Modern Family “Tableau Vivant” Review

Like most families, the characters on Modern Family have had their fair share of petty arguments. On tonight’s episode, “Tableau Vivant,” everyone was a little more on edge than usual as family bickering weaved its way through all three households.

Mitch had been doing some work for Phil’s real estate firm and after Mitch’s poor performance, Phil was tasked with firing Mitch. Phil had no idea that Mitch was intentionally being late and was hoping to terminate his arrangement with Phil’s firm early.

As a general rule, I’m not a fan of conflict on television that stems from a failure to communicate effectively, so I was worried that Mitch and Phil would do this dance for too long. Phil’s stress blinking was a laugh, but I was desperate for him to just spit out the truth and get on with it. Much to my relief, Phil fired Mitch right when I thought I wasn’t going to be able to tolerate it anymore.

Immediately, the story line became so much more amusing and I was cracking up at the “lazy guy” and “lawyer with the attitude” cracks that Mitch had to listen to from the confines of the elevator. Mitch had been so smug earlier in the episode that having Phil’s coworkers knock him down a peg or two didn’t feel like too much of a cheap shot and Mitch’s shocked reactions to their comments were pretty hilarious.

Claire and Cam got into a heat over their parenting styles. Cam and Mitch had read something that said that children rebelled against the word “no,” so they had decided to not use that word with Lily. Claire was at her wits end with Lily and was passive aggressively pointing out the flaws in Cam’s no to the word “no” parenting style.

Even though I knew that Modern Family wasn’t about to grind up Cam’s hand in a garbage disposal for comedy, I was having a mini panic attack just watching Lily get closer and closer to that switch while Cam struggled to get his hand out of the drain. Claire started to sound like a psychopath as she continued to ramble on while Cam was begging her to stop Lily from flipping that switch. I was upset that she would be so casual about Lily causing a physical injury to someone just to prove a point.

Of course, the garbage disposal switch was well out of Lily’s reach on the other side of the sink, but Claire’s prank was cruel because it was so effective and frightening. While I might have sided with Claire in the initial argument, her prank only made her seem monstrous.

Meanwhile, Jay had taken Gloria to his favorite deli to try an anchovy sandwich that had been named after him. Gloria must have been in a pretty bad mood to begin with because she was closed off to the idea of the sandwich and she wasn’t about to feign interest either.

When Maxine, Jay’s favorite waitress, came over to talk to Jay like she’s his family, Gloria’s bad mood gets worse. She experiences jealousy for the first time in her life, which she only realizes much later in the episode when she laments, “This is jealousy? Aye, my poor sisters!” Although I thought Gloria was being a poor sport from the very beginning, I think she had some leeway to be angry here. I’d be pretty upset if my spouse had been keeping information from me about his physical health or financial problems. I don’t have a problem with Jay feeling comfortable enough with Maxine to be able to talk to her about those things, but he should definitely have been comfortable enough with his wife to be telling her about all that stuff too.

Luke and Manny even got into their own argument over an incident at school. Manny witnessed Luke starting a fire in the school laboratory. A teacher was walking into the classroom right as Luke was using the fire extinguisher to put the fire out. As a result, Luke was being awarded a medal by the school. Manny had kept his mouth shut about the truth, hoping that Luke would come forward and be honest about what had happened.

I really enjoy the story lines where Luke and Manny have time on their own away from the adults. Manny might as well be a 60 year old man in a 13 year old boy’s body, and while he’s still mature around Luke, we get to see Manny dealing with actual kid problems when it’s just the two of them.

The whole family came together for Alex’s school project, a tableau vivant of Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want” painting. While they kept their arguments at a simmer, they couldn’t help but take pot shots at one another while they were on display. The bickering was at an all time high, but thanks to the calming effects of a night time drive with new perspectives, everyone was able to get over their issues and sit down together for a Jay sandwich.

I find that watching stressed out people on TV often makes me feel a little bit stressed out myself. This episode of Modern Family had that effect on me but I was still able to laugh my way through their constant quarreling to the happy, calm ending.