An earthquake wreaks even more havoc on the lives of our dear modern Family. Claire tries to micromanage her kids, even while she's locked in a bathroom with a plumber. Cameron and Mitchell use the seismic shift as an excuse to skip a dreaded costume brunch, while Manny feels guilty about skipping church to go golfing with Jay.
This week's episode opens on a familiar scene: Haley and Claire shrieking at one another. It's SAT time and Haley wants to go to party for a couple of hours and Claire ain't havin' it. Haley resents being made to stay in all weekend with books and feels like her sister, Alex "you're never alone with books" Dunphy. Claire tries to get Phil to step in to help but he doesn't want to get wrapped up in another "good cop/mom" scenario.
The fighting is interrupted by the arrival of a plumber Claire has called to fix the bathtub, a task Phil has been promising to complete for the better part of a decade. Always anxious to prove his handiness, Phil points out that he fixed a broken step on the staircase (remember that from Season 1?) and to demonstrate the sturdiness of his fix he does a little two-step while proclaiming, "Look how solid it is! I'm like Shirley Temple and that black guy!" While this made me laugh, it's kind of a predictable "Phil gets threatened by someone more masculine/handy than he is" storyline that we've seen before, as he begins a passive/aggressive Mr. Fix-It competition with the unnamed plumber.
Over at the Pritchett-Tucker home, Cameron swoops in looking like the Phantom of the Opera, sans creepy mask. Mitchell's sarcastic greeting — "Oh good you're back, I need you settle a spat between our blacksmith and that chimney sweep" — is one of my favorite quotables from this episode. We discover that they have been invited to an "Oscar Wilde and Crazy Brunch," one in a series of themed brunches thrown by their friend, Pepper. Studio 54th of July BBQ and Sederday Night Fever are among past themes, and Cam and Mitchell are over the elaborate preparation and apparent character immersion expected of them at these numerous affairs. Cam, it turns out, also briefly dated Pepper, but defends himself saying "One date. It was the 90s; we'd just lost Princess Di, I was at sea..." I love Cameron.
Meanwhile, Jay and Gloria are arguing because he does not want to go to church. (Side note: This storyline after Glee's big religious episode this week, is making me think TV execs struck some under the table deal with the Vatican.) Gloria obviously takes church very seriously but Jay assures her that he and God are good and that he's done with going to church. Right after this proclamation, the house begins to shake as the earthquake enters stage right.
We see each family dealing with the tremors: Claire is in the bathroom with the plumber while Cam is freaking out and fearing death and Mitchell is mostly worried their bodies will be discovered in ridiculous costumes, affecting the image of gays everywhere. Luke is rattled by almost being crushed by a huge cabinet and not wanting to wait around to be injured, he goes to exit and promptly runs into a wall.
Everyone is calling each other to make sure all is well, and in a call-waiting gag, phrases like "We lost Phil" and "Now we lost Gloria" cause momentary panic.
In a very traditional sitcom move, Claire gets stuck in bathroom with the plumber. Now, I'm an East Coast gal, and I've never actually felt the Earth move under my feet, but are doorframes the main casualty in low-grade earthquakes? How do they just make doors, one door in the whole house, just stick shut? I'm no Bob Vila but it seems weird.
Anyway, Phil has admitted that he was supposed to secure the cabinet that almost took Luke out and knows Claire will be furious if she finds out it toppled. So while Claire is stuck in the bathroom he feigns trying to free them while actually covering his tracks and securing the cabinet.
In a further testament to Claire's controlling ways, more than one family member seeks to benefit from her immobility. Haley plans to sneak out to the party but while she's trying to bribe Alex into covering for her, Claire overhears them conspiring and yells at Haley. Haley yells back and Claire grounds her. As tensions escalate, so do the increments of grounding. 1 week, 2 weeks, 4 weeks, until Haley screams "Double it again and make it 10 weeks!" to which Alex replies, "Oh my God! Do you not hear how much you need to study?" Alex is so great at being smart and precocious without being obnoxious, like one of those kids you just want to ship off to Harvard at age 13 and forget about.
Meanwhile, Mitchell thinks that the earthquake is the perfect excuse not to go to Pepper's brunch. He prompts Cameron to make the phone call in which he clumsily jumps from excuse to excuse mentioning everything from broken dishes to Mitchell actually being hurt, which of course backfires when Pepper rushes over to make a house call.
Jay is pressing on with his plans to go golfing and Gloria insists it's a sign from God that the earthquake struck right after he declared he was done with church. To Gloria's chagrin, Manny decides he'd like to golf with Jay who doesn't mind him tagging along because, "I'm probably gonna have a Latino kid carry my clubs anyway — might as well be you."
Back in the bathroom, Claire and the plumber commiserate about raising teens. The plumber explains that his son drove him the most crazy because he was essentially a younger version of himself. Here we dip back into Claire's issue from the last episode, where she admits to just wanting to stop her daughters from making the same mistakes she did. Seriously, can we move Claire on from this?
On the golf course, Manny is hammering Jay with questions about God, Heaven, Hell, and wonders if they are going to get in trouble for ostensibly playing hooky from church. Jay tells Manny there is no Hell and that everyone goes to heaven, even bad people, but they're quarantined by a lake of fire which sounds a lot like, umm, Hell.
Mitchell and Cam are destroying parts of their home to support the lies they told Pepper. Cam feels guilty and Mitchell accuses him of being a mob wife, judgmental of the means but happy to "wear the mink." Pepper, played by Nathan Lane, arrives and it doesn't take long for Cam to admit that they did not want to attend the party, which devastates him.
Manny is not relenting with the questions and doesn't find Jay's logic very convincing. He begins to hyperventilate claiming that Jay is "playing fast and loose with my soul."
Pepper is in the middle of tear-stained identity crisis, questioning who he is, who his friends are, and if he isn't just a big joke. He gets up to leave, telling Mitch and Cam that they needn't feel obliged to attend his bicoastal memorial service should any tragedy befall him. As usual, Mitchell takes the hit and to make Pepper feel better, says that the reason they didn't want to attend is because Cam has lingering feelings for Pepper, obviously stemming from their one date circa 1997. In order to make his jealousy seem real and simultaneously feng shui their home, Mitchell destroys Cam's beloved tacky ceramic frog.
Claire and the plumber manage to break free from the bathroom and Alex and Luke cover for Phil's delayed rescue, in exchange for a trip to the Tolerance Museum, which I myself have passed signs for in LA and thought, what is actually on display there?
Jay takes us out of the episode as we see Haley and Claire talking out their issues, Mitchell gluing Cam's frog back together, and Jay bringing Manny to church. But Jay pretty much sticks to his guns regarding what's important to him: family and golf.
I thought there were a ton of hilarious moments in this episode, what about you guys? What's an excuse you've used to get out of a costume brunch/an event you didn't want to attend? Why do you think TV has been so God-heavy lately? Do you agree that we need to give Claire something else to do besides micromanage her daughters? Let me know what you think!
An earthquake wreaks even more havoc on the lives of our dear modern Family. Claire tries to micromanage her kids, even while she's locked in a bathroom with a plumber. Cameron and Mitchell use the seismic shift as an excuse to skip a dreaded costume brunch, while Manny feels guilty about skipping church to go golfing with Jay...