Synopsis of Humilithon

Written by Petch

The Krelboyne class may be no more, but in "Humilithon" the Krelboynes at large still foist their company upon an increasingly-agitated Malcolm on his first day of high school. To compound his embarrassment, Hal and Lois are both on-campus parental volunteers for the first week. Meanwhile, the haughty Mr. Herkabe has been promoted to a martinet-like Dead of Discipline, and he's got Reese in his cross-hairs. And Dewey? For the first time, he will be home alone for a golden fifteen minutes each afternoon until his brothers get home from school.

Lois, who is tasked with handing out information packets, genuinely enjoys herself, although it's a different story for Hal, who has been charged with clean-up detail. And when Lois loudly chastises Malcolm in public because of an ink-stain on his trousers, his fellow students saddle him with the embarrassing nickname "Stain." Humiliated, he eventually takes solace in the company of the Krelboynes, who have since become chess-club nerds and attempt to recruit him. And at home, Dewey has been taking prime advantage of his daily alone-time, eventually going so far as to arrange the purchase of an expensive baby grand piano, which he teaches himself to play.

Meanwhile, Francis is coming to the realization that Otto, while a wonderfully generous employer, is not a very good taskmaster--the dude ranch is constantly short-handed because Otto has been granting excessive vacation time to his workers. As a result, Francis has been pulling double-duty, subbing for the absent masseur and other specialty-related positions around the ranch. He attempts to politely bring the matter to Otto's attention, but the jovial German, pleased with Francis' hard work, gifts him with a brand new pick-up truck before Francis can convey the message, also insisting that he take a week off to enjoy his new vehicle. Now with no room for complaint, Francis accepts the truck and quietly acknowledges the situation does have its rewards after all.

Hal eventually runs afoul of Herkabe, prompting the pompous man to "expel" Hal from his volunteer duties. Despite the fact that he didn't want to be there anyway, Hal is more vexed at the "expulsion" than the work and shows up again anyway to mop floors. This culminates in a hysterically funny confrontation with Herkabe which eventually finds both men dueling with mops and then sent before the principal like naughty schoolboys.

With Lois on the war path because of her hubby's behavior, Malcolm decides that the only way out of his high school predicament is to get himself sent to military school a la Francis. So he swipes the key to Hal's little Dodge sedan and is about to plow it into Lois' mini-van before Cynthia intervenes, loudly (and fictionally) proclaiming before a large crowd of students that she'll "never have sex with him again" if he does the deed. Problem solved.

Odd that one of the series staple concepts--the Krelboyne class and Malcolm's discomfort being in it--has been phased out, but the same could be said a year ago when Francis departed Marlin Academy for good. Malcolm's high school years are ripe with comic potential, and this episode doesn't waste any time jumping in with both feet on that front. And where most current prime-time shows (Boston Public comes to mind) use teen sexuality as a titillation, Malcolm In The Middle presents it in the most farcical light possible. The writing team even found a way to keep the always-funny Chris Eigeman onboard, with Herkabe now in a far more malevolent position than he was last season as Caroline Miller's replacement. Francis' trials by fire over the course of the series has matured him into a responsible young adult with a fierce loyalty to his family and his kindly new employer, and as Otto, Kenneth Mars' faux-German schtick--a longtime component of the veteran comic actor's resume--remains cute and endearingly familiar.

If one subplot of "Humilithon" steals the show, however, it's Dewey's latchkey misadventures. Through quiet understatement, the scenario builds from the lad's first day by himself to his dinner table speech of demands before an imaginary family. In a very amusing segment (reminiscent of his ABBA dance number with Bea Arthur from Season One), Dewey dances with a broom to the snazzy tune of Nat King Cole's "Papa Loves Mambo." Later, with the clandestine piano hidden in the garage, he non-chalantly performs "Clair De Lune." And from the looks of it, Erik Per Sullivan is really tickling those ivories himself.

A potential running gag (as with last year's runaway rodent Bernard) for this fourth season: closet concert pianist Dewey. Hey, if it happens, just remember where you heard it first.

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