“Under Pressure” focused on an often overlooked “Modern Family” character: Alex Dunphy (Ariel Winter). Whether it is because she is more serious and put together than the rest of her family or because “Modern Family” is treating her like the middle child she is, Alex makes her way into storylines less frequently than her siblings and cousins. “Under Pressure” is a refreshing change.
Last night’s “Modern Family” opened on Alex having a meltdown during her 16th birthday, stressed about the upcoming SATs and the fact that she has not done anything, in her opinion, of note. She informs her parents the next day that she will be seeking counseling to address the situation, after which Phil says to Claire, “She’s like a self-cleaning oven.” Claire admits that they have parented Alex less because she has always been so self-sufficient, but “Under Pressure” reveals the toll this has left on Alex, who is still just a 16 year-old girl.
During her first session of counseling, Alex opens up about the stress she faces, some of which is self-imposed, and reveals a problem common to other successful individuals: The more you succeed, the more others expect you to succeed. She also feels isolated in her family, in which no one else has the drive or, arguably, the ability to play on her level. Rather than praising Alex for her accomplishments or accepting her for who she is, her family tends to laugh at her eccentricities and leave her to her own devices.
Aside from guest appearances by the hilarious Jane Krakowski (a type A mom who competes with Gloria for the attention of their sons’ teacher) and Jesse Eisenberg (Mitchell’s neighbor who shames Mitchell for his poor efforts to be green) and some minor storylines, “Under Pressure” was dedicated to Alex and her struggles, as well as to Claire finally beginning to understand her youngest daughter a bit better and the fact that she needs her mom as much as her siblings do.
The highlight of “Under Pressure” came when, after attending an open house at Alex’s school, Claire says to Alex, “I had no idea the kind of pressure you were under. Honey, I was just you for two hours; I could barely hold it together. I don’t know how you don’t have a meltdown every day.” Claire acknowledging Alex’s struggles allowed Alex to let go; she responded by crying and falling into Claire’s arms. It will be interesting to see if there is a change in dynamic between Alex and her family in the weeks to come.
Catch up with the Pritchett-Dunphy family by watching “Modern Family” every Wednesday night at 9 p.m. on ABC.