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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Middle, “The Kiss”

Illustration for article titled iThe Middle/i, “The Kiss”
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Over the course of five seasons of The Middle, we’ve seen Axl fall in love, we’ve seen Sue smitten, and while we haven’t really seen Brick being romantic yet, it’s only been a few episodes since we were reminded that he’s growing up and starting to appreciate boobs, so it’s clear that it’s only a matter of time. What we very rarely see, however, is their parents being romantic.

Sure, we know Frankie and Mike love each other—we see it all the time, in one way or another—and we also know that they’re not really big on public displays of affection. Still, when they toy with the idea of taking a romantic weekend to stay at Frankie’s sister’s house and Sue and Brick respond with blank stares and the observation that they’ve never even seen their parents kiss, it’s suddenly abundantly clear that maybe the idea of a romantic getaway isn’t the worst idea in the world.


The only possible problem: It requires leaving Sue in charge of Brick.

Now, in theory, this really shouldn’t be a problem. After all, Sue’s a teenage girl who, while perhaps immature, still has a good head on her shoulders, and Brick… well, granted, he can be a handful, but he’s growing up, too, and although he’s not the most responsible kid in the world, he’s come a long way. In short, the brother/sister combo might have actually worked out all right if it hadn’t been for the band of roaming hooligans invading the Heck house. But, you know, that’s just the sort of thing that’s gonna happen when you live near the Glossners.

Elsewhere, Axl’s planning to spend some quality time with his boys, Sean and Darrin, who’ve come up to see him at school with the intent of enjoying some quality college-party action together, but while they’re still in pre-party mode—which in this case means enjoying chips and soda and conversation—things abruptly get real when Axl admits that he’s still got Cassidy on his mind. Thing is, he hasn’t actually talked to her or even seen her since graduation, so he’s not really sure how he feels about her. Hey, sounds like a good excuse for a road trip to me! Or it would’ve been, were it not for the fact that Axl can’t make up his mind whether he should confront Cassidy or not.

Meanwhile, Frankie and Mike have taken their own road trip, and having arrived at her sister’s house and seen how big and beautiful the place is, they’re ready to get down to some serious relaxing. Unfortunately, relaxation isn’t as easy to come by as it seems, due to the fact that Janet and her husband have got their place so tricked out with the latest technology and gadgetry that Frankie and Mike haven’t a clue how to make most of it work properly. As a result, what might have been a pleasant, leisurely weekend quickly turns into a tension-wracked nightmare.


It sucks being stuck between a rock and a hard place, but that’s more or less where “The Kiss” lies, bookended as it is by the show’s Thanksgiving and Christmas episodes. The idea of Sue being left in charge of Brick is one with a lot of potential, and having them come up from Heck’s rarely-seen basement and finding Diaper Glossner wandering around their living room was pretty great, particularly for viewers who’ve followed the sordid saga of the Glossners over the series’ run. As it progressed, however, it just seemed increasingly silly that Sue and Brick weren’t doing anything at all to get rid of the Glossners. (I mean, come on, it’s a freaking home invasion, for God’s sake. Just call the cops already!) Mind you, it definitely spun in an unexpected direction at the end, with Sue discovering that the eldest Glossner kid has got a thing for her, and it’ll be interesting to see if they actually go anywhere with that. Otherwise, though, it was a pretty disappointing storyline.

In truth, Axl’s storyline wasn’t significantly better, although it did end strongly and in a manner that made his inability to commit fully to the idea of driving to see Cassidy more understandable. He didn’t want to see her because, at least as it stands right now, not seeing her means that he can stay in the little limbo he’s created and not be any more saddened about the situation than he already is. If she’s got a new boyfriend, he doesn’t need or want to know about it.  This way, he still has hope, which is better than utter disappointment any day. I don’t what the hell to make of that whole onion-rings thing, though. Surely it’s taken from someone’s real life experience, but it seemed like it had just been randomly thrown into the episode.


But then there’s Mike and Frankie. Although their storyline is relatively inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, it’s the one that plays the best from start to finish, mostly because it feels the most realistic. It’s true: When you’re parents, just getting in the car and going somewhere without your kids does feel like a little vacation. And when you’ve been married for as long as those two have been, there are occasions when the idea of watching TV or taking a bath holds more immediate appeal than hopping under the covers. Sometimes, couples get on each other’s nerves, and then, for no real reason other than it’s not worth the trouble to stay annoyed, you slip back into being the same ol’ couple who fell in love with each other in the first place.

Stray observations:

  • “I already called ‘road trip.’ We have to do it!” “That is the rule…”
  • Mike’s low expectations when it comes to getting any action are spelled out in big, bold letters when Frankie coyly tells him, “If you play your cards right, this could be a very nice weekend for you,” and he thinks she’s talking about the TV.
  • I expect a lot of married couples are familiar with the math where “negligee” equals “clean nightshirt” and “clean nightshirt” equals “the bloodstain’s mostly come out.”
  • For me, Brick’s brief dalliance with the old Easter candy was the biggest laugh of the episode.
  • Three episodes in a row with the dog? Give the producers credit: They’re really trying.
  • I believe Axl’s right: The rule about not being able call shotgun until you can see the car really has been in existence since the beginning of time.
  • Although Brooke Shields was nowhere to be seen, at least we know why Rita Glossner is M.I.A., thanks to Brick wondering aloud, “What’s the number for the ladies prison?”
  • Be honest: When Mike and Frankie passed the one pair of glasses back and forth and tried to figure out the remotes, how many of you were thinking of your own parents?
  • The two best lines about the Glossners both came from Brick. The first was when he admitted to not knowing when a girl Glossner joined the crew but “she’s winning the farting contest!” The other was when he shouted to Sue that, as far as the Glossners go, “The rules of society don’t apply!”
  • “Way to go, Fonzie!”

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