Episode commentary: Coal Digger
Just when things start to settle down for our Modern Family, they are thrust back into the lovable chaos as always.
With “Coal Digger” circumventing around everyone gathering at Jay’s to watch football, we are expected to be surprised to learn that Cameron is a huge football fan. Mitchell expresses no desire. Cameron gives him attitude right back– for he deals with Mitchell’s undesirable and boring hobbies.
Meanwhile, the Dunphys and the Pritchetts wind up meeting in the principal’s office. Manny and Luke get into an altercation, and the majority of the office visit is spent trying to figure out who’s related to who. The principal is dumbfounded. We soon find out that Manny has been referring to Luke as his nephew (because Manny is Luke’s grandfather’s stepson).
Riding in their respective cars home, it is revealed that Claire and Gloria have existing tension. Both believe the other doesn’t like them. Perhaps there is some truth to it. On the way to the game party, to which Jay is uncomfortable with (he prefers to watch in silence), Mitchell appears to have made some effort to learn about football.
Phil tries to clear the air of tension, and be the involved, cool mediator, initially with the boys. Instead, Jay gives a short, succinct speech and smacks both kids upside the head. Problem solved. Next, Phil tries to do the same with Gloria and Claire. Initially all is well.
They talk it out. They discuss their issues about how Gloria feels unwelcome in the family. It is a very realistic moment. Claire placates Gloria and insinuates it’s all in her head. For the time being, things are okay.
And then there’s the icing on the incredibly offensive cake. Providing the perfectly wrong response to the situation, Luke and Manny talk about how they resolved their differences by making fun of each other for different things. Their accents, their lunches… and then Luke gets to the heart of the issue. He made fun of Manny “because his mom used to dig coal.”
Clearly misunderstanding Claire when she had previously called Gloria a gold digger behind her back. Feeling as if a beautiful, exotic woman couldn’t possibly be attracted to her older, clunky father — she believes she was merely stating a question anyone would.
The episode resolves with apologies and hugs, and more of Phil’s peer mediation. What this show is continuing to analyze wonderfully are the exact situations that occur in “modern” families. It’s not just a clever title. Every generation has their TV family that depicts how the average family acts and reacts. Nearing the end of the first decade of the millennium, in Modern Family, we have found ours.
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