Hal and the boys go to Francis's dude ranch for a weekend. When the boys do their usual antics (this time with ATV's), they are punished Lois-style by Francis. This sets Reese and Malcolm on a quest of getting the Francis they know back. Dewey bonds with Gretchen by cleaning numerous parts of the ranch, while Hal and Otto get drunk and lost in the desert.
With an offscreen Lois left to tend the house, Hal drives the boys to the Grotto, where they encounter an obsequious Otto and Gretchen, an illness-feigning Piama (until Malcolm informs her that Lois didn't come along), and an all-business Francis who is amiable but clearly not the mischievous older brother he once was. When Malcolm, Reese and Dewey trick Hal into signing a permission slip to ride three-wheeled ATV's--which they naturally destroy--Francis is furious and orders them confined to their room.
The following day, the obligatory three-way split in story-lines occurs. Malcolm and Reese break away from the ranch and use one of Hal's credit cards to purchase contraband fireworks. Gretchen, who was initially angry with Dewey for breaking one of her prized figurines, bonds with him as she teaches him the masochistic joys of housecleaning. And it goes without saying that Hal bonds with Otto--but, of course, it's during a horse-ride into the desert, where they get sauced on Schnapps, fire pistols into the night sky, scare away their horses and end up stranded.
An angry handwritten note prompts Francis to meet Malcolm and Reese at a remote part of the ranch. Although he resists their taunts to light the fuse of the elaborate fireworks arrangement, his younger brothers remind him of his earlier miscreant ways. Despite his protests that he's married and a responsible citizen now, he inadvertently lights the fuse anyway. The final conflagration literally turns the night into day. And the punchline is that there will be rewards instead of consequences, as the lost and drunken Hal and Otto presume the fireworks to be a sign from Francis signalling the way back to the ranch.
Malcolm: "I'm really going to miss my girlfriend Nicki. But then again, it's two days without Mom. I've been in the car since 6:00."
Piama: (feigning illness) "I'm fighting a terrible cold. I'll probably be in bed all weekend." Malcolm: "Mom didn't come." Piama: (suddenly fine) "Well, we'll just have to enjoy ourselves without her. Come on!"
Reese: "Hey, what are you doing? I brought some stuff I wanted to burn!"
Malcolm: "'All Terrain.' I wonder if that actually means all terrain." Reese: "They couldn't say it if it wasn't true."
Hal: "They don't think, Francis. They never have. The only thing their heads are good for is to plug up their necks!"
Otto: (pointing to Dewey) "I blame ze oldest one! Ze others follow him like sheep!"
Malcolm: "I don't believe it. You've turned into Mom." Francis: "Yeah? Well, sometimes Mom's right." Reese: "You take that back!"
Gretchen: (crying) "You promised me you would leave it alone, but it vas just....(agonized squeak) a lie."
Malcolm: "'Sometimes Mom's right?' Why didn't he just throw acid in our faces? You know, I'd actually prefer that." Reese: "I can't believe he yelled at us right in front of that French guy."
Gretchen: (happily) "You know vhat your Tante Gretchen does vhen she feels bad? She vorks. She vorks herself to ze point where her body screams in pain and her soul begs for mercy!" Dewey: "Why?" Gretchen: "It's ze best form of penance. Vhen my fingers are raw and my back is racked vith crippling pain, I feel all better!"
Otto: "Scout doesn't pick up on anything. Unless you're secretly gay."
Eddie: "Boys, I'd like to introduce you to the Komodo 3000."
Gretchen: "I just remembered vhen I vas nine. My uncle gave me a Pfennig to put in ze vishing vell. But I threw a pebble in ze vell and I kept ze Pfennig. I am pure evil!" Dewey: "I once put a garden slug in Reese's sandwich. And he ate it."
Hal: (drunk, firing a pistol) "Oh, great. Something scared off the horses!"
Francis: "Okay, and now you're smiling, which means in about two seconds I'm going to look like a jackass."
Piama: (indicating note from boys) "I'm afraid it starts off a little antagonistic." Francis: (reading) "Is that last word 'lick' or 'wipe?'" Piama: "I think you're safe either way."
Otto: "How far do you think we've gone?" Hal: "Well, judging by that rock formation over there, about twelve feet."
Otto: "If I am such a genius, how come zat I am drunk and lost in ze desert vith a bullet in my ass ?!?"
Dewey: "I kind of feel like I'm floating." Gretchen: "Vell, zat's probably ze ammonia."
Hal: "I'll tell you what that is. That is Francis showing us that way home! I told you he'd get us out of this!"
Francis: "Did it say when our vision would come back?" Reese: "Box said two days." Francis: "Totally worth it."
- This is the first episode Francis punishes his brothers.
- This is the first episode of the show that Lois doesn't appear in.
- Additionally, Francis is the first of the 4 brothers to defend Lois' parenting.
- This is the first episode Malcolm, Reese and Dewey are at the ranch and meet Otto and Gretchen.