Affection is the word of the day in The Kiss, the second episode of Modern Family's second season. The kiss refers to several different storylines within the episode, particularly Mitchell's discontent with engaging in public displays of affection, which Cameron takes as an affront, and 13-year-old Alex's mortifying experience involving a potential first kiss. Her ultimate decision that there's no reason to rush into it nicely mirrors a storyline in No Ordinary Family, the premiere of which aired the day before, in which the teenage Daphne resists pressure to lose her virginity. It's nice to see these shows encouraging teenagers to show a bit of restraint when it comes to their hormones.

Late in the show, patriarch Jay's issues with affection come to the forefront after Mitchell's standoffishness leads to a spectacular pratfall and a frank family discussion. Several characters exchange kisses throughout the episode, but it's the embarrassed second-hand kiss - smooching his hand, then patting the recipient's face - that he shares with young Manny after tucking him in that strikes me as sweetest. Their awkward but increasingly close relationship is one of my favorites on the show.

I got a chuckle out of Mitchell's exasperation with Cameron's showboating, trying on outfit after outfit and asking for his opinion. I've never been one to find that sort of thing an engaging way to spend the afternoon, so I could really sympathize with Mitchell in that instance. Meanwhile, his list of moments that he considered unkissworthy was quite amusing, particularly the reference to Cameron's invention of the game Kissbuggy. I also loved his comment, upon being asked what Cameron, holding up two shirts, should leave the house with in the event of a fire, that "The correct answer is, take Lily." Lily still is too little to be much more than a prop, but it will be interesting to see how the character develops once she gets old enough to become a vital part of the show. Mitchell and Cameron's differing ideas of when and where it is appropriate to show affection offered great opportunities for physical comedy, and Eric Stonestreet had me in stitches toward the end of the episode.

In the season premiere, the Dunphys seemed to be coming closer together, but this week, Claire feels more disconnected from her children than ever. In particular, she wonders what is happening with Alex, the bookworm who has suddenly turned into a secretive teenager. When she stumbles upon some text messages Alex has been exchanging with a boy, it leads to a covert investigation, which leads to a heart-to-heart talk between Alex and her older sister Haley, which results in Alex taking her words to heart by deciding to march to the front door of the boy she's been texting and announce that she is willing to kiss him.

The funniest part of the whole debacle is the way the two girls gang up on their mother when Alex returns home, fuming, and the truth about Claire reading the text messages comes out. Oh, the chaotic potential inherent in having two teenage girls in the house! The show does have its more serious moments as well, such as when Claire finally decides to fess up to her own teenage misbehavior in an effort to demonstrate to Alex that the pain of humiliation grows less sharp with time. It's also nice to see Alex and Haley at least somewhat in cahoots, since more often than not, they are at each other's throats.

Ty Burrell's good-natured, rather dim-witted Phil is consistently hilarious, and in this episode, he reminds me of LOST's Desmond as he goes to epic lengths to prove himself worthy to his father-in-law. Okay, it's not a sailboat race around the world, it's just installing a printer. But that requires a lot of plugging and installing and banging around in the attic, and it turns into quite the ordeal. I couldn't help but think of Desmond lying on the floor in a pool of paint in the episode Flashes Before Your Eyes, in which we see his disastrous first meeting with his beloved's father, when the tidbit arose that the smell of paint causes waves of nausea to wash over Phil, an infirmity that is milked for humor several times in the episode.

Phil's printer escapade also dovetails hysterically with the storyline involving Luke and Manny being traumatized by Gloria's tales of her grandmother's ghost haunting the house. These two have very different personalities that clash almost as much as Alex and Haley's, but in this episode they have a chance to just be buddies, which is nice to see. (It just now occurred to me that the naming of the Dunphy girls could be a tribute to Alex Haley, the author of the book that was adapted into the epic mini-series Roots. Given that it's a story about several generations of one family and the struggles of some to preserve their culture or overcome prejudice, I can't help thinking that would be an appropriate nod.)

I love Gloria's vivacious personality. This is a woman who is certainly not afraid to show affection, as she demonstrated last season when she casually kissed Phil for the "kiss cam" at a ball game. She's happy to lavish love upon everyone in her extended family, though she also has a tendency to lash out if one of them does something to offend her. In this episode, her devotion to her late grandmother is evident as she prepares a traditional Colombian meal in her honor, as is her capacity for devious plotting, since she punishes Jay's jabs at her expense by inventing bizarre rituals and guilting him into following them.

Ed O'Neill, the only one of the major adult actors in the show not to receive an Emmy nomination for his work on the series, demonstrates a gentleness beneath Jay's gruff bluster that is making his turn as the crass Al Bundy on Married With Children more and more of a distant memory. While The Kiss is more generally comedic than the rather melancholy season opener, it's Jay's willingness to gradually open himself to more tenderness that remains with me most as the episode closes.