From Oprah's surprisingly low-key farewell to the year's most soul-crushing break-up on The Good Wife (Kalicia, no!), the year was packed with fantastic hours of television — pretty much all of which we watched. There were teary goodbyes (Friday Night Lights' Texas forever! Smallville's tights and flights!), tense face-offs (why can't all CIA interrogations take place on the front porch of a cabin, like on Homeland?) and of course we made room for a little Glee (because certain underdogs deserved it). Which made the list. Tune in all week for our top 25.
Here's the second batch in our weeklong countdown of 2011's best episodes (Catch up first with Episodes 25-21):
20. "Caught in the Act," Modern Family
Straight out of the Three Company's handbook, the Emmy-winning episode built on a misunderstanding that's not exactly novel: Gloria accidentally emailed naked pictures of herself, intended for Jay, to Claire and Phil, who have also just scarred their own kids by being caught in the act. ("Whatever it was, it looked like dad was winning," Luke says of his parents' love-making.)
19. "To Be, Act 1," Sons of Anarchy
Season 4's penultimate episode is a fascinating battle of wills between the show's female power players. Gemma (Katey Sagal) makes her big move, showing Jax the way to his seat as the head of the SAMCRO motorcycle club, while Jax's girlfriend Tara (Maggie Siff) out-Gemmas Gemma by making plans for she and Jax to leave Charming — and Gemma — forever. "What are you doing?" a stunned Gemma asks. "Everything you taught me," Tara replies. SAMCRO may be a boys' club, but it's the old ladies who keep surprising us.
18. "Let the Sun Shine In," Men of a Certain Age
Three 50-something men get colonoscopies, play golf and gripe about life — the perfect recipe for an hour of compelling TV, no? Well, no, but when Joe, Terry and Owen take a road trip to Palm Springs to get their colons checked, the pain of enlightenment isn't just, you know, physical. It will be a long time before we, ahem, fill the void left by this touching series, but it was episodes like this that make us realize we're just thankful that this quirky little show ever made it on the air.
17. "Getting Off," The Good Wife
This is the episode where Kalinda cries, an event that in and of itself qualifies as earth-shattering in the life of this stoic character. The tears come after Alicia (Julianna Margulies) tells Kalinda that she knows that she slept with her husband. The face-off between Emmy winners Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi is chilling, particularly since it would be their last scene together for a long while. Bonus: Sarah Silverman, in a rare dramatic turn, guest-stars as the owner of a website that facilitates adulterous affairs.
16. "The Spoil," Justified
It's hard to highlight a single episode of Margo Martindale's Emmy-winning season as Mags Bennett, but her rousing speech in "The Spoil." Martindale's effortless, smooth-as-Mags' homemade moonshine delivery reminds us how smart a villain she is, and how much of a fight she's willing to put up to protect her people's "way of livin' and dyin.'" And while Mags' icy mean streak didn't fully come out until the following episode, her actions in this hour put us on serious red alert.