“Closetcon ‘13” marks a rare occasion where a Modern Family episode succeeds in concept and execution without relying on a big family get-together. Although the title comes from the name of the convention that Jay and Claire are attending this week, each story deals with a closet-related crisis, two of which are inspired and one that is handled surprisingly well, despite a predictable set-up.
The first proverbial closet, of course, has to do with acceptance of one’s homosexuality. Mitch, Cam and Lily head up to Cam’s pig farm in Missouri. A tornado warning has forced them in the basement with Cam’s grandmother (Ann Guilbert), lovingly referred to as “Gram Gram,” although she is not far from her deathbed. Out of touch with the ‘progressive’ nature of sociopolitical American life, the grandmother disdains gay people – which makes it tough for Cam to explain Mitch’s presence (as well as Lily, who Gram Gram mistakes as Chinese).
Even as the Pritchett-Tucker storylines are usually the weakest of the three plots – and this episode is no exception – it is always great to see each of the three family members get something funny to do. Cam has his loud pig calls (Eric Stonestreet can still charm, even when his character becomes grating) while Mitch play-acts as the ‘simple-minded farmhand,’ Bud, which Cam uses to cover up that they are a couple. Moreover, Lily, in pigtails, gets to try out her Southern accent and slang. Aubrey Anderson-Emmons used to deaden the pacing in season four, but she has grown into one of Modern Family’s most reliable cast members for cutaway jokes and more off-colour references (that work better with a little kid). Her Southern belle-like utterance of “Lord have mercy” may have been the highlight of that subplot, but it brought a big laugh.
The second closet is a mysterious room at the Pritchett home that has always been closed off. However, a bewildered Phil, who has come over with his kids before heading to a steakhouse with Manny and Gloria, finds it unlocked. Inside, he discovers a meticulously crafted replica of an Apollo 13 spacecraft Jay made years ago, and of course, the whole thing shatters on the ground. Gloria cancels the reservations (at a restaurant called Houston’s – you can guess the line now), and Phil and the boys head into the basement and try to fix the replica before Jay comes home.
What emerges is one of the funniest sequences that the show’s writers have devised in a long time. The storyline works so well, one can forgive the convenience that Jay, who derides Manny for beings too flamboyant and artistic, made a model so fine and has a closet filled with finished projects.