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


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.


The Dunphys throw Alex a small sweet sixteen, but the birthday girl does not appreciate it as she is desperate to resume studying for her SATs and can't abide the distraction. When her 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, the family plans to act normally in front of Alex, whom they are worried will snap again. Even Haley has no problem deciding she would be nice to Alex, figuring she'd be the first person Alex would go after when she snaps. Alex comes down the stairs, and Haley and Luke tiptoeing too much around her gets Phil and Claire thinking they need to talk to Alex about this. But Alex is already a step ahead of them: she has found a therapist online who specializes in talking to teens and is on the family insurance plan. She has already booked her first two sessions and even plans to take the bus so Phil could commute to his open house. (PHIL: She's like a self-cleaning oven!)

Cameron and Mitchell are mending the Tucker-Pritchett home. Well, Mitchell is; Cam has pulled out a pair of old 80s coaches' shorts (and socks, too) because the school has an Open House and he wants to represent the phys. ed. department well, particularly given how they're looked down upon by the other departments. Their neighbour, Asher, stops by and wants them to stop running their air conditioner all the time because it's hurting the environment. Asher isn't particularly impressed by Mitch's Prius either, given he runs his own car on recycled cooking oil. Lily did put Asher's lifestyle in perspective when he comments on Mitch watering his lawn; better that than Asher's front lawn that looks like a litter box.

Meanwhile, Gloria is dressing up to go to the Open House, even though Jay is just dressed in a T-shirt and old pants. Gloria is dressing to impress as she wants to convince Manny's history teacher to let him 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.

Manny has a date, and he doesn't want Jay to make a big deal. That isn't a problem for Jay, who doesn't even act like he heard it. It turns out, Manny has some competition for this girl: Luke. He called dibs, but it wasn't necessary as she has a twin sister. (LUKE: I normally like to describe my type as...gettable.) It turns out, Zoe shares Manny's interests in fine arts and Piper shares Luke's immature sense of humour...only the boys are with the wrong twin. Luke tells Manny to switch, but Manny thinks that would be rude.

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

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

Eventually, both of them cave and admit to the sisters that they need to switch. But neither Zoe nor Piper want to switch as Piper has a thing for Latin men and Zoe likes her guys to be dumb. This offends Manny and Luke, who refuse to be reduced to caricatures, and they are ready to leave. But Zoe and Piper announce that their parents aren't home, so they all could head to their place and make out.

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

LUKE: I am. (laughs)

While Cameron explains to Principal Brown his idea to spice up his gym presentation by letting the parents play dodgeball (that is promptly shot down), Jay, Gloria, and Phil make it to history class, with Gloria talking to Mr. Ingram and offering him empanadas. But she has some competition in the form of a basket of cupcakes from another mom, Dr. Donna Duncan, who also wants her son, Wesley, to go on the one-person trip. She also apparently has issues with Gloria and Manny being Latino. Meanwhile, Jay has brought a flask of scotch and asks Phil to try it...just as Mr. Ingram notices them. Naturally, Jay throws Phil under the bus. As hard as it is to believe, he is getting off easy as compared to Claire, who is 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 receives a delivery of a family dollhouse from Haley, the same one she used to play in as a did Mitchell. Haley leaves the minivan running, and Mitchell is afraid Asher would come by and harass her. But Haley reminds Mitch he won an award as an environmental lawyer and suggests 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 is convinced, until he pulls out the dollhouse that has been packed with styrofoam peanuts, which blew onto his neighbour's property.

While Jay sneaks into the teacher's lounge to watch his football game on their TV, Gloria and Dr. Duncan make it to Cameron's lecture. Dr. Duncan does a pretty good imitation of The Plastics from Mean Girls trying to submarine Gloria. Cam, losing the crowd with his boring lecture, caves in and tells the parents he really wanted to let them play dodgeball. Dr. Duncan thinks it's a good idea. As does Gloria. Cameron tries to talk them out of it, but it's the only way to keep the parents around. It actually works until Gloria and Dr. Duncan are the last two standing. Dr. Duncan whips one at Gloria's head before Cam's whistle and tries to "apologize," which Gloria takes as reason to attack her. Dr. Duncan fought back, despite Cameron being in the middle. Literally.

Haley's plan to make a pile of styrofoam peanuts in the wind to get them away from Asher's lawn goes as well as one might guess. Mitchell goes to pick them up again and succeeds in accidentally knocking over Asher's drum of recycled cooking oil, spilling oil all over his lawn. Asher rides up his driveway at that exact moment. At least Phil and Jay is able to bond...once Phil gets the football game on the big projection screen in the auditorium. Meanwhile, Cam, Gloria and Dr. Duncan are called to the principal's office. Cam is doing his best work as a teacher, playing peacemaker between Gloria and Dr. Duncan, who is only determined to get Wesley the D.C. trip because she is divorced and Wesley thinks of his father more highly, even though he doesn't do a thing to help. Gloria is certainly able to sympathize with that, and told her it would get better.

Alex meets with the therapist and, as a defence mechanism, says aloud that she has made a mistake because the guy looks way too old to deal with her problems. The therapist patiently asks her to take a deep breath and say exactly what's on her mind at that moment. Within 30 seconds, she says she has forgotten to charge her computer, she needs to get index cards to study and hopes she could get blue ones because they helped her memorize better for some reason and maybe she needs a stronger prescription for her eyeglasses, whether a summer job or an internship looks better on her college application and whether or not Hillary Clinton will run for President in the 2016 elections.

The therapist notes that Alex has a lot on her plate. Now he has something to go on, and prompts Alex further. Alex admits 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 feels more pressure to win because everyone expects more of her. At least that's how she feels. And the fact that the rest of her family cannot understand why she feels this way makes her think she is alone in the world. But maybe she's not. 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 has never understood the pressure Alex is under; she can't even handle two hours of listening to what the students go through, and admits she'd have had a meltdown long ago. Alex breaks down and cries, hugging Claire tightly.

Mitchell apologizes to Asher for spilling the oil, and everybody helps clean up. Asher admits he doesn't have a lot of friends because of how intense he is about staying green. He can't have anyone over either as it takes forever to cook a chicken with a solar-powered house. Mitchell invites him over for dinner, and Lily even offers 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)

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 AV 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".
  • This episode aired on Andrea Martin's 67th birthday.

Cultural References[]