So close to graduating, but short one P.E. credit. This is the fate facing Sue Heck…and how she deals with the crisis explains why the Wednesday, November 12th episode of ABC’s The Middle (8:00 p.m. ET) is the Best TV Show of the Week.
Sue’s counselor finds a way to get her into Coach Babbit’s P.E. class, which ought to save her opportunity to get into college…but it won’t be easy. “Everyone thinks gym’s an easy A. All you gotta do is show up and put on your shorts,” lectures the coach. “Well, you do have to put on your shorts. It’s 10% of your grade, But if you want an A, you’re gonna have to earn it!” Sue discovers that the class is in the middle of its unit on “tinickling,” a traditional Filipino folk dance that involves rapidly stepping in and out between a pair of poles being slid back and forth along the ground. “As long as you’re coordinated, it should be no problem,” the coach tells a dumbstruck Sue. “You gotta make it through your whole routine, or you fail. A snapped ankle is no excuse!” But Sue proves somewhat less than adept. Not only does she fall during the dance routine (crashing into three other students and taking them with her); when she follows mom Frankie’s advice to be the person pounding the sticks instead, she manages to hospitalize her fellow students. But in the end, Sue aces her tinickling routine – by dancing to the song “Shake It Up.” College, here Sue comes!
Meanwhile, Brick has managed to drop the key to the riding lawnmower down into the mower’s gas tank, and seeks Axl’s help in fishing it out – or at least, in coming up with an alibi to feed to their father. Axl comes through: “Steal Dad’s wallet. He’ll go crazy looking for it. Then, when he sees what’s happened to the lawn mower, you rush in and say, ‘I found your wallet.’ You’re a big hero, and he can’t get mad at you for the mower.” Brick successfully steals the wallet, but then loses it for real. He “makes up” for this by then stealing his father’s keys – then loses them as well. This series of disasters is compounded by the kitchen sink collapsing, and the Heck family having to do their dishes in the bathtub.
Everything comes to a head when Brick is summoned to explain the lawn mower. He produces the wallet and keys, temporarily saving himself; but then the kids start rooting around in Mike’s wallet, eventually finding their parents’ will (written on a paper napkin). This inspires a fierce argument among the kids over who will inherit what, which turns into an even bigger fight when the will is destroyed. Frankie promises to make a new will, asking the kids what each of them wants…but after a look around the house, all three conclude they don’t want anything.
“I guess that’s the good thing about not having anything anybody wants. There’s no fighting,” Frankie concludes. “But maybe we are leaving our kids something good – the ability to pull together in tough times. And that’s something you can’t put on a napkin.”
This episode of The Middle does contains some good messages. Axl and Brick’s scheme to get out of trouble by stealing and lying is found out and gets them into even more trouble. The family DOES pull together – first, by helping Sue practice her dance routine, and then by combining forces to do the dishes in the bathroom (Brick scrapes the food into the toilet, Axl washes them in the shower, Sue dries them with a hair dryer, and Frankie stacks them in a laundry basket held by Mike). While definitely farcical at times, the program does promote the idea of a family, fractious as it may be, pulling together. In an era when so much of television is so mean-spirited, this alone is reason enough to declare ABC’s The Middle the Best TV Show of the Week.
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