Synopsis and review of Morp

Written by Petch

It's nice when the best is saved for last, and if this second-last outing of Malcolm In The Middle is any indication of the potential superlative we can anticipate in the series finale, then great. While the title was announced a few months back on an online episode list, the undefined term "Morp" raised a few eyebrows, though they are now permitted to relax.

With Graduation just around the corner, Malcolm and Reese each deal with the senior Prom in their own way. Reese is approached by Jeanie, an overachieving Asian student who wishes to put the books aside just long enough to experience a high school social function, and since Reese obviously has no current plans to attend, she condescendingly bribes him into being her Prom date. The catch is, he must first undergo a cosmetic makeover, replete with some pedantic manners training.

Whatever classiness he attained in last season's Ms. Tri-County closer have apparently not been retained, although Jeanie's frequent spray-bottle penalties (a rather cruel and dated form of corporal punishment) quickly whip him into shape. And at the Prom, the well-groomed and cordial Reese is a charmer, not only sweeping Jeanie off her feet, but even garnering some rare respect from a few classmates. Just as she is ready to commit to a serious relationship with him, Reese's watch beeps--it's midnight. He's off the clock. She can only watch in disbelief as he casually ditches her and the whole affair to go off and do whatever he normally does on a Saturday night, perhaps pushing shopping carts into the reservoir.

Malcolm, disgusted by what he sees as "phonies" who use the Prom to lord their popularity over social outcasts (as he views himself), conspires with a few other "progressive" types to stage an alternative party--a "Morp" (that's "Prom" spelled backwards, by the way) in the basement below where the official event will be going on. A handfull of self-important scamps sign on for his little endeavor, and at first their low-key event seems to be going rather nicely. But Malcolm is disappointed that he can't rub derision in the faces of the Prom-goers, so he busts into 'A Night To Cherish' upstairs, grabs the DJ's microphone and delivers a haughty speech which only further makes him a laughingstock.

But the ultimate nail in his coffin comes later, when a group of Prom-goers come down to the basement and, via sincerity and objective reasoning, manage to bond with a few Morp-sters....then insisting that they all join them upstairs for the Prom. Malcolm is left railing to his erstwhile comrades about their torment at the hands of those they have now joined, except that his own words convict him as merely railing about his own personal grievances. While Frankie Muniz delivers a strong performance here, it does cement Malcolm in a decidedly unlikeable light. But it's funny all the same, and it wouldn't be the first time the character's hubris achieved such obnoxiousness. That's perhaps why, although the title character, Malcolm has become the fussy sidebar figure through whom much of the story is told. He is often the series' See-Threepio, if you will.

Now for the gem of the episode: the Dewey/Hal/Lois tale, with a smattering of Jamie thrown in at the end. Dewey has been perusing family scrapbooks and has discovered that there are no pictures of him as a baby or growing up. He brings this to the attention of Hal and Lois, but instead of sympathy he only receives guilt-tinged derision. Eventually Hal schemes to create a display of old "Dewey" art works to appease his fourth-born, although the lad quickly identifies them as forgeries and stands his self-righteous ground. But the kicker comes when a randy Hal comes home from work on prom night, ready to "get it on" with Lois and forgetting that, while Reese and Malcolm are away, Dewey is still hanging around. In a testosterone-driven panic, a nude Hal hastily gives Dewey his own wallet (complete with cash and credit cards) if the lad will just disappear for a couple of hours. Dewey accepts, a much more cunning plan forming inside his head, while Hal and Lois get to the business at hand.

After they're spent, they intercept an answering-machine message from Dewey, telling them where they can redeem Hal's wallet, to include his credit cards and depleting cash. Hal and Lois take off in the family minivan we all know and love since the first season for an elaborate scavenger hunt. Each rendezvous point contains a new piece from the wallet, a new party item for the soiree Dewey seems to have planned for them, plus a clue for the next rendezvous point. Along the way, Hal and Lois endure belittling treatment by Dewey's "minions," as Hal calls them, whom the boy has briefed as per his situation.

But once they arrive at the final destination--a Chuck E. Cheese-type establishment which runs after-hours engagements if paid for with a credit card, like Hal's--they find Dewey, who also has Jamie with him. The whole operation, he explains, was to afford Jamie a decent party, the type of which Dewey has apparently never had. Maybe a "Morp" of his own, if you think about it. Hal and Lois are genuinely touched by the altruistic nature of Dewey's gambit....though, of course, he's still going to be in a lot of trouble for his monkeyshines.

Well-written and directed at every turn, this is the kind of episode that should remind us why Malcolm In The Middle is one of the first great 21st Century American sitcoms to grace our screens. We've got one more coming before it's all just a happy memory, so let's hope it counts. In the meantime, if you're looking for 'A Night To Cherish,' take your high school sweetheart by the hand and extend a hearty invitation to the "Morp."

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