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‘Modern Family’ Review: “Open House of Horrors”

ABC

It’s a Halloween episode of ‘Modern Family,’ which means there’s plenty of tricks and treats in store as Claire tries to scare the pants off of Phil, and Cam and Mitchell throw a delightfully festive party to show off Cam’s slimmer figure.

Gloria’s hot-headed nature is, once again, a topic in this week’s episode, deterring from the decidedly more interesting half of the Gloria/Jay storyline, which features Jay fretting over his inability to flirt with women and questioning whether he’s getting too old. We get it, ‘Modern Family,’ Gloria is hot-tempered and she doesn’t want to hear it, but how many times can we recycle her delicate-but-feisty demeanor, especially when it’s been done twice already this season and we’re only a handful of episodes into it? That said, it does give her the best line of the night when a couple of teenage trick-or-treaters insult her for being too old to have a baby and throw egg at her house, so she runs them down screaming, “You put egg on my house! I KILL WHAT YOU LOVE!”

It’s almost enough to forgive her redundant plot lines — almost. But the thing that’s bothersome is that the kids point out her age while Jay is having a crisis, and Gloria’s age is never something that is typically questioned. No one has ever made her feel old or unattractive, and for a moment it seemed the writers might be exploring that angle, but it’s quickly dismissed in favor of a one-note joke we’ve seen before, which ends this time with Gloria blaming the baby for her temper. Jay, on the other hand, spends the episode wondering if he’s still got that flirtatious spark, only to find himself flirting with a drag queen at the end of the episode, though Gloria won’t let Mitchell tell him it’s really a man because Jay needs to believe he still has “it.”

In the Mitchell and Cameron household, Lily is demanding to be a princess for Halloween for the second year in a row because Mitch accidentally told her that her biological mother is a princess. Mitch and Cam had agreed to tell Lily the truth about where she came from while “wearing calming earth tones,” but one night when Mitch was sleepy and inattentive and Lily started asking questions, the princess answer just sort of came out. Every time he tries to tell Cam — as usual — he finds himself unable because Cam is distracted by some other more minor drama. This time around Cam wanted to wear a matador costume to show off his slimmer figure at their Halloween party, but the costume shop sent the bull costume for Mitch in Cam’s size and the matador costume in Mitch’s size, relegating Cam to wearing the same sort of costumes he no longer feels he has to wear.

There’s a lot of dancing around the truth about what Mitch said to Lily about her mother, leading to a moment where Lily almost spills the beans, but Mitch delightfully shoves a cupcake in her mouth to make her shut up. Obviously, the truth has to come out, and it’s one of those signature touching moments the show often finds amid the calamity and wackiness, when Mitch and Cam explain to Lily that her mother loved her but had to give her to a loving family that could take care of her, and Lily accepts this information peacefully.

Over at the Dunphy house, Claire wants to be scary for Halloween, but when she did that last year (by pushing her hand out of her top with fake blood and gore), she scared all the neighborhood kids and literally scared Phil onto the floor. Phil refuses to let her believe she got the best of him, which sends her on a mission to scare his pants off for real this time in a very clever maneuver that distracts him from his ill-conceived Halloween open house. With the aid of Luke and friends, Claire succeeds in scaring Phil, but the best moments for them this week are the smallest ones — Claire’s dropping and picking up of the candy when Alex gives her crap, or the way her hiding places are revealed when Phil is frantically looking for her. It’s great when Claire gets mischievous and even better when she and Phil can play off each other in fun ways.

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