tells them there’s an extensive waitlist. After a jaunt to a commune-like, outdoorsy pre-school where Joe gets into some shenanigans with a chicken on the playground, Jay decides to donate his handiwork to their first-choice school. He builds them a new set of cubbies to replace the broken ones — but after it’s installed, one of the children gets his head stuck in the holes Jay had designed to keep things from falling out. With litigation pending, Gloria warns, they can’t say much more about that.

Then again, it looks like Joe will do just fine at the farm-like pre-school. Gloria reminds Jay — in this week’s Line of the Night* — that Joe can handle an unconventional setting, because he’s not only his son, he’s hers, too.

And with that, the seventh season of Modern Family is off to another heartstrings-tugging start. The show may have stumbled off of its Emmys throne last weekend, but it’s still running on the same formula it’s always run on. The family members support each other, even when things get out of hand. And hey, even if it’s been a wild summer for all involved, at least they got some sweet, Dylan-designed V-necks out of them. That’s lo[v]e right there. (Or just perse[v]erance.)

*Line of the Night: “You keep forgetting Joe is tough. He’s part me!” — Gloria, telling it like it is.

Family MVP: Mitch. Just look at the poor guy! He probably hasn’t showered since May. That’s a serious mid-life crisis, so he gets the title this week. (Sorry, Cam.)

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
stream service