Synopsis of Jury Duty

Written by Petch

The series returns to its signature format following several non-Kaczmarek episodes and a clip show installment. With a Pang-Ni Landrum story and a collaborative effort teleplay, "Jury Duty" features three parallel plotlines which, under Ken Kwapis' direction, are cleverly balanced.

Much to Lois' chagrin, she's been selected to serve jury duty. Because of her secrecy oath, she refuses to divulge details of the case to an increasingly curious Hal. He mistakes a coffee-cup ring on a newspaper story to be a secret message from Lois, and it's not long before Hal is convinced its a lurid murder trial. The truth is far less glamorous; it's a case of petty theft by a teenaged delinquent.

In Mamu, Francis and his buddies Eric, Artie and Pete take a few days off to go ice fishing at a remote cabin but find themselves so bored (they're not catching any fish, anyway) that they decide to cut the outing short. Trouble is, there's a hungry grizzly bear outside, trapping them in the cabin. In the close quarters, the worst tendencies of each come out.

Meanwhile, Dewey has been waiting impatiently for Malcolm and Reese to take him on an expeditious hike through the local underground sewer. It seems to be a rite of passage with the brothers, as Francis had taken them years earlier. Malcolm and Reese are buzzing, however, because while at the Kenarban house they caught sight of Kitty in the nude. With Stevie in tow, Reese continues to make 'mom' digs as they eventually enter the sewer, while Malcolm criticizes his tactlessness. Besides, they have more important matters to attend to, like plotting to scare Dewey with a large non-venomous snake Reese has spirited along in a duffle bag. And once the boys become lost in the underground maze of tunnels, much like the guys in Mamu, their worst tendencies come out.

Lois' jury mates are close to reaching a decision in the motorcycle theft case, but she objects when it becomes clear that some members are changing their votes just to speed things along so they can go home. Hence, she changes her vote to deadlock the proceedings until everyone agrees to closely examine the facts of the case and reach a genuine verdict, as per the oath they took in the first place. At home, Hal is still convinced that it's the highly-publicized Monahan murder trial, and he's collected pertinent newspaper clippings to piece together the story. It's not long before Abe Kenarban is in on the detective-play with Hal, and the two butt heads as to Monahan's guilt. Finally, to test a few theories, they go so far as to re-enact the murder in an alley but get busted when their actions are mistaken to be a 'real' murder about to happen.

Francis and his pals agree to resolve their plight by voting one of their number to make a mad dash for the truck outside and go fetch help. It's a death sentence, because surely the bear will catch the runner and maul him before he can reach the vehicle. Voting proves inadequate until Pete is tricked into voting against himself, so the others physically eject him from the cabin and to a near-certain grisly death. The joke's on them, though, as Pete instead makes it safely to the truck and drives off with no intention of sending help, cackling and cursing them all the way. A somewhat different but equally humorous resolution occurs for the plight of Francis' younger brothers. After an afternoon of bitching and criticizing one another, the boys realize that their real enemy is....girls! This provides them a sense of unity (well, except for Dewey, who privately wishes for a flash flood), and when a mis-hap with the snake freaks them out and sends the older boys bolting, they accidentally find their way out of the sewer. The last to emerge, though, is Dewey, who has the snake--originally brought to antagonize him--draped over his shoulder like a pet. "You guys couldn't even get this right," he says in disgust. Forget Malcolm's 165 IQ; Dewey may be the wisest of the brothers.

With honest deliberation finally going on, Lois and her jury mates are once again close to reaching a verdict. Suddenly she realizes that she has been allowing personal bias (her experiences with delinquent son Francis) to shape her assessment of the case. Feeling it the right thing to do, Lois excuses herself from the jury, resulting in a mis-trial. However, the whole experience has made her wish to serve jury duty again, and she begs the judge to consider her for a future case. He acquiesces just so she'll stop pestering him, while in the background Hal is shown in cuffs being brought in for the 'attempted homicide' of Abe.

What's with the removal of the "Boss Of Me" opening credits? Last episode it seemed like a one-time deal because it was a clip show, but this time there's once again the "Life is unfair" power chord over the title logo card, then the acting credits rolled during the first scene. Perhaps they're getting ready to re-do the opening credits, possibly for the fourth season (and after three years, it's certainly time). Or could it be some kind of Grammy curse, maybe?

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