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Modern Family Recap: Slap the Chicken, Kiss Your Lover

At some point this fall, there will probably be an episode of Modern Family that doesn't come with big expectations, and what a relief that will be. Last week, there was the daunting task of launching one of last year's most beloved new series smoothly into its second season. (And they pulled it off. Yay!) But this week, the stakes may have been even higher: Two main characters were set to share a highly anticipated kiss (one that, we were told, resulted in some pretty worn-out smackers). So how'd all the non-traditionally combined domestic units fare this week?

The Pritchett-Dunphys
Claire seems to have moved on from mourning her kids' waning childhoods to obsessing over their barely blossoming adolescent personal lives, accidentally-on-purpose snooping at some messages on Alex's phone and becoming preoccupied with some boy she may or may not be text-flirting with. It's further revealed that Claire wasn't exactly a model teenager (“Your kids don't need to know who you were before you had them. They need to know who you wish you were, and they need to try to live up to that person,” she says), which Haley seems to suspect, but not enough that she won't go pry Alex for information at her mother's request. Here we get one of the most sisterly moments between the two girls so far: They've mostly just sniped at one another, Haley, too cool for Alex, and Alex, too smart for Haley, but now the presence of a boy and a dirt-hungry mom lower their defenses.

“I'm not talking about this,” a newly brace-faced Alex insists at first. “Oh come on, you're finally interesting!” Haley pries, finally urging her sister to kiss the kid lest he think she's a lesbian: “I thought you were, you totally have the sandals for it!” In one of the first real moments of insecurity we've seen from her, Alex's prickly, smarty-pants shell shatters, and she and her Tevas tear out of the house, down the street and to the boy's front door, where she misfires a Notting Hill reference and then declares, “I'm not a lesbian. I would like for you to kiss me.” For all the bookwormy girls who wore those same sandals and had those same fears but never quite the guts to run out and ring that doorbell, it's a moment of fist-pumping triumph. But then the boy's whole soccer team peeps out from behind the door and, as Alex's entire being disintegrates into a heap on the porch, reassembles itself, and zooms off down the street, we remember why we never gave it a shot. Meanwhile, Phil is finally called in to help his father-in-law with something tech-related, which is kind of his personal equivalent of having a girl show up on his front porch and asked to be kissed, actually.

The Pritchett-Delgados
“I love watching you stir.” This seems to be about as lovey-dovey as Jay's gonna get toward Gloria this week, as she stirs and chops and jiggles all over the kitchen while preparing a massive, traditional Colombian meal for the extended clan; by then, he's already questioned her choice of protein (pig intestines!) and mocked her for mentioning that her dead abuela had been visiting her in her dreams to warn her that she's losing touch with her family's roots. Understandably put out — but put out in a way that one assumes only a character played by Sofia Vergara can be put out — she ropes him into a particularly baffling process of Colombian food-prep custom: the part where you have to slap all the raw chicken and yell to ward off any lingering traces of death. Later, she drapes him with shoes, something about walking in the footsteps of ancestors. “I made all of that up,” she confesses. “You mess with us, we mess with you. That's the custom.” Meanwhile, Manny thinks his ghostly great-grandma is lurking in the house, but really it's just Phil; an accidental printer séance ensues.

Mitch seems spastic enough that having a list of kiss-worthy and non-kiss-worthy events doesn't seem too out of character, but of course those are both just symptoms of something larger: His father never showed him much affection, not as a kid and certainly not as a (gay) adult. But who can blame Jay? Over Gloria's elaborate family dinner of smacked chicken and nonspecifically prepared intestines, it's revealed that his dad wasn't too cuddly, either. It's some serious stuff, the kind some people might take years in therapy to untangle, but such is the power of Gloria that she can get a crew of spazzy white folks to both eat intestine and work out her husband's and his son's deep-seated physical-affection hang-ups in a fraction of the time it took Phil to successfully set up the damn printer. With the whole family following her lead and chanting “Kiss, kiss, kiss!” Jay and Mitch robotically embrace, do a couple of fake-out head bobs, and finally engage in a terse but mutual peck on the lips. It's not until everyone cheers and Mitch wanders back to sit on the arm of Cameron's overstuffed chair that those the two lean in close and trade a quick, smiling peck; it's in the background of a shot, utterly without fanfare, its sweetness eventually outdone by the mutually agreed upon non-kiss between Alex and soccer boy. Maybe rumors of Eric Stonestreet's sore lips were greatly exaggerated, or maybe they — like ours, by episode's end — just hurt from all the damn smiling.

Mitch seems spastic enough that having a list of kiss-worthy and non-kiss-worthy events doesn't seem too out of character, but of course those are both just symptoms of something larger: His father never showed him much affection, not as a kid and certainly not as a (gay) adult. But who can blame Jay? Over Gloria's elaborate family dinner of smacked chicken and nonspecifically prepared intestines, it's revealed that his dad wasn't too cuddly, either. It's some serious stuff, the kind some people might take years in therapy to untangle, but such is the power of Gloria that she can get a crew of spazzy white folks to both eat intestine and work out her husband's and his son's deep-seated physical-affection hang-ups in a fraction of the time it took Phil to successfully set up the damn printer. With the whole family following her lead and chanting “Kiss, kiss, kiss!” Jay and Mitch robotically embrace, do a couple of fake-out head bobs, and finally engage in a terse but mutual peck on the lips. It's not until everyone cheers and Mitch wanders back to sit on the arm of Cameron's overstuffed chair that those the two lean in close and trade a quick, smiling peck; it's in the background of a shot, utterly without fanfare, its sweetness eventually outdone by the mutually agreed upon non-kiss between Alex and soccer boy. Maybe rumors of Eric Stonestreet's sore lips were greatly exaggerated, or maybe they — like ours, by episode's end — just hurt from all the damn smiling.

Photo: Mitch Haddad/ABC