Last night’s episode of Modern Family featured a gorgeous, sexually alluring creature with an exotic accent, dark shiny hair, and a bodacious physique — and hallelujah, for once it wasn’t Gloria! Even better, it's Claire who gets to do the objectifying as Gilles Marini (best known for really stretching his acting muscles as the Naked Guy from the Sex and the City movie) plays a sexually ambiguous hunk who brings out Claire’s inner Samantha Jones. And whenever Modern Family can get Claire out of her OCD housewife rut and remind us that she’s actually fun, well, let’s just say in our best Kim Cattrall voice: Honey, it was fabulous.
Claire is hell-bent on having a good time when she realizes that, with Phil taking Haley on a college visit and the other kids out at sleepovers (missed you in this episode, Alex!), she has one night to herself and “that happens once every never.” So when she drops Luke off at his sleepover, she turns down an invite (“We’ve got Pinot!”) to hang with the other moms (including her high school frenemy) in favor of a wild night out with Mitchell and Cam (“I need music and dancing and secondhand smoke”). Alas, rather than choosing a place where Claire can “stuff cash in a caged go-go boy’s Speedo,” they end up at a family-friendly restaurant where Cam has a punch coupon to get a free chicken potpie — one more to go! Claire is not having it (“You know what, Claire? You’re being a little high-school you”), so when Mitchell reluctantly mentions that his friend Longines has invited them to a boutique opening that might be a “scene,” she is raring to go.
The party turns out to be gayer than a Bravo reality show — drinks, gossip, snide comments about plastic surgery. Claire’s having so much fun that when Mitchell and Cam are ready to bail by 9:30 p.m. (“You can’t even stay out past Luke’s bedtime?”), she decides to stay out with Julian, Longines’s super-hot — and fabulous — friend. There are more drinks, some trying on of dresses, some muscle-groping — typical gay-and-girl behavior. But when Luke calls to ask Claire to bring him his retainer and Julian drives her over, it’s there, on the lawn in front of the judgiest moms in all of suburbia, that Drunk Claire, wearing a too-short red minidress, learns that Julian isn’t gay at all: He’s just French. “I took fashion advice from you,” she says in horror. So much for spending the night “safely objectifying a gay person.”
Claire’s not the only one set on having a fun-filled night. Decked out in his “Go Bulldogs” sweatshirt, Phil is as ecstatic as you’d imagine to show Haley around his alma mater, high-fiving unsuspecting students (“College!”) and executing a pretty awesome Flying Dutchman with the cheerleading squad. Remember, male cheerleaders at Phil’s college were/are cool! So what if there’s some confusion in the Dunphy household over the name of the college mascot? (“Go Bullfrogs!” Claire shouts, reacting to the ambiguous croaking/barking sound Phil makes when talking to his old buddies.) And shockingly, Haley is pretty into it, too! Sure, she’s skeptical about checking out the campus’s all-male singing group (Tenors Anyone?), but she has a nice evening out with her dad, letting her snark-guard down enough to get filthy while eating wings at Phil’s favorite bar. The trouble begins when Haley leaves to go to a party with a fellow prospective student, and Phil, supposedly so trusting and chill, frantically tracks her down at a frat house, where Haley is chatting up a male-model type. It just so happens that this is the most wholesome frat party in the history of popular culture; there’s synchronized dancing, ginger ale drinking, and not even a whiff of a keg stand or date rape. And Haley herself is all uncharacteristic doe-eyed innocence: The hottie she’s been chatting with is a classmate, and oh!, his parents are right over there! Phil chases after a mortified Haley, admitting that the prospect of Haley off on her own at college makes him feel "like he’s being forced into early retirement" from his job of protecting her. It’s a slow, sweet scene, almost Full House sweet. In a show that slings one-liners at rapid clips even as it goes in for sappy sentiments, it’s jarring to see Phil do a full-on Danny Tanner. But maybe they’ve earned this love-fest. This might be the first glimpse we’ve gotten of Haley becoming a pretty cool, non-eye-rolling adult.
Manny is also growing up. When he describes how his latest crush Bella has “recently blossomed like a purple lilac in April,” Gloria knows he’s referring to “the pooberty.” Then, when Manny receives a mysterious package and takes it up to his room to be alone with it, Gloria assumes the worst (funny, how we’re cool with Manny as a sophisticated romantic, but the idea of him being a typical 13-year-old boy with hormones is just, ewwwwww). A freaked-out Gloria wonders if it’s time to have “the talk” with Manny, but Jay is too obsessed with a crazy Colombian soap opera — whose name he likes to think is Spanish for “Big Hair and Yelling” — to be much help. Finally, when Manny shouts, “Help! I’m stuck!” Gloria sends Jay in, but it’s not what we think. Phew. Manny has been hanging upside down from a bar in his closet to try to make himself taller to impress his Bella. It never even occurred to him that he could’ve used the $50 he spent on the Lengthinator to buy a two-year subscription to Playboy. “It’s never too late to grow in life,” reads the Lengthinator brochure, which also serves as the episode’s Life Lessons voice-over. Jay promises to teach Manny how to work out to impress the ladies; Cam and Mitchell realize that going home early is not necessarily a bad thing; Phil and Haley enjoy a bit of lunch-tray sledding on the college green; and Claire? We hope Claire appreciates that Julian has nothing on the dashing Clive Bixby.