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Claire's dream of a perfect Haunted House collapses, Mitchell channels Spider-Man, and Gloria discovers it's not 'a doggy-dog world'

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October 28, 2010 at 08:25 AM EDT

Halloween came to Modern Family last night, and naturally, Haley dressed like a “scary” black cat, then Mother Teresa (back when she was hot); Gloria accidentally ordered a box of small religious figurines; and Mitchell suffered the embarrassment of a condition known as Squeaky Thigh Syndrome. The unimaginatively titled “Halloween” was probably the least hilarious installment to date of Modern Family‘s second season, but I still found myself audibly laughing at a good 15-20 different zingers/reaction shots/sight gags. That’s a number that would most likely surpass the LOL quota mandated by CBS for an entire season of $#*! My Dad Says, so let me dispense with the hair-splitting and recount how the action played out at our three central households:

* At the Dunphy residence, Claire frantically prepared for Halloween, the one holiday she still takes seriously now that the gays have gone and stolen Thanksgiving with their fancy Food Network recipes. I have to admit, I didn’t see it coming when Phil’s “severed” hand reached up from the cutting board to clutch Luke’s arm and send the future middle manager into a brief conniption of terror. Good stuff!

Phil, meanwhile, was terrorized by news that his neighbors were getting divorced. “Can you imagine? One minute you’re happily married, the next minute you’re completely by yourself,” he said to Claire, his voice trailing off pitifully on “yourself” when he realized she’d left the room mid-conversation. Let the escalation of/resolution to Phil and Claire’s miscommunications serve as a lesson to Hollywood’s current batch of rom-com screenwriters. Phil mumbling “I love you so much” into the creepy voice-altering mic? So painfully romantic, yet so flat-out funny. And Claire’s total elation standing out in the yard and listening to her crazy family carry out her strictly scripted Halloween traditions? Talk about the kind of simple-yet-joyous ending that Katherine Heigl/Jennifer Lopez/Kate Hudson wishes she had a chance to bring to life on the big screen. Not that any of ’em are a match for the marvelous Julie Bowen. (Take note, studio execs, the next time Ms. Bowen and Sofia Vergara take summer vacations.)

* The Pritchett-Delgado household was hurled into marital turmoil, too, when Jay fessed up to vo-lump-tuous Gloria that her English-as-a-second-language pronunciations weren’t, um, always 100 percent accurate. Not every punch line in this scenario landed — the “Hindenburg maneuver” and “car-pool tunnel syndrome” felt as fresh as a store-bought Snooki costume — but that car-phone exchange had me howling. “A bruja is a witch! A gar-golll is a gar-golll.” Just don’t ruin Claire’s Halloween, Jay explained, or she’ll turn into a real “rhymes with bruja.”

* And finally, we had Mitchell and Cam competing for the title of Worst Halloween Ever. Mitchell strapped on his buff Spider-Man suit in an effort to not be seen as the “non-participation guy” at his new job, only to discover that the sole costume-wearers at the office turned out to be “a tool, a douche,” and himself! A subsequent attempt to hit the men’s bathroom and put on a lawyer costume resulted in a soggy horror picture show. “All the rest of my clothes are all toilet-y!” he said to Cam via cellphone, coining a word that I’d be excited to try at home, if it didn’t mean I was going to have to interact with something, well, toilet-y.

NEXT: The one plotline that didn’t work, plus the 10 Best Lines/Moments from “Halloween.”

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