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‘Modern Family’ Review: “Flip Flop”

Modern Family Flip Flop
ABC

Rob Riggle returns to ‘Modern Family‘ as Phil desperately tries to sell the house Claire and Cameron flipped, but he’s not the only one who’s back this week — Gloria’s ex-husband returns with a new lady friend.

Some of the best episodes of ‘Modern Family’ are more minimal — with only two stories to focus on instead of, say, three or four, the episode can feel more streamlined and focused. (This is actually often true for most sitcoms.) In “Flip Flop,” the episode is clearly divided between the Pritchett and Dunphy households, and there’s much ado about tongue-biting or lack thereof, which has become a sort of recurring theme on the show, just as it’s a recurring theme in most homes.

When Claire and Cameron struggle to sell their house and Phil runs the risk of letting his rival real estate agent Gil (Rob Riggle) take all the glory while giving them the short end of the stick, Mitchell struggles to keep his mouth shut. He knew all along that this wasn’t going to work out, but his love for Cam inspires him to eat his words, swallow his pride, and help his life partner see this thing through to the end. Phil is also having a little trouble with keeping his mouth shut, never able to properly deliver a dis or a get a one-up on his competitor. Enter Hayley (Alex is weirdly absent for most of this episode), who does a little Googling to get the info on a prospective buyer (guest star Anders Holm of ‘Workaholics’) so they can cater to what he likes. Of course it all falls apart at the last minute in classic comedy disaster style before Phil makes a clever — though predictable — maneuver to sell the house at the 11th hour.

Meanwhile, Manny’s dad has returned and brought a new lady home, but unlike the unseemly types he’s dated in the past, he’s found a real winner, much to Gloria’s chagrin — it’s not just that she’s an antiquities expert and board member at a museum, it’s that she and Manny get along really well. A little too well for Gloria’s comfort with their inside jokes and ease of communicating. After one weekend together, Manny and the new lady act like they’ve known one another forever, which makes Gloria intensely jealous — how can she measure up to someone who shares the same interests as her son? It’s a precursor for Manny’s impending teenage and adult years, when he will inevitably bring home a girlfriend who seems to click with him in ways his mother never could, but what Gloria struggles to understand is that there’s no replacement for a mother’s love.

There’s a great turnaround later on, when Gloria’s ex proposes to his girlfriend, only to send her into a downward spiral of insecurity — how can she ever measure up to how perfect Gloria is? It’s a cute lesson in how one-sided and introverted jealousy is, and how we become so wrapped up in envy that we fail to acknowledge what’s great about ourselves; we’re unable to recognize that maybe the person we’re jealous of might have some insecurities of their own, and maybe we’ve got something they don’t have.

The surface conceit of “Flip Flop” lies in the episode’s title — the expected outcome and the actual outcome are totally different — but at its heart, the episode is really about confidence and how that confidence plays a part in the outcome, regardless of expectation. It’s Phil’s confidence that ultimately saves the day, but it took the confidence of Claire and Cam to see the house flipping through to the end, and it took Mitch’s faux confidence to inspire and maintain Cam’s real confidence. (Can I say “confidence” one more time? Confidence.) And all it took for Gloria was a little tap to her ego to see the cracks in her own self-esteem, followed by her ability to recognize that someone she envied may be a little shaky, too. “Flip Flop” may not be as laugh-out-loud funny as last week’s episode, but what it lacks in outright humor, it makes up for deftly with a pair of well-crafted and thoughtful tales.

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