Modern Family – Episode 3-20 Review – “Death and Daddy Issues”

Cam and his dad.

This week’s episode of Modern Family delivered four storylines, and while I usually argue that Modern Family is at its best when the whole clan gets together, I liked how these arcs paired the characters off in interesting ways. The series has gotten pretty good at figuring out clever ways to do that, and I thought we were handed an interesting mix this week without ever feeling as though the combinations felt forced.

Goodbye, Walt

Luke’s elderly neighbor and friend, Walt, sadly passed away. I’m glad we got a lot of Walt in the last episode, when he delivered hilarious lines at Phil drove him around before the election. Way to go out on top, buddy! Claire was worried that Luke wasn’t reacting to the bad news in a healthy way (as in, he didn’t react at all) but everyone else was more worried about Claire’s coping mechanism – she smiles when she talks about death! It was so weird, and felt oddly appropriate for Claire’s character.

I liked how Luke managed to trick Claire into letting him keep Walt’s TV for his bedroom by telling her a story about how he’d see it from his bedroom window at night. Luke has his dumb moments, but much like his sister Haley he can be a sly, savvy kid. I didn’t believe that story for a minute.

Quality Time

Saddened to find out that Walt was estranged from his daughter, Phil comforted himself by thinking about all the memories he’s already formed with his own kids…until he realized that he hadn’t really made any with Alex. Yes, Alex is much more like her mother while Haley and Luke take after Phil, and it shows. So Phil set out to create a special day with his middle child.

First they planned to throw Walt’s dog tags into the ocean, but a seagull stole them. Then they drove fifty miles to taste “The World’s Best Milkshake” only to find out the diner was all out. Phil even tried to induce labor for their pregnant waitress. He settled for making Haley eat every “best” thing on the menu, and they both ended up puking in the diner. What a memory! Of course, it ended up being a pretty sweet daddy/daughter moment, especially when Phil wrote Alex’s initials on the moon sign at the diner, just like a famous astronaut had done on the real moon for his daughter.

What I liked about these two storylines was that we don’t see these parent/kid combos all that often. Luke is like a mini-Phil in a lot of ways, and Alex a mini-Claire. Seeing them interact gave us some fresh comedic exchanges.

Party Time

The weakest storyline was probably Haley’s, if only because we didn’t see enough of it. I think there was a lot of potential in Haley tricking everyone to letting her hold a pool party at Jay and Gloria’s house with “uncle” Manny as a chaperone. Manny, of course, was the most rigid of chaperones, and I could have watched a lot more of that.

When Gloria arrived home, she yelled at Haley for lying to her and then yelled at Manny for not having enough fun.

Battle of the Dads

The reason Jay and Gloria were out of the house was because they were over at Mitch and Cam’s for dinner, since Cam’s dad was visiting. Turns out Merle Stonewall Tucker and Jay Pritchett don’t really care for one another.

The rivalry bled over to Mitch and Cam, who spent a large amount of the night trying to one-up one another over who’s dad is tougher. And later it was revealed that the reason Jay doesn’t like Merle is because he thinks he treats Mitch like the woman of the relationship. The moment the two dads shared was rather touching, and pretty harshly realistic for a sitcom. As much as these two tough guys try to be OK with their gay sons, each of them was taking some comfort in thinking that their son was the manlier one.

I liked this storyline because it acknowledged that things aren’t just black and white when it comes to parents of gay children. It isn’t simply supportive vs. unsupportive, it’s more nuanced than that. Both Jay and Merle are trying, but they aren’t ever necessarily going to be as OK with their sons’ lifestyles as you’d hope. Some of what they said made me uncomfortable, but that’s life. It wasn’t the funniest storyline, but I think it added an interesting layer to the relationships in the family.

This episode, in general, wasn’t the funniest Modern Family has done. But like I said, I dug seeing the characters interact in some different ways. Overall I thought it was pretty solid. What about you guys?

Favorite quotes & moments:

  • “Phil do we really have to go through this again? I told you I would do everything possible to make sure that your skeleton ends up at a science class of a women’s college.”- Claire
  • “Young lady, I don’t think you’re ready up here [points to her head] for what you’re planning to do up there [the bedroom].” – Uncle Manny
  • “I would make the buildings and he would inspect them and if they weren’t up to code, ay yi yi, the paper work!” – Gloria, talking about playing with blocks with Manny as a kid


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