"Under Pressure" is the twelfth episode from Season 5 of Modern Family, it aired on January 15, 2014.

Plot Summary

The high school open house puts the parents in a bit of a time warp when Claire finds herself stressed out by all the pressure, Gloria encounters a "mean girl" mom and Jay teaches Phil how to play a little hookie. Elsewhere, Mitchell gets defensive when he encounters his judgmental, environmentalist neighbor and Alex goes to see a therapist.

Episode Description

The Dunphys throw Alex a Sweet 16 party, however the birthday girl does not appreciate is as she is desperate to study for her SATs and can't abide the distraction. When the family encourages her to blow out the candles, Alex has a meltdown and starts throwing cake everywhere. (ALEX: There's a sixteen-year-old science prodigy studying cancer research at Johns Hopkins, and what am I doing? EATING CAKE!!!) The next morning, even Haley had no problem deciding she would be nice to Alex, figuring she'd be the first one Alex would take out when she snapped. Alex came down the stairs, and Haley and Luke tiptoeing too much got Phil and Claire thinking they needed to talk to Alex right away. But Alex was already a step ahead of them: she found a therapist online who specialized in talking to teens and was on the family insurance plan. She already booked her first two sessions and even agreed to take the bus so Phil could deal with his open house. (PHIL: She's like a self-cleaning oven!)

Cameron and Mitchell were taking care of the house. Well, Mitchell was; Cam had pulled out those old 80s coaches' shorts (and socks, too) because the school had an Open House and he wanted to represent the phys. ed. department well, particularly given how they're looked down upon by the other departments. (He's not kidding; I was a teacher for ten years). Their neighbor, Asher, stopped by and wanted them to stop running their air conditioner all the time because it's hurting the environment. Asher wasn't particularly impressed by Mitch's Prius either, given he ran his car on recycled cooking oil. (Seriously, this guy had such a bug up his keyster, Ed Begley Jr. would drive a '74 Lincoln Continental through his front yard). Lily did put it in perspective when Asher commented on Mitch watering his lawn; better that than his front lawn looking like a litter box. Meanwhile, Gloria was dressing up to go to the Open House, even though Jay was just dressed in a t-shirt and old pants, because she wanted to convince Manny's history teacher he should go to Washington D.C.

MANNY: It's Junior Congress. I really think I can make a difference.

JAY: Regular Congress can't even make a difference. (EPIC!)

Manny had a date to go on, and he didn't want Jay to make a big deal. Although Jay could have at least acted like he heard that. It turns out, Manny had some competition for this girl: Luke. He called dibs, but it wasn't necessary. She had a twin sister. (LUKE: I normally like to describe my type as...gettable.) It turns out each twin, Zoe and Piper, was like Luke and Manny...only they didn't choose the right twin for them. Luke told Manny to switch, but he thought that would be rude.

LUKE: They're twins; they'll never notice!

MANNY: You realize WE'RE not twins, right?

Eventually, both of them caved and admitted they needed to switch. But neither Zoe nor Piper wanted to switch, Piper having a thing for Latin men and Zoe liking her guys to be dumb. That offended Manny and Luke, and they were ready to leave. But Zoe and Piper's parents weren't home, so they could head to their place and make out.

MANNY: I'm not proud of what happened next.

LUKE: I am. (laughs)

While Cameron explained his idea to spice up his gym presentation by letting the parents play dodgeball...which is promptly shot down by the principal...Jay, Gloria, and Phil make it to history class and talk to Mr. Ingram. The empanadas were a nice touch. But she had some competition in the form of a basket of cupcakes from another mom, Dr. Donna Duncan, who wants her son, Wesley, to go on the trip as well. And apparently has issues with Gloria and Manny being Latino. But that may not make a difference, since Jay brought a flask of scotch and asked Phil to try it...right when Mr. Ingram noticed them. Naturally, Jay threw Phil under the bus. Hard as it is to believe, he was getting off easy compared to Claire, who was taking all of Alex's advanced classes. She finds the teachers place intelligent kids under a lot more pressure, telling the parents what practice tests the kids should study for their Advanced Placement Exams as well as pitting the kids against each other for scholarships. (CLAIRE: With Luke and Haley, I'm on top of everything because they aren't. But Alex is so self-sufficient, I just put it in cruise control. I fell asleep at the wheel and now my little genius is covered in cake.)

