Modern Family Recap: ‘See You Next Fall’

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“See You Next Fall,” which really should have been the final episode of the season, is basically Modern Family’s clip show episode. Every character, from Crazy Claire to Old Jay, from Bickering Cameron and Mitchell to More-Similar-Than-They-Think-They-Are Haley and Alex, did exactly what you’d expect them to, fitting into their exact character archetypes. But that didn’t stop it from being a very funny episode, particularly because they found a reason to bring the whole family together, something the show hasn’t done nearly enough of this season.

I’ve never been much a fan of the “opening scene then Four Hours Earlier” gimmick, but it was used effectively enough here, beginning with middle school graduate Alex about to read her valedictorian speech, but without her parents in attendance. Where are they?

Four Hours Earlier.

Alex is working on her student-bashing speech, which Haley says is a bad idea; Luke’s pretending to be Steven Spielberg, or at least his non-union Mexican equivalent, Señor Spielbergo; Claire’s freaking out about her babies getting older; Phil’s waiting for Claire’s explosion, so that he can enjoy Las Vegas tomorrow with his male cheerleader buddies (how much money do you think Phil would lose in Vegas? $100,000?); Jay’s worried about looking too old, so he gets Botox; Gloria’s trying to convince Jay that she loves him, not his looks; and Manny’s acting more sophisticated than a “normal” boy his age.

Every character was, well, in character, particularly in the Cameron and Mitchell story, where Cam falls into Lily’s adorable little swimming pool, much to Mitchell’s delight, who can’t stop laughing about it (I like this personality change in Mitchell, who started off on the show as the “straight man”…well, sort of). It was pretty damn funny, and Eric Stonestreet sells it wonderfully (maybe to make up for last week’s bedridden episode?). He does even better when, while meeting at Jay and Gloria’s house before the Great Gate Crisis of 2011, where the driveway gate won’t open which leads to a joke about Gloria’s boobs, he first walks into a glass door, then the screen door, which he carries around with him for a few moments. I’ve walked into doors I thought were open before; for me, it hurt, but for everyone else, it was fucking hilarious. Same thing here: Cam wants people to ask if he’s feeling OK; Mitchell, Jay, and Claire can’t stop laughing. It’s a Dunphy thing.

(I’m going to stop here for a moment to highlight two things: 1) If Modern Family wants to do the Cameron and Mitchell fighting plot every single week, at least make it funny, like they did last night. That doesn’t mean a fat man has to fall into something comically undersized every episode, but give us something to work with; and 2) How messed up of a childhood must Claire have had? Her tearful speech to Phil, about how their kids are going to be leaving them and how they’ll basically have nothing to live for anymore, was taking the sad mother thing to an extreme. She can’t even let Phil go to Vegas with his buddies because she’s too frantic, over something that won’t happen for five more years. Modern Family has too often been falling into the “Hysterical Woman” trope, especially of late, and this is another thing they need to work on for season three.)

Later, after the Great Gate Crisis of 2011 has mostly been settled, Phil and Claire are bike riding, then driving in the back of a pickup, then scrambling down a hill to make it in time for Alex’s speech. As they’re literally falling over themselves to get to their seats (some more great physical comedy there), Cameron and Mitchell see them, and Cameron can’t stop laughing. Mitchell asks why this is funny when running into a screen door isn’t, and Cameron responds, “It’s the juxtaposition of absurdist comedy against the backdrop of a formal setting. Not a big-boned man falling into a pool.”

Well said, Cam, and Modern Family is able to pull of both these different styles of comedy. The show’s equally effective at physical humor as it is as building up a subtle joke before finally landing a great punch line at the end of an episode. “See You Next Fall” might not have been Modern Family’s funniest episode, but it did highlight everything the show is capable of, from winking nods to the audience to, yes, a fat man falling into a pool. Plus, Alex got to quote Journey. Can’t go wrong there.

Josh Kurp wants you to remember: don’t stop believing because let’s get this party started!