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Family Mashup: Briskets and Bears

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DECEMBER 11, 2017

This week, “Modern Family” gave us another solid Phil-centric half-hour, while “Young Sheldon” explored the secret art of brisket-making.

‘This Is Us’

New episodes of “This Is Us” will premiere Jan. 2, 2018.

‘Modern Family’

This week’s “Modern Family” doesn’t quite hit the hilarious highs of the cameo-filled “Brushes with Celebrity” but makes up for its relatively stale gags with a welcome offering of emotional relatability.

Such pathos chiefly comes from Phil (Ty Burrell), who goes camping in the woods in order to prove to himself that his recent decision to branch out as an independent realtor was a good one. Of course, Phil clumsily starts making things worse for himself. After hearing a bear, he decides to take the L and go spend the rest of the trip in a hotel by the woods instead.

Claire (Julie Bowen), meanwhile, is facing a delivery issue at work and tries to solve it by driving the truck herself to make said delivery. A novice truck driver, she quickly gets the hang of it and calls Phil to tell him the good news. After hearing something odd in his voice, Claire asks him the real reason he went off on that odd camping trip alone.

We learn here that the decision for Phil to become an independent realtor was not his own. It was his company’s. Claire, upon learning of this enormous upheaval in her husband’s life, is understandably upset because he didn’t tell her about it.

Phil says he doesn’t want to be a burden, but after Claire surprises him at his hotel, he realizes that the two function best when they are ironing out their issues together.

For nine seasons now, “Modern Family” has time and again shown the power and mutual support inherent in Phil and Claire’s marriage. They truly are the ultimate #relationshipgoals.

Over at the Pritchett house, we also get another plotline that manages to stand out. Gloria (Sofía Vergara) is figuring out a way to get rid of Joe’s (Jeremy Maguire) fort, which has taken over the living room. She wants her son to sleep in a normal bed and is mad that he isn’t budging. That’s not her only problem, though.

Manny (Rico Rodriguez), thinking that his parents aren’t home, has brought his teacher/girlfriend back home from college. At first, Gloria thinks it’s just an innocent visit because apparently, Manny used to host teachers at the home all the time when he was 10. However, after seeing the two of them “canoodling” (a Chandler Bing phrase that will never grow old), she begins to lose it.

Jay (Ed O’Neill) calms her down and explains to her the normalcy of Manny dating someone older than he is. Gloria knows that Manny is growing up, but she isn’t ready for him to grow up fully just yet. She handles the situation calmly, though, and asks both of them to spend the night.

Manny, expecting his mother to flip out, is disappointed. He confides in Jay that his date is ready to take the next step in their relationship, but he isn’t. Jay tells him that it is OK to wait and that sex should be a consensual decision between both parties.

This particular conversation is a highlight, and it underlines how close and open Manny and Jay are with each other.

Of course, Gloria still isn’t completely OK, and she tries to fix the one thing she can: getting rid of Joe’s fort. When she goes downstairs to convince Joe, she finds both him and Manny sleeping on the couch.

With Manny off to college, we don’t see the impact of physical distance between him and his mother. Here, we directly get to witness Gloria’s struggle to let go, and it is proving to be a welcome source of dramatic conflict.

Let’s hope that the writers continue to return to this well of promising plots.

The last story arc of the episode involves Cam (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) arguing over Cam’s gullibility. After Cam completely believes a rebellious student’s assertions of being an undercover cop, Mitch points out the absurdness of the student’s situation and reminds Cam that he trusts people way too easily.

Cam is enraged by the student’s apparent lie and goes to confront him, only to jeopardize a potential drug bust. Surprise, surprise. The student (ahem, cop) wasn’t lying after all.

There are also a couple moments stashed in of Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons) somehow learning to become responsible after taking care of Pam’s (Dana Powell) baby, whom Mitch accidentally leaves alone with her.

If all of this feels rushed, that’s because it is. It’s not that this week’s Cam and Mitch story was weak. It’s just that it didn’t really have any potential to grow and just tapered off after a while.

The season is about halfway through, and it is still a mystery why Cam, Mitchell and Lily haven’t been given adequate screen time together.

‘Young Sheldon’

Richard Cartwright / CBS/ Courtesy

“A Brisket, Voodoo, and Cannonball Run” takes a break from the protagonist and instead focuses on the growing tension between George Sr. (Lance Barber) and Meemaw (Annie Potts).

That tension stems from Meemaw’s refusal to give George Sr. her infamous brisket recipe. George Sr. is furious, mainly because he thinks his mother-in-law doesn’t respect him enough to honor the one request he has made.

Things between the two reach such a high boiling point that Mary (Zoe Perry) has to take her kids to the church picnic without George Sr.

George Sr. uses Meemaw’s absence from her house as an excuse to look for the recipe himself. After Meemaw comes back and realizes that George Sr. must have tried to steal the recipe from her, she tricks him by giving him a fake one.

The fake recipe sends George Sr. on a wild goose chase. He gets rare coffee, goes to New Orleans and even stays up all night for 14 hours to make sure the brisket is cooked well. When he finally tastes the cooked brisket, he discovers that Meemaw lied to him again and refuses to speak to her.

To defuse the tension between the two, and between George Sr. and Mary — who are fighting because she is not entirely supporting George Sr. — the children try to hatch a plan to get the recipe for their dad.

Before they can plan out the heist, Sheldon (Iain Armitage), because of his eidetic memory, remembers that Meemaw revealed the recipe to him when he was just 23 months old. Armed with the knowledge of the coveted brisket, he gathers all of the family in a room and proceeds to tell the recipe to his dad.

George Sr. stops him from going too far, however, and reveals that the reason why he asked for the recipe was that he always felt like Meemaw treated him as an outsider. Meemaw readily agrees and says that she is mean to George Sr. because somewhere, deep down, she has always thought that he wasn’t good enough to marry her daughter.

The two reach an amicable reconciliation after Meemaw’s confession, and George Sr. later convinces Sheldon to tell him the full recipe.

All in all, it’s a victory for George Sr. and for the show itself. “A Brisket, Voodoo, and Cannonball Run” was a well-paced half-hour of “Young Sheldon.” It fleshed out both George Sr. and Meemaw, and it broke up its structure by giving the spotlight to two characters who are usually treated as supporting players within the show.

After a few initial stumbles, its nice to see “Young Sheldon” getting back on track.

Contact Arjun Sarup at [email protected].

DECEMBER 17, 2017

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