Academic Ocathalon, is the 16th episode of Season 4 and 79th episode overall on Malcolm in the Middle. It was written by Rob Hanning and directed by Todd Holland. The episode premiered on Fox on April 13, 2003.
Both Lois and Mr. Herkabe forces Malcolm to join the academic octathlon team in an expensive hotel, where he encourages them to cheat. Malcolm chooses to make everyone pay by giving all of the teams the results of the contest which he stole, and as he expected, ends up in a disaster. Dewey alienates Hal after telling him he's too big for their bedtime ritual. Reese tries to avoid going to a dance with Alison.
As Hal sleeps on the couch with his mouth open, the boys play "Horse" by trying to toss popcorn into it.
Hal finds an ant on the counter and pictures it as a scout. He is determined not to let it get back to the others. Since it's bedtime, Dewey prepares for "Bedtime Express" and jumps on Hal's back like a rider on a horse despite the obvious strain on his dad.
At school, Reese's girlfriend Alison is planning to go to a formal dance at the school. He doesn't want to go so he confides in Malcolm that he's going to start a fight with her and get her to break up with him. Then he'll apologize after the dance and get back together with her. However, Reese soon realizes that Malcolm has problems of his own as Herkabe is driving them to study more than ever for the upcoming Academic Octathalon.
He complains to his mother that he wants to quit, but she feels that extracurricular activities are good for him. When Hal finds another ant, he goes on the hunt. But he has to break it to Dewey that "Bedtime Express" is for little boys and a big boy like Dewey hurts him when he rides. Dewey says he understands that, but tells Hal that he won't love him anymore.
Reese's attempts to insult Alison backfire. So he must try another tactic to avoid going to the dance with her.
Meanwhile, at the Ranch, Francis and Piama start to argue when he decides to put it aside and just spend time with her. He tells Otto the next day that they had a perfect evening and mentions that Otto and Gretchen don't argue about things like household chores. Otto agrees that their relationship is good that way, too. The next moment, he and Gretchen are arguing hotly.
At home, Dewey still insists he doesn't love his dad anymore. Hal decides to ground him, but Dewey tells him he can't control how he feels. Hal tells him he'll buy him a new bike, but it doesn't make a difference. Meanwhile, Malcolm and the Krelboynes are on a bus singing "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" with square roots involved when Herkabe finds out that the science portion of the quiz will involve organic chemistry and threatens to kick anyone off the bus that can't handle it.
Otto and Gretchen make up and Otto has a conversation with a guest regarding wonderful relationships. The guest and his wife spend the evening arguing.
At the quiz, Malcolm finds out that Herkabe expects them to cheat and that the others are fine with it. He takes out his frustrations on a vending machine when a young man who claims to be responsible for those machines confronts him. Malcolm explains that his friends want him to do something he feels is wrong and the young man tells him not to do it. It is not that easy as he would still be a party to it as his friends would still cheat. The young man advises him just to leave.
Reese deliberately picks a fight with Lois in order to get grounded. His plan backfires when she tells him the punishment will take place after he's taken Alison to the dance. Reese demands that she makes it earlier, but she refuses because he promised and won't let him weasel his way out of it. Later on, Malcolm calls Lois and threatens to leave the hotel where he's staying at with the Krelboynes and hitchhike home if she doesn't pick him up.
Arguing continues as a ranch-hand and his wife ignore the happy Francis and Piama.
Malcolm gets in his mother's car and insists he's leaving. Lois tells him her punishment for him that would lead all the way until she's an old lady. Right before she pulls off, he looks through the window and sees the same young man in a hotel room with one of the rival teams, revealing himself to be a teammate of it. Realizing he's been played for a fool, he tells her that he is staying and she can punish him when he gets home. Lois agrees to the deal and Malcolm gets out to challenge the young man.
Hal tries to reason with Dewey and then orders him to say he loves him. Dewey says it without emotion, telling him they are just words.
Malcolm hatches a plan to teach the coaches a lesson. The gang puts Dabney in a swimsuit to get a maid to open the door so they can steal the answers to the quiz and make copies. An arguing couple walks by.
A desperate Reese tries to hit his foot with a baseball bat, but Alison sees this and stops him. She tells him she suspects that he is trying to get out of taking her to the dance by injuring himself. Reese tries to lie his way out of it, but Alison doesn't believe him and tells him to be honest with her. Finally, he confesses that he likes her, but that he doesn't want to go to the dance because he felt wierd about it and still wants her to be his girlfriend. Alison appreciates Reese for being honest with her, but tells him made a promise and she wants him to keep it. She gives him the details of what she wants and tells him they'll have a wonderful time at the dance. Afterwards, she'll break up with him.
At the octathalon, Herkabe becomes nice to Malcolm thinking he stole the quiz questions and outcome to give North High an advantage. The moderator begins with history, which the Krelboynes answer immediately. Several questions are answered by students before he can finish asking them. Before long, they are all answering before he can barely get a word out. He orders all coaches to see him privately. Herkabe realizes that Malcolm stole the quiz questions and gave copies of it to all of the teams.
Hal prepares to spray for ants when Dewey tells him goodnight. Hal tells him he doesn't have to say he loves him since it's just an expression, but that he loves Dewey. But he doesn't love the ants and sprays heavily, soon becoming overcome with fumes and passing out. Dewey returns and sees his father unconscious. He panics and pulls his dad out from under the sink, begging him to revive and telling him he loves him. Hal awakens and wonders how Dewey could have pulled him away. Dewey supposes that he is bigger now. Hal tells him he loves him and Dewey says he loves him, too. Dewey squashes an ant.
The moderator returns and announces that each school will take home one award and no one is to say anything about this incident. The other boy congratulates Malcolm on the match being well-played and wonders what would happen if they'd played it straight. His coach chastises him on how much better Malcolm is and drags him off.
At the ranch, Francis fields a call from a customer who is canceling because of an argument with his wife. Francis asks why one argument would cause this and agrees to answer a question. Suddenly, his eyes narrow and Piama walks in, indicating that the circle has come around again.