Brawl in the Family

modern familyEpisode Commentary: The Incident

If the focus of last week’s episode of Modern Family was the significance of flight, this week’s episode aims to kill an albatross…and who better to take down the great bird? None other than silver-screen vet and the show’s first guest star, Shelley Long, who joins the cast as the largely absent matriarch of the Pritchett family.

“The Incident” starts out with all going swell. Phil and Claire’s kids are being strangely peaceful. Mitchell and Cameron indulge in a butter-free nonfat scone…and just as everyone is settling into tranquility, a bird slams into Jay’s window as he and Gloria bound up the stairs for a midday shower romp.

Calling it a “bad sign” is an understatement. Simultaneously, DeDe knocks on Mitchell’s door. Dun, dun, dun.

Back at Jay’s, Manny returns home from a slumber party, only to find his “friends” have drawn all over his face because he fell asleep first. (A rookie mistake.) Jay’s advice? Revenge. In the Dunphy household, Claire squabbles over allowing Hailey to attend an overnight concert with smarmy boyfriend, Dylan. Trying his hand at “peer-enting” Phil appeals to Hailey’s interest in bad asses, claiming he was a “Hall-raiser.”

Hall-raiser, you ask? That’s somebody that followed Hall & Oates around the country. Even young Hailey can detect that that’s about as cool as last season’s Uggs.

As Mitchell yells to announce mom’s arrival, we get pithy glimpse of what is about to occur. Last time she was over, Cameron regales, “the refrigerator magnets rearranged themselves into a penta- GRANDMA!”

The one missing part of the family equation has been the mother of the Pritchett clan. Who better to head the cast as the oft-absent matriarch than someone more bizarre and messed up than the normal cast?

Having left Jay to “find herself” in Sedona, Arizona (a new-age hotspot with an energy vortex and crystals and flute music aplenty), DeDe now cannot find herself able to become intimate with her new French-Canadian beau until she rectifies “The Incident.”

The vague allusion covers up a hilariously embarrassing scene for the aging Long, who plays a drunk, distraught ex-wife wonderfully. When we finally get the much-anticipated flashback, it leaves us wanting more. Slurring her words at the microphone, DeDe claims Jay “couldn’t wait 10 minutes to run off with Charo,” before launching into a derogatory imitation of Gloria and knocking over the cake. Gloria is understandably furious.

It is a beautiful disaster. When the feuding pairs finally meet, the scene turns into a live-action scene from “Family Guy.” Considering Manny has already set fire to his tormentor’s bike that afternoon, Gloria aims to set an example and accept DeDe’s remorse. DeDe goes from being apologetic to murderous.

The voice of reason comes from none other than Hailey’s rock-star wannabe boyfriend, Dylan. Praising them for instilling confidence in their daughter, Dylan expresses his desire to be a part of a family that accepts and loves the “hot foreigners, gay dudes and nutty people,” because, after all, that’s what being a family is all about.

There is a moment of clarity. Presumably out of the frying pan, it only takes one small hitch to flip everyone back into the fire.

Encouraged by Phil to play a song inspired by Hailey, Dylan performs a rather lovely song. Hailey beams. The family gets sentimental. But as quickly and as gracefully as an Amtrak derailment, Dylan brings the episode to a screeching halt, singing, “Baby I just want to do you, do you… underneath the moonlight.”

You can download the single at and sing along, just like the cast does as the credits roll.

About Samantha LoSapio 31 Articles
Samantha LoSapio is an adjunct lecturer of English, contributer to as well as, and the sole possessor of the Triforce. A proud nerd, much of her expertise takes the form of references to Battlestar Galactica, obscure 13th century literature, basic geology and other skills best reserved for Jeopardy contestants. She has made Sheepshead Bay her home since 1994.

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