Recap and review of Modern Family – Season 4 Episode 7 – Arrested
Modern Family is getting back to its core strengths, utilizing its ensemble to tell condensed, yet separated, stories that resonate in their universality. “Arrested” is successful for how it sorts through differing ideologies in parenting. Claire (Julie Bowen) is thrown by how calm Phil (Ty Burrell) is in high-stress situations, particularly after Haley (Sarah Hyland) is arrested for underage drinking. Meanwhile, Cam (Eric Stonestreet) is watching after Luke (Nolan Gould), Alex (Ariel Winter), and Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons), and he intends to rub his good parenting skills in Claire’s face, mistakenly believing that she doesn’t think he’s a capable father. We then have Jay (Ed O’Neill), who must face the future of the more active role he’ll need to take in the upbringing of his and Gloria’s child. With each plotline, the issue of parenthood is brought to the fore. How is a parent supposed to parent? Is there a canon, a prescribed mode of reaction for each outlandish situation your child finds themselves in? More than anything else, and it’s an issue that is addressed directly by Gloria in a monologue at the end of the episode, “Arrested” illustrates that whether your kids are well-behaved or not, there is no easy part to parenting. Any more than there is one concrete way to parent.
The plot with Haley’s arrest takes up most of the episode, which is a good thing, since it’s the strongest thread of the episode. Claire is increasingly frustrated with Phil’s even-handed temperament regarding their daughter, which is a character conflict that’s easy to follow and also provides plenty of room for escalation in both the story and comedy departments. When Phil finally snaps on Haley, it’s a moment that’s as surprising as it is winning. Phil is the silly parent far too often, and so it’s both jarring and strangely gratifying to see him give Haley a stern, authoritative dressing-down. Julie Bowen’s performance is also nicely understated here, as we can see pride glinting in her eyes and in her smile in the background, which the camera smartly doesn’t draw attention to. And Claire rewarding Phil with waffles pays off an earlier joke about how nobody’s eaten since being woken up at 3am to bail Haley out of jail. It’s a tidy little plotline that’s resonant in how it tells us that while Phil’s style of parenting worked in this instance, it’s not necessarily more valid than Claire’s – the Dunphys are a team, and they work together, and neither parenting style would work if they didn’t present a unified front. They reinforce one another, and it’s actually quite beautiful, as is Haley’s realization of her own immaturity, and her need to start being responsible. Haley is kicked out of school at the end of the episode, though she’s offered the opportunity to apply again next year, and so for now, it looks like the Dunphy household will be crowded once again, which is fine by me, since Alex badly needs somebody to bounce off of, and Claire wasn’t providing the same amount of friction as Haley.
In Cam’s plotline, Luke has an allergic reaction to soy, and so they have to rush to the hospital, which triggers Cam’s concern that this will paint him as incompetent parent. It intersects nicely with the Dunphy storyline, even roping in Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), who, in the Dunphy storyline, is busy being the world’s worst lawyer, in the episode’s funniest bit. Cam’s plot also has some pretty decent recurring jokes of its own, such as the running gag in which Cam makes a phone call (whether to tell Claire what happened to Luke, or to call Mitchell for advice) but backs out of it with a “nevermind” as soon as the person answers. His proclamations of “nevermind” get progressively more ridiculous, until he’s shouting with an inflection that’s simultaneously frantic and hoarse. It’s a great characterization from Stonestreet. I also got a kick out of Alex being mistaken for a med student, and Luke’s continued political outbursts, this time against Obama. It’s such a random character quirk, but it’s one that the series has made consistent. The plot’s resolution is solid as well, with Luke revealing that Claire never thought Cam was a bad parent, she just thought he was a lousy baker. Apparently, Cam makes some pretty awful scones. It’s a sweet conclusion to the story, and displays that while Cam isn’t a perfect parent, nobody is, really.
Lastly, we have Jay, who is looking to avoid having the visiting DeDe (Shelley Long) discover that Gloria (Sofia Vergara) is pregnant. DeDe and Gloria have a notoriously combative relationship, and DeDe’s one trump card is that she is the mother of Jay’s children. Thus, Jay fears that DeDe discovering the fact that Gloria is about to bear one of his children will lead to a full-scale meltdown on DeDe’s part. This segment of the episode is pretty funny in its own right, with an opening gag in which Gloria misunderstands Claire’s late night phone call about Haley’s arrest and comes to believe that someone has died, a worry that trickles down to Manny (Rico Rodriguez), who offers his condolences with a disarming amount of sincerity. Better still is when DeDe ultimately finds out about Gloria’s pregnancy anyway, which results in the women bonding with one another over how Jay rarely gets actively involved in the grunt work of parenting. This brings out the reassurance from Jay that he can and will do more for this child than he could for his others, since he’ll actually be home to raise them. DeDe no longer seems bitter, and Gloria seems satisfied that Jay will be more engaged in the raising of this child. As she states to the camera, regarding parenting: “Making a baby is the easy part; everything that comes after is the hard part.”
“Arrested” is Modern Family at its most relateable, engaging the viewer through universal issues concerning parenting and responsibility. I’ve already stated how this is shaping up to be the show’s strongest season since its first, and episodes like “Arrested” are why. If nothing else, Ty Burrell has sewn up another Emmy nomination with his work this week.