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People wouldn’t say that Modern Family was tired if it would stop pulling such tired stunts. Like, say, reusing whole plots from previous sitcoms. At least MF adds a few new twists, but this increasingly divided show just leaves me wondering what the purpose all is. The show’s last really good episode, “The Day We Almost Died,” integrated all three families, and this combustible energy has been missing lately with these Cam-Mitch/Gloria-Jay/Phil-Claire setups.

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The couple splits up for first class/coach bit—that we all remember from Seinfeld. Jerry had a wonderful time in first place and Elaine had the opposite experience in coach. But Modern Family makes it different! Because Phil has a great time in coach with a massage therapist and special guest star Penn Jillette, while Claire has to deal with a racist cheese eater in first class. Hokay fine. It’s a twist, but a weak one.

Upside: Pepper is back! We were just talking about Pepper! And Mitch and Cam throw a baby shower (which usually come before the baby does? But whatevs.) for their friend Sal, who mysteriously disappears mid-shower, leading to a humorous debate over which brunch couple should take over the rearing of the baby.

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Manny, in a development we’ve surely seen before, tries to switch from being a lover to a fighter after a kid in cooking class disses him. Although the end is nicely inspiring when Manny and Jay figure out who the real bully is in their lives, though.

Finally, beyond pointlessly, the Dunphy kids take a page from Cyrano, You’ve Got Mail, or The Mindy Project’s “You’ve Got Sext,” take your pick, as Alex and Haley break up with Luke’s girlfriend via phone. It’s a lame, beleaguered, minor plot that could have fit in at any week at any time, and really just smacks of the show having four extra minutes it needed to fill.

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So once again, our family is separated to no good end and we scrape for a common theme amongst them. I think we can point to “misunderstandings based on surface misconceptions” (although this could also probably be the plot of any sitcom ever). Manny thought the kid in his class was a bully, when really he was just having a hard time with his parents’ divorce, and he made an apple crumble in response. (In Manny’s defense, usually ”You want a piece of this?” doesn’t have a good answer.) Sal didn’t really abandon her baby and instead just kept notes that said, “Sorry, but I have to leave” in her bag left over from her days as a party girl. Claire thinks she’s found a new best friend with her wisecracks and her drink orders and her fancy magazines, until the woman shows her true colors moments later. Even the girls on the phone make assumptions about Luke’s prospective girlfriends Rose and Sarah with hardly any vital info.

So in some cases we are all too ready to leap to confusion, and apparently, we leap at our peril. This is Modern Family’s message to us after six seasons. A nicer message may come from the dénouement of Claire and Phil‘s segment, as he takes one for the team and sits with the racist lady, realizing how much Claire was giving up by spending the whole weekend with his cheerleading pals. After so many years together, these types of thoughtful gestures are still appreciated, making the Dunphys one of TV ‘s most functional couples, and may help explain the Emmy runs both these players have. Phil says he appreciates Claire, apologizes for not saying it before, and for all the retreads, at least of most of Modern Family’s four (four!) plotlines reach emotionally satisfying conclusions. But these solid separations still chop up Modern Family’s episodic flow overall.

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Stray observations:

  • What happened to Lily? If she’s completely locked out of Mitch and Cam’s baby shower, they have to say she’s at a playdate or something.
  • Why wasn’t Anders at the baby shower? I would have appreciated all of his quippy asides, which would have gone right along with Pepper’s reply to Cam’s “Is this straight?” question: “You’re throwing a baby shower with a dozen men in tailored pants sipping bellinis. Nothing about this is…ugggh, I can’t even finish.” Mitch’s retort is awesome as well: “Really? The last word was too much?”
  • Also great: Unified gasping.
  • Also great: This exchange: “My biological clock is ticking.” “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” “Is it? I’m 44.” “Or that is.” “You are one mean lady.”
  • One last: “Sal, we love you and we’ll always be there for you.” “Except we’ll be in Capri all of July.” More Pepper, please.
  • Lasagna + Mondays = Garfield
  • Ways to fix Modern Family: The Luke problem. Sarah Hyland’s acting appeal is just effortless and Ariel Winter’s cute voice shows why she keeps getting hired for voiceover work. But the show doesn’t appear to know at all what to do with Luke. Now he’s a ladies’ man juggling two girls? Really?
  • Turns out all Sal needed to bring out her maternal instinct was a little baby.
  • I also enjoy how Cam and Mitch’s friends make fun of their house all the time.
  • Who’s cuter: baby Sammy or puppy Stella?
  • Why would anyone carry around an extra neck pillow?
  • Phil’s glee over the magic tricks is pretty endearing. As is his fake turbulence.
  • That butternut-squash gag works on a lot of levels.
  • God only does weird baby stuff.
  • Lessons from Jay: Violence solves everything, and don’t wind your fist up like Popeye.
  • Next week: Modern Family offers an episode totally shot on Apple products! You know, like life!

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