Transitions are a part of every life; and moving forward into a new stage, while a cause for celebration for the one making the move, can often be difficult for those left behind. For it’s humorous, heartwarming depiction of such transitions, ABC’s The Middle has been named the Best TV Show of the Week.
The episode finds all three of the Heck children facing transitions. Brick is moving from elementary to middle school. Sue is taking her driving test (for the sixth time). And Axl is about to graduate from high school – which has Frankie upset to distraction. Frankie continually badgers Axl about his graduation party, while all Axl wants to do is get away from his increasingly clingy mother. After Frankie demands for the umpteenth time that Axl take time to discuss his party, Axl bellows, “I don’t even want a party. You want to give me what I want? Get me a car!” Finally, Axl promises to return home from a party at 11:30 sharp to discuss his party with Frankie…and when he doesn’t show up, Frankie takes drastic action.
Meanwhile, Brick discovers that he was elected “class historian” four years earlier – and that he was supposed to have been taking pictures and writing a history of his class for a presentation, which he must make at a class assembly that Friday. As is typical, Brick tries to dump the work on his mom Frankie, but she is too busy fuming over Axl to have time to help. When the assembly happens, Brick stands before a blank screen and ad-libs, “I could put up a bunch of photos – but those would be my memories, not your memories. So I invite my classmates to close their eyes and imagine their own memories.” This “presentation” does not go over well, with children whispering, “He’s weird!” But, as Frankie notes, “At least Brick left elementary school with his reputation intact.”
Sue’s driving test is equally challenging. Afraid she still won’t pass, she is “encouraged” by father Mike: “Sue, you’ve failed this test so many times, I can’t imagine any other way you could screw it up.” During the test, Sue’s windshield is splattered with mud; she tears through a balloon arch intended for the graduation; her hood, roof, and windshield are covered with a stray tarp; and the drives straight through a mass of fire engines and billowing smoke – yet never loses her composure. The astonished judge gasps, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and that was the single greatest piece of driving I’ve ever seen!” To her delight, Sue passes.
But Frankie still has to deal with Axl. After he fails to return home as promised, Frankie performs a dire “Mom” move – she goes to her son’s high school party in her pajamas and begins dancing to the music until Axl returns home, embarrassing her son. At home, a screaming match ensues, until Mike breaks it up and orders Axl to his room. “I don’t know what’s going on here, but I know I gotta side with her,” he drily tells his son. Mike then comforts Frankie, “All this fighting is just Nature’s way of helping you guys deal with the fact that he’s leaving. You think momma birds push their babies out of the nest to help them fly? Maybe they’re just sick of ‘em.”
When graduation day arrives and Axl prepares to receive his diploma, Frankie thinks, “As I watched my first child about to become a high school graduate, I realized Mike was right – there is a natural order to things. And by the time they go, you’re ready.” And then she bursts into sobs, shrieking, “I’m not ready!”
After the ceremony, Axl asks for picture just with Frankie, thus smoothing over their argument. Arriving home, Axl finds his parents have not thrown him a party. Instead, he did as they asked – and bought him a (broken-down) car, thus allowing him to go party with his friends. As Frankie clings to Sue she is dismayed to find her daughter also wants to leave, to show off her driver’s license to her friends. Finally, Frankie turns to Brick and, squeezing him tightly, says, “Never leave me.”
Dealing with loss, even a joyous one, can be difficult; but, by finding humor in the changes in life, maybe The Middle makes accepting such changes easier…which is why it is the Best TV Show of the Week.
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