Lily got a delivery of a family dollhouse from Haley, the same one she used to play in as a child...as did Mitchell. She left the minivan running, and Mitchell was afraid Asher would come by and harass her. But Haley reminded Mitch he won an award as an environmental lawyer and suggested he wave that in Asher's face. (HALEY: It's like this girl at school who was all over me about my leather boots and she had the nerve to wear Crocs. Like those aren't endangered!) Mitch was convinced, until he forgot the dollhouse was packed with styrofoam peanuts which blew onto his neighbor's property.

While Jay snuck into the teacher's lounge to watch his football game on their TV, Gloria and Dr. Duncan made it to Cameron's lecture, Dr. Duncan doing a pretty good imitation of The Plastics from Mean Girls trying to submarine Gloria. Cam, losing the crowd with his boring lecture, caved in and told the parents he really wanted to let them play dodgeball. Which Dr. Duncan thought was a good idea. As did Gloria. Cameron tried to talk them out of it, but it was the only way to keep the parents around. It actually worked until Gloria and Dr. Duncan were the last two standing. Dr. Duncan whipped one at Gloria's head before Cam's whistle and tried to "apologize," which Gloria took as reason to attack her. And Dr. Duncan fought back. This in spite of the fact Cameron was in the middle. Literally.

Haley's plan to make a pile of styrofoam peanuts to get them away from Asher's lawn went as well as you might guess. Mitchell went to pick them up again and succeeded in knocking over Asher's drum of recycled cooking oil. But at least Phil and Jay could bond...once Phil got the football game on the big projection screen in the auditorium. Meanwhile, Cam was doing his best work as a teacher, playing peacemaker between Gloria and Dr. Duncan, who was only determined to get Wesley the D.C. trip because she was divorced and Wesley thinks his father is much better, even though he doesn't do a thing to help. Gloria could certainly sympathize with that and told her it would get better.

Alex met with the therapist and thought she had made a mistake because the guy looked way too old to deal with her problems. The therapist asked her to take a deep breath and say exactly what was on her mind at that moment. She forgot to charge her computer, she needed to get index cards to study and hoped she could get blue ones because they helped her memorize better for some reason and maybe she needed a stronger prescription for her eyeglasses and whether she should get a summer job to make it look better on her college application and whether or not Hilary Clinton will run for President in 2016. (which took her all of 30 seconds to say) Even the therapist thought Alex had a lot on her plate. Now he had something to go on, particularly when Alex admitted she was obsessed as a young girl to win a spelling bee, even though there was no prize, no recognition, and not even her parents knew about it. She felt like she had to win it. And now she felt more pressure to win because everyone expected more of her. At least that was how she felt. And the fact that the rest of the family couldn't understand why she felt that way made her think she was alone in the world. But maybe she wasn't. After visiting Alex's third teacher, Claire realizes that Alex is expected to do around six hours of homework every night, on top of studying for the SATs and the various advanced tests. Claire picks up Alex from her therapist, and tells her how she never understood the pressure she was under; she couldn't even handle 2 hours of listening to what the students went through, and admits she'd have had a meltdown long ago. Alex broke down and cried, hugging Claire tightly.

Mitchell apologized for spilling the oil, and everybody helped clean up. Asher admitted he didn't have a lot of friends because of how intense he was about staying green. That and it takes forever to cook a chicken with a solar-powered house. Mitchell invited him over for dinner, and Lily even offered to let him play with her dollhouse.

ASHER: Is it made from sustainable materials?

LILY: Forget it!

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



  • Alex celebrates her 16th birthday.
  • The press release for this episode said that Mitchell and Cameron met Asher. However, in the original broadcast episode, only Mitchell interacted with him, as Cameron attended the open house in High School.
  • We learn that Phil was in a movie club in High School.
  • This marks the first appearance of Dr Donna Duncan as well as the second appearance of Principal Brown who previously appeared for the first time in First Days.

Cultural References


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