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'Modern Family' recap: A near-crash course in life

Season 6 | Episode 11 | “The Day We Almost Died” | Aired Jan 7, 2015

Well, 2015 is here. How did our Modern Family celebrate ringing in the New Year? With a near-death experience!

After a chaotic car ride involving the Dunphy clan and Manny turns into a close encounter with a raging truck, everyone faces their mortality in different ways (starting with walking to their destinations). Their journeys take them on some very interesting rides (pun intended).

Claire decides that life is too short not to live freely. She sneaks away to Mitch’s office after arguing with him right before the close call to apologize. He begrudgingly agrees to leave work with her after she basically forces him to via public annoyance. Personally, if Claire were my sister, I would have waited to see just how far she was willing to go. Then again, Mitch wouldn’t be Mitch if he had any patience.

They go rollerblading (Mitch is a pro, sarcastically speaking) on the beach. It takes a turn for the worse when she forces him to skate into an underpass, which is a huge fear of his. In his failed resistance, the two get separated into different sides of the pass. Claire comes out anticipating her brother’s triumph, only to find that Mitch was mugged and robbed (too perfect!). Mitch takes Claire’s stuff and skates back to work for a meeting.

Haley and Alex walk away from the non-crash together, mainly because Alex thought that Haley was worried about her during the near tragedy. Alex is so excited that she agrees to makeovers on the way home, which leads to an embarrassing Instagram debacle in which Alex looks ridiculous. The fact that Haley aims to be rid of her sister’s “guy-stache” is hysterical, especially because of how red her mouth appeared. It looks as painful as Steve Carell’s chest waxing in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. It is worth it to Alex because she knows how her sister truly feels about her … until she learns that Haley was actually more concerned of losing her phone. #SisterFight

Some of the group got a smaller amount of focus than others. Luke, for example, only mentions fulfilling his bucket list (which includes a jet pack!). All teens his age have bucket lists, right? I didn’t … but my kids will now! Much of Luke’s misadventures occur offscreen.

Manny suffers PTSD as a result of seeing the veil. He walks home to inform Jay and Gloria of the incident. Jay’s immediate blame of Phil is fantastic. Gloria suggests taking Manny for ice cream. The only problem is that Manny chooses to walk alongside the moving vehicle instead of riding in of it.

Jay insists that Manny takes the wheel. After a (hardly) inspiring story about Jay’s own father and facing fear (which we have all probably learned the hard way), Manny fails to drive the car. Jay then tells Manny he doesn’t have to drive, remembering that his own childhood experience shifted his own fear to being scared of his father. Before Manny exits the driver seat, Gloria pretends to see a man that stole her phone (which Manny discusses with Luke before the incident), knowing that Manny wants to find him. Manny books it and overcomes his fear while almost hitting a man on roller skates.

Phil gains the confidence he never had due to the non-collision; he becomes a different person all together. He picks Cam up for a game of racquetball, but chooses to detour and crash Gil’s (his nemesis) sales pitch. It is an awesome scene. Ty Burrell is having some fun playing the confident version of the lovable idiot. PowerPhil (powerful Phil) then takes Cam to get the washer that Mitch wouldn’t let him pick. Phil persuades the salesperson to provide the machine and helps load it himself, leading to my favorite moment of the episode: Phil pours water on himself in slow motion as Cam ashamedly asks the audience, “Is Phil sexy?”

A curveball comes in the form of Phil buying an alpaca in spite of Claire’s feelings. This forces Cam from the car, as we see the man skating by with a pink helmet in the background. Arriving home with the alpaca doesn’t disturb a careless Claire, but there is some appropriate screaming from the kids. Spilling a glass of milk (which he has no control over) leads to Phil facing the fact that he could have lost his family if that truck had been a moment later. They all gather together and settle back to normal (for this family, anyway).

The tag catches up with Mitch, glazing over his day full of skating. It’s pretty great how well the pink-helmet man was spread throughout the episode. In fact, this episode was written incredibly skillfully. At times, Modern Family leaves the realm of reality that so many people connect with, but this episode handles the departure well, especially thanks to the touching ending. It was a thoroughly enjoyable episode in a much-improved sixth season of an outstanding comedy series. I give this episode 4.5 slow-mo ice dousings out of five.

Modern Family airs Wednesdays at 9/8C on ABC.