When an episode is titled "The Last Halloween," it begins to hit home that we're really coming to the end of the road with the various members of the Pritchett family.
Halloween has always been special on this long-running ABC hit, so high expectations set the tone for Modern Family Season 11 Episode 5.
Claire and Phil were up to their old tricks, but the surprise of the installment was that it almost got as melancholy as we feel knowing the end is near.
But before we get to the sweeter side of "The Last Halloween," it wouldn't have been a costumed holiday if Phil and Claire weren't trying to one-up each other.
Oh, who am I kidding? Is there any holiday that doesn't evoke their competitive sides?
The fun part about Halloween between this particular couple is how much Phil hates being scared. With a wife like Claire, it's a neverending horror movie for the poor guy because Claire is a master while he often finds himself lacking.
Claire: Oh, how cute. You tried to scare me for Halloween
Phil: How in the world did that not frighten you? Some of this is my actual blood! I knicked myself putting it on.
Claire: Sweetie, you don't know the first thing about scaring people. It's all about plausibility. And you were awfully casual for a guy that just got an ax in the chest. You know, if you really wanted to scare me, you should have waited until I opened the closet and found you hanging by a necktie.
Phil: Excuse me! I killed myself?!
Claire: Yeah, totally plausible. I mean, you've been so happy all these years, the other shoe is bound to drop, right?
But THIS Halloween was different, not that we knew that until the bitter end. But the writing should have been on the wall from the onset.
Phil and Claire have been happily married for a very long time. Just as Claire knows how to poke Phil's buttons, it would have been pretty unrealistic to suggest that going to traditional routes to scare Claire was going to work.
That he USED how well she thinks she knows him to beat her at her own game was perfect. And what worked on Claire worked on viewers, too.
Come on, even if we should have seen it coming, Phil is usually the last one to punk Claire, so his win was a shock.
Even Phil was momentarily shocked out of his well-honed plan when Claire seemed to believe his impending suicide wouldn't be a surprise.
It worked very well to drive her in another direction, though. She felt victorious knowing that she was walking away unscathed once again.
Every step of the way, Phil lured his unsuspecting wife toward her best Halloween moment in years.
I was a little more susceptible to the plausibility of Phil losing again because of the Bless This Mess Halloween installment. Over there, Mike has as much of a fear fetish as Claire, and Rio's attempt to turn the tables on him resulted in both of them getting rabies.
But that's a new series. Modern Family characters are well established, and Phil spent an entire year preparing for Claire's big moment in the spotlight.
Using his business to set the stage in an unoccupied home was genius, and it's perfectly Phil to have wanted to succeed so badly that he got as into it as he did. The real shame is that he was having so much fun in the preparation, and Claire will never fully appreciate that.
After all, she's going to expect him to do better year in and year out, and even though Phil hates getting scared, he'll have to watch her like a hawk to avoid any jumpscares next Halloween.
It's kind of fun to imagine that this could be the holiday that finally sends them to divorce court. Can Phil possible follow up this ode to Pschyo? He'd have to have started last year!
It was hilarious that Alex and Luke both used the standby "I'm pregnant" joke to get the ball rolling. Phil immediately screamed NO while Claire was already thinking logically on the matter.
Janice is their age. If she were pregnant, it would have made the news. Hahaha! Yep, Claire was feeling far too superior on Halloween. Her scare didn't last long, but she got a big one nonetheless.
The rest of the Luke/Alex stuff was sweet rather than interesting.
They were at each other's breakups to offer kind words about why they each deserved better than they just lost.
The sweeter stories remained with Cam, Mitchell, and Lily.
Lily is finally old enough to spend Halloween on her own, and that meant Cam and Mitchell could go out and frolic with people half their age, but not quite as young as their daughter. Score!
The vigor with which the Pritchett family embraces life is really going to be missed. Cam, in particular, never lets a moment for embellishment go by, and his last-minute costume was terrific.
Cam: Mitchell? Judge... Judy!
Mitchell: Your talent. It's like you were touched by a Gayngel.
As much as getting older allows them to explore the life they had before Lily, there is nothing like connecting with their daughter to get them through the day.
Once they spotted her potentially frolicking with a kid who used deodorant at nine and beer on Lily's "Insta," they were all over tracking her down.
Oh my God! Can you adopt a second child to take some of this off me?Lily
But it wasn't what they expected at all. Instead of Lily partying down, she was let down because a boy she liked didn't like her back.
Sure, that's horrible for any parent to hear, but once she phrased it just right, it was the moment both men needed to share something from their heart with their girl. They have all suffered rejection from a boy they liked.
So while it's sometimes nice to imagine going back to the way things were, the progress you've made in life is what hits the spot.
Jay, too, was walking down memory lane and inadvertently dragging Gloria with him as they both dealt with the realities of aging.
For Jay, it was the discovery of a beloved candy bar from his youth that he wanted to share with Joe. Once upon a time, Jay would have done anything to try to escape his children, but now he enjoys their time together, and Joe's decision to trick or treat with friends broke Jay's heart.
His quest for the candy bar isn't foreign to me. There are pieces of my youth that I've gone to the ends of the earth to duplicate, and wouldn't you know that chocolate is at the center of some of that, too?
Candy can be so magical and evoke such beautiful memories of a specific time that having it again sometimes seems like it will be a magical cure.
Manny: Perhaps this candy bar represents your lost innocence?
Jay: It represents delicious chocolate. Now, you're sure you gave it to a Spider-Man?
Manny wasn't dressed up as Sigmund Freud for nothing! That kid can rip right to the heart of those he loves, and he was at Jay's side when Jay finally realized how badly he wanted one of his kids to be with him.
But Manny's presence as an old dude did absolutely nothing for his mother. Gloria's Halloween nightmare is that people finally recognize her as Jay's wife.
All Gloria wanted was to remain young. While she was whining about her fate, she didn't even bother to understand that Jay and his candy bar represented the same thing, in a way.
While he's not worried about his looks, he does want to touch that excitement he had for life when he was young, and passing it down to his youngest was his plan.
Gloria was clinging to anything and anybody who offered her solace. When she leaned right into being old with the old Boy Scout, I thought maybe she had lost her zest for life altogether.
Gloria: Manny! How many times have I told you not to call me mom when you're dressed like an old man!
Manny: Including now? Once.
All she needed was the acknowledgment of some like-minded individuals to perk her up again.
Gloria's naivete, while she danced happily, winning the Drag Queen contest, was the perfect cap to the night. Everyone got what they wanted, and we know that for years to come, they'll be there for each other on Halloween.
Unfortunately, they won't be there for us. We'll have to watch Modern Family online to play with this family on Halloween again. Can you even stand it??
What did you like best about "The Last Halloween?"
Are you ready to say goodbye after 11 seasons?
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.