Synopsis and review of Baby, Part 1

Written by Petch

Talk about saving the best for last. The two-part "Baby" installment is thoroughly satisfactory and side-splittingly funny, and both halves are written and directed by different parties. It's once again demonstrated that when this show fires on all cylinders, great television is created.

In "Baby, Part 1," Francis and Piama are visiting when Lois and Hal make an announcement during breakfast. At the recommendation of the doctor, labor will be induced early--specifically on the coming Thursday. This horrifies Dewey for reasons that will become apparent later. Nonetheless, Hal takes the opportunity to spirit his three youngest sons away to a car show, while Francis and Piama stay to assist with building the nursery and various house-cleaning. With no advance notice, the antagonistic Ida arrives on their doorstep, her Canadian condo having burned down. Since she and eldest daughter Susan have fallen out, Lois is now pronounced her "favorite daughter," meaning Ida will foist herself upon the household indefinitely.

Meanwhile, Hal is dismayed to find that the car show has been replaced by a bridal expo. Nonetheless, he insists that they peruse it--hey, parking was fourteen bucks. It doesn't take Reese long to cotton onto a scam of sorts. When a short-handed tuxedo entrepreneur enlists him to model a tux and represent his services for the expo, Reese accepts the cash but ditches the PR duties. Impersonating a soon-to-be-groom and gleaning the hospitalities from other vendors, the lad is soon confronted by the incensed tux salesman, who thenpursues him. Meanwhile, Dewey has been quietly befriending various tech people around the expo--an accordionist, a spotlight operator, a sound mixer--for a vindictive stunt of his own.

Malcolm has received a letter from a prestigious private school in London, offering him full scholarship plus room and board. After pressing Hal about the family's financial security and Hal's tap-dancing around the issue, Malcolm finally reveals the scholarship offer to him, explaining that if he goes away, the family might be able to make the bills after all. But Hal won't have any of it--they're not a family if they don't all stick together. And besides, he continues, the household mantra that things always have a way of working out has only been code for "Malcolm will think of something." Strangely, the boy genius is at peace with this revocation of a great opportunity.

At home, Ida continues to be a nightmare, and Lois desperately concocts a ploy. She enlists Abe Kenarban and the poker buddies to make an appearance and insinuate themselves as though they are daily guests in the house. Ida is a horrible bigot, it is revealed, and their presence will surely drive her away. This proves effective at first, and what follows is one of the most uproarious sequences ever filmed for the Malcolm In The Middle series. Each of the black men greets the shrill old hag with a comment or gesture that plays to her worst prejudiced fears--Steve even lights her cigarette for her, dramatically stroking it with his tongue as he does so and then regally offering her the lit cig. Ida finally shrieks and bolts in horror. Utterly hilarious. Lois follows her mother into the bedroom and feigns dismay as Ida packs to leave. It looks like a successful venture....until the pregnant Lois' water breaks unexpectedly.

Back at the expo, Dewey takes control of communications, dimming the lights and shining a spot on Hal, while the accordionist plays a flourish. Taking a mic from the sound guy, Dewey launches into a sad but succinct story of his life, culminating with the announcement that the labor-inducement of his new sibling will take place on Thursday--his birthday. "That's the story of a little boy who lost his birthday," he non-chalantly concludes as the festivities resume their normal course. But before he can exact any punishment on Dewey, Hal receives a call from Lois on his cell phone. She's in labor, she explains, so just calmly get home so we can proceed to the hospital. We all know Hal. He panics, though masking it well in his phone chat with his wife. Finally locating Reese (hiding in a locked cello case), Hal and the boys (plus cello case) bolt for the mini-van. Problem is, the car keys are in Reese's pocket, and he's locked in, well, you know. Plus, the security folks are closing in on them. Time to flash the "To Be Continued...." text graphic.

A nice cliffhanger ending to a great episode, to be sure, and "Baby, Part 1" is complimented by a fine follow-up. One note, though. The series has turned in many surprise celebrity guest appearances. Lois' uppity sister Susan has been mentioned several times this season. Anyone interested in starting a betting pool as to who they'll pick to fill that role if the time ever comes? Meh, didn't think so, but it'll be fun to see, if it ever happens.

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