Guess who’s coming to dinner? And a princess party? Nana DeDe—Jay’s ex wife and Claire and Mitchell’s mom! Oh yeah, and Claire’s high school boyfriend Robbie who DeDe hooks up with. It was another excellent episode on all fronts for our favorite dysfunctional modern family. Sometimes when Modern Family has guest stars, those are the weaker episodes. Tonight we had two guest stars (Shelley Long reprising her role as DeDe and also Matt Dillon as Claire’s douchey ex boyfriend Robbie). But, I think why these guest stars worked so well tonight was because rather than centering the episode around “what can we do to highlight this guest star” the episode focused on a traditional family gathering (i.e. a child’s birthday party) and let the character interactions play out around this event.
Mitchell and Cameron are planning a princess party for their own little princess, Lily. As we know from previous family parties, Cam likes to use them as opportunities to unleash his clown alter-ego, Fizbo (the original Fizbo episode back in season one was probably one of the show’s all-time classics…if you can have an all-time classic in less than two seasons). Mitch puts his foot down, though, when Cam breaks out his big shoes. Mitch demands a Fizbo-free party and begs Cam to just “be a parent!” for his daughter’s party. Of course, Cam does not take this request well.
Also preparing for the party is Jay’s clan. Gloria has a sweet idea to buy one of those recordable children’s books that she, Jay and Manny can record together for Lily. I loved Jay’s rationale for why this is a horrible idea (and the flashback to a major debacle he and Gloria had recording their answering machine message). And I loved the ensuing family recording session of Lily’s book—from Gloria grumbling like a bear to young Manny wanting to redo his Baby Bear voice because he didn’t know he was supposed to play it as a female. The real party preparation has to do with whether or not Gloria should actually attend. Gloria knows that she and Jay’s ex do not get along very well, so she offers to skip it. Jay is actually fully on board with this idea because he sees potential for using the same excuse to get out of her family commitments. However, Gloria realizes that she needs to face her awkwardness with DeDe sooner rather than later, or she will miss out on too many important family events…like Alex’s graduation, or “all of Hayley’s weddings” (Haha! That may have been one of my favorite nonchalant lines ever uttered on this show). Gloria has a plan for staying calm at the party—Xanax and tequila—and what a hilarious combination it was!
Speaking of someone who could have used a Xanax: Claire. This episode was Claire at her finest (finest meaning most irritated, drunk, enraged and desperately trying to hold it together versus going completely postal). As the other members of the Dunphy household know, when Claire’s mother comes to town she can get a little… “psycho?…scary?…drunk?”—basically all of these. Phil’s speech to rally the troops (i.e. the kids) to bring their A-game in helping Claire deal with DeDe was spot-on and hysterical. I especially loved the Phil-Luke interaction of Luke having prepared “material” to act extra cute as a distraction technique…like father, like son. Claire is already hitting the wine bottle when DeDe arrives (choreographed so nicely to Alex playing the Jaws theme on her cello). Things only get worse for poor Claire when she discovers that her mother ran into her high school boyfriend, Robbie, at the airport since he is now a limo driver. Between Robbie’s immature attitude and DeDe’s inappropriate stories of Claire’s teenage wild ways, the dinner is painfully funny for everyone, especially Phil whose hand gets squeezed to the max by a coping Claire. When Claire catches her mother and Robbie hooking up later that night, you just know all hell is going to break loose at the party the next day.
And sure enough…all hell breaks loose in the best of comedic ways. Gloria is in mellow la-la land from her Xanax-tequila concoction; Cam is smarting from not getting to be Fizbo and attempts to get Cinderella to break character; DeDe shows up at the party with Robbie; and Claire and Mitchell are beyond high-strung over their mother’s actions. Lily’s princess party turns into an all-out brawl when DeDe admits that her real issue is with Jay’s much younger wife Gloria—and attacks her.
There was much to love about this princess party:
- An awesome cold opening with Hayley and Claire arguing over the former’s study habits. Hayley argues she has a learning disability while Claire counters: “We had you tested six times, we were praying for dyslexia!”
- “It’s called parenting, Claire” (Dede explaining she read teenage Claire’s diary to see if she was on drugs).
- “We’re gunna need you on the front lines sooner than we expected (Phil to Luke, essentially establishing a code red situation when DeDe’s arrival starts off especially bad).
- “I know Claire from being married to Claire” (Phil to Claire’s high school boyfriend, who is somehow more clueless than Phil).
- “I am rich—just not with money” (Claire’s ex Robbie).
- Alex guessing that Robbie’s “Jeopardy” limo client is the host himself: “Who is Alex Trebek?” … “He’s a game show host” (a very dense response from Robbie).
- Jay criticizing his ex-wife for hooking up with someone half her age, then shutting up very quickly upon remembering Gloria.
- “You just made a little girl very happy” (Cam jumping for joy when Mitch gives him the go-ahead to be Fizbo…and the little girl is not Lily)
- Cam and Mitch playing the book recording gift for Lily, and then hearing Jay complain on it.
What were your favorite moments? How did you think Lily’s princess party compared to Luke’s disastrous party from season one?