I’m still new to Modern Family, but my favorite episode thus far is “Lake Life.” There’s an even balance of comedy and sincere, which is not easy to accomplish, especially in a sitcom that only lasts a half hour.
What stands out to me especially are Cam (Eric Stonestreet) and Gloria’s (Sofía Vergara) performances. The Season 9 premiere kicks off the season with a bang, proving that even nine seasons in, the show had plenty more laughs and earnest moments from the Pritchett-Dunphy-Tucker-Delgado clan. It’s no wonder the series lasted eleven seasons; as the characters grew, so did their storylines. Given all their zany ways and wildly different personalities, it provided enough humor that just couldn’t be contained in a mere season; the cast had so much to give and they did that for 11 years.
Anyway, the Season 9 premiere finds the entire family on a houseboat at a lake to view the upcoming solar eclipse together, but of course, nothing goes exactly to plan and shenanigans are afoot.
Who said family vacations were easy, or typical, for that matter?
Without a doubt, the most humorous part of the episode was Cam and Gloria’s “boat tour” of the lake. Gloria is distrusting of the lake, as back in Colombia, she declares lakes are the hotspots for dumping drugs and dead bodies. She has no desire to be near it—which makes me wonder why she went in the first place, but the houseboat and time with the family are pretty good considerations, so it’s probably safe to assume Gloria overlooked the lake for those reasons.
Cam, wanting to share the beautiful, pristine lake with Gloria, hopes that with the boat tour she’ll get a good experience out of it—but it goes terribly wrong.
Cam is always unapologetically himself, but it seems amplified in this episode, as he looks ghost-like considering his all-white outfit and white-covered face, alongside the hat, and of course, the umbrella. He dons this interesting look because he’s on antibiotics that require absolutely no exposure to sunlight—though Mitchell states that if the consequences of being in the sun mean anything less than death, Cam should risk it. It’s not surprising Mitchell isn’t a fan of Cam’s look, but I personally love it. Cam’s look reminds me of a ghost from the 1920s; probably one that would emerge from the walls or even a painting. In any case, his look is definitely a scarce one, but nonetheless it’s so totally Cam that it’s easy to accept.
Anyway, while Gloria and Cam are on the lake, exploring the “liquid graveyard”, as Gloria has dubbed it, a series of unfortunate but hysterical events take place in a matter of seconds. One moment, Gloria’s afraid upon seeing a buoy, thinking it’s a duffel bag containing God-knows-what, and the next, Cam’s outfit is ripped off of him unexpectedly once it gets caught in the boat’s motor, leaving him bare ass naked. Cam, fearful of being exposed to the sun, leaps in the water, with Gloria letting out a bloodcurdling scream and reaching her arms helplessly, as though trying to stop him.
Now, that much humor packed into so few seconds is truly timeless. It looks effortless, and there are so many funny things happening at once. When I first saw it, I laughed all the way through, until I couldn’t breathe, and then hit rewind and watched it all over again. It’s just that good.
Gloria is more freaked out by Cam leaping into the water than seeing him naked; this is an interesting point because it shows exactly her level of fear in regards to the lake and its possible contents. You would think that seeing Cam naked would leave a mark—wouldn’t she feel mortified? Seeing a family member naked is usually an embarrassing or at least extremely awkward moment, and Gloria does display shock, though it’s only for a split second before she switches from shocked to horrified upon witnessing Cam dive into the water.
Just when it doesn’t look like things can get worse for them, it does. Cam, swimming alongside their little boat, cramps up in the water and begs Gloria to help, and while she’s attempting to, another boat passes them by, creating waves that cause Gloria to fall over the side and into the lake.
Gloria, being Gloria, holds a grudge against Cam for causing her to fall into the “filthy lake” and leaves him naked and afraid, essentially, once they reach shore and she warns nearby kids to “watch out for the naked man” and leaves him to his own devices.
Leaving Cam to fend for himself was somewhat cruel given that Gloria left him on purpose, when he was trying to help her before (and her experience of falling into the lake was completely accidental), but sometimes this is just what families do to each other, and then everything is okay again. The two are usually pretty good friends and get along well, so this rare disagreement between them also helps the episode stand out, and contributes to the overall humor.
