Episode 23: Games People Play
By: Carlos Uribe
Modern Family is a show about three branches of a family.
A whole sub-genre in film are road trips movies. They tend to be comedies and follow what happens when a group of characters are stuck in a small vehicle as they travel the country. Modern Family has it's own version of a road trip adventure when Phil gains access to a recreational vehicle. He decides to take his family down to the beach as a test run to a possible trip to Yellowstone. He thinks it's a great idea because he thinks his family will have a great time. Claire doesn't agree because she thinks her kids turn into monsters when they're stuck in a vehicle together. She doesn't think the family will be able to get along which would make the trip more frustrating than rewarding. She doesn't voice her opinion at first because she wants Phil to understand why a Yellowstone trip is a bad idea. The only way to get this across is to go forward with his trip to the beach. Only she's shocked when her kids actually get along. They actually seem like a model, picturesque family rather than the chaotic storm she was expecting. She's disappointed because she wanted to be right. She might not have told Phil that it was a stupid idea but she wanted it to be true because that's what she had told herself. It's what she had told the audience. This motivates her to actually try her best to start a fight by pressing buttons only to actually bring the kids closer. She's frustrated as her kids are getting along just as she was expecting them to do the opposite. Her desire does get met when a bee finds itself in the RV. This bee is able to breakdown the family unity and causes the trip to fall apart. Claire is able to prove herself right as Phil storms off in disappointment. He's not the only one as he's able to relate to other dads who have had their dream vacations crushed by their families. The guilt of disappointing their dad leads to the kids actually getting closer as they reveal their recent failures. Luke is failing per-algebra, Alex was recently in the middle of a love triangle but both boys dumped her, and Haley auditioned to be a Lakers girl but didn't get the job. The trip has actually brought the family closer. They might have fought but it's led to revelations that Claire wouldn't have gotten otherwise. She had no idea what was going on in her kid's lives but this trip allowed her access she hasn't had in a while. She changes her mind and she's able to convince Phil to put the Yellowstone trip back on the table when he walks back into the RV to his kids practicing Haley's Lakers audition dance. This leads to a hilarious end scene where Alex is tutoring Luke while Phil is practicing Haley at the same time. It's a pretty basic plot that basically plays out how you would expect it.
While the Dunphy family is on a vacation, Cam and Mitchell support their daughter in a gymnastics competition. Lily is apparently really good and has a shot at making pre-team or something. I must share in Mitchell's confusion as to what that actually means and it's a bit disappointing that Cam didn't explain it. I guess that it's common knowledge that I don't share or something. Anyways, the two are really proud of Lily and the two basically become very competitive. Cam might have tied up a competitor's hair wrong while Mitchell roots for other little girls to fail. This all culminates in a hilarious scene where they react to Lily helping out another girl. They didn't see what she did and they're worried that the other parents are seeing them in a negative light due to their competitive behavior. They think that Lily might have picked up on their actions and emulated their unsportsmanlike attitude. When a parent brings up Lily's great gesture, Mitchell and Cam break into a monologue about how they don't think that's how a winner acts. Lily might have won the competition but her parents are banned from being able to enter the gym. It's a pretty predictable plot up until that ending twist that was actually pretty inspired. It had some funny moments before that twist but it was largely the ending that saved the plot from being forgettable and dull.
While Cam and Mitchell are at the gymnastics competition, Jay and Gloria go to their home to pick up Manny's backpack. Only they discover that Cam and Mitchell had thrown a game night that they weren't invited to. The two start to bicker over why they weren't invited. The two blamed the other for being bad at pictionary and it's basically all very petty. In the end, it doesn't even matter because they were invited. Manny had gotten the invitation but he had forgotten to give it to them. He tries to get out of trouble by putting the invitation in Mitchell's briefcase but he made the mistake of putting it there after Gloria had already snooped in there. His parents managed to figure it out but they believe it was a plot to ensure they didn't go to his Poetry Night. They're right that Manny doesn't want them to attend because he's written poems that he doesn't want Gloria to hear. With titles like “A Jail Called Mom”, it's understandable why he's afraid of how she would react. The plot has some great running gags, such as their snooping, but nothing really notable happened. It was very low-stakes and the situation to get them there was kind-of contrived.
Overall, Games People Play was an episode of Modern Family that had pretty basic plots. The Cam and Mitchell story was basically the two becoming Little League Dads but with gymnastics and a neat twist at the end. The whole Jay and Gloria plot was basically an excuse to have them argue over pictionary but without a twist or the energy to really make an impression. The whole RV plot worked the best as it's simply funny to have the Dunphy family be stuck in a vehicle for hours. The actual plot was pretty basic and the ending with Claire changing her mind turned out to be predictable. Overall: a good and solid effort of Modern Family but one that doesn't really stand out.