When Claire and Mitchell learn that their mom will not be coming home for the holidays, the rest of the family realizes they won't be together for Christmas either. Phil says ho-ho-hold up a sec as he proposes an Express Christmas ™. It's when you can't have the holiday on the 25th, so you scramble to do it on the 16th!
Everyone is given an assignment to put together an instant holiday in just four short hours. Claire inspires her firstborn daughter to make use of her all her mall experience to tackle one monster shopping list. Haley is up for the challenge as she skillfully swipes a gift for Lily from an unsuspecting shopper. She's clearly filled with the Christmas spirit.
Cam notices that his reluctant gift wrap partner, Jay, uses lots of tape. It's fitting for a fellow who likes to keep himself closed off from others. Of course, that doesn't stop Cam from trying to get in. He gives Jay an early Christmas gift. It's a cork from a bottle of wine they shared while watching a football game years ago. Jay remembers the game well. Actually, he doesn't remember it at all. This sends Cam into an emotional tizzy.
Luke and Gloria are tasked with getting the angel tree-topper down from the attic. That happens to be the location where Jay hid his beloved Dog Butler. Needless to say, Gloria freaks when she sees "El Diablo." All is well once they find the angel until they hit the road to head back to Luke's house. More on that in a moment.
Mitchell and Alex hit the Christmas tree lot where they effectively insult a worker who was simply trying to help them out. Embarrassed, they snag the nearest tree and strap it to the roof of the car. When Mitchell stops short, the tree flies into the middle of the road. Gloria happens to be driving by and crushes the tree. She then tosses the angel out of the car when she sees a spider on it. Smash!
Phil makes a pit stop after picking up a precooked turkey to complete a Craigslist deal for a vintage Joe DiMaggio baseball card for Jay. Manny, who is on edge about being kidnapped during an upcoming Mexico trip, waits in the car. The card seller wants more money and the Butterball he sees in the car. The paranoid kid seated on the passenger's side doesn't realize the stranger is referencing the turkey resting in a shopping bag.
A paranoid Manny thinks he's about to be abducted, so he tries to zap the guy with his mom's stun gun. Unfortunately, Phil's the one who gets immobilized. Still-resonating shockwaves cause him to involuntarily crush the pricey Yankee Clipper card. Jay's gift is ruined, as is the tree and the angel. Oh, and the Butterball is gone, too (the turkey, not Manny).
Gloria uses some Christmas gum to repair the angel. She'll need a few more big sticks if there's any chance of keeping the severed tree Mitchell brings home upright. A twitching Phil freaks as he tries to defrost some replacement Cornish game hens with the stun gun. It's all part of a shockingly bad Express Christmas™.
Gloria knows the reason Claire and Mitchell are taking this particular holiday so hard is because their mom canceled on them. She gives them both a much-needed motherly hug. Jay offers to take the entire family out for Chinese food. It's his way of shuffling everyone out the front door where the snow-making machine workers he hired have created a winter wonderland for his family.
Yes, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas even though it's only December 16th. Everyone has great fun playing in the snow. As for Jay, he unwraps his gruff exterior long enough to let Cam give him a quick holiday hug. It's a Christmas miracle!