Episode 16: Winners and Losers
By: Carlos Uribe
The Middle is a show about the Heck family, an average family in Indiana.
Winners and Losers might very well be one of the best episode of the Middle.
Frankie is shocked to learn when Brick is interested to go on the Chicago trip. It's the fifth grade class trip that lasts three days. The students are given a lot of self-responsibility as there is a normal amount of supervision provided on the trip. Frankie's issue with this is that Brick isn't very responsible and he needs extra amount of supervision. Brick is the kind of kid who would get on the wrong bus or who wouldn't necessarily take care of himself if left to his own devices. Frankie simply doubts that her son has the maturity necessary to go on this trip. She tries her best to become a chaperone but she finds that the only activity she wants to volunteer for is too contested to just get it. She doesn't get the spot but she's forced to let Brick go because he basically guilts her. When he's gone, she's checking the internet to make sure he's not missing or kidnapped. Mike's attempts to make her feel better aren't able to completely work. He mentions a great piece of advice that they have raised their kids and now they have to see what stuck. The big joke at the end of the episode is that Frankie gets so wrapped up in the Oscars that she completely forgets to pick up Brick. She had been so worried about how he's so irresponsible but she should have been worried about herself. It's a great plot that's all about having to accept that your child is growing up and how you have to trust him more. It is so Frankie to worry so much but it is also so Frankie to completely fail when it comes to her part. It's a plot that also feels very relateable. Is Frankie a terrible mother? Axl is right when he states that she is but the series manages to find ways to keep her sympathetic. This episode tests the boundary of sympathetic she is but to it's credit it never crosses the line.
The majority of the episode was actually spent with Sue and exploring her feelings with Darrin. The two kissed at the end of the episode but they haven't had a chance to talk about it. Sue is worried that Darrin doesn't have feelings for her and he was just caught up in the moment. She does hope that he likes her because she likes him back. She tries her best to communicate to him but she finds that her biggest obstacle is Axl. He's always finding a way to get rid of her before they can really talk. Darrin is able to get his feelings across when he writers a song about their trash can kiss. It's a terrible song with only one redeeming quality and that's it's earnestness. It's a sweet declaration of his love for Sue. Axl and Sean hate the song because they don't get it but Sue is moved to tears by it. They still don't get a chance to talk but Darrin drops in later. His intent isn't to hang out with Axl but to be with his sister. Sue is able to drag him to watch the Oscars. Axl isn't sure why this is happening but he's frustrated that his best friend would watch something so boring. That is until Axl happens to see Darrin's hand slowly move to touch Sue's hand while their legs are under a blanket. The image is clear. Axl's mind connects the dot. He realizes that they like each other and they are going to soon act on their feelings. His reaction? It makes the episode.
It begins with a scream that leads us right into commercials. It's funny but also serves nice as a cliff-hanger. When we come back, the laughs pick right up as Axl is still screaming. His reaction is two-fold. The first is to yell at Sue and send her to her room. The way he does it makes it look like he's acting as her parent rather than her big brother. This is an episode that's about accepting that kids grow up. Frankie had to accept that Brick was getting older. Mike and Axl had to accept that Sue was growing up and that she was interested in Darrin. Axl doesn't really accept this as he's not happy at the end of the episode. After he sends Sue to her room, he tries to understand what Darrin sees in her sister but without actually wanting an answer. He's forced to ditch Darrin and take his complains to his parents. He demands that they actually do their jobs for once and stop this from happening. They listen to him complain before he storms off. It makes perfect sense that this would be Axl's reaction but it was perfect. Eden Sher gave an Emmy-worthy performance this episode but Charlie McDermott easily outshone her. That's how good Axl was. Mike sort-of agrees with Axl until he talks to Darrin and realizes how true his intentions are to Sue. Mike gives his blessing. Darrin and Sue go on their first date as Axl shuts himself in his room.
The episode is called Winners and Losers. The winners are those you wouldn't expect: Brick and Sue. The two are able to get what they want and they're able to surprise this episode. The losers? Axl and Frankie. Frankie acts naturally in this episode but Axl really takes the cake. The Middle has become one of the best comedies on the air but this episode is easily a highlight among a lot of other similarly amazing episodes.
At the tag, there's a joke where Brick shows her pictures of Wrigley field. When she proclaims she didn't know his class went there, he states that they didn't.
I am disappointed we didn't get to see Brick on the trip as I'm sure there were some funny stories to be told there.