"Tableau Vivant" is the twenty-third episode from Season 3 of Modern Family, it aired on May 16, 2012.

Plot Summary

Gloria and Jay bicker while trying to order lunch at a diner; Claire and Cam have different theories on how to discipline kids; Luke accepts an award under false pretenses; Phil has a hard time firing Mitchell from his temporary job at the real estate agency; the entire family participates in Alex's living art display of Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving painting, entitled "Freedom from want".

Episode Description

Everybody is up late at the Dunphy house. Phil is practicing having to fire Mitchell for being late on a couple of projects he was doing for Phil's firm, Alex was sweating an art project for school, Luke was excited to be receiving an award for putting out a fire, and Haley snuck into the house late from partying. OK, now here's where reality sets in. Mitchell was tanking these projects on purpose because his plate was full with his real job and taking care of Lily and was doing the work strictly as a favor, Luke set the fire he was receiving a medal for putting out, and Alex was only sweating the art project because her art teacher, Mr. Jarvis, was the only teacher who didn't like her. The Haley thing was true.

The art project was going to be taking a classic Norman Rockwell painting of a family having a turkey dinner around the table and recreating it with her family. Therefore Alex enlisted the help of Cameron to get some of the items she'd need. Trouble is, Lily had a habit of flicking lights on and off all over Phil and Claire's house...along with the garbage disposal. Claire tried to tell her to stop, but Cam was saying they weren't trying to teach the word "no" to Lily because she'd rebel. Not to mention letting Lily decide when she wanted to nap. If you think Cameron got this out of the latest parenting book, you must be a parent who has a lot more sense than that, like Claire. If only Jay had enough sense to zip his lip at the diner where he showed Gloria the sandwich they named after him. Which Gloria didn't like. Nor did she like Maxine the waitress telling her Jay had a neck problem since Jay never told her about it. Same thing with the audit Jay's company was going through. Jay told her she didn't have to be 100% honest all the time, since in a relationship, it's sometimes best to hold things back and think of the other person's feelings. Of course, now Jay has to admit to EVERYTHING he didn't tell Gloria that drove him nuts, like how loud she is.

As Mitchell and Phil totally misinterpret what the other was saying about Mitch working at Phil's firm so neither hurts the others feelings, Manny tries to convince Luke to be honest about setting the fire in the first place. But Luke wasn't having it, even after Manny tried to guilt trip him with the American flag. Meanwhile, Claire found the perfect resolution to Lily flipping all of the switches in the house. Actually, Cam did when Alex threw a modern-day spoon on the table into the sink where the garbage disposal was. He tried to retrieve it and got stuck. And Lily was making her way around to the garbage disposal switch again. But Claire didn't want to say no to Lily; she wanted to respect Cam's wishes. And the disposal went off!! Actually, it was Claire turning on a mixer; Lily was never near the disposal switch but Cam was certainly ticked off.

Mitchell shows up at Phil's office, much to his surprise because he thought he successfully told Mitch he was fired. But Mitch was trying to avoid confrontation, and Phil was going blinky like he always does when confronted. But Phil gets him into the elevator and fires him right before the doors close.  Mitchell gets stuck and now the two are having an argument about who got to leave first. Of course, now all of Phil's co-workers thought Mitch was disgruntled and lazy and didn't believe he was tanking the job on purpose.

It was time for everyone to go to Alex's school and pose for the picture. And everybody, naturally, was fighting. Alex tried to get everybody to focus because she wanted to impress Mr. Gorgeous...Jarvis! (Yes, Alex had a crush on her teacher.) The curtains open, and everybody has to be still like in the painting. Naturally, everybody still yelled at each other through clenched teeth. Cam even managed to spill picking Haley up late at night and bringing her home. Phil wanted Mitchell's parking pass back, Manny ratted out Luke for setting the fire, and Lily kept wanting some turkey. Alex got a B-, but at least Mr. Jarvis remembered her name. So she had that going for her. Which was nice. Dinner at the diner where Jay had the sandwich named after him wasn't happening, however. Nobody wanted to go. Claire didn't think she overstepped her bounds, Gloria didn't think she was too loud, Cam didn't think he was overly-sensitive when it came to parenting, and Mitchell was upset because he had never been fired from anything in his life. Eventually, everybody joins Jay at the diner. Phil really needed a hug from Maxine, the waitress. Even Gloria came back when she realized she was just jealous Maxine knew all of these things about Jay and she didn't. She even ordered the Jay Pritchett...without the anchovies.

Main Cast

(The characters striked out do not appear in this episode)

  • Jay Pritchett
  • Gloria Pritchett
  • Manny Delgado
  • Claire Dunphy
  • Phil Dunphy
  • Haley Dunphy
  • Alex Dunphy
  • Luke Dunphy
  • Mitchell Pritchett
  • Cameron Tucker
  • Lily Tucker-Pritchett

Guest Starring

  • Beth Grant as Maxine
  • John Viener as Matt Keneally
  • Matt Roth as Skip Woosnum
  • Angela Oh as Realtor #1
  • Lisa Long as Realtor #2
  • Laird MacIntosh as Realtor #3
  • Mike Madrigal as Luke's Teacher

Cultural References


  • If Mitchell was an actual employee at Phil's office, he couldn't have been fired for something he hadn't received appropriate warnings for.