Phil and Claire get drunk and make a promise that threatens to bring the extended families a lot closer. Plus, Manny rides a Jazzy

By Emily Exton
February 16, 2012 at 07:30 AM EST
Peter "Hopper" Stone/ABC
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The mark of any good night, this week’s Modern Family should have left you sprawled out on the couch with eye makeup smeared down to your chin, hair sticking out from all surfaces, and hands desperately reaching for a takeout menu. We’ve all had that nagging feeling after too much imbibing that we’ve agreed to something we would never normally do, but those commitments usually involve early morning spin classes or a blind date with someone from HR. For Claire and Mitchell, excessive booze risks to blur the line between familial closeness and the potential Lifetime movie Why Can’t I Call My Aunt Mommy? Back to form, this episode (and recap) is best enjoyed with a piping hot serving of eggs.

Jay started off his day concerned that Manny’s proclivity to speak in Louis Armstrong lyrics and use the word “steep” as a verb were hindering his social development. In his opinion, his closeness to his mother wasn’t helping matters. He shouldn’t be scrounging for matinée tickets with Gloria and her friend, he really should be running sprints in the yard and seeing his mother only to scarf down thirds of whatever meal she’s picked up, before texting his friends that she’s such a witch for not letting him get a new Wii. Having raised a son before,  Jay saw no harm in signing Manny up for a casual game of football (and Manny displayed some surprising prowess on the field!). But his brush with greatness was soon gone as he was quickly strip—oh, look! Another penny, just like the kinds Manny and Gloria collected together when they were on their own in Colombia!

Hearing more about their time pre-Jay solidified why their bond is so strong, and why Gloria sees no problem in shielding Manny from the hard stuff: they were all each other had. When Gloria drove her cab (!) at night, it wasn’t to look for wealthy men to make all of their problems go away, it was to provide for her family, which is why the first man in her life always sat shotgun. Which is also why she never forced him into competitive athletics, where he could break a leg, or worse: his face. Blindsided to an oncoming defender, Manny’s injury left him stuck at home and confined to a Jazzy (his idea, we’re sure). Backing that thing up is not as easy as it looks in the commercials. But what you lose in ability to make a smooth getaway, you gain in the chance to hang around eavesdrop on important conversation. Just blame all lingering on stupid wheels and their refusal to cut corners.

Elsewhere additional potential for injury loomed, as Alex and Haley’s strange decision to be conscious at 7 a.m. on a weekend morning gifted them with cleaning duty from Claire. There’s a lesson here: Don’t ever even let the thought of boredom enter your frontal lobe in the Dunphy home; she hears everything. There may have been a squirrel about to undergo electric shock therapy and marbles all over her floor kitchen, but Claire couldn’t be bothered to supervise this time. She’d just have to trust that Phil was overseeing it all, which as always, leaves one with 50/50 odds.

NEXT: One wild night…and that awkward morning after

But the Dunphys got their breadsticks crossed that fateful morning. After quizzing his daughters of several horribly dated jokes, Phil was off to show a house to Steven and Stefan, Cam and Mitchell’s frenemy couple who love flaunting the ease of The Swirl (TM) surrogacy method and their brief, child-safe text messages sent while driving. Not only had these two beaten Cam and Mitch to having a child born from one of their sperm donations, they in turn had the nerve to purchase a lovely home from Phil (Commission Accomplished) with the potential for a European washing machine. In their defense, nobody wants to lose to Luke and Leon, even if they are actually two pre-teen boys passing back and forth a lice hat. While they’d been waiting on adoption for a year, the Pritchett-Tucker duo’s underlying competitive edge is what really had them thinking about the alternative, which they discussed over wine (and light dinner) with Claire and Phil later that night.

So that dinner scene? One of the series’ best by far, and a great relief after a monotonous last few episodes. More often than not “playing drunk” can result in over-exaggerating and relying on dumb stereotypical interpretations of what one believes an intoxicated person to look like. (But what if we’re drunk, too? No one will ever get it right!) Rather than using a couple of glasses of moderately priced Bordeaux to get Phil to flaunt his Lady Gaga choreography, or Claire to invite a lonely bus boy to move into their attic, last night’s drunkenness was all about word vomit. There was a natural progression that acknowledged how, when mixed with alcohol, the stress and concerns of life can run wild. The slow-build of the foursome’s boozy dinner felt natural, as in those nights you agree to drink every time someone with an accent speaks on Downton Abbey only to wake up Monday morning with an email thanking you for the purchase of five mortal and pestles from Crate & Barrel and a one-way ticket to Newcastle.

