Synopsis and review of Polly in the Middle

Written by Petch

Hal and Lois' family play second fiddle in this nifty romp which allows supporting characters to take center stage. Polly's in the middle, all right, with both Abe and Craig vying for her affection, and the result is inspired lunacy.

Matthew Carlson's teleplay gives the titular predicament the lion's share of screen time, with a minor Dewey subplot and a cute, if unremarkable, Grotto segment bringing up the rear. Still reeling over the taxing divorce proceedings with Kitty, Abe is becoming increasingly lonely, and when Hal casually introduces him to babysitter Polly, he is smitten. He talks Hal into setting up the two of them for a date, and it goes extremely well. So well, in fact, that the two begin dating regularly.

The bulwark comes when, as Polly is readying herself for another excursion, Craig shows up with flowers in hand and escorts her out. Hal and Lois are both horrified to realize that, via miscommunication, they have each unwittingly set up Polly with two different suitors. When they later confront Polly on the matter, she proclaims that she's having the best time of her life and is unable to choose between the two. Meanwhile, both Abe and Craig have cottoned onto the notion that their girl is dating a second man on the side, and have privately vowed to pummel the anonymous rival lover. The conflict will unexpectedly be resolved at a baseball card convention in the third act, featuring none other than batting giant Reggie Jackson in a celebrity cameo. The family, with Polly in tow, are in attendance. Lois is excited because her favorite (and fictonal) baseball player, one Pete Bucowski, is slated to appear--although he is shortly revealed to be no more than a has-been riding the coattails of real baseball legends, whose autographs he likes to collect so he can sell them for profit.

Dewey's tale is nearly buried in this episode but manages to tie nicely into the main storyline at the end. He has lately proclaimed a pink pullover to be his "lucky shirt," as evidenced by a string of mild fortune instances he's enjoyed while wearing the garment. This galvanizes a cynical Malcolm into a mission to repudiate the "lucky shirt," as such an item is illogical and superstitious. This, too, is resolved at the convention, where Reggie Jackson is raffling off a rare and collectable baseball to one lucky winner. Malcolm snidely proclaims that he'll "kiss Reese's butt" onstage if Dewey wins the raffle, and an excited Dewey holds him to the dare. As Jackson is about to draw a winning ballot, Malcolm desperately grabs Dewey's lucky shirt from him, just in case there's any truth to the superstition at all. The brothers all clutch at the garment, stretching into a taut layer of cloth....

Both Abe and Craig happen to show up at the seperately event and, upon encountering Polly there, simultaneously deduce that they are both the rivals for her hand. The two begin to throttle one another in a hilariously non-lethal brawl that mainly consists of slapping. Disspelling the fight by dousing them with a bucket of water, Polly professes that she no longer wishes to date either of them, as it will doubtless interfere with her commitment to babysitting Jamie--but where is Jamie? In the confusion, the tot has managed to slip away unnoticed and ends up in an air conditioning shaft several floors above. When the shaft gives way and dumps the baby downwards, Jamie lands safely....into the stretched-out cloth of Dewey's lucky shirt, which the brothers' actions have fashioned into a safety net of sorts. Must be a lucky shirt after all. And in typical Malcolm In The Middle fashion, credit for saving the baby goes to none other than Pete Bucowski, who just happened to be in the right place at the right time and hands the little nipper over to a grateful Lois.

The two-scene Grotto scenario involves an increasingly overbearing Piama, whose henpecking of Francis is making him a laughingstock with the machismo-laden Mexican ranch hands. Conceding to Francis' implorations, Piama briefly takes on a doting wife role when bringing lunch to her hubby. Trouble is, Francis enjoys the turnaround a little too much and sparks a harsh reaction that ends with him chasing after Piama begging her forgiveness. The ranch hands chuckle. So did I.

With Polly out of the middle, Abe and Craig's friendship is restored, and they're hitting the bars as free and uninhibited singles. Dave Higgins and Gary Williams exhibit a decent buddy chemistry, and further misadventures between the two would be welcome. Steve Love's sharp direction reach a sight-gag pinnacle with Jamie's unsupervised excursion at the convention center, a clever setpiece that is very reminiscent of the film Baby's Day Out. They just don't make TV like this anymore--except on this series.

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