‘Modern Family’ Review: “And One to Grow On”
'Modern Family' returns from its winter hiatus with an all-new episode, but can they continue their winning streak? Mitch and Cam's wedding plans continue when the pair try to find a venue for their upcoming nuptials, while Jay and Gloria also get in the spirit as they make plans for baby Joe's birthday party. Meanwhile, Phil tricks Luke into taking a ballroom dance class and winds up in jail.
Everyone's plans are backfiring this week. It's a tried and true formula for 'Modern Family,' and if it's not broken, why fix it? The theme is simple: the more the families struggle to make their plans perfect or force the ones they love to do what they think is right, the more things fall apart and backfire. But if they learn to relax, to go with the flow, or to just let the ones they love be themselves (lookin' at you, Jay and Phil), then everything will turn out okay. Will it be exactly what they want? No. What matters is that the people you love are happy, not that they've gotten what you think they need. What matters is that you are with the people you love, no matter where you are.
But 'Modern Family' has a neat little surprise in store, thematically speaking. What starts as a familiar set-up leads to a sweet wrap-up. More on that later.
Cam and Mitch definitely get the best plot this week, as they find the perfect venue for their wedding, only to have it snatched away by one of Cam's students. And then Cam comes up with a plot that involves repairing a broken friendship between two bickering teen girls in a bid to get them to have their joint Sweet 16 party and give up the location, but all the hilarious and regressive meddling backfires and gets Cam and Mitch involved in their own spat. Seeing them both act like a couple of argumentative teenagers and watching their own old wounds come to the surface is pretty great, at turns funny and relatable and sweet.
Meanwhile, Phil does his damnedest to get Luke to take ballroom dance lessons to improve his chances with the ladies, but Luke is rebelling and wanting to go his own way (with some great 'Footloose' references in tow) and thanks to a pile of parking tickets from Haley, Phil winds up in jail. And when Claire can't remember the wacky mnemonic devices Phil uses to find where he hides the spare cash, Phil has to sit and think about the kind of man he wants Luke to be versus the kind of man Luke is becoming on his own terms. (Side note: I want to know more about Phil's crazy mnemonic devices. Surely there are others, and the one about his hidden money was one of the funniest gags of the night.)
Over at Jay and Gloria's, the two are planning baby Joe's birthday party, while Manny fusses over a crush on a girl named Amy, who left her coat over at their house during his own birthday party the night before. But there's another unnamed girl who has an unrequited crush on Manny, and Jay thinks his stepson might have his sights set a little too high. And that's not his only concern: while he jokes that he doesn't think anything baby Joe says or does much at his infant age matters much right now, his ego is a little bruised when the tyke starts referring to his male nanny Andy (delightful recurring guest star Adam Devine) as "Dada."
And finally, Haley and Alex continue their narrative pairing-off this season when Haley is forced to help her sister learn how to drive because Claire doesn't want to deal with the neurotic Alex. I know we've been seeing a lot of these two sort of shoved off to the side, but I think the writers have been finding creative, funny and sweet ways to give them B-stories while still bringing them into the overall story by the end of the episode, and I enjoy watching them bond.
What brings this episode all together, though, is the way the family unites under one roof at the end for Joe's birthday party, and the thematic turn the episode takes. What begins as the familiar story of not trying so hard to force our plans to work or to make our family members behave in ways we'd like becomes something much sweeter when Cam and Mitch's argument over Mitch dragging his feet radiates throughout the household. As it turns out, Gloria took a long time to come around to Jay, too. And so did Claire with Phil. The point is that they did come around eventually, just like Joe eventually calls Jay "Dada." Some love just takes longer than others. This week's episode isn't so much about getting people or things to be the way you want them as it is about being patient with those you love. And it doesn't hurt that it brought a few laughs along with it.