‘Modern Family’ Episode of May 18, 2011 (“See You Next Year”) Sees Alex Graduate from Junior High School

ABC, May 18, 2011, 10 PM (ET) In an episode entitled “See You Next Fall,” “Modern Family” saluted Alex Dunphy’s (Ariel Winter’s) graduation from junior high school. Alex is delivering the valedictorian address at her school and Manny (Rico Rodrigeuz) says to Luke (Nolan Gould), “Do you realize, in just two years we’ll be graduating?” At that moment, Luke is staring at a beach ball floating in he pool and says, “I think I’m moving it with my mind.” Manny—scarcely missing a comic beat—says, “Well, at least I will.”

The episode was the perfect blend of wit and slapstick comedy. It was written by Danny Zuker (prominent in the credits each week) and directed by Steven Levitan, one of the series’ creators. Top notch attention to this episode, in other words.

The opening laughs centered on Cam’s (Emmy winner Eric Stonestreet) fall into the backyard child’s pool. Mitchel (Jesse Tyler-Ferguson) laughs and Cam is offended. Once they join the rest of the family at Jay and Gloria’s for a pre-graduation party, Cameron’s annoyance is intensified when he accidentally walks into both a sliding glass door and a screen door. When the entire group laughs, Cameron, in high dudgeon, says, “Cruelty is genetic.” There is also concern at the party over Jay’s drooping eyelid, which Jay is reluctant to admit he incurred while having Botox that went awry. Cam blurts out, “What were you thinking? You’re a veteran!”

As is foreshadowed during Jay’s attempts to get his gate to automatically rise, the entire graduation group is stuck behind the uncooperative gated fence (Alex and Haley have gone on ahead). Gloria’s solution is to throw a bicycle built for two over the fence, quickly followed by Claire (Julie Bowen) and Phil (Ty Burrell). The Dunphys set off for their daughter’s valedictorian address on the bicycyle-built-for-two, which promptly suffers a broken chain. There is already concern among the family that Alex’s speech, which is essentially one long complaint about her treatment by her fellow classmates, will be inappropriate and make her into a social pariah. The good advice from older sister Haley (Sarah Hyland) is that Alex simply mouth the words to a mindless pop song. As the line in the script puts it, “It’s a graduation…a celebration of being done with thinking!”

The climax of the episode is the arrival of Phil and Gloria at the graduation ceremony. They are atop a hill and literally fall down the hillside outside the ceremony, causing even Cam to laugh. The lines were great in this episode. One of my personal favorites was Luke’s unspoken solution to the “We’re-stuck-behind-the-gate” problem. Before he even articulates his solution, Phil says, “We don’t have time to build a rocket.”

A very funny episode of the best comic sitcom on the air.