Perhaps the most original sitcom pilot in recent years, this first episode combines sharp writing with a hyperbolic camera style reminiscent of Parker Lewis Can't Lose. Malcolm introduces us to his world, dominated by omnipresent schoolyard bully Spath and made worse by his enforced friendship with Stevie, an asthmatic wheelchair genius. When a battery of tests reveals that Malcolm has an IQ of 165, he is moved into Stevie's special accelerated class, despite his protests that "around here being intelligent is exactly the same as being radioactive." On the bright side, Malcolm discovers a practical application for intelligence when he and Stevie spontaneously hit on a solution to Spath's persistent tyranny.
A battle of wits and wills ensues between the boys and their angry mom, who wants to find out who ruined her expensive new red dress -- found partially burned and soaking in the toilet. It's Hal and Lois's wedding anniversary (hence the dress); and while the boys fend off their mother, with the long-distance assistance of Francis, a lonely and increasingly sozzled Hal bonds with the staff of the restaurant where he booked a table for the big night. Lois finally achieves an epiphany on the phone with Francis, who convinces her to for once "let something go." After she leaves for the restaurant, with the boys in tow, Hal arrives home to an empty house -- and we learn the truth about what happened to the red dress.
Lois and Hal are spending the weekend at a family wedding, leaving Francis -- home for a visit -- in charge. When Malcolm overhears them discussing whether Francis has spent long enough at the military academy, he enlists his brothers in a scheme to get Francis home by preventing any of the usual disasters. But three of Francis's dude buddies turn up to party and trash the house, and while frantically cleaning up Malcolm gets a serious head injury that necessitates the usual trip to the emergency ward. How to prevent Mom and Dad from finding out? Enter Caroline, who has begged Malcolm to look on her not just as his teacher but also as his "friend" -- a declaration that costs her $400 in medical bills. Meanwhile, Hal and Lois discover that his family has a new nickname for her: "Lois Common Denominator." Her humiliation provokes Hal to declare his devotion to her -- and the snooty bride and groom discover that their honeymoon car is already being put to use.... Home again, Mom and Dad a
Parallel stories pit Malcolm against Kevin, a bullying, obnoxious new kid who goads Malcolm into beating him up; and Francis vies with his intimidating military-school commandant, who's presenting sex-education lectures. When Malcolm discovers that Kevin is only seven, he is guilt-stricken and tries to make amends by entering a charity marathon race. Meanwhile, Hal chops down the front-yard tree, alienating the neighbors (who can now see the house) but fascinating his sons with the wood-chipper.
Malcolm's cushy babysitting job provides relief from the trailer the family's using while their house is being fumigated, until Malcolm learns that the trust placed in him in his new position is strictly limited. Meanwhile, the military school's master key leads Francis to a corpse, for which he provides a proper send-off.
Malcolm sleeps over at Stevie's house and, appalled at his over-protected lifestyle, persuades him to sneak out to a late-night games arcade - where Stevie's wheelchair is stolen. Meanwhile, Francis copes with a bullying group of cadets by telling them home tales about real intimidation -- by Lois.
Francis goes AWOL from military school and comes home to get together with his ditzy girlfriend, so they can get away forever. She turns out to be a thief who doesn't pay attention to Francis. So he hides in the backyard while Malcolm (who is the only one who nows he is there) tries to make excuses to Dewey for whats in the backyard.
Disasters abound at a gifted kids' picnic, where stage acts bomb, families feud, and Malcolm's dad Hal serves meat to vegetarians. Despite Malcolm's best efforts -- feigning sickness, planning to go over the wall with Francis -- his family insist on accompanying him to a circus-themed picnic for the Krelboyne class, whom must each perform for the assembled students and families. Once there, Lois immediately feuds with Dorene, the loud-mouthed mother who dominates the other parents; Reese plans to "kick Krelboyne butt" and is hoist by his own petard (okay, underpants) by Eraserhead's much bigger brother; Francis goes through an entire romantic relationship in the course of the single afternoon; and Hal grosses out the entire class by sneaking real meat into their vegetarian barbecue. When a desperate Malcolm turns Stevie's demonstration of catalysts into a gigantic stink bomb, Caroline is convinced she will be fired -- so Malcolm must go on and quell the crowd by demonstrating his abili
After the kids blow up the store's steam cleaner, and Dewey confesses to stealing a $150 bottle of cognac, Lois's firing prompts household economizing to an extent that causes Malcolm mortifying embarrassment at school: Julie organizes a food-drive for his family. When Hal winds up in emergency with acute botulism as a result, Lois must re-think her position against apologizing to her odious boss, Mr. Pinter. Meanwhile, Francis thinks he's died and gone to heaven when he's assigned honor-guard duty at a Teenage Miss Alabama beauty pageant -- until he discovers that all the girls think he's gay.
Malcolm is upset about having to dance in front of the school with the other Krelboynes, so he decides to ditch school. But when Hal convinces him that taking him to school will be the highlight of his day, so Malcolm is guilted into going. The boys are shocked though when Hal tells them they aren't going to school. He takes them to the racetrack to see the last race of the best driver ever Rusty Malcolm. After two laps, the boys decide to get some cokes. While arguing over who should watch him though, the boys lose Dewey and enter a forbidden room, only to be caught by a security guard. Meanwhile, Francis' disobedience affects the rest of the cadets.
The family gets ready to attend a relative's funeral, which affects Malcolm's plans to spend time with Julie. Upset that everyone doesn't want to go and that no one pulls their own weight around the house, Lois goes on strike. Meanwhile, Reese desperately tries to get the family to attend the funeral so he can get rid of Dewey's expensive birthday present he broke.
Reese becomes so head-over-heels for a girl on the cheerleading squad that he actually decides to join. Dewey tries to convince Lois and Hal to buy him a new toy. Francis suffers through a long lecture from Spangler.
Malcolm is angry because during a game of street hockey, he sprints up and down the street in shoes, only to have it start back the other way. So he decides he is ready to take skating lessons from his dad. He asks Reese and Francis how it is, but they both refuse to tell him. When he starts, he is angered by all the silly twists and spins they are doing. Meanwhile, Reese rollerskates in the house with a bunch of gunk on his skates which causes Lois to throw out her back while yelling at him.
Malcolm and his Krelboyne classmates enlist the help of Hal for a school project, which involves a robot, and an enormous swarm of bees. Lois visits Francis at his school after he becomes injured and soon clashes with Spangler.
The boys stay home from school when their mother thinks it's Sunday instead of Monday. Malcolm thinks of a plan to get Francis out of trouble once again. Hal gets sucked in by a Porsche dealership.