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3.5 stars, Comedy, Reviews

Modern Family S3, E7: “Treehouse”

It’s an unusual feeling when watching Modern Family that all of the sub-plots could have been better. It’s not that they were bad, it’s just that they weren’t overly enjoyable and didn’t measure up to the high standards of the series. Then again, an average episode of Modern Family, is better than a higher-standard episode of most other sitcoms.

The Dunphy family’s story arcs were split into two, with the pairing off of Phil with Luke and Claire with Haley feeling a little formulaic. I did like the crazy Claire persona, ditching her daughter in the desert so she has the perfect inspiration for her college essay. A perfect interaction that summed up their relationship in the is episode was Haley’s “You’re psychotic” remark being countered by an unfazed Claire’s response of “use spell-check!”.

Phil and Luke’s story of building a tree-house was quite a nice indication of Phil’s inner-child and his desire for Luke to enjoy the things he enjoyed as a child. It also provided us with some of the golden one-liners of the episode, including Phil’s confusion over “life/wife gets in the way” and Luke’s use of the phrase “Are you Dad? Are You?” simply as an excuse to leave, with a flip-side effect on Phil who questions who he is really building the tree-house for. Another great moment was the cute inclusion of the “Got to fix that step” running gag in the construction of the tree-house (“Got to fix that…. board”).

By far the most poignant moment of the episode came at the end, with Phil making a (hopefully recurring) friend in his neighbour as they bond over childhood recollections of their tree-houses. The fact that they both have never met despite living their for eight and twelve years indicates a sad truth of society. The end confessional interview featuring both characters was a throwback to the first episode, and Phil’s recurring confusion with common phrases, i.e. “Brotha from a different motha”.

The episode’s main story arc involving Cam attempting to pick up a girl at a bar to settle a bet with Mitchell felt predictable, held up by the strong performances by the cast involved. The fact that Cam’s refusal to see that he is the most blatantly obvious gay man is quite funny, and provides quite a few laughs in his attempts to “tone down” his mannerisms. Unfortunately, this story may have been stronger if it wasn’t allowed to dominate the episode as much as it did.

Jay and Gloria’s relationship was again the focus of their story-line, and Jay’s refusal to participate in a night out of salsa dancing with Shorty and his wife resultantly led to Mitchell pulling a placebo drug trick on Jay that felt like it had been done too many times before, rather than anything revolutionary. Jay’s attempts to dance with Manny was a funny moment though, which provided the audience with a silly laugh.

Overall the episode was solid but not great, with almost zero interactions between any of the story-lines –  something that is usually so well done in the show. With one story-line allowed to dominate as much as it did, it felt more needed than usual. Also, for the second episode in a row there was no sign of Alex. I’m not the biggest fan of the repeated absence of recurring characters, and she seems to be missing a lot.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Episode details

  • Original Australian airdate: 12 February 2012 (7:30 pm)
  • Channel: Network Ten
  • Viewers: 1.110 million (5th most-watched show for the night)
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