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Modern Family Recap: Aftershocks

Okay. Modern Family made it through its season premiere, we've seen the much-anticipated/maybe-shouldn't-have-been-such-a-big-deal-in-the-first-place kiss, and now we have — um, well, it's not exactly clear! Remember the first-season finale? Where Mitch battled the bird and Phil kissed Gloria on the JumboTron and everyone had a mud fight and loved each other in the end? Remember how it was kind of odd for a season finale not to leave any big questions unanswered, any strings left dangling to be sometime maybe tied up in some way? Well, that seems to be where we find ourselves again this week. What's next?

Is anything next? Beyond the usual amusing character development, which the show is really good at, what's the point of all this? We were thinking about these things last night, but then, oh my gosh, there was an earthquake! And for the first time ever it seemed like something bad might happen to one of the Pritchett-Dunphy-Tucker-Delgados! It was kind of scary! Then it stopped being scary and resumed being funny and we were just so happy that everyone was okay that we decided to give them another week to work things out.

The Pritchett-Dunphys
Claire and Haley are still at odds over the unbalanced ratio of studying-to-socializing in Haley's life, and Claire and Phil are still fighting over his lack of handyman tendencies, and all of this comes to a big shouty head when, after calling over a plumber to fix a tub that's been leaky since before Luke was born, Claire and said plumber get locked in the bathroom together. Cue lots of shouting through the door, lots of Phil bumbling around, and lots of Haley being a really spiteful dunce. And then the earthquake comes and reminds Phil about how he lied to Claire about anchoring a particularly heavy cabinet to the living-room wall — the subsequent falling-over of which must be concealed for the sake of Phil's ego, which prevents him from simply being honest with Claire about the situation. As he klutzes around, making up reasons to keep Claire and plumber dude locked in the bathroom while trying to repair the cabinet, Claire and Haley continue their war through the door: “Just for that, you're grounded for one week!” “Oh, that's good parenting!” etc. Even wee Lesbian Sandals joins the battle, which makes this the second week in a row that a conflict between the three Dunphy ladies has devolved into a three-way screeching match.

Meanwhile, Luke shoves a baking sheet of sticky brown fluid under the stuck door: “Mom, I brought you some soda, but I couldn't find any straws so you'll have to drink it like cats.” Claire and the plumber finally escape from the bathroom, but not before having a brief heart-to-heart during which Claire realizes that Haley must feel about her the same way she felt about her own mom, which is that she was nuts and she kinda hated her. Wow! The plumber also fixes the broken tub, and probably would have anchored the cabinet months ago, too, if Claire had asked. Maybe she should have married him!

The Pritchett-Delgados
Even though the last time he made fun of his wife's spiritual leanings he wound up slapping chicken breasts and wearing old shoes around his neck, Jay is now ribbing Gloria about her churchgoing habits. He gets off easier this time, though: There's the earthquake and Gloria is certain that it's a sign that God's displeased with Jay for skipping mass, but he heads to the golf course anyway — Manny in tow, the boy having decided that maybe he doesn't need organized religion, either. But as one might expect, “skipping Sunday school” easily segues into “questioning the basic tenets of Christianity as a whole,” and as Jay plays through, Manny hits him with theological queries: “So you're not worried about God? You're not worried about Hell? ... So everyone just goes to Heaven? Even bad people? ... What if they send you to the wrong place? They make mistakes with paperwork sometimes. I was put in a girls' health class last year and had to watch a very disturbing movie. ... Do you know what menstruation is, Jay? Because I do!”

All's well in the end, but we have to admit: As soon as Gloria started in about God smiting him for his pride, we were fairly sure something awful was going to happen to Jay. Finally, one untied thread from last season peeped out: the bad habits and poor health he became obsessed with warding off while on the big family trip to Hawaii. Did all of last week's man-kissin' and Colombian pig intestines finally push his system over the edge? Would he keel over on the green, sending poor Manny into an even more violent existential tumult? Would Gloria slowly devolve into some still-very-attractive but totally batty widow who communes exclusively with her dead grandmother and the voice of God and other powerful beings only she can sense? Maybe her boobs are like supernatural antennae of some sort! Guess we'll have to wait and see.

The Pritchett-Tuckers
Oh hey, here's another thing we forgot that we were supposed to look forward to: a guest appearance by Nathan Lane! He appears as Cameron and Mitchell's Über-mega-super-gay friend Pepper, who's driving a wedge in their relationship with his over-the-top costume brunches. This week's theme? Oscar Wilde & Crazy! Frankly, this and the other themed events that they grouse over (Seder-day Night Fever!) all sound like things we would gladly attend. But while Cam is gung ho about attending (because what event involving dress-up and food would Cam not be gung ho about?), Mitch gets foot-draggy. He waits until they're all in Victorian garb (Lily, too!) to start bickering. Once again, the minor spat is interrupted by the minor earthquake, which leads to some ridiculous lie told to Pepper, which leads to Pepper coming over to help clean up some nonexistent water damage. Which leads to Mitch making up another preposterous lie about why he and Cam didn't want to come to brunch even though they were already dressed for it. The lie plays on the fact that Cam and Pepper used to go out (“One date — it was the nineties. We'd just lost Princess Di. I was at sea”), and that Cam may still have feelings for Pepper — which may mean that Nathan Lane will be back! So maybe the show finally has something to build toward!

Photo: Mitchell Haddad/ABC