Synopsis and review of Malcolm Defends Reese

Written by Petch

Bryan Cranston directs his first outing for Season Seven, with the predictably stellar results. The immensely enjoyable "Malcolm Defends Reese" benefits from three strong storylines, any one of which could have commanded titular recognition. Matthew Carlson's spot-on teleplay also affords the always-hilarious Chris Eigeman one of his most hissably comedic turns as Mr. Herkabe in a while. And it allows Hal and Lois the opportunity to shine apart from each other, as they aren't in many scenes together in this episode.

The main storyline finds Malcolm lamenting that Reese, who has been held back a year, is now in his class, and a favorite figure of ridicule by Herkabe. After watching his brother endure a humiliating session of the 'Monkey Dance' (replete with a snippet of the Isley Brothers' disco hit "Love Machine" played on a boombox), Malcolm confronts the pompous pedant. It turns out that Herkabe has been doling out the cruelty specifically to get Malcolm's attention so that he could typically blackmail him. This time, it appears that Malcolm's cumulative GPA is threatening that of Herkabe himself, who had once attended North High and had snatched the record from a blind and club-footed (and infinitely more deserving) student back in the day. Sympathy for his brother prompts Malcolm to play ball, so he dumbs himself down just enough to not be overtly noticeable, but to still assure Herkabe's retention of his plaque. Oblivious to what's been going on between the teacher and the sibling, Reese takes airheaded delight in Malcolm's sudden academic slump.

Lois, meanwhile, has found a wonderfully dependable new babysitter for Jamie, the elderly Claire (veteran character actress Kathryn Joosten). Trouble is, the woman is an overbearing, chatty cling-along who sticks around long after her sitting duties have ended and gradually drives Lois bonkers with her endless talk of herself and her home life. Once Lois resolves to sever the relationship, she is forced to give the talkative woman a piece of her mind and eject her from the house. Shortly after, she is informed that Claire has passed away. Saddened and a bit guilted by her treatment of the otherwise kindly woman, Lois invites Claire's sister Donna, who's now in town for funeral arrangements, into the home....only to find that Donna shares her late sister's gift of the endless gab. It's Lois' penance, perhaps.

Hal/Dewey storylines rarely disappoint, and this one's no exception. Here, Dewey is experiencing his first crush on a girl, a plain but pleasant young lass named Gina (nicely underplayed by young television actress Vanessa Marano). Hal takes it upon himself to assist his son in wooing the young lady, but in typical Hal form ends up personally facillitating most of the wooing himself. To the lad's horror, Hal has even sent chocolates in Dewey's name which cause the allergic girl to break out in hysterically exaggerated hives. Kudos to the make-up department for that sight gag. Exasperated, Hal tries to make amends by offering Gina "better candy"--albeit from the window of his car as he slowly follows her along a sidewalk. It's not long before cuffs are slapped upon the apparent "predator" Hal, reported to cops by a by-stander. Later, a recovered Gina happens upon Dewey, and the two amiably agree to take lunch together the next day. It's a decently "happy ending" to this scathingly amusing plot.

Herkabe has made one big mistake. He has casually mentioned to Malcolm that during his senior year, he managed to cheat out of a phys-ed course requirement--information which could invalidate his original graduation. Once again, the 165 I.Q. boy genius figures a way to defeat his chief tormentor. By simply letting this knowledge reach the right ears, Malcolm indirectly orchestrates the stripping of Herkabe's long-cherished award and its reallocation to the original honoree. It's not long until the irrepressable Herkabe, bent on re-achieving his lost honor, is seen in trunks and a T-shirt, re-taking P.E. in the North High gymnasium....where a certain Reese is waiting with an arsenal of retributional dodgeballs. Victory is occasionally sweet, and this is such an occasion.

A curious sidenote about this episode is that, despite Lois selling the blue Dodge sedan last season and it subsequently being replaced by an even crappier yellow Ford Escort, Hal seems to driving a slightly faded version of the original Dodge this time around. Who can say? I won't make an attempt to. But I'll render this judgment. With just-right writing, apt directing and the usual great performances, "Malcolm Defends Reese" needs no defense. This jury finds the outing guilty of funniness in the first degree.

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