However, the strange thing that stands out to me is how comfortable Gloria is standing beside the naked Cam when they’re on land—sure, they’re family, and Cam’s using a tree to at least partially shield himself, but Gloria doesn’t even avert her eyes or act embarrassed. Perhaps she was still angry and freaked out about falling into the lake and wasn’t focused on that part? Or she and Cam are comfortable enough with one another? Whatever the explanation is, I’d be interested in hearing it.
Luckily for Cam, the eclipse takes place right when he needs it most, greeting it with a cute reference to “The Sound of Silence” with a quick, “hello darkness my old friend.” Cam finds a sign that he hangs around himself as a makeshift outfit, a sign which reads in big letters “Fresh Nuts and Berries”, which was absolutely priceless for obvious reasons. Even more noteworthy is when Cam walks into the shop where Mitchell is talking to an employee, a man Mitchell once crushed on (and is hurt to find that the man didn’t return feelings for him back in the day). Mitchell is busy stating how many people find him attractive, including his “amazing husband”, but quickly changes course when he spots Cam in the makeshift outfit, and says, “And I am gonna go find him right now”, leaving a bewildered Cam, and an even more bewildered employee.
Other than this storyline, I also enjoyed watching the cliff-dive fail from Claire and Phil. The two are utilizing the cliff diving experience together, declaring that by jumping together, it’s a representation of “jumping into our future as adventurers.”
Claire jumps in, screaming “Phil!” on the way down while Phil remains on the cliff. Phil again fails to follow her down a second time, and by the third time, Phil claims he still wants to jump but is having a difficult time getting his legs to cooperate, so he urges Claire to push him. She attempts to do so, but at the last second, Phil moves and Claire is again taking the leap alone.
Claire must have endless patience; sometimes Phil can be difficult to work with, but clearly, she loves him dearly. Each time she arrives back to the top of the cliff breathless, urging Phil that she wants to jump with him because it means a lot to her, is both sincere, because for them it does mean taking on new things together and having more adventures, but also funny because Phil keeps bailing on her, seemingly afraid of the jump itself. I understand that, but there comes a point where either you bail or just go for it instead of allowing your partner to make continuous leaps without you.
Phil may have had trouble literally taking the leap, but metaphorically—and in all the ways that count—Phil is there for Claire, always, and the two have many more adventures together following this episode. I believe their characters will always be doing new things and having stories to tell about it, even now that the show is off the air. They’re just a fun couple, with a good chemistry, and that love and care for one another greatly.
Jay, meanwhile, possesses a strong heartfelt storyline in “Lake Life”, regarding how he wants to be remembered. Jay is rough around the edges; he tends to avoid anything too emotional, as he dislikes portraying any vulnerability. However, he’s still human, and he has his moments where he needs his family’s support.
Someone Jay knew passes away, and Jay becomes a tad obsessed with reading people’s tributes to him. It leads Jay to think about what he wants his family to remember about him when he’s gone, and he makes extra efforts to create special memories with his family members while on this particular trip.
The thing is, you can make special memories, but sometimes the best memories are also the ones that are spontaneous. You never know what action, big or small, will make an impact on those around you. As Jay prepares to row away, hurt that most of his family missed viewing the solar eclipse with him, his family begins shouting out memories they have of him—like the fact that he brought back magnets for Haley from his business trips or when Jay texted Phil every day for a week after his mother died to check on him. My personal favorite, though, is when Mitchell recounts something Jay had told him earlier in the episode—“Run toward embarrassment, not away from it, and you take away its power.” Like Mitchell, it’s something I’ll always remember too—I just hope those embarrassing moments are few and far between, but hey, life isn’t perfect and mistakes are inevitable.
Anyway, the thing is, Jay’s family will always remember the trip from this episode, and when they sang “Total Eclipse of the Heart” together (Luke hilariously asks if that’s even a song—apparently Bonnie Tyler never crossed his music radar). If anything, the only thing they’ll forget about the trip was that Ben, Alex’s date, was on it with them. Poor Ben; he was repeatedly forgotten throughout the trip, even by Alex.