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Modern Family Watch: Just Like Riding a Bicycle

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“Slow Down Your Neighbors” was a little like a first bicycle ride: it started off shaky, I didn’t expect it to succeed, and yet at some point, without my quite noticing it at the time, it steadied itself and rolled to a satisfying ending. It wasn’t the best of Modern Family episodes by a stretch, and the fairly separate parts didn’t add up to a larger whole, but the collision of the bike-lesson and speed-demon storylines through Luke’s tough-love motivation of Gloria was an excellent payoff. A quick rundown of each plotline:

Jay, Gloria and Manny: I thought this was going to be one of those less-than-nothing premises that set up a forgettable C-plot and some predictable slapstick. But the way Sofia Vergara sold Gloria’s bizarre bike phobia rooted in her childhood (“That’s how they grab you!”) really elevated it.

The Dunphys: I know that there are Modern Family watchers who find Claire’s character too often shrill and unlikable, but I’m not one of them. To me, her character’s need to control situations and obsession over fixing problems is rooted in character and is exactly what makes me sympathize with her. (Though I’ll agree that the show goes to that well a little too often.) But the topper in this episode was Luke’s surprising discovery of his inner sensei, as he found that fear and water are wonderful teachers. (Really a great episode for his character all around: “Bullets! A laser! A falcon! Dad, jump in! … A laser falcon!”)

Mitchell and Cameron: To me, the slightest and least funny of the three storylines, and mostly a waste of James Marsden’s guest appearance—though the visual of the brawl in the princess castle almost made it worth it. But the entire plot played a little too predictably and zinger-y for this show. Did it grab you?