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  • Writer's picturecasey

Modern Family episode 8.18 "Five Minutes"

I’m a little worried that I missed the era of long-running shows. I actually used to wish for this- it seemed that even my favorite 11 season shows didn’t get there without some lulls along the way, fading into the background of pop culture for a year or two before resurfacing, good again but a little different somehow. So, I wished for shows to not overstay their welcome; I thought a good story didn’t wander. I don’t necessarily think that’s true anymore, and I’ve come to find that the passage of time does something to a story that can’t be replicated any other way. Modern Family is a case in point.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet in "Five Minutes". Image courtesy of ABC.

I watched the whole show for the first time over the past nine months, and I honestly felt a little embarrassed. I wanted to talk about it but I didn’t want to admit that I was just now getting around to what feels like the world’s most popular show. Even if it wasn’t the most talked about, I’ve never encountered anyone who’s never heard of it.

Over the years it grew into a comfort show, not because it’s a guilty pleasure, but because it provides the warm familiarity of hanging out with your best friends, who happen to be really funny. As the show neared the end, it was effortlessly emotional because it really was a whole era that was coming to an end. Seeing glimpses of how little Manny, Haley, Alex, and Luke all used to be made me wish that that much of my own life had passed alongside them and I could look back on how much I’d accomplished as the Dunphy’s grew up. I imagine that’s really special for the people who really did get to spend 11 years with the Pritchett clan.

I want to talk about “Five Minutes” just because I think it’s a really good one. On the whole, I think Mitch and Cam are Modern Family’s weak spot- their stories are generally superficial and repetitive and they are actually awful to each other, lying and keeping score all the time. But in this episode, they’re a perfectly silly united front. They’ve just boarded a plane bound for Turks and Caicos and popped some sleeping pills, settling into vacation mode. Then, a technical issue forces them to deplane and wander around LAX in search of a new flight- now high as kites. Having recently taken an edible in the LAX security line just for my flight to immediately get delayed, it seemed to me like a very plausible and hilarious premise. In their altered state, Mitch and Cam are a dumb and dumber team as they try to make their way to their new flight, with a connection in Dallas, that leaves in five minutes:

Cam: I don’t want to go to Dallas.

Mitch: Yeah, we’re going to Turks and Caicos.

Desk Attendant: Dallas is just where you make your connection.

Cam: I’m having a very hard time processing information right now.

They walk away, then look down at their boarding passes.

“Wait, why do these say Dallas?”

“I have no idea.”

“Ma’am, I’m sorry, there’s been a horrible mistake.”

“We don’t want to go to Dallas.”

They meander, forgetting everything under the sun as they walk. They find themselves at a hat stand- a haberdashery, as Cam calls it. They try on hats, complimenting each other as they do.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet in "Five Minutes". Image courtesy of IMDb.

“Oh, look, little girl’s hats.”

“Oooh we should get one for Linda.”

“Who?”

“Um. Our daughter.”

“No, that’s LILY.”

“Oh I love that name!”

Eventually, they’re rescued by an employee on one of those indoor vehicles they have at the airport. I don’t know how else to describe them, but you know the ones, right? They’re delivered to their gate and make it to Turks and Caicos, happily ever after. But the ending is less important to me here than the journey, that was full of silly yet genuine affection for each other and forming a united front against a problem that neither of them caused.

Meanwhile, Haley is at dinner with her boyfriend, weatherman Rainer Shine, celebrating his 45th birthday. Five minutes before the cake arrives, things take a turn for the significant when Rainer, entering a midlife crisis, proposes to Haley. She initially says yes and both are excited, but cracks in their compatibility quickly surface, punctuated by a thunderstorm that Rainer failed to predict. In what is, in my opinion, one of the funniest and most underrated moments of the show, Haley hides the fact that she has the Weather app because the idea of not being people’s sole weather source hurts Rainer’s feelings:

“If it helps, my weather app didn’t predict rain either.”

“Your what?”

“Nothing.”

Sarah Hyland in "Five Minutes". Image courtesy of ABC.

The rest of the characters are also occupied in this episode; Manny is trying to park at the movie theater five minutes before the movie starts, while Jay and Gloria bicker in the car. Phil and Claire, worried about Alex’s social life in college, pay her a surprise visit. They fear she is embarrassed when she tries to get rid of them, but it quickly comes to light that she’s not lonely or embarrassed- she’s just dating Claire’s weird assistant Ben.

Not to say I don’t care about those parts of this episode, but they aren’t the reason it continues to stand out to me as I progressed through three more seasons. Mitch and Cam’s wholesome silliness, and Haley’s genuine sincerity were both refreshing changes of pace for their characters that made this episode special.

Have you seen Modern Family? Who’s your favorite character? What do you think made it the household staple that it’s become? You have to date one character, who would it be?

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