Jay forces the family to take their family vacation on a houseboat on a lake in an effort to create memories that will last long after he's gone. Meanwhile, Mitchell runs into an old flame that opens some old wounds; Cam has to stay out of the sun at all costs; Phil and Claire try out some adventureous excursions; and the kids' quest for a good time may not be as fun as they expected.
Phil and Claire realize that Alex may be more self-sufficient in college than they thought; Manny works to avoid a tearful goodbye after Gloria and Jay move him into his dorm; Hayley gets an unexpected opportunity.
Phil thinks he's going to have a day of bad luck after he doesn't complete his daily superstition, but Claire has no time for his silly notion. Meanwhile, Mitch believes Cam is undermining him during their kitchen renovation.
Jay's best friend, Shorty, is back from Costa Rica and stays at the house so they can catch up and reconnect. However, Shorty is spending more time with Gloria and seems to be avoiding Jay. Meanwhile, Alex is ready to shed her good-girl image and is going to prove to Claire that her relationship with Ben is definitely a sexual one.
Phil and Claire still want to celebrate Halloween in a big way, but it seems no one shares their same enthusiasm making them wonder if maybe everyone is right. Over at the Pritchett's, Mitch and Cam are frustrated by how long Jay is taking to finish their kitchen remodel, which forces Mitch to finally stand up to his dad. Meanwhile, Gloria's hospitality is wearing thin when Cam oversteps his boundaries as a house guest.
Claire is determined to make up for her less-than-joyful mood at Jay and Gloria's wedding by throwing their tenth-anniversary party.
During Jay's Thanksgiving toast, he honors the entire family on their recent successes, even though everyone knows that isn't quite true. As everyone desperately tries to hide the facts about their perceived triumphs, Phil works hard to master a classic magic trick and prove he's not the family failure,.
The family recount all their biggest celebrity encounters; Phil shows a house to his musical hero; Jay's day at jury duty takes an unexpected turn; Manny's encounter with his favorite playwright doesn't go as expected.
After leaving his real estate firm to strike out on his own, Phil decides a solo camping trip in the wild will be just what he needs to boost his confidence; Mitchell's plan to teach Cam and Lily each a lesson backfires.
When Claire lands a big opportunity for Pritchett's Closets, Jay expects validation for his contribution; Pam's ex-boyfriend shows up and Mitchell sees this as an opportunity to get Pam out of the house; Luke and Alex find a business opportunity.
Claire's request to build a "She Shed" in their backyard is denied by the homeowners association and only Luke and Phil know the real reason why. Meanwhile Pameron lets Cam in on a family secret that forces him to visit Mitch's therapist to work through this new information.
Gloria has to rush Phil to the hospital for an emergency surgery after he experiences some intense stomach pains and rallies the entire family to be by his side.
When Luke goes missing after a night out in a sketchy neighborhood, Manny, Phil and Gloria team up to track him down. Meanwhile, Haley is desperate to land an interview with the creator of a popular lifestyle website and interrupts Alex during one of her college classes. Alex's professor, Arvin Fennerman, then proceeds to try and give Haley a piece of his mind.
Phil thinks that Gloria is upset at Jay for dropping the ball on Valentine's Day, so he convinces Jay to spice things up with a little role playing that doesn't go off as planned. Meanwhile, Mitch and Cam may have unwittingly ruined Luke's Valentine's Day date and are forced to make things right.
When Jay overhears Gloria on the phone talking about spanking, he assumes she is frustrated in the bedroom. When he attempts to light the spark again by giving her exactly what she wants, he realizes he might have made a mistake. Meanwhile, now that Mitchell has an amazing new job, he and Cam throw a party to rub it in Cam's friends' faces so they can no longer give him "the look of pity".
The family goes on a wine-tasting trip and stays in Haley's new boss' country house where the only rule is: Don't touch the tiara. Meanwhile, Gloria and Mitch are invited to a party at Oprah's house but can't bring anyone else.
Haley's brilliant astrophysicist boyfriend comes to meet the family, setting Claire and Phil off in a competition about which one of them is smarter, making Alex feel self-conscious about her dim but handsome firefighter boyfriend, Bill. Mitch and Cam go on a yoga retreat, but when Cam finds out his dream team, the Kansas City Royals, is having spring training next door, he can't resist sneaking out.
When Gloria's ex-boyfriend Jorge stops by for a visit, his striking resemblance to Manny makes Jay uneasy. Phil agonizes over getting the perfect anniversary gift for Claire. Lily gets into a fight at school over bras.
When Haley hears that her loopy boss is looking for a product with the magical properties of peppers, she tries to gain favor by convincing Gloria to sell her salsa to NERP. Mitchell gets Cam the police ride-along he's always dreamed of.
When Dede drops in unexpectedly, Mitchell and Cam come to a realization about her effect on their lives; Phil, Luke, Alex and Haley all have different bad news to break to Claire and compete about when to do it, the tiny window of time after her monthly spa day when she's her most relaxed.
Haley meets Arvin's parents but when things don't go as planned, fate leads to an unexpected reunion with all of her ex-boyfriends. Meanwhile, the family seizes on a nursing home visit with Jay's mean sister, Becky, to settle old scores. But as Jay, Claire and Mitchell compete for her time, Phil, Cam and Gloria end up getting trapped in the home's basement with no way out.
Mitchell sneaks out to "Hero-Con" with fanboy Phil, dressed as their favorite characters from the show "Clash of Swords". It's great until Phil commits the ultimate fan faux pas. In a clash of another kind, Gloria's dinosaur party for Joe is ruined when her nemesis, Dr. Donna Duncan, upstages her with a far bigger and better party right next door.