Episode 12: One Kid at a Time
By: Carlos Uribe
The Middle is a show about the Heck family, an average family in Indiana.
One Kid at a Time is an episode of the Middle that is split into four easy parts. The opening act is to set up the rest of the episode. The idea is that Frankie and Mike decide to try and give each kid one day completely devoted to them. They get this idea because of it's difficult for the kids to agree on anything. This is proven when they all the kids are in the car and there's a huge argument over which restaurant to pick. Brick wants Chinese food, Sue wants ribs, and Axl wants spaghetti. That means three different restaurants to possibly chose and the three fight over which one to pick. That is until Brick largely drops his suggestion for Chinese food to try and pressure the family to take him to the library. It's a chaotic mess that leads to the family eating at home. Not one of the kids got to go to the restaurant that they wanted nor the activity they hoped. This situation leads to Frankie wondering what would have happened if they had only one child. Axl would have gotten his spaghetti and Mike could have seen some of his practice and talked strategy with him. They could have seen Sue's exhibit and she would have gotten ribs. They could have taken Brick to the library and gone to the Chinese place, which makes him chatty for some reason. It would have been a peaceful day and their kids would have been happy. So they decide that they'll dedicate one day per kid. It's a nice conceit that the episode managed to wonderfully set up. It helps that by now we know this family, their traits, and how they view each other.
Axl is the oldest so he gets his day first. He's content to sleep through the whole morning but his parents have to force him to wake up. It makes sense that he wouldn't look forward to hanging out with his “lame” parents because he would be embarrassed by them. He does have one idea and he obliges them by taking them to paintball. He picks an activity that makes sense that he would like and it should come as no surprise that Mike really gets into it. Mike and Axl have always been able to bond because of sports and other similar interests so it makes perfect sense that Axl's activity is one Mike could get into. Frankie plays along but she's slightly disappointed because she was hoping Axl would want to talk to her. Frankie is a character that loves to talk and she's never seemed to accept that Axl is not going to want to do that with her. The day basically ends when Axl sneaks out of the paintball game to make out with his girlfriend. Mike learns that Axl is actually serious about this girl and it leads to Frankie having a million questions. It's a great plot that exemplifies the relationships between Axl and his two parents. He's able to connect perfectly with his dad but he has trouble with mom because she can be very annoying. He picks an activity that his dad enjoys but that his mom struggles with.
The next kid to get a day is Sue. Sue is exciting for the opportunity to be with her parents. She comes up with a huge list of activities that begins at watching the sunset. She has so many stuff planned that it completely tires out Mike and Frankie. It all leads to a scene where Sue is shocked to learn that her mother was a cheerleader with great co-ordination. Frankie tries to downplay her high school past because she never wanted to pressure her kids to be like her and possibly to spare Sue's feelings of never making it. This does quite the opposite as Sue becomes convinced that she has cheer-leading DNA in her and that she should try out every year. Frankie does get her wish because Sue is able to learn something new about her parents which brings them closer. Once again: her day is perfectly Sue. Full of energy and activity that most people struggle to keep up with. She's able to connect more easily with her mom because she likes to talk. Whereas Axl's day was more about father and son, Sue's day was predictably more about mother and daughter.
Which leaves Brick. Brick might share his dad's anti-social tendencies but he has little in common with either of his parents. He's also the third child which means that he comes in last. This might not seem significant until you realize that his parents get tired out by Sue and Axl. In this case, Sue's day completely wiped out his parents. They don't want to spend the last day of their weekend going places because they're tired but they try their best to give Brick a special day. Brick does want to have such a day. He doesn't want to go to the library but to a science fiction convention for this “Planet Nowhere” series. This involves explaining to his parents the entire series on the car ride over to Indianapolis. That is until his parents use a coming winter storm to get out there. They decide to use Brick's day to do exactly the opposite of what he wants: running errands and going shopping. He points out that because he's the last child, they never have energy for him. They don't even yell at him like they do to Axl and Sue. He causes a huge scene at the shoe store and they just let him because they're too tired to stop him. Even Frankie's attempt at telling Brick they love him comes across as half-hearted. Brick does get what he wants at the end of the day when they do yell at him. His smile as he walks away from them shows that he's happy to get some attention from his parents. Brick's day was a lot like his character: the son that his parents aren't able to connect with as easily nor are they able to spare him the attention they give to Axl and Sue.
One Kid at a Time is a genius episode because it's broken up between each kid. Every act is dedicated to one of the kids or the whole family. There isn't a plot line that runs from the beginning to end as it's just Frankie and Mike trying to spend time with their kids. It's an episode that works wonderfully because it's so simply while acting on everything that loyal viewers know about the characters and their relationships. Overall, a pretty great episode and one of the best of the season.