Synopsis of If Boys Were Girls

Written by Petch

"A girl would've been nice," quipped Lois (Jane Kaczmarek) in Flashback, Season Two's showstopping finale of Malcolm In The Middle, once the pregnancy test came back negative. In Season Four, however, there really is another kid on the way, and "If Boys Were Girls" takes Lois on a whirlwind of a journey to the shopping mall, giving her both barrels in this tale of boys' behavior vs. that of girls. And in no uncertain terms, Kaczmarek owns this episode.

Prior to their departure, the household is engulfed in the usual antics. Hal wants a clue from Lois as to what kind of Valentine's Day gift to buy her, but she's too harried to offer a suggestion. Disaster brews. Meanwhile, Malcolm and Reese are fighting, although this time Malcolm manages to punch out his older brother, subduing him. Suddenly Lois has an epiphany--or a vision of doom--and daydreams that the boys are girls instead. Malcolm becomes "Mallory," Reese is "Renee," and Dewey hams it up as "Daisy." Unlike their male counterparts, the three girls are excited at the prospect of shopping for school clothes, and they quickly drop their petty, non-violent argument and head for the mini-van.

Once at the mall, Lois backs-and-forths between reality and fantasy. While Dewey cruelly mocks Reese for his busted lip at Malcolm's hand, their mom again imagines the three into angelic daughters. And within this fantasy scenario, the beleagured Hal has become a 300-lb fatty. A seamless latex suit hilariously transforms Bryan Cranston into the compulsively-eating Daddy who curries to favor the girls during these fantasy sequences.

Meanwhile, the real Hal flops and flails in his elusive search for the perfect gift for Lois. A deluxe $50 foot massager seems the answer to his quest--until another shopper snaps up the last one. His implorations that the man resell him the item at triple-cost are ineffective, so Hal impulsively snatches the bag out of the other man's hand and runs to safety--only to discover he has swiped the wrong bag. Later he apologizes to the fellow shopper, hoping to avoid theft charges, and then swipes the man's other bag instead. Once he's out of harm's way, Hal realizes that it's once again the wrong bag.

The impatient boys are tired of waiting in line to try on new clothes, and circumstances lead a social worker to believe that Reese's busted lip is the result of child abuse by Lois. Elsewhere, Reese regains his pride as threatening an old lady. Once all hell is about to break loose in the store, the fugitive Hal appears and persuades the family to make haste out of the mall before they're all busted. Lois' final daydream of the Mallory/Renee/Daisy scenario kicks in during the run, but this time displaying some of the negative attributes of girls. Teenage pregnancy, surly boyfriends, clandestine diet pills, finicky clothing tastes--all are demonstrated here. And the inevitable appearance of "Frances" (Chris Masterson in drag, of course) and her trailer-trash husband is a fall-on-the-floor laugh riot. This isn't how girls are supposed to be, Lois protests. Then she's brought back to the reality of being rushed out of a shopping mall by her delinquent sons and husband.

The final scene is another warm 'n fuzzy moment, where Hal and the boys gift Lois with her Valentine's Day presents. Hal has settled on a garment for the new baby, while the boys offer a heart-shaped box of candies ("We saved you the coconut ones," Dewey proudly proclaims). Lois is happy with both gifts and thanks them as they all run off for some basketball practice. And what lesson has she learned from these festivities? Once the family is out of earshot, Lois looks down at her belly and quietly states, "I hope you're a girl."

As a novelty episode, "If Boys Were Girls" finely hits the marks. It's also a fun foray back into the fluid, devil-may-care directoral stylings of Season One. The recent episode Malcolm Holds His Tongue got the Petch Lucas vote for Bryan Cranston's best choice as his 2003 Emmy submission thus far. I'm ready to declare this outing the same for Jane Kaczmarek.

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