Synopsis and review of Experiment

Written by Petch

Bryan Cranston once again takes the directoral reigns for "Experiment," working this time from a can't-miss Alex Reid script that explores three storylines with enough balance to make each work well enough in its own way. And the Dewey plot? As usual, it nearly steals the episode.

Working with test tubes, Bunsen burners and texts, Malcolm and Stevie are hard at work attempting to create a new enzyme for a school-related science contest. As their experiment continues to tank, the two grow increasingly snippy with one another. A bored Reese wants to assist, so they assign him inconsequential busy-work to keep him out of their hair while they continue their efforts. But suddenly one of their test tubes is showing a positive result--an enzyme created! Except that neither Malcolm nor Stevie have altered the experiment to produce the change. It must have been the work of Reese while they were out of the room, they surmise.

Dewey has been saddled with the task of selling candy bars for a school fundraiser. He grumbles at the task, while Lois demands that he participate. Hal mulls over the magazine which telegraphs the prizes which can be won as per how many candy bars are sold, and is entranced by a pair of springloaded shoes which 275 bars will award. In a particularly funny fantasy sequence, a euphoric Hal bounds through the neighborhood with the high-jumping footwear, onlookers scowling with jealousy. But Dewey has a plan to unload the pesky chocolate bars. After first manipulating Francis into buying two dozen bars over the phone, he finds that by misrepresenting the fundraising cause, he is able to sell multiple units to various buyers by playing on their personal politics. Terrorism-fighting "Freedom bars," environentally friendly "Eco bars," and even pro-life or pro-choice bars--it all depends on who's buying and how much they're willing to spend. Dewey's sales go through the roof, and Hal now fantasizes about the Go-Cart which 1500 sales will net. Naturally, Lois eventually gets wind of Dewey's treachery, but his fabrication that "Francis told me to" diverts her anger to her eldest son. Content to participate in a bitching session with his mom, Francis is oblivious to the fact that Dewey's tall tales are the reason he's being harangued.

Besides, Francis has a situation of his own. A young piglet is being rejected by his fold and not given room to nurse at his mother's bosom. Rather than allow the runt to be put down by a ranch worker, Francis takes the animal in as a pet, much to Piama's chagrin. After endeavors to build up "Ralph's" self-esteem, Francis returns the piglet to his pen. Only now, Ralph has become a bullying oinker who scares off his own kind, not to mention most other barnyard animals. Determined that more of the domestic life is needed to cure him of this new wrinkle, Francis once again takes in the now-fullgrown sow to share the bed with him and an irritated Piama.

Excited by the science experiment's success, Malcolm and Stevie implore Reese to tell them what he did to make it work, but Reese isn't talking. He insists on receiving credit for his part in the procedure, and after balking, Malcolm and Stevie finally sign a formal agreement which will guarantee Reese his credit due. He then infuriates them by confessing he doesn't remember exactly how it happened. After conducting a step-by-step recounting of what he had done while alone in the room, he is eventually bouncing a rubber ball against the ceiling--which causes particles from the tile to fleck off and land in one of the open test tubes. Deducing that the ceiling must contain asbestos, which is the only chemical substance which could have produced the result, Malcolm is elated until he realizes that their house--has asbestos!

Shortly after, the family are living in the garage while, shades of the insect infestation in Season One's Malcolm Babysits, the home is covered with plastics while workers remove the asbestos. The experiment was truly a success and has won the contest. But the sponsoring company is contractually allowed to possess all patenting rights. So the company will make billions off the new cholesterol drug to be developed. But it's not a total loss; Malcolm, Reese and Stevie each receive a new pencil set.

With this fourth episode under Mr. Cranston's belt, his name after the "directed by" credit is no longer a novelty. And with the recent video release of his feature film Last Chance, he has further established himself as a highly competent director and storyteller. The titular "Experiment" may have been about enzymes, but the final result is comic deight.

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