The gang splits up into unlikely pairs to gear up for a big celebration of Dec. 16

By Breia Brissey
Updated December 08, 2011 at 05:47 AM EST
Modern Family
Credit: Peter "Hopper" Stone /ABC

Before we chat about last night’s “Express Christmas,” let’s take care of some housekeeping business. Your usual recapper extraordinaire, Sandra Gonzalez, is prepping for a much-deserved vacation. Fear not! She’ll be back to her usual duties when Modern Family returns, which unfortunately, won’t be until after the new year. But let’s not dwell on all that sadness, and instead focus on the sheer awesomeness of an early Christmas spent with our favorite TV family.

The Pritchett/Delgado/Dunphy/Tucker clans were lounging around the pool absorbing some Vitamin D, when they discovered they had a miscommunication about their Christmas plans. Not only would Claire and Mitchell’s mom not be coming in town for the holiday, but they realized that this was the last day they’d all be together in order to celebrate Christmas. And thus, Mr. Phil Dunphy created the newest holiday, Express Christmas (TM), to be celebrated later that day. (It’s Dec. 16, for those of you wishing to celebrate your own Express Christmas later this month. Maybe it will become the next Festivus! Although it certainly needs a catchier name first.)

Anyway, Phil delegated tasks to Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen (Claire, Mitchell, Cam, and Gloria, respectively) and off they went to make Dec. 16 the best Express Christmas ever. Luke and Gloria were tasked with getting the special angel tree-topper from the attic. This inspired a who’s-on-first conversation where Gloria could not say “look” without it sounding like “Luke.” Finally she heard it, and Luke who’d “been carrying that one around for three years” was relieved.

Meanwhile, Claire and Haley headed out to the local Target to get all the gift shopping done. They were oddly reminiscent of the crazy Target lady who prepares for shopping at Target by working out on the elliptical. But it’s true, both Claire and Haley were born for this job. Mostly because they’re great shoppers who would do anything their family. And that included Haley trying to use her sexual wiles to get the last ladybug lightbulb — a gift for Lily — from the guy who took that last one. That is until she realized he was gay. Naturally, she posed as a Target employee (complete with a red Target shirt) to steal it from him. Mission accomplished. It’s worth noting that this is the second job Haley’s pretended to have in the course of the series.

NEXT: Alex stands up for Mitchell, and Phil gets stunned (with a gun)

Alex and Mitchell bonded over their search for the perfect Christmas tree. (“Oh symmetry, oh symmetry…” The lesser-known lyrics.) When Alex offended a worker at the tree farm after misconstruing his help as a negative comment about her obviously gay uncle, things got awkward really quickly. They had to just pick a tree, bald spots an all, and take it home. This was a perfectly fine plan until a sudden slam on the breaks turned their tree into a half-tree. (More on this later.) But after their fallout at the farm, there was no way they were getting a new one.

The migratory patterns of Cam and Jay were flying south, and fast. I’m not sure why Phil thought it was a good idea to pair Cam and Jay for the gift-wrapping. Jay didn’t quite appreciate his super-sensitive and thoughtful gift from Cam: A cork from the wine they shared while watching their first football game. And a duplicate bottle of said wine engraved with the final score. And let’s just say Cam’s trying to use scotch tape as a metaphor for Jay’s life didn’t help. In true Cam form, his feelings were hurt. He just cares too much!

Phil and Manny were responsible for the grocery shopping, which we didn’t get to see. But after their trip to the store we witnessed Phil demonstrating Craigslist by meeting with a stranger to buy a vintage baseball card for Jay. This was pretty bad timing as Manny spent most of the episode fearing that he’d be snatched. (It must run in the family, because I recall Gloria worrying about the same thing when she was learning to ride a bike.) This culminated in a perfect bout of physical comedy after Manny attempted to use his “mother’s little helper” (a stun gun) on the assumed intruder, but hit Phil instead. At this point, I could not contain my laughter. I rewatched it at least four times. (And haters, right there is why Ty Burrell deserved that Emmy!) Phil proceeded to convulse and shake as his vintage baseball card — which cost him a steep $200 plus a butterball turkey — went from mint to fair condition in a matter of seconds.

While the after effects of Phil being stunned by the gun was certainly the funniest sight gag of the night, it wasn’t the only one. Immediately after Mitchell lost the aforementioned tree from the top of his car, notoriously bad driver Gloria ran over it. And that’s precisely how they ended up bringing a half tree home for the celebration. Shortly after, Gloria’s fear of spiders took hold as she threw the angel tree topper out of the sun roof of her car, which was then run over and broken. And since Phil traded the turkey for the newly ruined baseball card, all he had for dinner were individual Cornish game hens. It seemed like Express Christmas was officially ruined, and the whole family was ready to throw in the towel. But leave it to Modern Family and patriarch Jay to cap a hilarious episode with a perfectly sweet, sentimental ending. Throughout all the chaos, Jay somehow managed to get fake snow to cover the front yard. And Express Christmas was saved!

NEXT:This week’s best lines

I have to say, the first half of the episode was a little underwhelming. But by the end of all the holiday preparations, I was rolling with laughter. What did you think of “Express Christmas”? Did I miss any of your favorite lines? How funny was it that Jay loved the dog antlers for Stella? Oh, and happy early December 16!


” A little too free with the free verse for my taste. But fine, we’ll call it a poem.” —Manny

“Who do you think we’re seeing in Missouri, Claire? The Oakridge Boys?” —Cam

“Ho, ho, hold up a sec!” —Phil, prior to announcing his Express Christmas idea

It’s not a quotable, but the return of Barkley the Dog Butler (a.k.a. El Diablo) deserves special mention

Lily: “I have two daddies.”

Mitchell: “He gets it, Lily.” (This makes the list because I’m so excited the new Lily actually gets to speak!)

Cam: “No. Fresh wound. Can’t talk yet.”

Jay: “Fine. Well, put a cork in it.”

Cam: “Let it scab, Jay. Let it scab.”

“First you lose me in a grocery store. Now I’m in a deserted parking lot. Why don’t you just put a sign on me that says ‘Free Kid’?” —Manny

Manny: “I don’t like the looks of this guy.”

Phil: “He looks like everybody else!”

Manny: Great, you can just tell that to the police sketch artist.”

“Relax. Phil just texted and he’s on his wax.” —Claire (And no, that’s NOT a typo. She said wax. Damn you, auto correct!)

“And now, this looks like the lady she used to be before she died and became an angel.” —Mitchell

Episode Recaps

Mitch and Cam, Modern Family

Modern Family

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

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