Synopsis of Dewey's Dog

Written by Petch

What is the ideal template for a "Malcolm In The Middle" episode? Truth be told, there are several, thanks to the series' winning blend of ensemble performance chemistry, dead-on writing, clever multiple plotlines and memorable recurring guests who could easily spin off into series of their own. Because the show is filmed in single-camera shooting style--like a movie rather than a traditional sitcom--it is possible to include narrative elements that allude to scenes from movies. "Dewey's Dog" exceptionally covers all the bases, but with one special surprise appearance.

It's a windy and stormy night at the Mamu logging camp, and as Francis cleaning up in the kitchen, a flash of lightning illuminates a raincoated figure in the window glaring malevolently at him, much like the killer in the 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' films. Francis quickly finds Eric to voice his gravest concern, while in vintage 'Friday The 13th' style, a POV shot from outside showcases an oh-so-familiar artificial "hook" hand nudging foliage aside to see in through the window.

Back at home, Dewey has made a new friend, a stray bulldog whom he names Marshmallow and secretly brings home to live outside his bedroom window. Malcolm and Reese cotton onto his little secret quickly and agree to rat him out to their parents--hey, they would be getting Dewey in trouble for once, just as a change of pace--but decide to wait until the right moment so as to maximize how much trouble he will face.

Hal and Lois are at that point where they're due a romantic night out for their own sanity, but the cards are continually stacked against them. First, Craig has come down with the flu and needs Lois to cover for him at work. That wrecks Hal's plans for a chauffered night on the town with his wife, whereby he had planned to read her the vows he never got to recite at their wedding when she went into labor with Francis. Next, their plans for a romantic dinner at home are spoiled when Reese intentionally allows Marshmallow into the dining room, where the mutt pounces upon the dinner on the table. Quick-thinking Dewey whisks the animal away and climbs onto the table himself, feigning uncontrollable hunger and taking the rap for eating an entire roast, several side dishes and....a candle. A quick trip to the hospital follows, culminating in a stomach pump for the little trooper.

Meanwhile, Francis' dread reaches inevitable fruition as none other than Edwin Spangler comes lumbering into the lodge to confront him. He is haggard and penniless, dismissed from Marlin Academy after a lawsuit from an irate cadet, and drunk. And he blames Francis, whose "desertion" from Marlin he cites as his greatest career failure. He collapses to the floor after trying to strangle Francis with both of his artificial hook-hands.

Not ones to give up so easily, Hal and Lois once again attempt to enjoy a night on the town and actually make it to a swank restaurant. It's clear that both have caught Craig's flu, but neither will tell the other and ruin the evening. So they go through the motions of ordering dinner while secretly bribing waiters to procure flu medicine; dancing so as to avoid having to eat the food they ordered, since neither will be able to keep it down; and discovering that, regardless of the discomfort, they're both really happy to be there. Hal and Lois are a sitcom couple who exhibit a rare and devoted love which, despite the irreverent tone of the show, is uniquely warming. And as they hold hands from their separate hospital gurneys a little later, the otherwise-ill Lois is enrapt as an orderly reads Hal's wedding vows to her.

At home, Marshmallow has taken a disliking to Malcolm and Reese, and Dewey exploits this to get revenge for all the petty torments they've foisted upon him in the past. With the canine's glistening fangs as motivation, the older brothers must write essays praising Dewey....but wait, let's have them accomplish the feat dressed as women. And when, in a "wrong place, wrong time" moment, Craig stops by and catches sight of Malcolm and Reese in drag, Dewey has no choice but to take him hostage as well--but also in drag, of course. The tables turn when the tarted-up Craig bolts for the door and Marshmallow chases him out of the house and away from the captive older brothers. Now it's Dewey's turn for a little humiliation, such as being required to eat from a dog bowl while wearing a leash.

Francis, meanwhile, has arranged a public relations job for Spangler in Mamu, but the former commandant is fired on his first day because of drunkeness. Eric counsels Francis that the man will only be happy--and hence, sober--in a position that allows him to be cruel towards subordinates. Shortly thereafter, Spangler is shown in classic form, albeit in civilian attire, bitching at elderly people in a local retirement home where he is now a faculty member. Let there be dancing in the streets.

This episode handles juggling the three scenarios as competently as ever. Interestingly, a few amusing nods to episodes from Seasons Past crop up: the roast from the ill-fated home dinner was prepared by closet-gourmet Reese ("Reese Cooks," Season Two); Hal mentions Francis' birth pre-empting the wedding ("Flashback," Season Two); and Spangler's berating of an octogenarian echoes a nearly identical line from his days at Marlin ("Stock Car Races," Season One). Dewey rarely gets a major storyline of his own, and Erik Per Sullivan manages to steal the show this time, especially in the scene where he denounces his brothers' life-long antagonizing of him. His hilarious table-top pouncing on the ruined roast recalls his primal attack on the candy-filled pinata from this season's earlier "Company Picnic"; as they say in Hollywood, "this kid's goin' places." But the brilliant re-invention of Spangler--plus the possibility that he may once again be a recurring character--makes this a joyous outing for the seasoned Malcolm viewer.

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