The Dunphy storyline sounded like the most promising one on paper; Phil is upset over the breakup of Hailie and Dylan and tries to comfort Dylan. Just by reading that, various funny scenes immediately go through your head and you prepare for the usual Phil hilarity. And while some scenes worked beautifully (the orange sweater), it fell a little flat. Nothing extraordinary happened, and Phil wasn't even funny. Knowing Phil as a character, the audience expects him to be the standout of the episode, and while it was nice to see his more sensitive side, it didn't work for him. The storyline ended with a heartwearming scene between Phil and Hailie in which Phil comforts his upset daughter, but it is ruined by Phil immediately getting up and looking outside for Dylan. It seemed a little far-fetched, even for Phil. This show usually knows when to end a scene on a high, but jokes like these tend to just make us shake our heads.
Jay and Gloria share a basic sitcom plot; Jay has a stomach ache and believes himself to be deathly ill. These characters' story lines are usually the weakest of the episodes, and this theme continues for this episode. The plot did not lead us on any journey, character development, or even a decent conclusion. Turns out Jay IS sick, and Gloria apologizes. Seriously? This story was basic filler.
Cameron and Mitchell, while usually the high of an episode, have a real subpar story for this one. Cameron's mom comes to visit and Mitchell is uncomfortable because she touches him in inappropriate places. Yes, it was as awkward as it sounds, and even a little dark. The mom didn't add anything to the show, she wasn't funny, and she provided a somewhat dark mood to an otherwise extremely easygoing show. Again, the storyline didn't reach an amiable conclusion (there wasn't one), and Cam and Mitchell were pushed to the background. When that happens in this show, you know the laughs will be fewer.
This episode was a little sloppy. Very little character development, and even interaction, and a lack of a recurring theme hurt the episode, but some decent laughs and a touching ending saved it from abomination. It was focused on minor characters, and that is never a good thing. An audience tunes in to watch the characters we have grown to love, and when they are pushed into the background, you have a weaker than usual episode.