It is fitting that Modern Family’s “Australia” begins with a shot of Luke, upside down, trying to impress his family with a handstand. The shot foreshadows the odd, upside-down adventures that the Dunphy, Pritchett and future Pritchett-Tucker clans will partake in during their Australian excursion. However, coming so soon after another family trip, this season’s triumphant “Las Vegas,” this episode is too rushed and randomly plotted to achieve the manic comedy highs that catapulted that half-hour. This episode takes place in the land down under, but it is the jokes that feel under par for this ace comedy ensemble.
Phil wants to reconnect with his family’s early heritage, in the wake of his mother’s death (at the end of season four). However, since this is a television sitcom and the cast could use a much needed break from the hectic world of show business, Burrell’s co-stars – sorry, Phil’s close family – tag along for some stiff cultural stereotyping and weak character-driven moments this week.
Even though Phil wants this to be a family vacation, the characters fall back into little groups and try to ditch the Dunphy family. Jay and Claire want to stay in the hotel to keep up with a rival closet selling competitor, so they fake an injury to get out of a wilderness hike. Luke and Manny want to head to a nude beach without their parents’ knowledge, with the hopes of examining the anthropological architecture of the female form. Haley and Alex escort Lily on her hunt to find the perfect stuffed animal, while Haley has her eye out for the perfect accented lifeguard. Alex, meanwhile, hopes to use the worldly experience as a tool to write an essay for a college application.
However, the best subplot this week, surprisingly, comes from Mitch and Cam, who often get the worst bits. They have lunch with an old Kiwi friend, the obnoxious and ostentatious Fergus (Flight of the Conchords’ Rhys Darby). When they find out he has turned his raucous humour into a late-night comedy empire, Mitch and Cam are seduced and want to join in on the high life. “It turns out we have a lot in common,” Mitch tells the audience. “We hate standing in line.” Cue a shot of the to-be-newlyweds giving duck faces to a photographer as they bypass the line and security, Fergus in tow.