Synopsis and review of Cattle Court

Written by Petch

"Cattle Court" is not a great episode, but it's one of the better ones in a somewhat stilted seventh year. That this is Malcolm In The Middle's final season is disheartening on all counts, as FOX (who has officially been identified as the plug-puller, not Regency or Linwood Boomer) could have banked on its quiet breadwinner another inning or two is indicative of the soulless nature of the business, but enough proselytying. The show has run its course, for better or worse, so let's enjoy what we've got now. And this outing gives us a good bit to enjoy.

As all good Malcolm's do, this one gives us three enjoyable storylines. Once again Francis is completely missing, but we've learned to accept that over the last two years. Here, the dominant storyline seems to be Malcolm's current joust with Lois. He's been grounded from all non-school activities except work at the Lucky Aide, but he has plans to sneak out on Friday night to attend a rock concert, for which he has not only a free ticket but also a backstage pass, and Lois will be working that night anyway. Not so fast. There's a TV program that Lois wants to watch, scheduled to be broadcast during that same time. She talks Craig into covering that shift, thus foiling Malcolm's plans. His move? To enrage Craig against Lois by pointing out all the times she has taken advantage of him.

Elsewhere, Hal has been roped in by Dewey for a father/son "fun night," as penance for other missed commitments. The two play a board game uncannily similar to the 1970's stocking-stuffer "LIFE." Except as this dice-throwing soiree demonstrates, getting ahead in life is just a matter of luck and not the stuff of hard work, as Hal laments, having lost repeatedly to his ever-lucky dice-throwing son. It's only after Hal changed the parameters of the game, including some crafty re-writes of the chance cards plus a forced all-night rematch, that he's able to truly impart some wisdom to Dewey. Unfortunately, when Hal suddenly finds himself the winner of one match, sleep deprivation and dementia have reduced him to a gloating harpy. So much for the lesson.

Reese has recently been rehired at the local meat-packing plant. But now he has fallen head over heels in love with Carrie, a vegatarian classmate who is not aware of his place of employment. He decides to pursue the relationship, planning a veggie-only picnic with his newfound love. Except that Reese can't exclude meat from any meal. Carrie genuinely likes Reese, at least until his clandestine bacon strips and porkchop are disclosed by a wandering pack of dogs. She then leaves him in disgust.

Later, Reese has a nightmare which is the highlight (and also the titular reference) to the episode. In it, Reese is on trial for murder in a court presided by a cow judge. The prosecutor is a pig. The witnesses include turkeys. Reese's own defender is a cowardly chicken. The jury are (you guessed it) all sheep. Once he's convicted and condemned in the dream, a new and (seemingly) vegan Reese awakens, although it's just an extension of his will to woo back Carrie rather than a true personal conviction. And when he convinces Carrie to accompany him to the meat plant, their ploy to free the live cattle--shades of Bless The Beasts And The Children--only leads to disaster as the freed bovine head straight onto the freeway and....well, in a minute.

Repulsed by the indignities from Lois that Malcolm has planted in his head, Craig opts to quit his job at Lucky Aide and set out on a life-long dream motorcycle dream. Once Malcolm realizes what he has unintentionally unleashed, he wisely comes clean to Lois about the whole scam. He can certainly forget about the concert, but now it's a question of setting Craig straight before he sets off on a tack to personal ruin. And they find him on the road....just as the stampede of freed cattle Reese's plant come rampaging along, trample Craig's motorcycle and barely avoid injuring him. Malcolm again confesses his manipulation of the predicament, Lois reaffirms her appreciation of Craig's reliability. And she also puts the final nail in his undying love for her with a speech that is at once chilling and hilarious....except that it leaves him something of an opening, at least in his mind.

With this being the third-last episode of the entire series, it looks like Craig Feldspar has reached his narrative end. Stevie Kenarban did so in the previous (and decidedly weak) "Stevie In The Hospital." Thankfully, "Cattle Court" is a decided improvement, if not a season highlight, among the others. The jury rests.

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