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‘Modern Family’ Review: “Heart Broken”

Modern Family Heart Broken
ABC

It’s a special Valentine’s Day episode of ‘Modern Family,’ and everyone’s trying to have a good time, but nothing is quite working out as planned — as usual.

“Heart Broken” may not be a consistent laugh riot, but it’s one of the best episodes of the season, owing largely to the decision to treat the episode as a trio of short vignettes — rather than jumping back and forth between stories, we watch each family’s story from beginning to end before moving on to the next. The running theme this week seems to be the typical ‘Modern Family’ fare: everyone has plans for their ideal good time, but nothing goes accordingly.

First up are Claire and Phil, who are back to their traditional romantic evening of sexy role-playing, but Claire faints at the bar, the result of a minor hereditary heart condition. Eager to complete her Valentine’s “activities” with Phil, Claire keeps insisting that she’s fine, but she’s really just trying to hide her vulnerability. Claire is and always has been the strongest member of her family unit, capable of dealing with high-pressure situations and keeping her chin up in difficult situations, but that strength (and stubborn refusal to acknowledge weakness) comes with a price. If she keeps on this way, her minor heart condition could become a major one. The kids take a backseat, allowing Claire and Phil to get in a few good laughs, mostly at the expense of Phil and his bloody nose.

Just as Phil explains to Claire that it’s okay for her to let people worry about her, Gloria and Jay are trying to worry a little less. But with Claire feeling under the weather, they’re stuck with the new baby, and since Cam and Mitch are planning a party, they have Lily to deal with as well. All they want to do is engage in some sexual activity (their first since the baby was born), but they’re contending with the perfect storm of annoyances: the kids need attention, the baby-proofing guy comes by to install gates, and then adorably oblivious Manny has to get ready to go to a party — a party where Jay and Gloria are sure that he’ll be made fun of by the more popular kids. Do they give in to worry, or do they embrace the short amount of time that they have to themselves and give in to their own selfish needs? And are those needs that selfish? What the episode lacks in major laughs, it makes up in these thoughtful scenarios.

But never fear — there are some seriously great laughs in the last story, when Mitch is determined to prove he’s fun by getting drunk, and he and Mitch wake up to discover that Drunk Mitch had a little too much fun the night before. Seems that Drunk Mitch went a bit bonkers and dyed their cat pink with Kool-Aid, stole their neighbors’ Christmas decorations, and allowed Dylan to move in to their home. After Dylan proves to be an awesome house guest and it’s revealed that Cam actually invited him to stay, Lily does the hard work for her dads by telling Dylan to suck it up and move out. It’s too bad because Dylan’s interactions with Lily last week were charming as hell, and it’s fun to see him inserted into various situations with family members who aren’t the Dunphys.

The writing and direction are great this week, with each story’s conclusion leading beautifully into the next — from Claire learning that it’s okay to worry, to Jay and Gloria trying to find the right balance between worry and giving their kids room to grow, to Mitch and Cam’s adventure in living absolutely carefree for the night, the episode is a great example of ‘Modern Family’ doing what it does best.

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