It’s been nearly a month since the last new episode of ABC’s Modern Family, and we welcomed its return over the boundless network TV reruns of late. (And sorry, we just can’t bring ourselves to watch any of the Housewives or Khloe and Lamar’s latest drama.)
This week’s episode, “Election Day,” is the culmination of a story arc that began earlier in the season with “Door to Door,” when Claire decides to run for city council after the incumbent councilman Duane Bailey (David Cross) blows off her request for a stop sign at a dangerous intersection.
The show was really Claire Dunphy’s moment in the spotlight, and director Bryan Cranston—yes, that Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame—allowed Julie Bowen to showcase her physical comedy prowess and Claire’s Type-A, ultra-competitive nature at her best (and worst).
Each member of the extended family has a job to do to help Claire drum up votes to beat Bailey. Phil says he’ll drive 50 of the city’s finest senior citizens to the polls, “assuming they remember I’m coming for them.” The Dunphy kids and Jay, Gloria and Manny will staff a DIY phone bank in the kitchen. And Cam and Mitchell will drive around town in their Prius with an old taco truck bullhorn/speaker strapped to the top of the car, drumming up votes with slogans touting Claire as “Claire-ly” the right choice for the election.
Of course, things don’t go as planned: The Dunphys’ cantankerous neighbor Walt asks Phil to drive him around town to run a few errands, thwarting Phil’s plans to pick up another 49 seniors; the phone bankers don’t exactly stick to the script; Cameron and Mitchell get carried away with the taco truck speaker, and Claire’s media interviews don’t go exactly as planned.
During the course of the day, Claire gets a tooth knocked out—twice—the first time before the local paper takes the Dunphy family photo. She tells her grossed-out kids that it’s a fake tooth from an “old ice-skating injury.” The second time, she gets hit with a boom mic at the local radio station at the top of an on-air interview, causing her to lisp during the show. And wouldn’t you know it, the first question the interviewer asks is about the Sewage and Sustainability Initiative, or SSI for short. We love when the writers pick on Claire’s perfectionism and control-freak nature.
Cameron and Mitchell were the show’s other highlights, whether it’s yelling at a guy through the speaker system to pick up their trash or to a Goth girl: “Hey Dragon Tattoo—no Jaywalking.”
What didn’t we like about the episode? Phil Dunphy’s one-liners fell flat, and poor Jay seems to get the short end of the stick lately when it comes to doling out storylines. He leaves the polling place without voting, confessing to Gloria that he slept with one of the poll workers after his divorce. She was the first woman he’d been with after his wife and freaked out—sneaking out in the middle of postcoital snuggle time. Of course, though it had some potential, this story goes nowhere.
The most surprising moments, however, came from eldest daughter Haley, and in a good way. Sarah Hyland is showing great range as an actress, making us laugh one minute and feeling sorry for her the next as Haley waits on college acceptance letters. She can’t bear to read the first letter so Alex does it for her. The rest of the family comforts her after the “We regret to inform you…” line, but she doesn’t get it: “What? Don’t leave me hanging!” She confesses to the camera that after that one, came a few other rejection letters, and she doesn’t want to disappoint her parents.
Claire and Haley have a heart-to-heart moment when Haley tries to comfort her mom after the election and confides in her that she’s scared to open the response from the last school. They open it together, and Haley’s (and the family’s) joy is just pitch-perfect, when they find out she’s been…waitlisted.
Welcome back, Modern Family. We missed you.