Forwards Backwards

Forwards Backwards

'Forwards Backwards' is the 68th episode of the series Malcolm in the Middle. It initially aired on FOX on 2002-12-01. It is unique in that while revolving around the central plots flashbacks are intermittently mixed in reverse order to provide a back-story for the plot itself.



(Note: All of these events take place in the episode in reverse chronological order as flashbacks.)

  • Reese and Malcolm are finishing breakfast when Reese tells him to not to eat his last blueberry and that he is saving it. Malcolm eats it asking "What's the worse that can happen?"
  • Malcolm is cleaning the dishes after breakfast when Reese comes up from behind and quickly smears grime from the plate into Malcolm's ear.
  • Malcolm is vacuuming the fireplace while Reese grabs his baseball equipment. When he puts on his hat he is covered in soot and/or dirt.
  • Malcolm goes to brush his teeth but realizes quickly that it is not toothpaste and spits it out while Reese, still covered in soot and/or dirt, stands watching behind the shower curtain.
  • While taking his shower Malcolm walks in, still covered in what should have been toothpaste and aims a blow horn into the shower stall, causing Reese to fall to the ground clutching his ears.
  • With only a towel covering himself Reese walks in clutching a fire extinguisher. He sticks the nozzle into Malcolm's shorts and sprays it.
  • Reese goes into the garage to use the dumbbells. Underestimating their weight it falls on to his chest when Malcolm, legs still covered in chemicals from the fire extinguisher, walks in. He pleads for help to which Malcolm pulls off a large piece of construction tape and saying "Oh, I'll help you."

Primary Plot

Malcolm and Stevie are in Malcolm's room while talking over his upcoming birthday and how he has been saving money to buy his own computer off of Stevie's father. Lois comes in asking if either of them have seen Reese but before she can finish he comes in, head covered in tape, and begins to pummel Malcolm. Lois quickly stops them and tells them to both to cease fighting, telling Malcolm that the feud ends with him. Later at school Malcolm kicks a resting Reese awake to tell him that he refuses to end the feud because he is tired of being bullied by him. When Reese goes to retort he realizes that Malcolm has super-glued his arm to his head. In retaliation for this Reese takes an old photograph of Malcolm using the toilet and pins it to the front of every locker. Later Malcolm walks up to Reese who sits at the edge of a crowd of kids and admits defeat saying that no matter what he will do that Reese will continue to do worse but says that they should get a second opinion from his friends. Malcolm asks the group if they know Reese's name and when they shake their heads he brings to light that Reese has been following them around while pretending to be their friend. Back at home Malcolm finds a note where his money should be saying that Reese has taken it and is going to the go-kart track. When he arrives Reese taunts him by saying that he has spent it all. Malcolm chases him down and they drive towards one another. At the last moment both realize that the other is not going to swerve out of the way and they collide. After picking them both up from the hospital (Malcolm is sporting a bandage on his head, his arm is in a sling and his neck in a brace; Reese is covered in a cast from the torso down) Lois cancels Malcolm's birthday and asks if either can remember what they had done during their previous birthdays. When they cannot remember Lois points out that they have never had a birthday because they were always fighting during those times. As punishment both are forced to clean despite their injuries.

Second Plot

Hal walks into a coming book shop "The Middle Earthling" looking to purchase a comic book for Malcolm's birthday. When going to the cashier (Dean) asking for advice the Dean creates a false super hero named 'Mr. Incredible' who is a rock star during the day and a superhero at night. When Hal exclaims ignorantly that he thinks he has read it Dean berates him, saying that the comic book shop is only for avid comic collecting fans and not amateurs. Before Hal can defend himself Dean turns away to help another customer. He tells Lois later that he realizes that he needs the help of Craig who says he requires a favor the next day. Spending the day buying and spoiling Craig with various gifts and events he snaps, saying that he feels enough is enough. Craig insists that he stop and refuses to help him. Hal returns to the comic book shop a while later and once again begins to be mocked by Dean; almost being tricked into overpaying for a low rate comic book when Craig comes to his rescue. After battling briefly with Dean he throws soda all over his 'valuable comic book' showing the other workers that what Dean claims to be an original print is merely a re-print and therefore worthless. Later it is assumed that Hal has gotten a decent comic book thanks to Craig.

Third Plot

Dewey asks Lois if he has completed the costume for his school play. When she mistakes his part for a tree he exclaims that he is portraying Abraham Lincoln. Lois asks him if they can re-use the Frankenstein costume that he had worn for a previous play while ignoring that he is obviously upset. After school while Lois begins to make his top hat Dewey expresses that he has doubts about playing the part after doing research that portrayed president Lincoln. Lois once again ignores his distress saying that he is only nervous. After his costume is completed she sends him off to school. More nervous then ever Dewey begins to panic going through various scenarios of possible negative outcomes. Lois calms him and says that if he feels nervous to look out for her and Hal and that all will be alright (though she states that if he is still going to vomit to use the hat). When Dewey steps on stage to perform he looks down to see that amidst all of the trouble caused by the boys (this occurs right after their final feud at the go-kart race track) they have failed to show up. Instead Dewey focuses on another couple sitting in the front row and imagines them cheering him on as his own parents should be. He delivers a beautiful song that causes many audience members to cry. In return for not showing up he is given the comic book that should have gone to Malcolm for his birthday.

Fourth Plot

Francis comes to Otto and tells him that he has found a few chickens stomped to death and gates torn down. The ranch hand runs out screaming 'Devil Cow' in Spanish. When Francis inquires as to why Otto tells the fictional tale of a cow who had once tasted human flesh and when the moon is red comes to feed on the blood of the innocent. While Francis stares in disbelief that such a tall tale could be true the staff, the ranch hand included, run out of the front doors. A woman screams outside and when Francis goes to investigate sees an antelope has been completely flattened. To quickly calm the visitors Otto explains that it was he who had done it. Obviously stressed Otto begins to become frightened himself and Francis takes action saying that he will deal with the situation. During the evening they both encounter 'The Devil Cow' but Francis realizes that it has been so vicious because it has yet to been milked. Francis takes a seat and does what he can to calm the cow down.


Recurring Characters

  • David Anthony Higgins as Craig Feldspar
  • Craig Lamar Traylor as Stevie Kenarban
  • Kenneth Mars as Otto Mannkusser

Guest Stars

  • Timm Sharp as Dean
  • Oscar Nuñez as Ranch hand


  • At the time of this episode there was no Mr. Incredible but several years later Pixar came out with the film The Incredibles whose premise follows the life of Mr. Incredible and his family.
  • Lois asks Dewey of they can re-use his Frankenstein costume for his part as Abraham Lincoln. This is because while Frankenstein's monster has a large forehead President Lincoln wore a large hat that could parallel accurately.

References in Popular Culture

  • When Hal asks for assistance Craig sits and talks very much like the don in The Godfather.
  • The backwards, through the window perspective could be a reference to Pinter's Betrayal.
  • The Middle Earthling is in reference to J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings in which Middle Earth is the land that all of the events take place.
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