Episode 11: Life Skills
By: Carlos Uribe
The Middle is a show about the Heck family, an average family in Indiana.
Dealing with insurance companies can be one of the most unpleasant experiences in our capitalist society. They will do anything to try and not give their clients any money. Frankie and Mike learn this the hard way when a tree branch falls on their car's windshield. The windshield breaks and the two are left without one until the insurance company can pay them money to replace it. The company tries to get out of it by claiming they don't cover “Acts of Gods” but Frankie insisted that they had gone for the plan because she remembered nagging Mike about it. Even when the company admits they have been paying for these acts, they are going to refuse to pay because they claim that the tree wasn't properly taken care off. If it had, then the branch wouldn't have fallen off due to high wind. Frankie and Mike are forced to leave the insurance company without the money that they need for a new windshield. This plot is funny partly because it's rooted in something every couple dreads to face: the evil insurance company. It's this basis of reality that helps to ground this episode while at the same time helping to provide quite a bunch of laughs. The scene of Frankie having to drive in Indiana weather in the middle of winter was great but so was her rant towards the insurance agent. Overall, a great plot that was based on what is definably someone's real-life experience with an insurance company. There's no way this was made up.
The one plot that didn't work was Brick's. This is disappointing in that Brick is my favorite character and it's rare when the show gives him a dud. Alas, we got one. The school therapist wants him to make a new human friend. This brings into question what happened to Brick's old friends? The one that made the cat noises or the one that bites? They've been missing this season. Anyways, the therapist tries to teach Brick techniques on how to approach kids his age. While this does lead to a hilarious facial expression and one great exchange where Brick questions the necessity for him to make a friend his own age, it's largely material that this series has covered already. We get it: Brick is weird and has made few friends. While I'm not expecting the show to change his character anytime soon, it would be nice if at least some of his socialization lessons actually stuck with him for once in his life. How many more times can he be taught the same thing over and over again before it simply feels like he's a character in a multi-camera sit-com?
In the best plot of the night, we get Axl and Sue. Axl's worst nightmare was when Sue joined his high school during his senior year. This has led to some embarrassing moments but the two didn't really operate in the same world. They might have gone to the same school and seen each other at times but they were having different experiences. That is until Sue happens to join Axl's life skills class. Axl is horrified because it means having to be in the same class with his sister. What makes it worse is that Sue is predictably interacting with him. This would be a bad enough situation but it's not really that funny. Oh, wait-what if they had to do a project together? At this point, the comedy has found the funny premise to build the episode around and it works wonders. Sure, it goes down as you might expect, but it's still hilarious to watch unfold.
Sue takes all of the time assigned to the project to work on it. She does the report, the resume, and the presentation with little to no input by Axl. This is because her brain is different from Axl's mind. Axl is fine with waiting till the last minute because grades aren't crucial to him. Sue is a character who completely refuses to get anything but a passing grade because everything bad is the end-of-the-world to her. Of course, she accidentally leaves all the work at home because she grabbed the wrong bag. It's up to Axl to print the report, create a new resume with his new girlfriend, and remake the presentation within a ten minute period. Guess what? He's able to do this and recruit a few band members to guarantee an “A'”. Is it over the top? Of course. Is it genius? Absolutely.
I wonder if the Church van will be returned by the end of next episode or if they'll be forced to deal with it for the rest of the season.