Modern Family Recap – Tableau Vivant

Season 3, Episode 23
Tableau Vivant

I am not sure how to interpret tonight’s recreation of an American classic. On the one hand, the symbolic focus on Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want painting provided an amusing and appropriate backdrop. But on the other hand, I wasn’t as impressed with the jealousies and fights that led to the family’s dysfunctional living art gathering. It’s not that each fight didn’t have its moments, but for the most part I didn’t find myself laughing out loud as much as I should have.

You’re Fired
Phil faces the awkward situation of having to fire the free legal services of his brother-in-law. Apparently Mitchell has been doing some legal work for Phil’s real estate agency, but Phil and his partners have found some recent actions to be lazy. Unbeknownst to Phil, Mitch has been trying to get himself off he hook because he is too busy. The highlight of this storyline for me was actually the opening scene in the Dunphy household. Phil—who is no fan of confrontation—was up late stressing out about how to break the news to Mitch. But he wasn’t the only member of the family up all night. Luke was excited to get a medal for putting out a science lab fire (that he started) while Alex was stressed out over her living art project. You see, Alex doesn’t take well to teachers not liking her (she is my soul sister) and her hot art teacher barely remembers her name. Mama Claire was concerned for her various family members. And Hayley…well, she was sneaking into the house late and used her excellent lying skills to pull one over on dear old dad. The next day, Phil’s attempts to fire Mitch and Mitch’s attempts to quit didn’t go over very well, what with Phil’s stress blinking and Mitch getting caught in the office elevator. This set the stage for some brother-in-law tension.

Fiery Parenting Debate
It what may have been the strongest story of the night, Claire and Cameron had some great scenes in which these two over-bearing parents stubbornly clung to their own child-rearing theories. We don’t often get a Claire-Cam pairing, but the two play well off one another thanks to them both being high-strung. In this case, we saw what happened when two high-strung people clash over the latest parenting tips. Cam was actively trying not to use “no” with Lily but rather “redirect” behavior; Claire thought this was all a bunch of hooey. Things came quickly to a head when Cam got his hand stuck in the sink and Lily seemingly got very close to the garbage disposal switch. Claire took advantage of the “dangerous” moment to prove her point: sometimes you need to say “NO.” She gave Cam a good scare, but in reality the garbage disposal was a different switch.

Fired Up
Jay took Gloria to his favorite diner, which offers a Jay special sandwich served with a side of adoring waitress. Even though this waitress was not a temptation in the looks or age department, Gloria still expressed intense jealousy (not that she knew it was jealousy) because apparently Jay uses Maxine as a confidant. Maxine knew everything about Jay, even things Gloria didn’t know. This only led to a bigger fight when Jay told Gloria that perhaps she can be a bit loud sometimes, not all the time, “only” when she talks (my other soul sister)!

In a very small sub-plot, Manny was angry that his cousin Luke was rewarded for putting out a fire in the science lab at school—because honorable Manny knew that Luke actually caused the fire himself.

Where there’s a fire…
With all these family tensions, fights and jealousies at play, the entire extended clan had to gather for Alex’s living art project that she desperately wanted to go well. But when this family—under these conditions—had to stay still and be quiet for a minute or two, the sneers, glares and under-the-breath comments could not be restrained. I really liked this episode payoff in theory–but much like the living art project itself, most of the family bickering felt so staged for me that the comedy felt a little forced.

Since this is Modern Family, the show ended on a sweet note when the various feuding parties arrived at Jay’s diner for a family dinner. It only took a few moments for everyone to calm down and create their own modern day version of Norman Rockwell’s family gathering. Oh, and Alex got a B- for her project, but at least “Mr. Gorgeous” learned her name!

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1 Response to Modern Family Recap – Tableau Vivant

  1. Pingback: TV in Review: Modern Family, “Tableau Vivant” « polentical

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