Given that last week’s episode of The Middle inspired such a significant emotional reaction in a lot of the parents that watched it (well, it did in me, anyway), I was already prepared for this week to feel like a bit of a step down in overall quality. Although that preparation paid off, as the proceedings of “The Sit Down” definitely didn’t come anywhere near hitting the heights of “The Concert,” it wasn’t for lack of moments that seemed to have been stripped straight from the headlines of the Harris house. It’s more that, even with a solid concept to work with, the whole affair somehow still felt flimsier than usual.
The opening minutes of the episode certainly did a nice job of setting up the premise, offering one of the most realistic looks into a family’s weekday morning rituals I’ve ever seen on television. A harried mother, an annoyed and grouchy father, and a trio of slightly sleep-deprived, flustered, and utterly unorganized kids? Well, all I know is that, every morning, my daughter’s rubbing her eyes, complaining about her wardrobe, grousing about her breakfast, freaking out about what’s for lunch, whether all of her books and folders made it back into her book bag, and where her coat is. Yep, it all sounds pretty familiar to me, up to and including Mike’s decision to take a refusal to buy anyone any more coats and tack on a completely out-of-nowhere rider, “And no more big drinks at the movies, either!” (Oh, come on: If you can’t offer up ridiculously over-the-top punishments once in awhile, why be a parent in the first place?)
After Frankie and Mike have a pow-wow about how their kids are currently worse than they’ve ever been—which, as Mike says, “is hard to believe, because they weren’t that great to begin with”—they decide that they’re going to give Axl, Sue, and Brick the what-for come the next day. Before they can do so, however, the kids confront them, demanding that Frankie tone down her nagging. When she argues against their accusations, they produce the best sight gag of the episode by revealing the notes that she’s written on their various body parts as reminders. Oops…
The “sit down” gets a bit tense, but in the end, Frankie and Mike finally relent (though, obviously, the whole thing was always their decision, and absolutely, positively nothing to do with the kids), agreeing to trust the kids but warning that if they can’t handle the great responsibility being thrust upon them, then the deal’s off.
As one might expect, things start off smoothly enough, with Frankie and Mike so comfortable in their relaxation that they decide to leave the bedroom and go bowling. Funny how relaxing life can be for parents when they take their kids out of the equation. As for the kids, they’re trying their best to keep their heads above water, but between Sue’s coat going MIA and Axl’s frantic efforts to learn enough about Of Mice and Men to write a report, their efforts to be all adult-like begin to collapse in a big, big way.
Seeing Frankie and Mike out of the house and having fun was certainly sweet enough, and even before that, Frankie’s inability to produce the name of Mark Harmon made me laugh, but you knew it was never going to last. As for the kids, their gradual realization about where Of Mice and Men was headed was fantastic (“It should be called Of Men Killing Other Men!”), but the other storylines weren’t nearly enough to hang an episode on. Not even Axl’s apparent asking of Weird Ashley to the prom for the second year running, although I did at least laugh at that.
As soon as the other parents at the bowling alley started trying to find out why Frankie and Mike were so happy, it was only a matter of time before they got a phone call from the kids. One emergency-room stop later, the Hecks were reunited, and a poor Marcus Welby type tried to get them to calm down, the fool. Doesn’t he know that sit-downs never work?
Unfortunately, the same could be said of “The Sit Down” as an episode, too. There’s a lot here to like and to laugh at, but as a whole, it still feels more inconsequential than it really ought to have.
- The Award for Best Line-Delivery of the Night goes to Axl by a country mile: “Oh, my gosh! I didn't believe in myself, but after reading your poster, I totally do. Thanks, Sue!”
- Axl’s solution for getting a bug out of Brick’s ear involves scissors and matches, which is only as we should expect, really.
- My wife said that this episode struck her as being somewhat similar to 1.14, “The Yelling,” where Frankie tries to yell less at the kids. I wouldn’t say they’re identical, but I get where she’s coming from.