Valentine’s Day Eve. We open on Phil Dunphy’s alter ego, Clive Bixby, turtleneck aficionado, human Wikipedia of pickup lines, and high-end electro-acoustic transducer designer (you have to just go with it — he sweeps you away like that). The painfully brief cameo doesn’t quite stack up to Clive’s first or second appearance, but any Bixby is good Bixby.
One fantastic byproduct of this latest Clive and Julianna rendezvous is Phil getting the notion that he’s so lethally sensual he can single-handedly give his wife a heart condition. (And that the doctor refuting this theory can only indicate that the doctor doesn’t go for guys.)
Ultra Libidinous Claire is here for the second time in just a few episodes, dying to get into Phil’s pants again. (Last time was New Year’s — is this a holiday thing? Horny holidays?) Unfortunately all three Dunphy children have a tried and true party-when-the-parents-leave system, and it’s fully engaged. “Everybody who I did not create, get out of my house right now” is our weekly reminder how much this show’s writers love catering to Phil. His and Claire’s plan to treat themselves to some Best No. 1 USA Coca-Cola Good Time Massage gets busted up when the kids barge into the bedroom insisting Claire had a heart attack. Phil nosebleeds all over himself and Claire, giving us a visual homage to his Dawn of the Dead roots. This will not be a sexy Valentine’s day.
We’re only a third of the way through the episode and suddenly we’re getting the kind of tender moment that only comes before the credits. What’s happening? Wait, where have all the other family members been? Ah! Another title card! It’s an episode in three miniature parts. All right! Nice move, ModFam. Not an insane format switcheroo, but a good enough way to break things up.
Gloria takes a wardrobe cue from Claire and it’s officially Silky Outfit Night. She and Jay haven’t done that act that makes Phil’s mouth water in six weeks, thanks to little Fulgencio Joe. Thus begins a daylong obstacle course to the bedroom. The baby’s “being a reall Pritchett” (ha), Lily is visiting for the day, Manny’s romantic streak is blinding him from understanding that his parents are trying to do romance to each other.
Bonus to this plot: Gloria talking about how she’s genuinely attracted to Jay, something we never see in movies and shows where glamorous women are paired with dumpy and/or old and/or chunky and/or obese men. Gloria’s “and the drilling … so much drilling” is a highlight of the almost nonstop innuendo.
Eventually it’s clear: This will not be a sexy Valentine’s Day, either. Jay and Gloria’s lovey, episode-end-y moment — they care about their kids more than they care about boning — appears abruptly, and we’re on to Cam and Mitch. The funniest section has been saved for last. It’s a slick one. Cam’s particular brand of silliness getting uninterrupted airply bodes well. “Ogle me” and “Tipsy? You were like all of the Mad Men” are aces. (Cam’s also the half of the couple fulfilling the Silky Outfit Night quota, pajama style.)
Turns out the Tucker-Pritchetts are the one branch of the extended family who managed a big Valentine’s Day. So big that their plot is a suburban-size reenactment of The Hangover, with Dylan subbed for Mike Tyson, minus a tiger, plus a herd of life-size plastic reindeer. (What would the special animal group name for reindeer be? A flight of reindeer? A Christmas of reindeer?) Yes, Mitch’s idea of going on a bender is “doing a favor” for those neighbors who never take down the gaudy holiday displays. And here’s Larry the giant white cat, transformed to Larry the giant, extremely pink cat courtesy of cherry Kool-Aid and high blood-alcohol content found in humans.
Unwanted new roommate Dylan jams his latest acoustic-grunge classic for us, a Modern Family Valentine’s tradition. Lily solves her dads’ problem and boots Dylan out — “you’re a big boy.” Lily is part of an actual plot instead of just a cute kid with a funny line! Progress! Finally, Cam and Mitch head to the school of Clive Bixby romance. “Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I walk in again?” asks a swaggering Cam, all breathy and eyebrow-y. But wait — he’s not the only one wearing a turtleneck and a dark jacket? SO IS MITCH? DOUBLE BIXBY? DOUBLE BIXBY!