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Modern Family Recap: Skating Sad

MODERN FAMILY - "My Hero"

Every single member of the ModFam clan is going to wind up at the roller rink tonight, and it’s kind of a shame there’s anything to talk about before that. While the episode really lives in the rink, there’s a little pre-rink material worth touching on. Like when Cam, receiving rare evidence of Mitch’s sensitive side, serves up an "Awwwwwww, that's so sweet and sensitive — why did you kill that part of yourself?"

Claire has been babysitting for Jay and Gloria because they have a baby, remember? And because the lovebirds are out on a good date that turns into a great date when Gloria discovers a hair in her food and the rich cheapskates get to leave the restaurant without paying a cent. Most romantic night ever.

Claire's job hunt is still in the plot rotation (which is a good thing), and Jay's got a job lined up at his closet company for her. Jay calls Manny Hugh Hefnerd and Phil is shamefully not there to grin widely. Instead, Phil is back at Casa Dunphy, where he catches Haley and Alex secretly discussing the notion of Haley returning to college. The staredown — Haley and Alex faking obliviousness, Phil mired in suspicion — is unexpected and hilarious. But Phil actually knows what's up, because Haley’s been secretively throwing away her community college pamphlets without ever giving a thought to who, y’know, empties the trash. Trash doesn’t really show up on Haley’s radar.

And then we’re at the roller rink. It’s been an okay ride up to here, and now it’s about to be a blast. “If at any point you're not okay with me being so okay with it, you let me know,” Cam tells Mitch of the upcoming afternoon of fun with Mitch’s ex-boyfriend, Teddy. Suddenly we learn each and every single Dunphy, Pritchett, Tucker, Tucker-Pritchett, Delgado, and Pritchett-Delgado is at the roller rink, and Mitch's ex is a good buddy to basically all of 'em. (Maybe the baby’s not there, and definitely the baby doesn’t know Teddy.) A look of Schadenfreude-y joy crosses Cam's face at the first inkling that maybe one member of the family, Gloria, isn’t crazy about the Ted-ster.

Wondering why roller rinks scream “ROMANCE!!” is like wondering why “Gangnam Style” parodies still get uploaded every day — there's just no answer except they just do and they always have and always will. Alex and Haley chat up some boys accordingly. Manny has been desperately searching for goodness in the hearts of his family and decides to bend Luke’s ear about the sad findings. Luke gets one of the funniest bits of the night: "Y'know, I've got problems of my own. I can't always be the lovable sidekick on The Manny Show. Did you even notice I'm binge eating?!" Nothing is especially amusing about it on paper/on Internet, but whatever goes on in Nolan Gould’s head to play this character onscreen works really well, and really, really funnily.

Phil gets a long-awaited chance to enjoy prolonged physical contact with Gloria. Then Teddy swoops in, and Cam finally spills to Mitch that he hates what’s going on here. The family is going to need to break up with Teddy at the soonest availability, no matter how awkward a concept that is. A shot is framed around Cam and Teddy embodying a perfect metaphor for the family choosing between them, and Cam recognizes it as exactly that. "Congratulations, Mitchell. This is as sad as I've ever been in roller skates," he says, following up that flawless delivery with some flawless physical comedy, the episode’s mandatory bit of slippery roller skate silliness.

By now it’s become really apparent how awesome it is that throughout all this drama and tomfoolery, nearly all the characters have been on skates, gliding through every shot no matter their situation or mood. More roller rink episodes!

It turns out the problem driving Luke to eat a pizza, some hot dogs, some fries, a massive spread of nachos, and maybe a burrito … is that he’s struggling with the same assignment as Manny, the hero essay. Only Luke’s dilemma is that his dad assumed he'd be the essay’s star, while Luke actually wrote about Claire. Aw! Just in time for Mother's Day. Unfortunately, Claire can’t savor the mom-heroism because she has to disappoint her dad again. She’d rather burn him than get berated by him on a daily, professional basis. (Soon we’ll get a flip-flop, though, and it seems Claire will finally have her new post-housewife career next week or soon.)

Haley and Alex ditch the lame guys they've been flirting with. Haley gets a moment of intellectual triumph when she's the one to point out one of the guys is a moron for thinking there's such a thing as being "unmasculated." Alex is appropriately awed.

Teddy doctors Cam after Cam's big spill. Talk about unmasculating! But Teddy, Cam, and the gang have been through enough at the rink today — the day’s myriad life lessons are starting to gel for everyone. Claire has a Realization that people can change. Alex Realizes her sister is smarter than she thought. Haley Realizes her sister is cooler than she thought. Cam Realizes his family loves him more than Teddy. I’m thinking of the word realize too much and it’s starting to seem like it has no meaning, like it’s just a mushy clump of letters. (Oh, and Gloria yanks Phil's pants down, and Phil Realizes that’s fine. Either that or Phil doesn’t get a Realization this time around.)

Manny, having seen all this Realizing up close, opts to sappily write about his entire family for the hero essay. Which lands him a C- because it was a cop-out — this was clearly Cam’s episode.

Photo: Peter "Hopper" Stone/ABC