Synopsis of Malcolm Holds His Tongue

Written by Petch

A busy, four-way episode, "Malcolm Holds His Tongue" demonstrates that it's better to avoid pitting more than one juggernaut storyline against the other subplots, as twenty-two minutes simply won't accomodate it all. Maybe this year would have been a better occasion for an hour-long episode to follow the Super Bowl, because this puppy certainly has the ingredients.

Lois and Dewey are almost wallpaper this time, as both Malcolm and Hal's stories dominate the outing. Interspersed is an underdeveloped Reese/Craig subplot which could have been brilliant, plus a practically throwaway Francis/Piama bit which takes up all of two short scenes.

Malcolm has recently joined the high school basketball team, but when his verbal criticism of the coach's game plans get him kicked off the team, he laments that his own smart mouth continually lands him in hot water. When Lois happens to bitch about a minor housekeeping offense, Malcolm silences his wise-assed inner voice by merely apologizing for the infraction. This defrays the confrontation and elicits pleasantry from his bombastic mom. Okay....the boy's onto something here.

By holding his tongue, he's able to get back onto the basketball team; win the favor of girlfriend Nicki; earn a sudden allowance from Hal; and dispel Lois' wrath. Meanwhile, his inner voice grows more sarcastic and downright demonic until, just as the hard-case coach is about to put him into the game, Malcolm spits up blood. It's a peptic ulcer, brought on by all his bottled-up stress, and from his hospital bed, our young hero is loosed from his self-created bonds and showers his mom with a barrage of classic Malcolm belly-aching. The title plot features some of Frankie Muniz' funniest work since the first season, particularly during his "inner voice" asides as the camera can only capture his frustrated countenance.

As for Bryan Cranston, he should seriously consider submitting this outing for his 2003 "Emmy consideration" tape. Hal's subplot finds him taking up the jovial past-time of "race walking," until he and his group are upstaged by a pompous little man named Wheeler. This little wannabe, who nances about in a costume resembling an emaciated version of Patrick Warburton's "The Tick," has a dirty little secret of his own--he cheats. And Hal cottons onto his deception and busts him in the presence of their peers.

There was a mention of Emmy consideration somewhere in there, no? This is Cranston at his absolute pinnacle of hilarity. The man is a trouper for this show and always has been. Witness the swarm of bees he allowed to be put onto him for Season One's The Bots And The Bees, or the tarantula he allowed to creep upon his face during the recent Zoo. This time, he mixes several raw eggs, fiber powders, raw ground beef and other noxious substances into a blender and then downs the whole concoction--in one continuous shot--as his character attempts to enhance his race-walking stamina. And the fiery costume Hal dons for his final showdown with Wheeler is nothing short of hysterical.

During all of this, Reese wants to accompany Alison to a rock concert, but the only transportation he can find is Craig Feldspar. After a volley of bribes, he enlists the portly Lucky Aide minion to be the chauffeur. But Alison's disgust at Craig's pedantic mannerisms during the drive prompt her to spray him in the face with mace. Moreover, she's ready to give Reese the same if he doesn't let her go her own way. So the date ends up with a swollen-eyed Craig strumming the ukelele over a campfire and singing Air Supply tunes, while an increasingly pissed Reese can only toast marshmallows and fume. It sounds funny, and it is. Alas, it is nearly buried in this outing.

Speaking of being buried, whatever happened to the originally-announced Francis subplot, which involved his foray into posing nude for an art class? Not that I want to see Chris Masterson in the buff or anything, but the idea seemed ripe for comical potential. Instead, we get a slapped-together "I told you so" tale of Francis using unorthodox techniques to break in a new pair of cowboy boots, much to Piama's chagrin. I hate to be harsh, but....damn.

The problem with "Malcolm Holds His Tongue" is that there is uneven balance between the storylines. The outing would have been better served by jettisoning the race-walking tale and allotting it an episode of its own, and seasoned director Jeff Melman should have recognized that. Nonetheless, for better or worse, the final result is still drop-dead funny in spite of itself.

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