"Strangers on a Treadmill" is the fourth episode from Season 2 of Modern Family, it aired on October 13, 2010.

Plot Summary

Claire and Mitchell enlist each other's help in trying to spare their significant others from embarrassment - Cameron from his unfortunate wardrobe choices, and Phil from his joke-ridden speech for the realtors' banquet. Meanwhile Jay tries to prove a point to Gloria by attending a quincenera thrown by one of his employees, and Haley gives Alex sisterly advice on how to be cool.

Episode Description

Claire doesn't have the heart to tell Phil that he isn't funny. It would probably be a good idea to tell him that before he gives the keynote speech at SCARB (Southern California Annual Realtor's Banquet). Phil has to replace Gil Thorpe, who is out sick. Claire blames herself because she laughs at Phil's jokes, even when they're not funny. Still, it has to be better than Mitchell's problem with Cameron: Cameron wears bicycle shorts. Mitchell brings up the problem while he's doing troga (treadmill & yoga) to Claire. They decide to handle each sibling's problem. Mitchell will talk to Phil, and Claire will talk to Cameron.

While Jay tries to avoid going to the 15th birthday party of one of his employees' daughters...which naturally, Gloria will drag him to kicking and screaming.

Alex has the opportunity to hang out with a popular girl in school, Mackenzie. Mackenzie is giving Alex the runaround, and Haley feels that will damage the family reputation. She decides it's time to convert Alex from smart to popular so she can hang out with that crowd.

Alex concedes she wants to be popular. Lesson 1: Haley tells Alex to hang up on Mackenzie when she calls. Alex doesn't want to do it, but Haley will hold her mobile phone hostage until she does. Alex succeeds but feels awful about it.

Claire gently broaches the subject of Cameron's bicycle shorts...while he's wearing them. She tries, and Cameron thanks her for her honesty. Then he goes into his room and cries. Meanwhile, Mitchell hears another one of Phil's jokes for his speech. Luke loves it, naturally. But Mitchell chickens out and says he loves it, too.

At the party, Gloria mingles with the crowd. But Jay enlists Manny's help to prove he knows his employees. Jay bribes Manny to introduce himself to each of the employees so Jay learns their names. A good plan...only all three of them accidentally walked into the wrong party. They were at an engagement party instead of the Quinceañera. Of course, Jay doesn't know this and tries to introduce her to a couple of his employees.

Mitchell is back at the house, and Cameron, his bicycle shorts, and his blurry circle are all up in arms about what Claire said to him. Mitchell pretends to back him, and Claire calls to chew him out. Mitchell defends Cam and his shorts to the hilt until he goes outside, then half-apologizes for telling Phil he is this generation's Richard Pryor. He thinks he doesn't have to be sorry, since Cameron was still wearing the stupid bicycle shorts. And overhearing him tell Claire about them. And Cameron returns to his room to cry.

Claire knows she has to own up to telling Phil he's not funny. That, or she can steal the notes for his speech from his coat pocket. Cameron is still ticked at Mitchell, but Mitch tries to tell him that he wanted to be honest with Cam. He also wants Cam to say anything he wants about his appearance. Cameron tells Mitchell he hates the beard. It was a sucker punch to the gonads, but Mitchell owns up to it since he started it. He goes to shave the beard, since his boyfriend doesn't like it. But Cam stops stroke of the razor late, but it could be worse. Cameron was feeling insecure because he thought Mitchell was way better-looking than him, but Mitch apologizes. Cam says he can make it up by doing his shoulders, so Mitch gets the razor out.

Alex has done such a good job ignoring Mackenzie, Haley feels like she has an actual sister. Mackenzie finally calls back, and Alex continues to act aloof, saying she might be able to come to the party, but she may have to do homework. Oops. Then Haley panics, which causes Alex to panic, and Alex is back to being smart again instead of popular.

Phil freaks out at losing his notes, but Claire tells him to just speak from the heart. He goes up there, starts by thanking the SCARB board, his family, and Gil Thorpe's colon. Which gets laughter. It turns out shooting from the hip makes him very funny.

Jay is happy to have met all of his employees, even though they weren't. He was so happy, in fact, "El Jefe" picks up the bar tab for everybody at the engagement party. He wants to make a speech, but the lovely 15-year-old wants to dance. Only she's 22, and that's not her father dancing with her. Certainly not when "dad" puts his hand on the girl's behind and kisses her passionately. And Jay can't believe the crowd is applauding it.

Phil and Claire return home and Phil tells her that he knows that she stole his index cards. She apologizes profusely because she thought she was protecting him. Phil loves that she worries about him. Someone could use that right now: Alex, who was crying in the middle of the living room after scaring her friends away.

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

Guest Starring

  • Reggie De Leon as D.J.
  • Luis Jose Lopez as Bartender
  • Lexi Medrano as Little Girl
  • Laura Leyva as Julio's Wife
  • Marcus DeAnda as Groom
  • Myrna Velasco as Bride


  • Julie Bowen won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance in this episode.

Cultural References