After two weeks of exploring the wonders of Other People, most of the Pritchett/Tucker/Delgado/Dunphy clan is back to grappling with and gawking at their own kind. And boy, do we ever mean grappling and gawking.
Tired of the only restaurant walkable from their house (apartment? We were confused last week, too) — a vaguely Middle Eastern place called Shawarma City that's limited menu choices apparently involve “chicken” and “meat” and very little English comprehension — Mitchell and Cameron are thrilled when a new place called Amelia's opens up, but less thrilled when they can't get a reservation at a decent time. But this is why they adopted a kid, right? So they could use her undeniable cuteness as a tool to get in good with the owner, whose son is Lily's preschool pal?
They tote their daughter over to play with Jackson (who is noted to be a boring kid but honestly seems more pumped about life than Lily) and start schmoozing with his mama, who is played by Rachael Harris. She seems cool, but if there's anything we've learned from Harris's filmography, it's that her character will have a sharp, mean side. They're all getting along smashingly, making jokes about mid-century furniture and Yorkies and loveless marriages, but the guys become a little scared when they hear her on the phone threatening a contractor. This dark edge becomes even more personally terrifying when she leaves the two of them with the kids to run to the restaurant, and Cam accidentally explodes a juice box all over her pristine white rug. (“I saw it in Architectural Digest — it costs $50,000! It was in Diane Keaton's house. Oh, no, it was in what's her name's house. Um, from Prizzi's Honor. From, ah, oh, she was in Addams Family, you know, she — ” “Anjelica Huston!”)
Sometimes we get nervous about these two characters trading too heavily in Über-gay stereotypes — the love of Hollywood divas, the musical-theater fixations — but we love it when they seem like genuine aspects of these guys' personalities rather than narrow-sighted, slapped-on stereotypes. That's why this particular gag worked: Cam and Mitch fussing over which Grande Dame's rug it might've been deftly interrupted a high-drama moment of carpet-stainage, which was funny, in turn, because it illuminated how low the stakes were to begin with. And then, perhaps issuing further evidence that they hate all children except their own (remember Bobby, the falsely accused biter?), they try to blame the spill on Boring Jackson, which sparks an allergy scare and brandishing of an Epi-Pen, followed by a nervous confessional and the guys being relegated to Shawarma Palace for life. Whatever: That No. 19 special looked pretty good.
No Manny this week — he's staying with his dad (Benjamin Bratt's kinda creepster guy? Who we haven't seen since sometime last season?) while Gloria and Jay are off to Vegas for the weekend. “Come on, let's go! We're gonna need a little extra time at airport security 'cause I'm pretty sure they're gonna want to pat you down,” says Jay, because oh my God are you serious? Two seconds into the episode? This must be a new speed record for making a totally lecherous crack about his wife's body, especially impressive because he made it all the way through last week's episode without making one of them. This time it was extra special, because it was about how a total stranger would likely violate national security standards all in the name of feeling her up.
But before she scoots off to get a husband-sanctioned rubdown by a TSA official sexually frustrated by the temptation of all that X-ray-scan nudity, Gloria needs to send an e-mail to Claire backing out of the school bake sale. Apparently their little bathroom sob session during the middle-school dance didn't take and now they're back to fighting and one-upping each other over PTA committees. Flustered, she dictates her angry take on Claire's bossiness to Jay, who promises to translate it into kindspeak. However, as a joke he just writes exactly what she said, and Gloria accidentally sends the message as is. Cue pretty amazing, accurate, and heartbreaking reaction-to-technology sequence: “Ay, ay, why the woosh? Where is the e-mail? It sended! Make it come back!” Jay tells her not to worry about it (because, you know, he didn't marry her to tend to her emotions) and they head out to
hand-rape depot the airport, but Gloria insists on calling Claire during the drive. Phil answers and sounds concerned, and Claire won't come to the phone for some reason, so Gloria assumes the worst and makes Jay take a detour to the Dunphy place.
What's really going down at the Dunphy house is that it's Claire and Phil's anniversary, and because they're just so hard to shop for (“We think. We've never really tried,” deadpans Haley — missed you, girl) the kids have decided to make their darling parents breakfast in bed. Trays in hand, they tiptoe up to the master suite, swing open the door and are greeted by their parents in some major flagrante delicto. Bed sheets are yanked up, coitus is interrupted, scrambled eggs are tossed, and eyes are violently averted. As these things go, it's harder to tell who's more freaked out, the parents or the kids. Upstairs, Phil and Claire gather themselves and try to figure out how to handle the situation. Phil suggests jokes: “I'm just spitballing here, but what if I was all, 'Knock knock?' And they were all like, 'Who's there?' and I was all, 'Someone who doesn't wanna see their parents doing it — that's why we knocked.'” Claire, though, remembers the time she walked in on her own parents and is set on making this a more teachable moment for her own family than she ever had.
Meanwhile, the kids are downstairs reacting as if to a murder: Alex is scrubbing her eyes in the sink, Haley is pacing the floor, and Luke is just trying to figure out what the hell he just saw: “What were they doing? Whatever it was, it looked like dad was winning.” The parents' solution? Talk to the kids. The kids' solution? Get the hell out of there. Just as they're scooting out the door, here comes Jay and Gloria to make amends over the bake-sale message, which of course results in a kind of madcap, “Who's on first?”–style confusion. “Claire, I know how you feel. It happened to me before with another woman, and that time, I was the one getting it — and it hurt,” coos Gloria. “Maybe if you let go a little, taste my cupcakes, I will join you.” Cue Phil nearly passing out, which is a thing this character does so often and which Ty Burrell is so good at. Do they give an Emmy for Really Good at Going Pallid From Sexual Innuendo Overload?
In the end, everything mostly gets sorted out, the kids come home, the Family Sex Talk is administered, and all returns to normal. We do wonder what Manny would've made of it all, but seriously, props to the show for tackling the issue of parental sex and how instead of messing kids up it can be spun as a positive, wonderful thing. So, can the gay folks do it already?