Modern Family Recap: “Caught In the Act”

While waiting to watch Modern Family, I caught the last few minutes of the show before it, Better with You. Holy crap is it terrible. The end credits had something to do with an old man and a dead cat, or something. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is how the awfulness of Better with You made me appreciate the greatness of Modern Family.

In “Caught In the Act,” Gloria accidentally sends Claire an e-mail on the latter’s bossy ways, and how Gloria’s cupcakes are far superior to her lemon bars. After calling Claire to apologize, who says that she’s not in the mood to talk to anyone, Gloria makes Jay drive to the Dunphy household, thinking she’s the cause of Claire’s distress. Turns out, though, that what’s really going on is Claire and Phil are mortified because their kids had just walked in on them, in Luke’s words, “doing sex” (from behind, too!). When they arrive, the house is in disarray, with Alex literally washing her eyes to clear her eyes from visions of her parents having sex, and Gloria believing she’s the cause. Everyone’s speaking in vague terms, and Gloria/Jay and Claire/Phil believe they’re talking about the same thing, until Gloria starts talking about her “cupcakes.”

In most sitcoms, this plot device (“One Dialogue, Two Conversations”) would last an entire episode, but on Modern, everyone figures things out about halfway through, with Claire asking for further explanation when Gloria begins mentioning baked goods. Gloria and Jay, of course, still lie about the contents of the e-mail (Jay says it’s a naked picture of Gloria, much to Phil’s delight), but at least everyone’s talking about the same thing. Speaking of nudity and talking…

Phil and Claire decide to have “The Talk” with their kids, because she doesn’t want them to look at them with “judgment and disgust,” with Phil responding, “That’s how they always look at us,” as he’s buttering an English Muffin (not a double entendre) off the ground from the kid’s failed anniversary present. They mercifully do so without a single mention of the birds and bees (Phil’s suggestion? Telling a knock, knock joke with the punch line of, “Who’s there? Someone who doesn’t want to see their parents doing it. So knock!”). Hayley, Alex, and Luke have a talk beforehand on how to handle themselves during this awkward-for-all conversation, and it’s decided that they would just smile and nod, going to their “Happy Place,” not paying attention to what Phil and Claire are saying.

As for Mitchell and Cameron’s plot, well, there’s a reason it’s the B-story. They schedule a play date for Lily with Jackson, the son of Amelia, the owner of a fancy new restaurant in town that they can’t get in to. They find out she’s a bitch due to a baby monitor picking up a telephone conversation, Mitch spills a juice box, mayhem ensues. Oddly, Modern has already used the overheard-on-a-baby-monitor plot before (“Game Changer”), and nothing about this plot was particularly funny.

Since Modern Family returned earlier this month, it doesn’t seem like the writers know what to do with Mitchell and Cameron. Instead of having interactions with the rest of the family, they’ve been off cavorting with James Marsden, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Rachael Harris.

But that’s a pretty small complaint, considering how well the show continues to spin tropes, finding new ways to tell stories that have been in pop culture for decades now. If Better with You did the mistaken conversation plot, which I’m sure they have, do you have any confidence that the writers would think of something clever? No, but I have total faith in the Modern Family writing staff. That only comes with consistent excellence — just think of something better for Mitch and Cam, guys.

Josh Kurp always knocks.

Modern Family Recap: “Caught In the Act”