Synopsis and review of Mrs. Tri-County

Written by Petch

Season Finales in the Malcolm realm fall into one of two categories: Timepieces ("Flashback," "Reese Joins The Army, Part 2") or Setpieces ("Water Park," "Monkey" and "Day Care," which robbed "Baby, Part 2" from a Timepiece honor). "Mrs. Tri-County" is a Setpiece, but a pretty satisfactory one, and it brings the sixth season of Linwood Boomer's vision to a fitful close.

To amuse themselves, the boys fill out an application for Lois' inclusion in the "Mrs. Tri-County" pageant. After Reese unexpectedly mails it in, a response letter arrives which announces Lois as a contestant. While Lois is enrapt that her boys would think so highly of her, Hal knows better and surmises it's a cruel joke. Hence, he requires the boys to exhaust every effort to assist their mother in this endeavor, and they snap dutifully to their work.

At the venue, Lois encounters a group of one-time friends who used to be pageant contestants with her jet-set sister. When Lois is out of earshot, the boys overhear the "ladies" badmouth her, and they are energized to aid their mom. Kudos for some inspired casting, including Julia McDonald, recognizable as the ringleader of the bitchy clique in Romy And Michele's High School Reunion, here playing....well, the ringleader of a bitchy clique out to discredit Lois. Also effective is Caroline Seymour as Nina, a ball-busting beauty coach hired by McDonald's character.

Reese's storyline has him horking a beauty manual and deducing from its rigid guidelines that he is innately beautiful. It's thin material, but Berfield actually makes it work to comedic effect, especially when Nina breaks his heart by pointedly informing him that the criteria he'd been reading was for a middle-aged woman. Elsewhere, Malcolm is shanghai'd into delivering notes back and forth between pageant judge Mr. Herkabe (who hints that Malcolm's cooperation will effect his assessment of Lois) and a contestant he at first lusts for and later wants to break up with. I just ended a sentence in a preposition to convey that plot point, damn it. And throughout, Hal has suddenly become whipcracker extraordinaire, pushing and prodding Lois every inch of the way, even (given his dearth of musical knowledge) attempting to give directoral notes to pianist Dewey.

Eventually, Lois is among five runners-up for the finale, and her competitors trick her into embarassing herself horribly during the Glamour segment and is ready to ditch the event. After a pep-talk from Hal, who sheds his control-freak ways, she takes the stage for the talent portion. With Dewey tinkling the ivories, Lois delivers a bird-whistling performance that is nothing short of impressive. Shortly after, winning contestant Lois is wearing the Mrs. Tri-County sash and enjoying ice cream with the family at home. Reese, meanwhile, is still sulking on the pageant runway while a bemused janitor sweeps up. The tableau makes for a somewhat bizarre final shot that's vaguely unbefitting a finale.

This episode was juggled around by the programmers and finally supplanted the superior "Stilts" as season closer. With no Timepiece episode on the horizon, this one still works as a decent Setpiece. We've been promised a seventh season, but with the caveat that it will likely be the last. Ever since Chris Masterson quipped several years back that he'd like to see this show last five or seven years, I've always wanted to make sure it lasted at least eight.

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