Modern Family Review: “A Hard Jay’s Night” (Season 5, Episode 19)

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The episode also shows a difference in the fathering styles of Phil and Jay through the social drama involving Luke and Manny. Luke coerces Manny into coming to a sophomore party with him, hosted by a girl named Kristie Hughes (who Luke nicknames, not very affectionately, “Kristie Huge Ones”). Upon their arrival, Kristie knows Manny by name but does not know Luke, which stuns Phil’s son. “I liked things better when you were the one who was ostrich sized,” Luke says, oblivious to his poor pronunciation.

This scene shows how their fathers influenced them (or failed to). For five seasons, Jay criticized Manny sharply for focusing on his interests, ones that were less traditionally “masculine” than an everyday teen. Instead of fight for his approval, though, Manny kept on with his hobbies and passions – the kind that he explains in this episode drew Kristie to befriend him. Luke, on the other hand, has always been like a miniature Phil, with a sweet jokiness and an indulgent sense of humour. At the same time, Luke has had a lack of instruction on how to behave around women (and like his dad’s crush on Gloria, he is drawn to rather large chests). Even though he has confidence, Luke does not quite have the grace and respect that would earn him an invitation to a sophomore student’s party.

Manny is the rare character on Modern Family who does not let Jay ruin things for him. He has learned how to be an autonomous young man with mature interests and who cares little what his father advises. Remember, Jay gave Luke some girl advice a few weeks ago and that has not yet paid off. He is still struggling to make friends and meet girls, something that used to be Manny’s handicap. Although Manny and Luke’s excursion gets the least screen time of all the subplots, it is just as emblematic of Jay’s stranglehold (or lack thereof) on the family.

“A Hard Jay’s Night” is a pleasantly diverting episode of Modern Family that avoids a couple of big moments that could have stirred the plot up even more. Jay does not get the leering from his family that the episode was building toward, or much of the food fight that Claire was pushing. Meanwhile, one can hope that Gloria will decide to return to the salon to keep herself busy and working, like the newly employed Claire, but the episode gives that opportunity closure, unfortunately. (Baby Joe, who has gone almost unseen this season, seems to be occupying himself well enough.)

There are some amusing moments this week, many coming from the shampoo lathered hands of Phil as he massages female scalps at the hair salon (and in the credits scene, one of the funnier closing scenes in recent memory). In addition, it must have pained the writers to come up with Scrabble-related puns, but the couple they came up with land well. However, this Modern Family episode is a bit too safe, familiar and laugh-free to stick out in a season filled with gems like “Three Dinners” and “The Old Man and the Tree.”