Meanwhile, Gloria is trying to gather the rest of the family to take a photograph with Joe, now that he has “grown up.” (This is the first episode with a noticeably different actor playing a slightly older Joe, so the family portrait is indeed necessary.) The only conflict comes, though, as she tries to tan her boy to please her Colombian relatives – a story complication that you may miss if you blink too slowly, since we have so many other stories taking attention from it.
“Sleeper,” rushed in its pacing – especially since so many of the storylines need a couch confessional of exposition that eats up time – still manages to slow down during the pivotal confrontation between Mitch and Jay. The writers commit to a bit where Jay explains that Mitch’s courage to come out of the closet encourages him to step beyond his own comfort zone. Jay wants to enter Stella into a dog show and he has been preparing by spending time training her in the park and sneaking off to buy a decorative show collar. This cues up a very successful misunderstanding, full of double entendres, that the Modern Family writers execute with aplomb. Jay reveals his shameful behaviour with other men in a park that perks Mitch up, if only for an instant.
The episode is credited to scribes Paul Corrigan, Brad Walsh and Bill Wrubel, which means “Sleeper” could be a case of having too many cooks in the kitchen, trying to cram as many ingredients into the show’s 21 minutes as it can. At times, the dialogue is so quick that either you miss it due to the pace or you miss it because it is so distracting to hear people speak at a speed so unnatural to the regular rhythm of conversation. It also does not help that there are five subplots, several of which require extensive voice-over to explain the sticky situations. Modern Family is a series that could really use more episodes when certain characters are absent, to focus the drama more effectively. However, due to contractual obligations, this feels like something that cannot be fulfilled.
When Mitch complains that nobody notices he was here, Jay retorts that it is “because we are all focused on our own stupid problems.” As long as the writers of Modern Family realize that the rest of the happenings this week were indeed stupid, it makes the episode a bit too hard to hate. Mitch is too mannered and logical to deal with the clumsiness and hysteria that the rest of the family (and the show’s writers) bring with them. The timing is off and many of the characters have a chipper, lopsided energy this week that only emphasizes this further. However, the final scene between Jay and Mitch, a wry mix of heart and hilarity, works in spades to the extent that either O’Neill or Ferguson could submit it to Emmy voters. “Sleeper” is far from a great episode of Modern Family, but when it works, the comedy is no slouch.