Modern Family Recap: ‘Phil on Wire’

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This week, Modern Family tackled an vital issue for humanity, and one extremely close to my heart: people getting cranky when they don’t eat enough.

Cam and Mitchell go on a juice fast, or as Luke confidently interprets it, a “jew fast” (Yom Kippur is coming up). As Mitchell warns us, without food, Cam moves through a number of psychological stages, from Soap Opera to Epiphanies to Despair to Rage.

I may be alone here, but I find it beyond exciting whenever the plight of those who become unstable without food or sleep is recorded on TV. Other notable examples include the Parks & Rec where Leslie Knope eats sugary energy bars to stay up all night, and the 30 Rock where Liz Lemon gives blood and then doesn’t eat all day. Maybe I like this theme so much because it’s one of the few areas in the center of the Venn diagram of the high-stakes world of entertainment and my very low-stakes life. I don’t run a company or a family or a TV show like these characters, but I do miss one meal and start saying things to the people I love that sound like, “oh no, this girl I didn’t like in high school just posted these party photos on Facebook and it’s caused me to understand that I’m going to be alone and miserable forever.” It’s universal!

Anyway, the very unstable Cam and Mitch finally break down at the house of Mitchell’s boss, played by Justin Kirk (it makes Mitchell’s boss about 20 times funnier, by the way, if you imagine that Modern Family and Weeds exist in the same universe and Andy Botwin is pretending to be a high-powered paddle-surfing lawyer). They end up collapsing, in each other’s arms, in the ocean. See? The drama of not eating is powerful.

Meanwhile, Haley and Alex are put in the same math class, prompting Claire to perform parenting inception to convince them to help each other learn math and not be a dork, respectively. I actually enjoyed Claire’s attempts at being suave, and she seemed to come to a genuine realization by the end of the episode that she should try to show her kids how to act rather than telling them (or incepting the proper behavior into their unconscious minds).

That realization comes about thanks to Phil, who is unsurprisingly enthusiastic about (but surprisingly talented at) tightrope walking after he and Luke watch Man on Wire. Outfitted in once-worn “tightrope shoes,” he takes Luke’s advice and decides not to give himself the option of failure. By putting the tightrope seven feet off the ground. Phil is such a likable character that it’s always fun to see him succeed. Super-Dunphy!

And on the other side of town (or not, I have no idea about the geographic relationship between all these characters), Gloria is annoyed that Jay coddles their dog, who eats her shoes and does other annoying dog things. I sometimes feel that Gloria-Manny-Jay subplots get shoehorned in (PUN INTENDED, I will accept my Nobel Prize whenever), but though this story wasn’t particularly original, it led to two of the episode’s biggest laughs: the reveal that Jay showers with the dog and the sight of Gloria growling with Jay’s shoe in her mouth, trying to convince the dog to chew it up.

Jay eventually puts his money where his mouth is, like Claire, and starts setting boundaries. But let’s hope that dog continues eating something, otherwise it may pull a Cam and burst into tears when it sees a picture of its sister, tear a cabinet off its hinges, and then accuse its boyfriend of not being supportive. Oh, hunger. You make fools of us all.