Synopsis and review of Malcolm's Money

Written by Petch

The family's worst money-grubbing instincts, as evidenced last season in the superb Hal's Christmas Gift, take center stage in this well-acted and frequently brilliant outing directed by Steve Love and written by Michael Glouberman.

Recovered or not from the financial calamity which has been nipping at the family, they still face domestic difficulties which nip at their heels. Faulty plumbing renders the faucet water drinkable only in cycles. Hal's transmission needs work. And Dewey needs a watch. All of which may be alleviated by a $10,000 check which arrives in the mail, a grant which has been addressed to Malcolm for furthering his education. Intercepting the check, Hal is inspired to instead use the cash for home improvements, with the promise of reimbursing Malcolm later once they can afford it. With a little persuasion, Lois is unwillingly drawn into the scheme.

The boy genius himself is currently at odds with Earl, the school yearbook photographer. While Malcolm had casually showed up in a T-shirt for his senior portrait, not realizing everyone else would be formally attired, he now desires a re-shoot and arrives in his Sunday best. Needless to say, Malcolm inadvertantly offends Earl, who wryly agrees to take a new photo of Malcolm--only sabotaging it even worse than the original by over-applying pancake base make-up on the lad. Horrified, Malcolm submits to the photographer's every whim, becoming his personal servant until he agrees to snap his likeness once more. The final result is a dignified, confident portrait of Malcolm in a coat and tie; the punchline is that the self-absorbed former Krelboyne still thinks it looks freakish. The beleagured Earl can help him no further.

Having been rehired by the meat company which had employed him a few seasons back, Reese is disappointed to be moved from slaughterhouse detail to mere delivery duty. However, he soon takes a shine to the convalescent home which his truck services, and he shortly ingratiates himself into the lives of the old folks there. He even arranges for a clandestine tryst between two star-crossed octogenarian lovers--before realizing that one is already married and the other is a calculating user of people. So much for good faith.

The titular plot reaches a pinnacle when Hal's clumsiness results in Dewey getting in on the scheme to usurp Malcolm's cash. Lois' implorations that they cease plotting and turn the money over to its rightful owner seem fair; while Lois wanted to upgrade the house plumbing, Hal has had his sights on a new boat, and Dewey has been fixated on a Rolex. Once Hal and Dewey finally see the light and agree to do the right thing, Lois reveals something horrible. On a quickie impulse buy, she has spent the entire wad on an elaborate antique dollhouse....which promptly goes up in flames when she plugs it into the wall socket to demonstrate its lighting capability. Summarily, in order to properly refund as much of Malcolm's money as possible, they each make sacrifices (including Hal once again selling the Dodge sedan), which results in Malcolm receiving a lesser-amount check in the mail. It's still a surprise to him, though. And he spends it oh-so-wisely, still burned from his yearbook photo experience, by booking a photo session showcasing him in elaborately narcissistic settings. So much for wise spending.

"Malcolm's Money" contains some great interplay between Cranston, Kaczmarek and Sullivan during the money/moral crisis, plus some exceptional work from Berfield during his stay with the old folks. Muniz manages the right balance between vulnerability and vindication for his turn. All in all, a top-notch episode. My money's on "Malcolm's Money," if you want to invest in some comic gold.

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