S02E08 'Manny Get Your Gun' is a perfect Modern Family episode. It had the "classic" Modern Family set up, hilarious jokes, great story telling, and Gloria running around. I doubt you could call this the best Modern Family episode, but it is a perfect example of why the show is great.
We start off with Manny thanking his family for gathering to celebrate his birthday. He appreciates everyone coming because he loves seeing their smiling faces. Of course everyone is pissed off and that leads us right to a flashback from 30 minutes before. However, since they were eating at Maggianos, realistically they would still be waiting for a table. Unless they had a reservation, which they must have had.
Anyway, we flashback to trace why everyone was so pissed and as usual it's the Pritchett's that have gotten the group so tangled. The Pritchett's are very concerned about being on time which drives their partners insane, but each partner frustrates their individual Pritchett in their own way. Modern Family does a great job of having each of the three families react in a unique way to the same situation without feeling repetitive.
First we have Claire trying to round up her clan. Phil drags his feet, of course, and tries to convince her that they have plenty of time if they go his way. However Claire insists that her way is quicker, so they split up to race. Phil takes Haley and Alex (great to see her back after her weird absence last episode) and Luke goes with Claire (which resulted in the hilarious bit where Claire drags him by the hood of his sweatshirt). Haley and Alex have to break it to their dad that they don't want to go to Family Camp again because a) it's not fun and b) it makes Phil unknowingly seem like a racist. When they finally confess that they don't want to go they all end up in tears. Claire finally confronts Luke about him liking Phil over her. He naively confesses that, to him, Phil is the extremely fun parent without realizing that he is breaking Claire's heart. There was some terrific bits of acting from Julie Bowen during this and especially great lines like "You know that kid Liam who wears pajama pants to school and pays for everything with a $100 bill? Two fun parents!" Fantastic storyline.
Then we get the Cam and Mitchell chapter. One tiny thing about this plot line was it was another bit of Cam doing something that upsets Mitchell, but I think there was a big enough reversal at the end to justify it. They're running late through the mall trying to buy Manny a gift but Cam keeps taking his sweet time and making friends with the sample ladies. Eventually he stops to help an elderly gentleman confess his love to his equally elderly lady, but this also involves a bit of navigating an escalator and a cell phone being so it was quite funny. And when they finally get the two love birds together Cam realizes to his horror that the old guy wanted to cheat on his wife with her. Big reversal, big payoff. Then they are about to get to their destination when a huge flashmob breaks out in dance. Cam is mystified and enjoying it when suddenly Mitchell jumps in with the dance. Mitchell thought of his participation as a "love letter" to Cam but Cam only considered him to be "cheating with choreography." This huge reversal worked wonders because it showed Mitchell letting loose and Cam being pissed off that he wasn't invited. No one likes being left out more than Cam which led to him trying to dance along on the sidelines.
And finally we had Jay and Gloria rushing around trying to find Gloria's keys and Manny fretting that he had wasted his childhood. I was quite glad that they didn't do another storyline revolving around Gloria's cultural differences because lately there has been talk about how racist Modern Family appears to be. Granted, I think all the chatter should be taken with a grain of salt, but that's just me. Nevertheless I was glad to see a side to Gloria that didn't have to do with her heritage and instead focus on another fault: her lack of organization. Granted, you could talk about how they focus on so many negative aspects of her character and how the "man" of the family is always taking care of and making fun of her, but honestly if you were to make that point you don't enjoy life and/or laughing so you shouldn't be watching the show in the first place. If you were wondering whether they find the keys or not: they do.
Manny is troubled because he feels his childhood has slipped by so he attempts to make up for it by relaxing in a pool and making prank calls. What bothered me about this was that Jay confessed to Manny that he "didn't like kids" which furthered Manny's obsession with being a kid. Now I know Jay thinks of Manny as older than he really is, but the character is still very young and telling a kid that you don't like kids is very emotionally hurtful.However, Jay has always been slightly grumpy so it fits and Manny seems like a tough enough kid to take it. Jay also makes up for it by giving Manny a BB gun which Gloria ends up wielding like a professional. Holy shit was that scary - watching Gloria take shots at both Manny and Jay. When she said that she could unbutton Manny's shirt with the BB gun, everything negative I said about the writers only showcasing her negative features can be retracted. That was awesome.
And here's where it went from being a pretty good episode to a great episode. Usually the whole family comes together in the end for their big sentimental moment, but since up until this point they had all basically been heading toward individual train wrecks the writers got them to head into a four-way train wreck in front of Maggianos. It was a great visual metaphor for the story and also quite funny. Two for the price of one! Then everyone came together at the dinner table and realized that they had all been very childish and forgave each other. Manny ended it all with a slight dig saying that he realized after watching them that he had plenty of time left to act like a child. Oh Manny, always so smart for your age. Never change.
I was a little skeptical of Modern Family winning the Best Comedy Emmy last year but episodes like this make me realize that they have earned it. Great job. However, I still think Community is a funnier show, but it and Modern Family have the same problem. They both have a certian "special" type of show that truly stand out above the others. Community has their genre episodes where they spoof different types of movies or films that have a distinctive feel (like war, zombie, and mafia movies) than the other episodes. Modern Family has episodes like this where each family has the same type of problem then come together at the end and realize the lesson of the week. Each show can't do those types of episodes each week, its just too much and they would lose their "specialness" so they have to have more normal episodes. Perhaps because its slightly easier and cheaper to make these better episodes, Modern Family walked away with the award last year. I hope this doesn't seem like sour grapes (because its not), just a educated guess at the politics behind the selection process.
Also there were some great callbacks and crossovers this week. Luke and Phil both didn't realize they were not wearing shoes as they were about to leave. Their subsequent self-admonishing with "come on luke/phil!" was hilarious if not a little Arrested Development-esque (though that's not necessarily a bad thing). Then each Pritchett was shown hurrying the other along with the same "Lets go, lets go, lets go!" which was clever and funny. It really shows that the writers want to make their characters as life like as possible by including little bits to show that the son and daughter would have traits like their father. Smart moves and funny lines all over the place.