Episode 19: The Bachelor
By: Carlos Uribe
The Middle is a show about the Heck family, an average family in Indiana.
It's time for some corporate synergy when Frankie gets ready to watch the Bachelor finale. Only this episode airs too late since I believe that the Bachelor isn't currently on the air. It makes sense that Frankie would be obsessed over the show as it helps to provide a perfect escape for her. She likes the show so much that she's completely focused on it so much so that her kids like to give her bad news when it's airing. Frankie is excited about the finale because she thinks the girl she's been rooting for is going to get picked. Only this doesn't happen and the bachelor picks the girl she hates. Frankie gets all upset. She sobs all around the house, gets in fight with fans on online forums, and succumbs to alcohol to try and make her feel better. It's a ridiculous reaction because it's towards a reality television show but it manages to be realistic as well. It really is quite easy for anybody to really get into any program to the point where it's easy to overreact when it stumbles. The Middle manages to capture into that overreaction and create a lot of humor out of it. This is an episode that seems like an advertisement for an ABC show but I have to question how true that is. For most of the episode, Frankie is negatively affected by the Bachelor. It depresses her to the point where she can barely function. If the goal was to get me to watching the next season then it utterly failed. If anything, it seemed like they went with the Bachelor because they knew that it would be the only reality show they could work the plot with while keeping the show's ties to reality. On the other hand, the plot's resolution has Frankie getting closer to Brick when she realizes that he has been watching the show with her. He's able to get her out of her funk when he recounts details that she's forgotten and how the bachelor picking the wrong woman might have been a blessing in disguise for Frankie's choice. Of course, what I love about this reveal is that we actually do see Brick sitting on the couch with Frankie. He's reading a book so it's not like I registered he was paying attention but that's just how he watches TV. Overall, the Middle got to make fun of how serious people can take their entertainment.
The best plot of the night didn't come from the Bachelor but from tennis. Sue accidentally joins the tennis team when she picks up a racket. It's funny and it really makes a lot of sense within the show's universe. It's surprising that despite knowing nothing about the sport, the coach doesn't ask her to quit. It might be because without Sue then they wouldn't be able to qualify in tournaments. She does need to practice so that she could become better at the sport. Mike gets to train her. To his surprise, Sue shows promise as a tennis player. She's able to return the balls and she doesn't break down. He places a lot of emphasis on Sue as a tennis player because it finally allows him to bond with her in a way that he can enjoy. They have finally found the father-daughter activity they've been looking for. Only there has to be some obstacle and that ends up being Sue herself. She might always be trying to get on a team or be involved but it turns out that she really doesn't feel competitive. She might want herself to win but she doesn't have the anger to make it happen. She tries hard on the court but she legitimately gives her opponents positive feedback. It's not just once but throughout the game. Still this ends up being in her advantage of the game when her niceness get into the head of her opponent. The opponent shows unsportsmanlike behavior and gets disqualified. Sue gets to win and the world rejoices. It was a hilarious plot that worked to the show's strengths while allowing Sue Heck to have a victory due to her personality.
The final plot is the one that was dangling from the previous episode. Actually there were two but one of them doesn't even get addressed this episode. Does Frankie fail or pass her final? I have no idea. There's no reference at all in this episode. I sort-of expected the bachelor meltdown to be related to her failing the test or worrying about her score. We do find out what happens with Axl and Cassidy. It turns out that she wasn't getting back together with her ex-boyfriend and the whole hand-holding scene was merely misleading. Only the two can't find themselves on the same page because they're not sure how to proceed. Axl ignores her for days then he gets angry with her before trying to win her back. When his attempt accidentally sets Cassidy's house on fire, he apologizes to her but she's still mad at him. So he plays thumb war with the dumb cheerleaders which makes Cassidy jealous. The two kiss at the end and their relationship is safe. For now. Overall, that was pretty anti-climatic considering the show dragged out a “To Be Continued”. The ending was nice and predictable but it felt like the show was thinking of just going somewhere different.
The Bachelor is a pretty great episode of the Middle. It manages to capture the very real hold that television can have on some viewers. The Sue plot was simply hilarious as I could not stop laughing. It fit her character well to win by being nice. It was even better to see Mike and Sue have an actual activity they could do together. The final plot with Cassidy and Axl was predictable but it was still funny. The only problem was that while it picked up on the Cassidy-Axl plot, it completely failed to even mention Frankie's test. So the real question is did she pass? Did she fail? I'm afraid that one of them might send me on an emotional tailspin.