Modern Family: "En Garde" Review

I really like what Modern Family has been doing with its recent episodes. They give us a current story -- this week, Manny and his fencing -- which opens up a gateway to learning more about the history of this interconnected clan. We've known on the surface that Claire and Mitchell are sister and brother, but their dynamic took on greater depth as we learned about their childhood figure skating pairing as "Fire and Nice." The series has had a knack for this so far, and "En Garde" continued the trend with ease and wit.

The center of the episode revolved around Manny crushing the competition in a fencing tournament. Everything else blossomed from there. Jay was enthusiastically proud of his stepson and this brought out childhood issues for Mitchell. He felt he was never able to make his dad as proud and he resented Claire for quitting their team just before they were to compete in the regional championship. It was great to see Mitchell open up about this and delve into the issue with his sister. Though they've shared screen time, this was really the first time we've seen Claire and Mitchell truly interact beyond set ups and punch lines. It was quite effective and further solidified the believability of the relationships of this large cast.

And it did so without sacrificing the jokes. With Cameron pushing Mitchell to share his feelings, we got great conversations like, "Some meet? The 13 and Under Regional Championships. Just the Emerald City at the end of my Yellow Brick Road." "Wow. You did it." "What?" "You made figure skating sound even gayer." The parking lot skating between Claire and Mitchell was also fun, and perfectly timed with the arrival of Jay and the rest of the family. Manny's storyline, too, was full of great bits. I loved Jay's personalized T-shirts supporting his kids and grandkids. "Who's the Manny?" was cute, but it was hilarious to see Claire sporting he "Claire and Present Danger" shirt. I would love to have these t-shirts pop up randomly in future episodes for as long as the series may run.

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