Modern Family Review: "Moon Landing" (1.14)

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Modern Family Review: "Moon Landing" (1.14)

Usually, I devote much of these TV write-ups to following an episode’s various plot threads and describing how they each develop and eventually resolve. It’s a somewhat formulaic, simplistic view of things, but so is TV; and for the most part, this usually allows me to run through all the points I want to make about an episode. Any explanation of what made last night’s episode of Modern Family great, though, is really lessened by that kind of analysis - its story heads in all sorts of directions, mostly without any sort of hierarchy, and still comes together effortlessly. It's not just an A, B, and maybe a C plot, it's a mesh that went beyond that. I'm still going to recount these storylines, but I don't think this does justice as to how perfectly the show's writers pulled off this high-wire act while still making the episode's actual events seem completely natural.

-Doesn't Phil look an awful lot like John Stossel when he's wearing the moustache?

-Ending of the episode’s simultaneous references to Say Anything and Dylan’s ridiculous song is wonderful.

Probably the biggest glue keeping the episode together is Claire’s plot, though it takes a while for this to become apparent. Claire is meeting with an old friend of hers from work, who it turns out called her up in order to show off her new promotion. While at first Claire thinks that her friend is in fact jealous of her family, it becomes increasingly clear that this isn’t the case, so Claire defensively invites the friend back to her house to meet her wonderful family. It’s at this point where we have some catching up to do, because this spiteful gesture immediately blows up in her face the second they enter the doorway.

This is because while Claire was out, things changed a bit around the Dunphy household. Haley spent the day breaking up (fighting, really) with her boyfriend. This comes to a head when Claire returns home, with Haley throwing Dylan’s stuff at him and yelling various invectives before quickly making up and proceeding to straddle him on the stairs. Alex and Luke spent their time attempting to sort out some old bottles for recycling, many of which were not in fact empty. After some large-scale spilling, the whole house reeks of booze and Luke removes his clothes because he spilled some liquor himself, giving the impression that he’s a fairly drunk child living in his own squalor. Good times.

Also contributing to this hilarity, but deserving a paragraph all its own, is Phil and his moustache. A bus bench sign Phil advertises on is defaced, giving him a bushy moustache and some irritation. It also gives Phil an idea: maybe he should give a moustache a try. The moustache helps him to converse with blue-collar workers, or at least Phil thinks so. Then, the house’s water supply is temporarily cut off so he’s forced to use a porta-potty outside, which gets its door blocked in by Haley’s car. When Claire and her friend arrive home, not only have her kids gone crazy but her husband is stuck in an outside bathroom with a wonderfully awful pornstache. Truly a moment of greatness.

The other two families in the show aren’t left out, though, and spend the day in a sort of swap with Jay and Cameron playing racquetball while Mitchell tries to sort out Gloria and Manny's car accident. Anything that causes Jay and Cameron to spend more time together is a good thing from a comedic standpoint, and a fight about being gay in a locker room is both a perfect fit for their characters and fun to watch. The other plotline isn’t a letdown either, as it turns out that Gloria caused the accident herself because she’s a godawful driver; Jay only sent Mitchell to deal with Gloria because he was afraid, not for Mitchell’s advice as a lawyer.

Not only do none of the episode’s plots feel the least bit forced, "Moon Landing" is also one of the few episodes of the show that made good use of the large cast. Deepening Claire’s character also works to the episode’s benefit, just like the interaction between Cameron and Jay. Admittedly, the main difference between this episode and previous ones was the elegance of the writing, but if it’s that good, who cares if the show keeps repeating itself?

Stray Observations:

“Five months later we were … four months away from having this little bundle of joy”

-I’m a fan of the reasoning for The Supremes.

"I don’t take kindly to it when someone Tom Sellicks my bus bench."

"Everybody looks parked when you’re going 100 miles an hour."

"Doesn’t it bother you in the least that your gay son is the only one tough enough to deal with your wife?"

-Keeping what Claire's job actually was as unclear as possible is obnoxious. What’s the point of all the vagaries?

“What’s jagermeister” "You know how in a fairy tale there's always a potion that makes a princess fall asleep, then the guys start kissing her? Well this is like that, except you don't wake up in a castle, you wake up in a frat house with a bad reputation."

"Where I come from they always blame the latino driver." “Where you come from, isn’t everyone the latino driver?”

"A bunch of booze-drenched hill people"

"It was not my fault at all … it was the big cupcake."

-I enjoy how close the show came to rickrolling everyone who tuned in. The taunt was better than actually following through with it."