The Middle 3.09 “The Play” Recap

The cross-country team and its “no cut” policy saved Sue’s middle school experience. Now that she’s in high school, it’s time to start trying out for activities again. Her stint as a cheerleader only lasted one game, and now she didn’t make the lacrosse team. What she needs is another no-cut policy, and she thinks she has found it when Bob asks Frankie to have her kids try out for a local production of “The Wizard of Oz.” They need Munchkins and they take everybody.

Axl has been grounded with no video games for accepting a challenge to drive blindfolded. He will never share his accomplishments with his family again, and he proceeds to snap pennies to entertain himself. What else is there to do without video games?

Brick’s class is having a day where each child brings a grandparent or special friend to school for extra credit. Since his grandparents are on a cyber cruise, he asks his quirky Uncle Rusty (Norm Macdonald) to come. Since Rusty is looking for a reason to put on a pair of paints, he agrees and then offers Brick coffee.

At the end of Sue’s rehearsal, Frankie is standing at the back of the room singing along to ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’when the director recruits her to be in the play. Frankie is hesitant to do it because it’s “Sue’s thing,” but Sue wants her to do it so it can be “their thing.” Frankie joins and has the time of her life until the director tells Frankie that they’re going to have to cut Sue. He explains that while all the kids get in, not all the kids stay in, and Sue has crazy eyes. “It’s like she’s having a panic attackin her eyes.”

Despite Frankie’s plea to let Sue stay in the play, she has to tell Sue that she’s out. Frankie explains to her that the director received complaints because Sue’s eyes were more interesting to watch than the lead performer’s. Sue wants her mom to quit the play, but Frankie tells her to sleep on it and if she still wants her to quit in the morning, she will. Sue never changes her mind and Frankie never quits. Frankie loves being in the play; the people are nice, she gets costumes and tea, and they like her voice. Between Frankie and Mike, they decide that Sue will get over it and bounce back like she always does.

Uncle Rusty stood up Brick, who ended up being the only one without a special friend at school. After Mike pays Rusty a visit to ream him out for never showing up to family events, Rusty shows up at Brick’s school on a random day. He talks to the kids about learning the alphabet backwards and then sneaks Brick out of school for a bowling and lunch date. They decide not to tell the principal, since the school wouldn’t appreciate a man showing up to take a small child. How he got into the school in the first place is a mystery. At the end of the day, Rusty decides it’s an appropriate time to teach Brick to drive. Brick protests that his mom won’t even let him make toast. After confirming that neither Brick or Rusty have a driver’s license, Brick takes the wheel for the first time. Our usually cautious Brick seems to like driving, and is still in control of the car when they pull up to the house, where Mike is standing in the driveway. Mike freaks out on Rusty again, but Brick seems to be happy with his crazy uncle. He had a good day.

Frankie brings Sue a roll of cookie dough to break the news that she hasn’t quit the play. She tells a story about when she went shopping with her own mom to buy matching mother-daughter dresses. They found a dress, but they only had one that fit her mom. Frankie was happy for her mom because she looked so good in it. Sue doesn’t understand why they stopped shopping before they found a dress that fit them both, because that defeats the whole purpose of mother-daughter dresses. Now Sue thinks her grandmother is selfish, and Frankie has to continue keeping it a secret that she’s still in the play.

Axl, still quietly snapping pennies in the living room, has been observing everything and tells Sue that Frankie is still in the play. The constant humming and green glitter in her hair gave it away. When Frankie returns from rehearsal after dark, Sue makes a dramatic confrontation by turning on a single light next to where she’s sitting on the couch. ‘Is there something you want to tell me?’

Frankie begs for Sue’s forgiveness and explains how much she loves being in the play. Sue didn’t realize how much it meant to her, but Frankie promises to get Sue back in the play. She succeeds: Sue is now under the stage and in charge of lighting. She still gets to take a bow, so it all works out. Frankie gets to be in the spotlight on opening night, and Uncle Rusty even shows up.

Maybe the Hecks should start their own theatre company, crazy eyes and all.

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