I have a sinking feeling that the honeymoon might be over. Why? Two words: ventriloquist story. Read on…if you can.
“Yardsale” starts off innocently enough. Jay (Ed O’Neill) hates yardsales and the strangers they bring. I think that a lot of us would react this way if a total stranger went into our kitchen, fetched our toaster and then argued about our return policy while asking for bread products with which to give it a test run.
Cam (Eric Stonestreet) is eager to sell his “fat jeans” after his recent weight loss. But (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) is more cautious since this isn’t the first time he’s seen Cam sell clothes only to have to buy new ones when he gains the weight back. Mitchell wants to give Cam a safety net but Cam is getting rid of them precisely because he doesn’t want a safety net, which leads to the saddest line ever written or uttered on this show: “You’re not the only one who remembers all the times I’ve failed.” Yikes.
The main story seems to be that Alex’s (Ariel Winter) boyfriend may be gay. This concerns Claire (Julie Bowen), who doesn’t want Alex to get hurt until she is old enough to drink her way through it (parent of the year!). But she can’t talk to Alex about it since she’s “the Mom”. Instead she gets Mitch and Cam to not-so-subtly fire their turbo gaydar lasers at the poor boy and Cam has a heart-to heart with Alex to warn her that her relationship with her first boyfriend may not be so straightforward. This attempt to get Alex to dial things down a notch backfires, because Alex – being a child of a new generation – decides it’s better to just come out and ask the boy whether he’s gay or not. That should settle it! Rip off the band-aid and everything will be smooth and clear from then on after. Some 14 year boys may not get upset at this kind of inquiry, but Alex’s boyfriend is unfortunately not one of them.
Meanwhile, Phil (Ty Burrell) is terrified of motorcycles but somehow gets goaded into taking Jay’s bike out for a test drive anyways. Disaster strikes when Phil gets trapped under the motorcycle, which leads to a very funny 127 Hours-esque movie diary, complete with rationing, screaming at the universe and regret that he did not wear his shants (pants that rip off into shorts). In the end, he does not have to saw off his own leg (just his pant leg) and he realizes that “I’m not a rider, I’m a strider,” referring to the weird self-locomoting contraption that is pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum from a motorcycle.
Finally, and I cannot believe that I am writing this, Gloria (Sofia Vergara) gets to show off her ventriloquist “skills” in what has to be the most out of place plot I’ve ever seen on this show. It starts out interestingly enough – Luke (Nolan Gould) and Manny (Rico Rodriguez) bring out a mysterious old suitcase from Columbia, which alarms Gloria. Colour me intrigued. Then the truth comes out and it’s…a puppet. The less-intriguing part comes when we are expected to believe that her reaction to the dummy (Uncle Grumpy) stems from some stage fright that she experienced as a contestant in a beauty pageant when she was 18.
Now I don’t want to be mean, and let me be clear that the blame lies with the writers on this one, but the scenes where Gloria explains the backstory for the puppet demonstrates why her storylines don’t require a lot of talking on Sofia Vergara’s part. Or why they don’t require depth. There is a puppet show that takes place and the other cast-members’ fake laughter should get them nominated for a few Emmys.
Token best line (it really was like a drop of water in the desert): Phil – “I’m not nervous: I’ve had bigger hogs than this between my legs.”
On the whole, I really don’t know what happened with the writing this episode. Why did it fall so flat? Was it the lack of fourth-wall breaking interviews? Do those bring more to the show than we think? I think if things keep going this way we could be in for some guest appearances, folks. That’s right. I said it: Guest. Appearances. *shudder*
Modern Family airs Wednesdays at 9pm EST on ABC