"Express Christmas" is the tenth episode and mid-season finale from Season 3 of Modern Family, it aired on December 7, 2011.

Plot Summary

With everyone departing for different destinations over Christmas, the Dunphy-Pritchetts plan an "Express Christmas" to be set up in less than 24 hours, and things get a little out of hand. Phil and Manny purchase the turkey, Claire and Haley shop for gifts, Gloria and Luke retrieve the angel from the attic, Mitch, Lily, and Alex are assigned to tree duty, while Jay and Cam wrap the gifts already bought.

Episode Description

Ironic how a family like the Pritchett-Dunphy clan are not the greatest planners when it comes to Christmas. As everybody lays out at Jay's pool, they discover their mom, DeDe, canceled her trip to see them. She put it in her newsletter, but nobody read that after the second page after she went on and on about the bird she saved (which died anyway). Mitchell and Cameron are going to visit family in Missouri, much to the shock of Claire, who thought it weird they had to travel to Missouri to meet the family. Jay, Gloria, and Manny were going to Mexico City on the 25th, where Luke informed Manny kids get kidnapped all the time. Not to worry, though. According to Gloria, kids get kidnapped just as much in the States, so Manny had nothing to worry about. Since Claire, Phil, and their family were leaving for an early Christmas thinking their mom would want to see them on Christmas Day, the only day the entire family had to celebrate was...right when they were talking about this on December 16th. But Phil had the answer: Express Christmas (TM). Yes, he trademarked it.

They put together the plan: Mitchell and Alex would get the tree, Phil and Manny would get the food, Claire and Haley would get their family gifts, Jay would wrap gifts using Cameron's mobile wrapping station.

PHIL: Dinner at our house at six! Let's move! On Dasher (Claire)! On Dancer (Mitchell)! On Prancer (Cameron)! On Vixen (Gloria)! Hey, that kind of worked out.

Gloria sent Luke into the attic to get the angel his Nana (DeDe) made for Claire and Mitchell. However, telling Luke to look was a bit problematic for Gloria. And Luke punching a hole in the ceiling with his foot didn't help, either.

Claire, thankfully, had an ace in the hole when it came to shopping. Haley was in her element.

Mitchell was being a bit OCD with finding the tree, but Alex was understanding about it. However, when the salesman pointed to a pine tree, she went off on him for being homophobic. Mitchell was quite proud...except the salesman was pointing to the truck behind the tree, which was full of eight-foot Douglas firs, which was exactly what Mitchell wanted. (Take a guess if they got the guy to tie the tree to the roof of their car.)

Cameron found an interesting metaphor for Jay using so much tape on gifts: how Jay doesn't let people in. Cameron wants to know, but Jay wants to know why he's wearing a sweater when it's 95 degrees out. Cam actually had a present for Jay: the wine cork from when they watched football together five years ago. Jay wasn't sure why Cam was doing it, given Jay couldn't even remember his anniversary, but Cam was distraught for "investing too much" in relationships. (He even had a duplicate bottle of wine with the date and score of the game.)

Haley had gotten every gift except a ladybug nightlight for Lily. She saw a man take the last one and thought she'd let the bikini she was still wearing do the talking. Only the man was on the phone talking to his boyfriend. However, the salesperson at Target was straight and willing to loan Haley his work shirt. She offered to bring the man's merchandise to the front of the store. It was a good thing, too, as Claire was holding up a line of ticked-off shoppers with purchases of gum.

Phil has the groceries, but now he had to meet someone he talked to on Craigslist about getting a signed Joe DiMaggio card for Jay. In a deserted alley. Of course, Manny thought this was unsafe and even more so when the guy tried to haggle with Phil (completely innocent). Manny gets paranoid and pulls out the stun gun Gloria had for emergencies. Only Phil tries to stop him and gets tased. But the man negotiated it down to $225 and the Butterball. It would have helped if Manny knew the guy wanted the turkey and not him. Phil gets the mint-condition card, which he proceeds to ruin because he's still shaking off the effects of the taser gun. Now the card looks like Mitchell's Christmas tree when he stopped short to avoid a car and the tree fell off. The car he tried to avoid? Gloria and Luke, who ran over the tree. Gloria is confident that they are okay thanks to the guardian angel... and promptly tosses it out the sunroof because there was a spider on it, which is presumably flattened along with the angel when the car behind them runs it over.

To recap at home: Cameron and Jay still aren't talking, Claire's "gum delay" at Target helped, Gloria and Luke put the angel back together, Mitchell, Alex, and Lily brought in the tree (in three parts), and the Butterball finally arrived. (MANNY: I have a name!) Claire was upset that Phil could only bring home some Cornish game hens, which weren't even cooked. That's when Phil loses it and tries to defrost them...with Gloria's stun gun. (PHIL: MERRY! FREAKING! CHRISTMAS!) Mitchell discovers the broken angel and goes off, as does Claire. Gloria stops both of them and tells them what their real problem is: they both miss their mother, who used to give them the angel and bake cookies, and now she tells them everything in a newsletter. She insisted Claire and Mitchell give their new mommy a hug. The mommy was their age. Jay insists everybody just join him at a local Chinese restaurant for a traditional Jewish Christmas. And everybody heads out the door...right into a blizzard, courtesy of the man Jay hired to blow artificial snow on the lawn. It was all a setup by Jay, who actually hates Chinese food.

JAY: You want to hug me, don't you. OK, four to five seconds.

CAMERON: (excited) Forty-five seconds?!?

JAY: FOUR to FIVE seconds.

Everybody finally enjoyed themselves.

GLORIA: (interview) Family is family. Whether it's the one you start out with, the one you end up with, or the family you gain along the way. Which makes every day December 16th.

Main Cast

(The characters striked out do not appear in this episode)

  • Jay Pritchett
  • Gloria Pritchett
  • Manny Delgado
  • Claire Dunphy
  • Phil Dunphy
  • Haley Dunphy
  • Alex Dunphy
  • Luke Dunphy
  • Mitchell Pritchett
  • Cameron Tucker
  • Lily Tucker-Pritchett

Guest Starring

  • Ron Roggé as Craigslist Guy
  • Eric Petersen as Tree Salesman
  • Kamen Edwards as Shopper



  • This is the last episode to air in 2011.
  • Gloria is revealed to have a fear of spiders and keep a stun gun in the glove compartment in this episode.
  • This is the first episode to have every characters mixed.

Cultural References