|Season 4, Episode 5|
Forwards Backwards, is the 5th episode of season 4 and the 68th episdoe overall on Malcolm in the Middle. It was directed by Levie Issacks and witten by Maggie Bandur. The episode premiered on Fox in December 1, 2002.
Days before Malcolm's birthday, he and Reese pull increasingly severe pranks against each other. Flashbacks throughout the episode gradually reveal how their feud began and reached the breaking point when Malcolm ate a blueberry Reese was saving. Meanwhile, Francis encounters a "devil cow" at the ranch and discovers it's just an ordinary cow long overdue for milking. Dewey worries about his role as Abraham Lincoln in the school play. Hal enlists Craig to help him find Malcolm a birthday present, but is driven nuts by his constant demands.
With Malcolm's birthday approaching, he has been socking away money to buy Stevie's old laptop computer. However, he and Reese are currently locked in an escalating war of pranks and abuses, each edging towards the inevitable dual grounding. Despite Lois' admonation for them to behave themselves, Malcolm is determined to outduel Reese. Among the various shenanigans: a black eye; a superglue stunt affixing forearm to forehead; posting embarrassing "potty training" pictures on school lockers; public humiliation for hanging out with "friends" who don't even know your name"; monetary theft; and a culminating into an eventual confrontation with vehicular game of "chicken" with go-karts at a Family Fun Center which ends in a crash with fire and smoke in the backdrop. This includes flashback pranks to show who's the instigator and the victim, going back and forth.
Despite Malcolm's request for money instead of presents, Hal wishes to buy him an actual birthday gift anyway. Knowing his son's affinity for comic books, Hal asks for assistance in a comic shop, but the owner of the comic book store, Dean, is rude and refuses to help him because he's not a comic book fan. With no other choice and against Lois' wishes, Hal enlists Craig's help for negotiation at the comic book store, but it comes with a price. His patience briefly snaps after a day of driving him around and demands that they go to the comic book store. Craig is offended, leaves his car and calls off the deal.
At the Grotto Ranch, a series of ghoulish discoveries (slaughtered chickens and a flattened antelope, for starters) prompt Otto to recount the local legend of the mythical "devil cow," a marauding bovine who occasionally comes down from her mountain lair to cause mayhem. Francis isn't buying into the supernatural aspects of the tale, however, taking up a shotgun to fend off the beast. On one stormy night, Otto is afraid, but Francis soon discovers that there is no devil cow. It was Betsy, an ordinary cow that was behind the whole thing because her udders have been full with milk and it was causing her pain. Francis sits down on a stool and helpfully milks her. This not only saves the day for the Grotto Ranch, but also dispells the legend.
At the comic book store, Hal again attempts to try his luck and finally persuades Dean to help him. However before he can sell him a mark up of a bad comic book, Craig shows up to save the day, much to Hal's shock. Dean is displeased and tells him to go away because the deal doesn't concern him at all. Craig refuses his request and states the deal does concern him. He immediately confronts Dean for his actions for attempting to sell Hal a bad comic book. Craig reveals that he has one as well in his bathroom, but he never reads it and has checked the Overstreet with 50,000 returns from the comic book store. Dean attempts to sell Hal a 'rare' Spiderman comic book, but Craig not buying it, spills soda on it. He reveals it was a 1993 reprint of Spiderman's first fight with the Green Goblin and if it had been an original, Hal would've bought it. With that Craig is able to force Dean into negotiations for a better and rare comic book.
At the house, Hal and Lois are furious with Malcolm and Reese after they picked them up at the hospital because they were forced to miss Dewey's play. The Family Fun Center park has banned the boys from returning there for life after their misbehavior and damage done on two of their go-kart cars. Once again Malcolm is grounded for his birthday, but it isn't new. It turns out that he and Reese have never been able to enjoy their respective birthdays because their fighting always causes them to get grounded. Lois thinks its sad that they always have to ruin their special days and begs them to let up their rivalry soon
The school play subplot, in which Dewey is to portray Abraham Lincoln. Nonetheless, it becomes engaging when he's finally to take the stage, expecting his parents in the front row but seeing two empty seats. Taking Lois' advice for whenever he's gets disappointed and fantasizing an imaginary set of parents, the little guy delivers an impressive operatic musical delivery of the Gettysburg Address which reduces most of the auditorium to tears.
Malcolm would never get the chance to enjoy the new comic book that Hal got him for his birthday as it and along with all the other gifts goes to Dewey as compensation for missing his play because they had to deal with his older brothers. In the end at the last flashback, it is revealed that Malcolm started the prank war by eating a blueberry that Reese was saving for later.
- Craig:(pushing the doors open in a heroic fashion) Not so fast!
- Dean: This transaction does not concern you, Feldspar.
- Bob: That's Craig Feldspar, he's a level 45 Dungeon Master.
- Craig:(confronting Dean for attempting to sell Hal a $50 mark up of a bad comic book) What cereal box did you shake this out of, Dean?
- Dean: It's the first print, totally collectible.
- Craig: Oh, should we check the Overstreet? Wait, we don't have to! 1997: First and only printing. 50,000 returns all in circulation. I keep this in my bathroom, but not for reading. This isn't a comic book store, it's a novelty shop!
- [A furious Hal and Lois are forced to miss Dewey's play by having to pick up an injured Reese and Malcolm from the hospital.]
- Lois: I should've told the doctor to sew furs and tails on you boys because you're animals! Only animals are easier because then I can have you FIXED!
- Hal: For all the good it does, you're grounded again.
- Malcolm: Thanks a lot for getting me grounded on my birthday!
- Reese: Oh boo hoo, I was grounded on my birthday!
- Malcolm: I was just standing up for myself! There is such a thing as justice, you know?!
- Reese: Well, there is such a thing as "Shut up"-!
- Lois: Stop it! Malcolm, do you remember what you did for your birthday last year?
- Malcolm: Nothing. I was grounded then, too.
- Lois:(to Reese) And what about your birthday?
- Reese: You grounded me after I smashed Malcolm's face into the cake.
- Lois: And your birthday before that?
- Malcolm: Pretty much this.
- Reese: (to Malcolm) Wait. When did you push me off the pony?
- Hal: All right, two scoops, fudge ripple. Now are we going to the comic book store?
- Craig: (imitating Yoda) Patience, Luke. You are reckless.
- Hal: We've gone to he beach, we've gone to the movies. I won you an animal at the church bazaar. We've gone out for coffee, lunch, Slushees, pie.
- Craig: I can't negotiate unless I'm firing on all cylinders.
- Hal: Just how many cylinders do you have?
- [Last flashback, at the dinner table.]
- Reese:[getting up, but leave hs plate with a blueberry on it.] Don't eat that blueberry, I'm saving it.
- Malcolm:[ignores Reese and eats the blueberry off his plate] What's the worst that could happen?