Synopsis and review of Malcolm Films Reese
Written by Petch
So how much of a bastard can Mr. Herkabe be? Enough to enlist Malcolm into a mean-spirited experiment which inspires the title of this nifty Levie Isaacks-directed entry into Season Five's well-realized archive. Add a funny Hal subplot, a bizarrely comical Dewey tale, a superior Grotto scenario, plus Lois conversing with household appliances, and Levie Films Hilarity.
Chris Eigeman once again commands the episode as the haughty Mr. Herkabe, the Dean of Discipline who occasionally teaches classes. Malcolm and Stevie happen to be in one of those classes, and as a special project, Herkabe assigns Malcolm a special baseball cap with a digital camcorder hidden inside it. His assignment is to conduct a film experiment upon a particularly deviant mind--Reese--but without the subject's awareness. Malcolm reluctantly agrees and captures some decidedly embarrassing anecdotes from his bullying older brother. The problem is that Malcolm has unwittingly played into the vindictive Herkabe's hand, a sort of facsimile to the famed Stanley Milgram experiment involving a control group behaving abominably towards subjects as long as an authority figure is dictating. Guilt-tripped that Reese's deepest thoughts have been broadcast to the entire school during the deception, a resourceful Malcolm sneaks into Herkabe's office and, finding dirt in the martinet's folders, casually spills the beans about other classmates over the microphone. The campus is transformed into a much nicer--and paranoid--atmosphere as a result.
"Malcolm Films Reese" is graced by the funniest Grotto subplot thus far this season. Otto is excited that the local newspaper will contain a review of the Grotto, but it turns out to be a hatchet job. Never one to give up, Francis persuades the critic to return and re-evaluate the ranch. But upon arrival, the pompous oaf immediately begins insulting every aspect of the compound. But when he turns to racist comments about Piama, it's his ass, and Francis and Otto both take turns kicking it. After paramedics take the pathetic man away and the newspapers trumpet the story, the Grotto's business begins to boom again, largely because most everyone in the area hated the critic and were glad to see him taken to task. This is the kind of Francis subplot that threatens to steal the entire episode.
Lately Dewey has been secretly ditching school to perform a contortionist act on street corners. Under the stage name "Le Great El Foldo," he has been racking up hundreds of dollars per week, prompting him to reconsider the worth of being in school. His parents' implorations about the the value of education seem unimportant; witness his clandestine fortune, which he has stowed away in the house.
Lois has been having heart-to-heart talks with her two main tormentors--not Malcolm and Reese, but her defective washer and dryer, which have been ruining the family's clothes. Hal giddily instructs her to order new machines, as he's sure that certain stock investments at work are about to pay off, since the office has lately been abuzz with some unnamed excitement. The buzz comes to fruition, however, with the arrest of Hal's boss on an embezzlement charge. So much for the new washer and dryer, until Lois accidentally finds Dewey's stash of cash and, mistaking it for emergency money she and Hal had socked away years before, re-authorizes delivery of the new machines.
Besides giving Kenneth Mars room to ham it up as Otto, this outing also gives Chris Eigeman a powerhouse turn as Herkabe, and he bats a home-run. From the pithy commentary he exudes in the classroom to the venom-laced directive he barks in his office, walls adorned with paddles, he's the series' best replacement for Commandant Spangler. And that's saying a lot. A lot.