Replaying the night’s events through Phil’s bleary eyes and strained voice helped to highlight all the intricacies of their increasingly debaucherous meal: Phil’s napkin bib, Claire’s purple lips, Mitchell’s continuous stroking of Cam’s back. The conversation revolved around babies, which always sound like a good idea with cocktail in hand. Why doesn’t Claire give Cam an egg to mix with his sperm? That sounds great! Inbreeding it is. And like any good drunken night, it all ended with hugs, tears, and regret.

Cut to the sobering light of day, where Phil and an equally bedraggled Claire meet in the kitchen unsure of how to amend what they may have just done. (If you were too drunk to remember yourself, Claire’s holding a tiny egg.) Fortunately they were expected at Jay and Gloria’s where they can all talk things over like rational adults, or hope to God that there are bottomless Bloody Marys on the at-home brunch menu. Cam must be the only one who can hold his alcohol; they teach you at a young age out on the farm. He was in good spirits the entire morning after, high off the prospects what his hypothetical children with Claire, Gloria, and Justin Timberlake would look like. Don’t worry, Mitchell. I was hoping for Ryan Gosling, too.

The juxtaposition of these two kinds of reactions post-wine night seemed on-point: Cam was happy to be in love and expanding his family, while Claire and Mitchell jumped to the ick factor and complications associated with such a generous act. To Phil, the biggest concern is what he would have to call Cam if Claire went through with it all (Egg Daddy?). After tip-toeing around the previous night’s activities like two college kids after a night of anonymous body shots and deep Friday Night Lights conversation, leave it to Jay to let his true stodgy old coot show by bringing up the elephant in the room: Cam and Mitchell having a baby together? That’s unnatural (which in this case, means weird). No hard feelings, though. Now about those European dishwashers?

NEXT: Jay gets us all misty-eyed once again

But his grumpiness stopped there. Just as he wants a say in the lives of his adult, blood-related children, Jay wants to be a part of Manny’s life and Manny’s memories. After realizing that Gloria might be right about wanting to watch over her son and spend as much time with him while she can, Jay sweetly interjected himself into the great penny search of 2012, so they could begin building their own stories to share with the rest of the family one day. Damn you, Jay! Pass the tissues.

QUOTABLES

“I have to go show house, but first: What was Elton John’s sexual orientation in the ’70s?” –Phil

“Alex keeping everyone in line? Pure me. [Pauses.] Sometimes I worry no one’s gonna like Alex.” –Claire

Cam: What? I’m playing a new drinking game, it’s called: “Every time I’m depressed I take a drink.”

Mitchell: That game exists. It’s called alcoholism.

“I want to do something I never do: brag about my kids!” –Claire

Claire: We could do this. We could make a baby that is half Tucker and half Pritchett.

Phil: Are you saying what I think you’re saying?

Claire: [Nods.] Yeah.

Phil: Cloning?

Mitchell: Say hi to your aunt mommy!

Cam: Adorable.

Mitchell: No, not adorable. Appalachian.

“I’m uncomfortable with this, Phil. The manual specifically saws no towing!” –Manny, while Phil rides behind his Jazzy on a skateboard.

Phil: There was a discussion about the possibility of your mom donating an egg so that the guys could have a baby.

Claire: But we decided it was not a good idea.

Luke: Why, because Lily’s such a mess?

Phil: For a lot of reasons, they have…

Luke: But we can agree that she’s a disastrous human being?

Gloria: You don’t get to tell everyone how to live their lives, that boys can’t spend time with their mommies or that brothers and sisters can’t make babies!

Jay: So you’re all for this?

Gloria: No, it’s a freak show! But it’s their freak show.

“Daddies what are you looking at? AHHHH!” –Lily

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