Episode 21: From Orson with Love
By: Carlos Uribe
The Middle is a show about the Heck family, an average family in Indiana.
Hey remember that bunny from the beginning of the season? He's largely disappeared from the show but it turns out that he's not dead. He doesn't exactly make a reappearance (I think) but his offspring to. That's right: he is actually a she. Brick took out his evil bunny out to the park where it had found a male. The next thing Brick knows is that he has a family of baby bunnies to take care of. He tries to hide them in the closet but Axl manages to figure out what's going on. Axl's solution is to have Brick try to give away the bunnies at the parking lot of a store. This backfires in that not only does Brick fail to give away a single bunny but he's actually given two adorable kittens to take care of. Axl decides that the only way to give them away is to make them famous so that people will want to adopt them. They basically settle on making a hilariously cute James Bond spoof by using the animals as the actors. Is there anything more adorable than this? Brick doesn't really get the point but he does go along with his brother's plan. I've got to say that the best part of this plan is when they put one of the animals in a toy car and have it drive off into the hallway while Frankie has her back to it. It's a great visual gag that's set up in the previous scene. They post the movie on Youtube and presumably enough people watch it so that the Heck family doesn't have to live with adorable bunnies and kittens. Which is actually kind of disappointing because they are so cute! It's a pretty strong plot that shows how great of a memory this show has while using early season plots to fuel hilarious material late in the season. Overall, a win in my book.
The YouTube video of the Bond spoof wasn't the only use of technology this episode. Mike is surprised when he finds out that his father-in-law wants to meet him at a diner. Frankie's parents live far away so he has to drive for hours to go to the diner. When Mike gets there, he's horrified when all his father-in-law wants to do is tell him stories about his life. These are stories that Mike doesn't care about and he gets frustrated. Mike is a character who had grown up in a family where bonding happened as little as possible. He's not used to having to communicate with family members and he's happy that way. His anti-social behavior puts him at odds with what his father-in-law wants. It's not like Mike is being unreasonable. He does have to drive a long way just to listen to stories he doesn't want to hear in the first place. When he tries to be honest, his father-in-law doesn't get it. So Mike's solution is to turn to the internet for help. His father-in-law can tell the stories to a camera and upload them to a website. People from all over the world can listen to his stories. The father-in-law was largely just looking for an audience so he accepts this compromise. This is a pretty great story as it basically contrasts the difference between Frankie and Mike's family and uses it to great effect to create tension. That the solution comes in the form of the internet manages to fit the rest of the episode's theme. Brick and Axl hope to use viral fame to give away the adorable animals while Mike uses it to give his father-in-law a different audience. The real internet plot really dominates the main Frankie and Sue plot as Facebook becomes a major issue.
A problem that people are trying to figure out is how much does Facebook matter? Does it matter if people like a post or comment on your wall? Frankie points out that it used to be that people who weren't invited wouldn't know. I would contest this that they probably would figure it out when their friends discussed parties and sleep-overs that they didn't attend. Frankie believes that Facebook is now a sign of popularity. She becomes worried when Sue's Facebook doesn't present a good image of herself. Sue is posting pictures of her feet and largely updating her status that suggest she has no life. The problem was always that Sue was disappointed that she wasn't invited to the sleepover but Frankie took that the real problem was that Sue wasn't cool on Facebook. So Frankie became addicted to try and change that. She influenced her daughter's status updates and would actually make a slew of fake friends to comment on Sue's wall. She would get the idea for Sue to throw her own sleep-over party and take as many pictures as possible so as to suggest that her daughter is a fun person. We all know how obsessive Frankie can be-it gets to the point where she almost ruins Sue's sleep-over. It's all kind of silly but...it's hard to dismiss her concerns. She's wrong that Facebook currently isn't an indicator of actual popularity but the social media website can be a reflection of it. What we put out there on the web, despite popular belief, is actually representing who we are. So Frankie's attempt to make Sue look cool through Facebook makes sense even if it's misguided. Of all the plots, this is the only one that portrays technology in a negative light: when we allow it to determine not only our moods but to control our life.
From Orson with Love is a pretty fantastic episode of the Middle. A lot of shows like to try to use technology to appear hip and cool. Look, Phil has an iPad! Look how modern we are! Few shows try to use technology to make a point and that's where the Middle comes in. It points out how the internet can be useful. It can be used to help get send pets to loving families and for Mike's father-in-law a venue to tell his stories. At the same time, there's a warning that taking the internet too seriously can be dangerous. Basically the message is to remember that the internet is a great tool but to ensure it stays that way. It's a relevant message to today's world especially as social media becomes a bigger part of it. It's a funny episode...but the best part is it had something to say.