- During an arc where the family travels to Washington DC, this exchange at the Vietnam memorial:(Roger is looking at the wall with a sad expression)
Andy: He was your father's best friend's older brother.
Peter: I'm an older brother...
- One strip has Jason standing in front of a snow dinosaur and imagining what he could do if it were real. The last panel has Jason walking away disappointed, and the snow dinosaur sheds a tear.
- One early Sunday strip plays out like this... until the final panel. Andy notices that the only item on Jason's Christmas list is "coal," and when she asks Jason about it, he launches into a self-hating diatribe about what a rotten kid he is and how coal's exactly what he deserves. Andy tries to comfort him but fails, and as Jason walks away in tears, she sheds a tear herself. The final panel breaks the mood, revealing that the tears are a ploy to tug on Andy's heartstrings so she'll get Jason some extra-cool Christmas presents.
- Roger's favorite cartoon strip since he was a kid, Captain Goofball, gets replaced by a new comic strip and Jason comments on how Captain Goofball was dumb. Roger's reply is almost heartbreaking. "Captain Goofball was NOT dumb! At least, not thirty years ago when it really mattered!...to me..."
- The beginning of the "His Codename Was The Fox" arc, where Roger realizes that, out of his graduating class, he is the only one that never really went on to be some kind of professional success. His facial expressions alone are very telling in terms of how he's taking the news. It was as though, for two or three days, Amend decided to deconstruct Roger's Butt-Monkey status rather than simply play it for laughs. Even afterward, Andy was trying to figure out how to tell him that his novel was terrible.
- Combined with a dose of Fridge Horror, an earlier arc hinted at Roger still having great potential to be such a success. In that arc, Roger quit his job to spend more time with his family. After opting to return to work, his boss basically outright said that the work Roger was doing would have easily made him worth a six-figure salary in any other company.
- One storyline early on had Jason wake up at midnight on Christmas to open all his presents. While the first two strips were funny, the following three showed Jason deeply saddened by not being able to share the joy of opening presents with his family. The final one ends on a Heartwarming Moment, though, as Andy gives Jason a present meant for Roger for him to share. Granted, Roger didn't volunteer that present, but the way he held Andy in the last panel made it clear he understood.Roger: I thought I wanted that sweater.
Andy: Someone else wanted it more.
- When Jason is hospitalized for falling off the roof, Peter, who feels responsible, stays up all night with him and gives a very tearful, heartfelt apology. Anyone who has accidentally hurt a sibling knows exactly how he feels.
- Jason in the meantime is understandably furious at his brother for getting him hurt. As he points out, Peter was the one who tossed the football on the roof, and Peter made Jason climb up to get it. It says something that Andy when she finds out what happens suggests she's going to ground Peter. When Peter stays with him at the hospital, Jason makes it clear he hasn't forgiven his brother, but only isn't taking revenge because Peter stayed the night with him.
- The story arc in 1989 where Peter decided to break up with Denise, using the excuse that he wanted to date other girls so he could be ready for the hedonism of college. They did eventually reconcile, but Denise's initial reaction to the breakup is heartrending.Denise: I always knew you were juvenile! I always knew you were thoughtless! I never knew you were inconsiderate! But I never thought you were mean! [begins sobbing quietly] I hate you!
Peter: [to himself] That makes two of us.
Denise: Just go away.
Peter: You're mad. I understand.
Denise: I'm not mad! I'm not mad at all! Now just go away and leave me alone!
Peter: [walking away] It's OK. You have every right to be mad.
Denise: And another thing - I don't need your stupid permission to be mad! I can be mad whenever I want to be! However, I'm NOT mad! I'm not mad at all, you jerk! [sobbing] I'm just hurt.
- Amend's tribute to Steve Jobs.
- Even more depressing when you realize that they scrapped the old iFruit for a new one resembling an iMac G5 starting in 2007.
- Andy's mother issues, which come with her being a "Well Done, Son" Guy and The Resenter for the fact that apparently everyone prefers Andy's mother to her, even her friends from the seventh grade. Most people in the story arc blame Andy for her mother issues, even though they've been building up over time and they don't go away overnight.
- Andy even mentions that she takes a lot of antacids, and not for the calcium.
- Even worse is when she tells her mother that Roger called the latter "perfect" and has never said that about Andy. In addition he joins in on the kids celebrating that "Grandma" is coming for Christmas on the grounds that she gives really good presents, and keeps chiding Andy for being resentful even as he spends more time with "Grandma".Andy: How do you think it makes ME feel?!
Grandma: Not as half as bad as it makes me feel.
Andy: Gee ... a perfect answer. How surprising.
- And for "Grandma" herself, seeing that just by being The Ace and a Cool Old Lady that she's enabled Andy to develop these issues. She's rightfully upset when she hears Andy grumbling about how she's waiting for her mother to leave, but is willing to listen to her about why Andy is feeling this way. The next day, after switching their presents to the kids, she tells Andy You Are Better Than You Think You Are and allows Andy to have the limelight on Christmas.Peter, Paige and Jason: WE LOVE YOU, MOM!
Andy: You switched our gifts, didn't you?
Grandma: Even the truth need a little help now and then.
- The followup Thanksgiving arc is Played for Laughs, mainly, with Andy stressing over making the perfect dinner and not allowing her mother to help. She tries to impress her mother by making an elaborate dinner, which ends up going in smoke. Literally. What makes it a Heartwarming Moment AND a Tear Jerker? After Andy gets Heroic BSoD following the disaster of a dinner, "Grandma" tells Andy that she was the same way with her mother, showing that she's not all that perfect and was once a Lethal Chef as well.
