Mitch Haddad/ABC

Mitchell's fear of PDA leads to an unexpected (and unexpectedly touching) smooch

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September 30, 2010 at 04:26 AM EDT

One of the (many) things that Modern Family has going for it is that is can do sentimental (sometimes even sappy) without crossing a line into cheesy or overdone. Tonight’s episode brought on the laughs (“Slap the chicken!”), but it also managed to be touching without leaving us feeling queasy – something that even some of the best and longest-running sitcoms like Friends had trouble doing. The fact that Modern Family‘s emphasis on touchy-feely family togetherness doesn’t get in the way of its punch lines is a testament to both the clever writing and the acting on the show. There’s not a character in the bunch who comes off like a two-dimensional stereotype, which is why it’s not so strange to finish a belly laugh and discover there’s a tear forming in the corner of your eye. Jay and Gloria, Claire and Phil, Mitchell and Cam have sprung to such vivid life over the course of 26 episodes that it’s impossible not to see how much they care about one another, and it’s impossible for us to not care about them in turn.

Okay, enough with the mushy stuff…on to the funny. While most everyone had LOL moments in tonight’s episode — from Phil’s computer cockiness to Gloria’s mischievous vengeance — the real winner of tonight’s episode was Ed O’Neill, who got to show off the many faces of family patriarch Jay. We saw his ridiculous side while he was squealing and slapping at a slab of chicken breast; we saw the gruff grouch we’ve come to know and love when his family demanded he show some affection to his son (“Don’t be coy, what are you waiting for a box of chocolates? Let’s do this!”); and lastly we witnessed his soft underbelly, when he kissed Manny’s forehead while tucking him into bed. That’s why we love Ed O’Neill, and that’s why we love Jay Pritchett.

Before I count down tonight’s best lines, though, let’s all sing Phil’s printer song together, shall we? “The computer and the printer must talk, talk, talk/ Command P makes the picture walk, walk, walk.” (And don’t miss our gallery of Modern Family cast portraits!)

NEXT: The best lines from last night’s episode!

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Parents just don’t understand… and neither do kids or spouses in this hit ensemble comedy
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