The Middle (S08E01) “The Core Group”

Review: After a very long summer, The Middle is finally back, with a season premiere that feels like the show was never gone for that long. Over the summer a lot of things changed and the kids have grown up, but there’s one thing that will never change: Frankie’s need to have her family together even though her kids are growing up. And this first episode focuses on that.
It starts with Axl who tells Frankie and Mike that he has been dating a girl, April. And it’s serious because he wants her to meet his parents. Frankie is thrilled because this girl could be ‘the one’ for Axl, but when it’s time to meet April, she slowly gets less enthusiastic when she realizes that April isn’t the smartest girl. She’s just pretty.
Sue comes home after her summer of working at Dollywood and tells Frankie that she wants to make acting her major. Frankie isn’t totally on board, but Sue is all in and doesn’t even make a backup plan because that might make her to not pursue her dream of becoming an actor. But to make sure she won’t fail, she asks Brick to make a backup plan for her.
But Brick has other things on his mind. It’s his first day in high school, which means a fresh start. A new back pack (no more pizza bag 😢), new jeans (no more cousins clothes), a new haircut and of course no more rides to school from his mom. He tries to fit in at school so he doesn’t have to sit alone at lunch, but he fails miserably.
With all the growing up going on, Frankie decides to organize a dinner for the core four..uh five (sorry, “the rhyme threw me off”) so she can give a toast about how much she loves them. The night of the dinner isn’t off to a great start when Axl brings April, to all irritation of Frankie. And it gets even worse when later Sue’s boyfriend Jeremy shows up, to all irritation of Mike. The party is complete when Brick invites Cindy to the dinner as well. Frankie is still desperate to give her toast, and her last resort is to give a toast at the fridge, with just the family, the core group.

So the dinner didn’t go exactly as planned and Frankie is worried about the future. I mean, when you’re crossing your fingers for Cindy, it must be really bad, right?  But as she says in her final narration: “You think you can control things, but you really can’t. You make plans and backup plans and backup plans to your backup plans, but then stuff happens and your plans go out the window because more often than not, it’s about the little things you don’t plan for. Maybe we shouldn’t plan at all. Maybe we should just be in the moment we’re in and enjoy the time we have with the people we love.” I think the ending of the first episode showed that there’s a lot of things to look forward to, especially regarding the kids growing up, and I can’t wait to see that!
I think this was a really good season premiere. I loved it that we got to see everybody’s significant other at the dinner table. First of all, Cindy was really great. I laughed at all her lines and I think it’s very funny that her love for shrimp came back in this episode. Then Jeremy. I never really liked him. I can see why Sue does though, it’s something new for her and I think that can be exciting. But he’s not a very likable character, and I think that’s what the writers are going for, especially after that last moment of Sue in the episode. And last but not least April. It was very surprising to see that she’s so dumb. I didn’t expect that at all, but I think she’s a great fit for Axl and that moment when Frankie realizes that Axl is in love, was very cute. I’m very curious to see how they are going to work out their storyline the rest of this season!
Not only did the episode have a lot of really hilarious lines and dialogue, there were also a lot of great callbacks and sight gags, like Brick’s pizza bag, the cousins clothes, Li’l Rivals diaper boxes and of course the Team Aniston t-shirt. I think it’s very ironic that the episode was filmed before the Brangelina breakup a few weeks ago, which makes it even funnier to see the t-shirt in this episode!
Like I said, this was a great season premiere, to what I hope is going to be a great season! I’m still very impressed with what The Middle does, even in their 8th season and I can’t wait to see more!!
Rating: 9.5/10
Brock Ciarlelli was only in this episode for a few seconds, but he will be back in a couple of weeks for a new episode! I interviewed him before the season premiere, you can find the article here!
Oh, and I just want to make clear that I’m #TeamFrankie, forever and always.