“After the Fire” is yet another mix and match episode of Modern Family in which typical pairings are putting aside in favor of unusual groupings of our favorite characters. Thus, Cam (Eric Stonestreet) heads off with Alex (Ariel Winter) and Haley (Sarah Hyland) while Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) is teamed with Claire (Julie Bowen) and Gloria (Sophia Vergara) and, best of all, Jay (Ed O’Neill) and Phil (Ty Burrell) share the love together.
Claire and Phil’s neighbors have been forced out of their home after a fire. So, the entire Dunphy clan rallies to help out with Claire organizing a charity to gather clothing and other needed items and Phil uses his real estate connections helping to find the neighbors a place to stay.
As I said however, this is a whole family effort which means Jay, Gloria, Mitchell and Cam are all on hand to help pack and load the moving truck. The story shifts into gear when Jay throws his back out lifting a box.
This means Cam will have to put his farm boy skills to use driving the big truck while Jay is forced to allow Phil to give him a back massage; including scented candles, massage oil and relaxing music. Finally, Claire, Mitchell and Gloria are left to do the packing and Claire is forced to a horrifying conclusion.
The brilliance of “After the Fire” is in the slight twists on convention. When Cam is forced to take Alex and Haley with him in the van he’s determined to prove that a gay man can drive a big truck. What he fails to realize is that the girls don’t distrust his truck driving because he’s gay but because he’s Cam.
Phil, it turns out, does have magic fingers. His ability to deliver a massage is not overstated and even Jay is forced to admit it. Even better however, is Jay accidentally enjoying his massage so much that he tells Phil that he loves him.
Fans, of course, are aware that Phil has sought Jay’s love and approval for so long that even the tiniest compliment lingers and festers into a constant irritation for Jay, to the point that he can only be even more withholding.
That Phil missed the ‘I love you’ was a terrific twist that allowed Jay and Phil to maintain the balance of their relationship and set up an even better, and truer, moment when Jay gives Phil advice about breaking out and founding his own real estate company. Modern Family balances comedy with honest pathos like no other show on TV.
Claire’s revelation in “After the Fire” is remarkable. When she makes a snarky comment behind Gloria’s back, Claire is hurt when Mitchell doesn’t laugh and even goes on to defend Gloria. When Claire finds out that her little brother has been spending time with their step-mother her wound is deepened.
Claire’s mistake comes in believing that Mitchell is projecting his feelings for their absent mother onto Gloria. The reality is that it’s Claire who is projecting onto Gloria, a revelation that the wonderful Julie Bowen arrives at in a wonderfully funny one-sided conversation with her daddy.
- I know I failed to spend any time in this review on Luke (Nolan Gould) and Manny’s (Rico Rodriguez) subplot but there wasn’t much their beyond the Alex inspired punch line. Alex Dunphy as goddess of the nerd herd is a terrific reveal and the way she used it to stick it to Haley was a great moment for Ariel Winter.
- Funniest line of “After the Fire” goes to Gloria: “In my country it’s considered very, very bad luck when your house burns down.”
- Cam is not allowed to take Ambien because he sleep-clowns. This somehow could only work on Modern Family.