Malcolm, whose frenetic home life is a kind of zoo, begins the fourth season by accompanying his family to the real thing. A visit to the zoo offers close encounters with creatures great and small. But Hal wishes he could have passed on an encounter with Lois's former beau, who lectures on rain-forest animals. Elsewhere, Reese butts heads with a goat; and Malcolm and Dewey take a tumble into a tiger den. Another storyline checks in on ne'er-do-well Francis, now the unlikely foreman of a dude ranch owned by a cheery German businessman.
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.
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.
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 struggles with his speech when he's elected valedictorian of his graduating class at school. However, Lois refuses to listen to any of his complaints and reveals that she wants him to become President of the United States. Meanwhile, Reese does everything he can to get a permanent job as a high school janitor, which includes creating the most disgusting mess ever. In the meantime, Hal has problems with Malcolm's Harvard tuition, while Francis finally gets a real 9-5 job that he actually enjoys. Also returning for the family celebrations is Grandma Ida, as they all say goodbye to Malcolm when he leaves for college.
It's still summer-vacation time on the jaunty third-season opener, which finds Malcolm and his rowdy clan cruising on a lake in a houseboat with Stevie and his straitlaced parents, Abe and Kitty Kenarban. Some vacation. The vessel itself is a fright, a weathered heap that Dewey hates from the get-go because "There's no TV! There's no TV! There's no TV!" An equally distraught Malcolm is shanghaied by Hal for a fishing expedition, leaving lucky Reese the chance to trawl for bikini-clad beauties at a nearby camp. Back on board, the close quarters are slowly driving Abe off the deep end.
When Reese realizes the Army is too much for him to handle, he deserts and dresses as an Afghani woman. But Lois is on a march to find him, and travels to Kabul to hunt him down. Meanwhile, Malcolm volunteers at a veterans hospital as a way to make up for his guilt of making Reese leave.
When Hal and the garbageman get into a trash-dumping war (which benefits Dewey more than anyone else), Hal enlists Reese's help. Meanwhile, Lois gets her job back at Lucky Aide (off probation), and fights against Malcolm in order to take down an offensive billboard of a smiling black janitor (whose nametag reads "Slappy") holding a mop and a 6-pack of malt liquor. Soon it's an all-out war between mom and son - until Lois encounters a fellow employee who is more racist than the billboard.
Hal and Lois, strapped for cash, decide that Christmas gifts will have to be homemade this year. When everyone makes much better gifts than Hal, he spins a bigger and bigger lie about the present he has in store for them. In desperation, Hal pick-pockets Malcolm's secret credit card, and buys the family a ski vacation.
Hal is sleepless because of their upcoming 20th wedding anniversary. So he ask Reese for some ideas for presents. Then Reese gets the idea to brainwash his dad while he's nervous. Dewey's friends are set up in an upcoming student body election when a bully nominated two of his geeky friends. Malcolm takes up playing the electric guitar, though Lois discourages his musical ability. He writes a heart warming song. When he plays & sings his creation, Dewey figures out that his song is sung to the tune of the "Meow Mix" jingle!
Lois thinks Jamie is out to get her when Jamie knocks over a shelf and nearly crushes her.
When Malcolm spots a roughed up 1967 Cuda in his neighborhood, he instantly falls in love with it and purchases the car. But he gets so caught up in the difficult task of restoring it that he blows off Stevie as well as Reese who needs him for an illegal betting scheme of his. Hal on the other hand, is having success when he stumbles upon his hidden talent -- hairstyling. Lois doesn't have time to worry about Malcolm or Hal, as she is caught up in scandal between Craig and their Lucky Aide boss Fred. Craig says he is taking time off to tutor Fred's wife in golf but Lois finds out he is actually having an affair with her.
When Lois buys a brand-new king-sized bed, Hal thinks that her motive is to put more distance between them and refuses to sleep in it. Moved to tears by an opera he sees on television, Dewey is inspired to write his own operatic masterpiece, "The Marriage Bed," which is based on his parents' fight and turned into a school production. Meanwhile, Malcolm and Reese build their own street luge board; and Jamie falls head over heels for the baby girl across the street.