The Middle: “Major Changes”
C-

The Middle: “Major Changes”

C-

The Middle

“Major Changes”

Season 3, Episode 4
C-

The Middle

“Major Changes”

Season 3, Episode 4

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What a strange little episode this was. Okay, perhaps “strange” isn’t really the right word to describe it, but I think you have to admit that any episode where the key plot point involves the eating of toenail clippings out of a bag of Faux-ritos isn’t exactly coming from a place of complete normalcy.

The premise of “Major Changes” is, in a nutshell, that Frankie has had all she can stand and can’t stands no more. Her day starts out a bit sketchy, with Sue hogging her bathroom (because Axl’s hogging Sue and Brick’s bathroom), thereby preventing her from taking her shower in a timely fashion. Then she realizes the dishwasher is working worse than ever, which further annoys her. But when she finds out that an old acquaintance named Pam Staggs is going to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune, well, that just ruins her whole goddamned morning… but not so much that she doesn’t immediately make plans to run home and watch Pam on the show.

After belatedly escaping from the clutches of her boss at the car dealership—welcome back, Brian Doyle Murray!—she makes it home just in time to plop down on the couch, turn on the TV, and grab an almost-empty bag of Faux-ritos and start munching. Except, uh, it ain’t just Faux-ritos in there. When Sue reveals what Axl's been storing in the bag, Frankie completely and totally loses it… like, to the point where she leaves. And when I say she leaves, I mean she really leaves, driving 120 miles to her mom’s house to weep openly and moan to her mommy—welcome back, Marsha Mason!—about how awful her life is, leaving Mike and the kids to figure out what they’ve done wrong and how to fix it.

And, uh, that’s basically the entire episode.

Okay, maybe I'm being too dismissive. I can certainly appreciate the domino effect that can occur when one is having a bad day, and Lord knows that the accidental ingesting of toenail clippings is enough to serve as the impetus for an exodus. I also understand the dream of wanting to be on a game show and win enough cash and prizes to live happily ever after, so I can certainly conceive of getting really pissed off if someone I knew and didn't view as being nearly as deserving as myself got on a game show and won a buttload of money. But I just didn't feel like Frankie's breakdown was really earned. Sure, it's been earned over the run of the series to date, but insofar as what went on in this episode prior to her heading for the hills, it felt rushed.

The kids were kind of all over the place this week, too. I did love Brick's obsession with the catalog. I myself have scoured over pages and pages of a catalog for hours on end, trying to decide what to order, only to eventually order nothing at all. But Axl's concern for his hat seemed ridiculous, even by his standards. Sue, though, was more or less her usual neurotic self. There was a little too much squabbling between the kids about who was at fault for making Frankie leave, and the decision to clean up the house by just throwing everything in the backyard was ridiculous... and, yet, I feel like it's a trick they learned from Frankie, so I can buy into it. And, okay, I did enjoy the way they completely rationalized their way out of actually doing any real cleaning.

But despite enjoying a few moments here and there and getting enjoyment out of the return of Mr. Doyle Murray and Ms. Mason, there's no way around it: After last week's episode, this was a major disappointment. Here's hoping there's an upswing in the cards for next week.

Random quotes and observations:

  • Mike's such a dad: He makes a joke, Frankie suggests that he dispense with the hilarity and help make the kids' lunches, and he shrugs and just goes back to reading the paper.
  • Sue's throwaway line from behind the bathroom door about how she needed to look good because she and Carly were going to try to start a flash mob in the cafeteria made me laugh.
  • "We do not put shoes where we serve food!"
  • "I'd like to solve the puzzle: 'Who Cares?'"
  • "Ah, Pong..."
  • So we got Brian Doyle Murray, but we still didn't get any Chris Kattan. I checked in with co-creator DeAnn Heline last week to see what his status on the show was, and she replied, "Chris Kattan will definitely be back, as will Brian Doyle Murray and the car dealership. We love Frankie's working world and she'll continue to work there, but ultimately, we only have about 21 minutes to tell a story, so if we're focusing on the family, we can't always fit everything in." So now you know.
  • “She’s not gone. She’s only got $12.00 in her purse. She can’t get very far.” “Actually, $10.” “$8.” “$6.50.”
  • "This is hard. I never thought of Mom as a person before!"
  • "Wow. The old man was pretty fast."
  • "I'm lying."
  • When Frankie's mom made the comment about how she got tired of watching Burt Reynolds in the middle of Smokey and the Bandit III, I felt myself transforming into Comic Book Guy and had an overwhelming desire to tell someone, anyone, that, uh, hello, Burt Reynolds is barely IN Smokey and the Bandit III. That is predominantly a Jerry Reed film vehicle.

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