The Middle (S09E09) "The 200th"

It’s The Middle’s 200th episode and like with the 100th, the writers have incorporated this number into the episode. The city of Orson has been named the 200th most livable city (in Indiana) and when you have someone like Nancy Donahue living in your town, you know that’s going to be celebrated. Orson is going all out for this great achievement, with 200 balloons, 200 desserts and a special gift basket with 200 coupons for the 200th car that passes the city line that day. The celebration will take place on the same day as the Orson cow re-dedication ceremony. Sue and Frankie love the idea, but of course Mike finds it dumb.

But before we go on to the party for Orson, let’s dive into the other storylines this week. Axl has been putting some serious work into his job hunt and has sent his resume to a few companies. After Sue picks up Axl’s phone once, one company thinks that she’s his assistant, an idea that Axl likes because it would improve his chances to get an interview. So Sue agrees to be his ‘Assisterant’, as long as Axl promises to never make jokes about freezing her head after she dies (great callback, used in multiple episodes throughout the show). After Axl gets his first real interview, she drives him there and when Axl still feels he isn’t ready for a job, she encourages and later forces him to go in for the interview. Axl eventually nails it and finally has a job!

Meanwhile, after realizing 2 weeks ago that Cindy might want him back, Brick confronts her about it and tells her he wants to get back together. But Cindy hasn’t forgotten about the horrible way that Brick broke up with her and makes him work for it: he has to perform three acts of bravery to win her back. Brick has a hard time coming up with three acts, but he really tries. Number 1 is getting her a mop (and of course, she needed one). Number 2 is attempting to get Cindy’s backup safari hat back from the Glossners. Brick fails, but Cindy gives him points for effort so all he has to do now is come up with a 3rd act. He can’t come up with something, so when the deadline passes he confesses to Cindy that he should’ve never broken up with her. Cindy sees that as act number 3 and takes him back.

So while Brindy is getting back together, one of the neighbors has some bad news on the relationship front. Bill Norwood informs Mike that he and Paula have separated. Bill pours his heart out to him, but Mike being Mike doesn’t really know how to react to it. But after a talk with Bill about what went wrong between him and Paula, Mike realizes that he should appreciate Frankie and the rest of the family more, which gives us some great moments of Mike showing us a side that we’ve never really seen of him before. Even Frankie is surprised by the sudden attention she’s getting from him.

On the day of Orson’s 200th party, Mike, with his newfound appreciation for his wife and kids, voluntarily steps up to give a speech about Orson. He tells all the people in Orson not to forget how lucky they are to live in a town like this, where everybody helps each other out and illustrates this with an example of when the Hecks’ roof was leaking (another callback: Bad Choices, season 3, episode 6). The neighbors all came out to help, including Bill (it’s nice that Mike mentions him in his speech, it kind of makes up for the awkwardness between them earlier in the episode) who brings his hammer. It turns out this hammer was not his, but has been with every neighbor in town when they needed help with something. The hammer is the perfect symbol of what Orson stands for and that’s why Mike decided to put it in the time capsule Nancy asked the Hecks to fill months ago (which Frankie obviously forgot about again). “I think people in the future should know that this is a town where people help each other out because you do for family. And that’s what we are.” (Shut up, I’m not crying, you are!!!)

Frankie later tells Mike how amazing his speech was and also acknowledges how loving Mike has been lately, but before the moment can get too sentimental, Mike finds a way to ruin it, in a way only Mike could, by disagreeing with Frankie about them being soulmates, ending the 200th episode on a sweet and funny note.

200 episodes. What a great milestone. It’s amazing for a show to reach this amount of episodes (kudos to Patricia Heaton for having been on two shows that reach 200), but what’s even more amazing is that the show is still as good, if not better than when it started in 2009. Over the years the characters have developed a lot. The kids have grown up and the parents have found a way to deal with that. In all these episodes the show has never felt stale. And even when there were episodes that I enjoyed less than the average episode, it’s still better than a lot of shows out there. The writers have always been able to come up with great and original storylines, that do not only make us laugh but make us cry sometimes too.

This 200th episode was perfect in that way as well. I think the whole episode just embodied what this show is about. It had heart and lots of great jokes, something the show has always tried to balance in every episode. Every storyline in this episode made me happy. I’m glad Axl has finally found a job, I really hope he can stick with it and I wonder how he will like it. I’m also very happy that Brick and Cindy are back together. I really enjoy the character of Cindy, so it’s nice to see her back. Seeing this different side of Mike was very sweet. I think it’s great that he was the one to give this fantastic and emotional speech because this is something that you would not expect.

I also really loved seeing some familiar faces from earlier seasons. Of course there were the Donahues, who are always great, but it was also nice to see Mr. Ehlert and Debbie and Courtney back!

All in all, this was a really great way to celebrate this milestone episode! Congratulations to the cast and crew of The Middle on this amazing accomplishment! I wish I could say: “Here’s to another 200!” (I would also be okay with 100 more episodes or, I don’t know, 300…), but sadly that’s not going to happen. All I can say now is that I hope that the remaining 15 episodes will be as great as the show has always been.

Next week the last Christmas episode of The Middle airs. Tune in December 12th, 8/7c on ABC!