The Middle (S09E16) "The Crying Game"

Frankie doesn’t have a great week and just wants to have a good cry, but every time she tries, she gets interrupted. First it’s Brick who wants to share a problem he has in school, and later that week it’s Mike who comes in to tell her that he got offered the position of regional manager, a job he tried to get two years ago. He decides to take it and is preparing to leave the quarry for a corporate office. On his last day the quarry guys he has been working with for a long time organize a party for him, with presents and speeches, and even though he says it’s not a big deal that he’s leaving, even Mike gets choked up.

When Mike’s getting ready for his first day as a regional manager, he finds out he won’t actually be working at the corporate office, he will just work out of a different trailer at the quarry. His big change gets a little smaller like this, but as Frankie said in the episode, Mike “is not a big change kind of guy” so it might be better like this. And thinking about this small change, voice-over Frankie finally gets to have a good cry.

Meanwhile, Brick is dealing with the problem he has at school. He feels like his health class teacher has it in for him especially when she gives him a very special baby to take care of for two weeks. As it turns out later, she gave him ‘Little Brick’, the baby doll Axl neglected for two weeks when he got the same assignment 7(!) years ago. When he finds out that this baby was Axl’s, Brick thinks Mrs. Kozicki has been torturing him on purpose as payback for how Axl treated her when he was taking her class. So Axl goes to the high school to apologize to Mrs. Kozicki, but she doesn’t want to accept it. As a last resort Brick asks Sue to put in a good word for him, but she also gets turned down by the teacher, mostly because, as usual, Sue doesn’t get remembered. Brick continues to do the assignment the best way possible, which for Brick means leaving ‘Little Axlina’ in the fridge or dryer. After the first week of taking care of the baby, Brick finds out that Mrs. Kozicki wasn’t mad at him because his brother or sister, but because he licked her car at the beginning of the year. Brick apologizes and get the change to get a ‘normal’ baby for the second half of the assignment, but he declines that because “Somebody’s got to love the weird ones”.

This was one of my favorite episodes of the season. The quarry guys were fun as always and I’m glad we got to say goodbye to them properly. Besides that, I think it’s great Mike finally got a promotion after working in the same place for so many years. It’s a nice way to finish Mike’s professional storyline before the end of the series.

The other storyline was great as well. I loved how this whole storyline referred back to a season 2 episode (S02E12, The Big Chill) and the callbacks about ‘Little Brick’ were just hilarious. As always Brick taking care of something doesn’t end well, but I liked the ending where he decided to keep the baby instead of swapping it for a normal one.

But my favorite thing was the amount of callbacks to previous episodes .Besides all of Brick’s storyline, there were many mentions of things that happened in previous seasons, such as the pretzels getting taken away from the quarry guys (S02E20, Royal Wedding), Ana Hajarajanaan (first mentioned S06E24, The Graduate), Mike trying to become regional manager (S07E04, Risky Business) and the Buttronauts (first mentioned S04E15, Valentine’s Day IV). I love it that this show goes back to things that happened years before and just casually mention it like you would in real life. There aren’t many shows that do this so well, and that’s why I love The Middle so much for it.

We still have 8 episodes to go (counting the finale as two separate episodes, so I think 7 is more appropriate?), but the cast and crew are already finishing up the show. The last week of shooting will be this upcoming week. The thought of that alone makes me sad, and they aren’t helping anything by posting things like this:

The Hecks (and The Glossners) will be back this Tuesday at 8/7c on ABC.

The Middle doesn’t only make references to its own previous seasons, but also to Patricia Heaton’s previous show Everybody Loves Raymond…