With so much going on every day, sometimes we forget the little pleasures in life. In fact, there’s so much emphasis on social identity that family bonding seems to take a backseat to a night on the town. Park Slope moms even tote their babies in bars like a scene out of a bad Reese Witherspoon movie.
In this week’s guest star jam-packed episode of Modern Family, we have the three separate families dealing with their individual crises as usual. It’s Phil and Claire’s anniversary and they’re sending the kids over to Jay’s for “Jay’s Night” — a traditional card game, “Sloppy Jay” and old western night. Simultaneously, Mitchell and Cameron desire a night out an ask Gloria to babysit. All the kids are together with grandpa, and the adult “kids” finally have a night out to themselves.
Phil overcompensates for their anniversary gift, buying Claire a customized Viewmaster showing pictures of them when they were younger, a bracelet, flowers and balloons. Claire’s gift? Coupons for five free hugs. Phil is crestfallen.
To make up, she hires the bassist and backup singer for Spandau Ballet, which she believes is his favorite band as they first kissed to the 80s One-Hit Wonder’s “True.” Edward Norton plays Izzy LaFontaine, a pseudo-Londonian rocker who quickly realizes Phil has no idea who he is.
After a mini-breakdown for Claire, frustrated with her inability to keep up with Phil’s good nature, they resolve to make it their “song” after all. Who knew all along she could have been ordering him gifts out of the Skymall catalog? He expresses his desire for “speakers that look like rocks” and a “robot dog” … his immaturity is almost endearing at times.
Elizabeth Banks stops by as “Sal”, Mitchell and Cameron’s absolute best friend. Still acting like her silly, former self that they’re used to, Mitch and Cam see that their great expectations for the evening are coming to a crashing halt: Banks keeps slipping in homicidal remarks about Lilly, saying at first “You should kill that baby,” and “I would throw her in the ocean.” Quickly realizing that Banks has got a touch of the “first child syndrome” she cannot deal with the fact that she’s no longer the focus of their attention — but finally relents and does what every single friend does when you whip out pictures of their new baby. They dejectedly submit to it, with Banks even taking it a step further, “Show me the pictures of Yoko. She’s Asian, she broke up our group!”
Over at Grandpa Jay’s, “Jay’s Night” starts off with a quick game of cards, comfort food and an old movie– the younger of the Dunphy kids being fairly into it while Haley is desperate to attend a party. Trying to sneak out, Jay catches her and forces her to stay. Once Dylan shows up to attempt a jailbreak, the broken expectations of Jay are pieced together. It turns out Dylan loves “Sloppy Jays” and westerns. Haley can barely contain her repulsion.
Everyone’s expectations of each other seem to fall apart and regroup by the end of the episode. Figuring out how they’ve disappointed or overwhelmed each other is a struggle that each of the groups have to face: Sal has retained her party-girl former self while Mitchell and Cameron have become stereotypical parents. Phil is far more into the traditional lovey-dovey marriage fun while Claire is a no-frills cavern of ice. And Haley’s relationship with Grandpa Jay shows both her hopes to get what she wants being crushed… and vice versa.
The word family is often synonymous with disappointment. Modern Family continues to show us just how unnecessary and contrived our feelings are everyday hang-ups are, and that maybe if we loosened up a little, we can cover all our bases with nimble ease. Somehow, they manage to get this message across while cracking us up every week, too.