Synopsis of Hal's Birthday

Written by Petch

Alex Reid has written some of the more clever and innovative 'Malcolm' teleplays--witness the Emmy-winning "Bowling" episode, for instance. Here, he again abandons the show's signature three-plotlines-at-once format and concentrates on one central scenario that does manage to branch off slightly during the second act. On the downside, this episode also loudly highlights the 'dysfunctional family' card which occasionally disjointed the first season--and which the second season winningly downplayed.

The boys are just finishing up their latest round of punish-work around the house when Stevie phones and invites them to a Demolition Derby exhibition for which he has extra tickets. Malcolm is stoked until Lois very pointedly reminds him that on the night of the event, the family already has plans to celebrate Hal's birthday, and there's a 'special surprise' in store. It's a no-go on the Demolition Derby, especially when Malcolm finds a crumpled travel itinerary in the garbage can, detailing a trip home for Francis on that day. This must be the 'special surprise,' and the trick now is to avoid spilling the beans within earshot of Hal.

As the family waits amidst the cake and melting ice cream, the doorbell finally rings, and yes, it's Francis. But he's got a 'special surprise' of his own: his new bride Piama. Hal and Lois are flabbergasted that he would marry without informing them, especially after what Francis mentions was a one-month courtship, and a yelling match ensues. Disgusted at the turn of events, Malcolm, Reese and Dewey ditch the festivities and secure a posh hotel room with a credit card horked from Hal's wallet.

Hal and Francis take a drive to search for the boys and have a heart-to-heart talk, whereby Francis comes to understand that he acted precipitously in taking a bride without contacting his family. Cranston and Masterson have a good scene together in the car, somewhat balancing out the overblown screeching which dominates the rest of this outing. And unseen by them, renegade rodent Bernard continues to truck along in his hamster ball alongside the roadway. Meanwhile, Lois and Piama sit at the table and attempt to bond but only end up ready for a catfight after a Francis-centric discussion. Luckily, Hal and Francis return in time to calm things. Hal has figured out what happened to his missing credit card, and a few phone calls leads the way to the swanky suite where the boys have been dining on Porterhouse steaks, Maine lobster, overpriced burgers, french-fry platters and an entire dessert cart, as well as enjoying various pricey luxury services.

The boys aren't really in trouble, especially after an incensed Piama douses Lois with a bucket of ice water and nearly sets off another fray--which Hal hilariously diffuses by returning the gesture to Piama. Okay, tit for tat, everyone's even, now let's go home and have the birthday party. And at the end, it didn't go so badly after all. The family bid their goodbyes to the Alaska-bound newlyweds. Even Lois and Piama seem to be on good terms, and through clinched teeth they both agree to "finish their little talk" soon....any time, any place.

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