- The arc right after Hurricane Katrina starts with Andy asking Roger if he remembers the weekend in New Orleans right after they were married, and "how alive and wonderful it was". After he says, "How could I forget?" Andy replies, "Let's hope no one does." And it ends with Jason deciding to give his allowance to hurricane victims, saying "it's the right thing for me to do." Roger then gives him a hug, saying it's the right thing for him to do.
- The strip that came out after 9/11. Andy and Roger are seen watching TV with sad looks on their faces. The last panel shows Andy crying and Roger asking "Wasn't there a time where we enjoyed watching television?"
- Roger is so sad that he donates blood, despite being scared of needles. Jason is very surprised by this.
- The Love Letter Lunacy arc. Normally this trope would be played for laughs, and at first it is when Paige acts as a Cute Clumsy Girl from the thrill of having a secret admirer. Then it's revealed that Peter is writing the letters, and laughing at how gullible and "stupid" his sister is. The kicker is that he writes a note saying that her admirer will meet her outside, makes her wait in the rain for several hours, and comes out with an umbrella, revealing it was a joke. Then he starts laughing. When a sodden Paige responds by saying she thought hell would be warmer than this, and keeps glaring at him as they go home, he insensitively says she doesn't have a sense of humor. By the end of the arc, even after Peter's apologized, she's still justifiably upset and keeps glaring while flipping TV channels.
- How Andy tries to mediate. She knows that Paige has a good reason to be furious at Peter, but she also knows that Peter really was being an idiot and that Paige punching him out won't be a solution. Peter doesn't help by decking out in his catcher's mask before apologizing with an Oh, Crap! look.
- Paige gives him a combination Rejected Apology, What the Hell, Hero? and "The Reason You Suck" Speech after he tries to claim he's off the hook by apologizing:"Peter, what you did to me today was as mean as anything you've ever done. This past week, when I read those notes, for the first time in my life I felt really attractive and special. I felt like someone out there really cared about me. And today was the day I was going to meet him. Do you have any idea how happy and nervous and excited I was?! Then you pop out and laugh, 'ha ha ha, Sucker- it was all a joke!' Well, it wasn't a joke to me, and it certainly wasn't what I would call funny!"
- Peter's Jerkass Realization during and after the speech. While she tells him that he can't make up for what he did, he could start by making her cookies. Peter complies, and admits to Jason that his prank was thoughtless. Even Jason is fazed at how mad Paige is, and getting Paige mad is his forte.
- One strip has Roger seemingly complete his mountain of tax forms at work and getting to go home early, only to reveal he'd fallen asleep at his desk and it was all just a dream, with his bosses not having the heart or insurance to wake him up.
- In one story arc, Roger is assigned a new intern at work named Skip, who showers Roger with praise and adulation. Roger is so flattered that he starts spending all his free time with Skip and completely ignoring Peter, who is understandably resentful. Then Roger introduces Skip to a higher-up in his company, and Skip immediately transfers out of Roger's office and into the higher-up's, revealing he was only using Roger to improve his own standing within the company and now wants nothing to do with Roger. Stunned at the betrayal, Roger realizes he now understands how Peter must have felt, and apologizes to Peter.
- When Jason goes to summer camp, he and Marcus get repeatedly pranked by Eileen and her new friend Phoebe. They completely lose in the Escalating Prank War, and then accidentally sabotage their own project when trying to destroy the girls' one. After all of this, they all but beg for Eileen and Phoebe to sign a truce, and give up. Then the girls decide, as a part of their truce, to invite the boys to their secret friendship club, despite their "no being friends with girls" policy.
- This friendship is put to the test in a a follow-up storyline a few years later, when Phoebe's journal of summer camp mementos comes up missing while she's visiting for the summer. Phoebe and Eileen initially suspect Jason and Marcus, but the evidence then seems to suggest that Phoebe disposed of the journal herself and decided to blame her friends, and Jason, Marcus and Eileen angrily disband the secret friendship club, despite Phoebe's protestations of innocence. Phoebe's Annoying Younger Sibling Eugene then proudly confesses that he was the one who stole the journal and is ecstatic that he broke up the friendship club. Phoebe and her friends make up and announce the forming of a new secret friendship club, one with no disbandment clause, stunning Eugene speechless.
- It's hard not to feel bad for Eileen at times knowing that she has feelings for Jason, who, although he likes Eileen more than he'll admit, isn't ready to be in a relationship. One story arc has her taking home Jason's math textbook by mistake and finding a mushy love poem folded up inside, which she assumes is for her and that Jason switched their textbooks on purpose so she'd find it. It turns out the poem is for Andy and Jason wrote it to butter up his mother so she'd buy him a bigger hard drive. Since the poem was a major boost to Eileen's self-esteem, her devastated expression when Jason tells her the truth is heartrending, especially since he's rather insensitive about it. Still, the story arc ends on a heartwarming note, when Eileen stands up for Jason when he's being teased by his friends for allegedly writing the poem, and Jason decides maybe Eileen isn't so bad after all.Eileen: Before I give my book report, I just want to make clear one thing: Jason didn't write me that poem. He doesn't even like girls. So knock it off!
Jason: (Thinking) Didn't like girls, anyway...
Tear Jerker / FoxTrot