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Alex's graduation from middle school sends Claire and Phil spiraling downhill (literally and figuratively), and Jay gets the Botox bug...

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May 19, 2011 at 05:00 AM EDT

Tonight’s episode, titled “See You Next Fall” — get it? — established why this cast is one of the best comedy ensembles on television. Not only can they deliver an acerbic quip that leaves us in stitches or a tender moment that almost makes us shed a tear, but tonight they demonstrated that they are also physical-comedy geniuses. Whether it was Cam falling into the baby pool or walking into the glass door (then through the screen door), or Phil cheerlead-throwing Claire over Jay’s gate, then trying to ride a tandem bike with her to Alex’s graduation, and then finally tumbling down the hill with her — props to Julie Bowen (Claire), who looked like she was really falling and potentially hurting herself – they did it with gusto, and got hilarious results.

The main event was Alex’s middle school graduation, a milestone that sent the whole family into a tizzy – especially Claire and Phil. Claire was losing another baby to the teenage monster, and Phil knew she was going to break down at any moment. And he was determined to make that moment happen before his trip to Vegas with his ex-cheerleading buddies (who wouldn’t kill to see an episode with Phil in Vegas? I think it would have more disastrous results than The Hangover). Hence Phil spent the entire graduation day trying to get his wife to crack by saying things like “Remember when you used to hold Alex like that, and you wanted to eat her face?” while she was cradling Jay’s adorable French bulldog puppy. However, in the end, it was Phil who ultimately freaked out, as he realized that he was losing his kids too. He wound up exclaiming, “I don’t want to go to Vegas anymore—I just want to hug them and embarrass ’em in front of their friends.” The graduation scene ended with a touching but amusing three-way bear hug between Claire, Phil, and Haley, after Haley innocently claimed that she was hungry and could go eat with her parents. Their baby’s back! Fantastic moment.

Alex’s graduation also brought about a tender bonding session between the two Dunphy girls. Haley wisely told Alex not to go with her original commencement speech, which would alienate her from her entire class (and turn her into a “social piranha”), and she paid her smarter, dorkier sister the highest compliment: She thought she was pretty. Well, that’s what resonated with Alex anyway. Thanks to the sisters’ little moment of sharing their “stuff,” Alex gave a middle-school-appropriate speech that said absolutely nothing, capped off with a fittingly sarcastic “Really?” when the audience erupted in applause. Hey, everyone likes to get this party started! (P.S. I didn’t wear a cap and gown to my middle school graduation—did you guys?)

Elsewhere, the family thought that Jay was having a stroke (especially Manny), when in fact he just wanted to look the age he felt and try a little Botox on for size. Turned out it didn’t suit him. And rather than make him look younger, it made him look like Quasimodo. The best part of Jay’s Botox treatment was Gloria’s flabbergasted response: “Like the lady juice for the wrinkles?” To which Jay quickly shot back that men make up 10 percent of the Botox-seeking demographic. As a side note, I thought his droopy eyelid looked pretty realistic.

And then there was Cam…. Where to begin? Which moment of the night was his funniest? Was it seeing him fall into the kiddie pool fully clothed? Or when he walked through the glass door, then ripped off the screen? Or was it his fabulous Panama Jack-inspired graduation outfit? Nope, it was his attempt to be MacGyver (or rather MacGayver, per the always tactful Jay) and fix Jay’s gate.

NEXT: The best quotes of the night

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