The Middle 3.04 “The Test” Recap

While decorating the homecoming float with other mothers, Frankie learns that the PSATs are coming up and Axl hasn’t studied one bit. Not only that, but he hasn’t been spending his free time cleaning oil off baby pelicans. The horror–he will never get into college. At home, Axl blames Frankie for not nagging him about it. That’s what moms are for.

Sue decides to try out for cheerleading. Why not? High school is a fresh start. Frankie points out that there’s so many other teams to try out for, and by restricting herself to cheerleading, she might miss out on something more “makeable.” I like that word. Sue points out that Frankie always tells her to aim high, but it’s unlikely that Frankie ever said that.

The phone rings. Brick is in the principal’s office and Frankie and Mike are to come to the school. They find out that Brick has a bully who has been suspended. Brick is unfazed by the situation. He knows how to get himself out of the trash can, and he managed to find half a banana while he was in there. “It wasn’t that bad. It was pretty standard bullying.”

Frankie is happy with how Brick handled the situation, but Mike thinks Brick should stand up for himself and begins developing plans to toughen him up.

At cheerleading tryouts, Sue stretches awkwardly while another girl does a series of perfect backflips (or something). If she makes the team, she’ll get a call by 6pm that night. At home, she proceeds to gather and check all the phones to prep for the call.

Frankie sits down with Axl and a series of PSAT prep books. She tries to change his attitude, but Axl never has the dream where you show up for a test and haven’t studied. Most of his dreams involve a flying dragon that’s trying to eat the house, and then he rides the dragon to the moon and they jam out on their guitars. Awesome. He takes a couple of the books and heads to his room.

Mike talks to Brick about standing up for himself, and Brick assures Mike that the bullying doesn’t really bother him. Brick thinks that bullies just want to feel heard and in control. Once they feel like they’ve won, they’ll just walk away. Mike doesn’t agree that they’ll always walk away and wants to build up Brick’s confidence.

Sue sits with five cordless phones in front of her while she waits for the call. With Sue’s track record, Mike thinks it’s a million to one shot that she makes the squad. There are two versions of Sue as she flips between excitement over the possibility of being a cheerleader and depression over the possibility of not being a cheerleader. “Why can’t this family have better phones and clocks?”

It rings! Sue goes flying across the counter and answers the phone while sprawled on the floor. She’s a cheerleader! Confusion washes over the rest of the family. The next morning, she wakes up a cheerleader. She has a ponytail, pink tracksuit, and an attitude that makes her take Brick’s French toast dipper. Mike sees this as an opportunity to make Brick stand up to a bully. Sue is such a horrible bully. They decide to share the food, but Mike declares there will be no sharing. The lesson fails, so Mike begins to bully Brick himself. He takes the remote when Brick is watching TV and Brick proceeds to pick up a book and read.

Turns out Axl isn’t using the PSAT prep books. Instead, he’s designing his band’s CD cover, which somehow involves a dragon. Frankie freaks out and tells him that if he screws up the PSATs, he screws up his entire life. She manages to scare Axl, and her stress is transferred to him. Unfortunately, Axl can’t work any better under stress: he does awful on the PSATs and throws up on his shirt. He is now convinced he will end up a huge loser, and Frankie finally tells him that one test isn’t that important.

Sue shows up to accept her cheerleading position, but there’s been a mistake. She didn’t actually make the team, but she’s not stepping down without a few conditions: she wants a uniform, she wants to be in the group photo in the yearbook, she wants to cheer in one game, and two cheerleaders have to come to her birthday party. The cheerleaders decline the last condition but they agree to the others, and that’s fine by Sue.

Brick makes a sandwich and Mike steals it. Brick doesn’t take it back, but he yells at Mike to leave him alone about being tough. Mike sees this as success, and Brick agrees that it felt good to stand up for himself. It takes Mike a while to realize that Brick has played mind tricks with him. Brick heard what Mike wanted, made him feel in control and then Mike walked away. He’s a smart cookie.

At the homecoming game, Sue gets to pretend she’s a cheerleader and Frankie and Mike talk to a recruiter from East Indiana State who is interested in Axl. Their mascot? A dragon, of course.

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