Garage Sale is the 15th episode of season 4 and the 78th episode overall on Malcolm in the Middle. It aired on April 6th, 2003. It was directed by Levi Issacks and written by Maggie Bandur.
Home from a visit with her sister Susan who had called her "hopeless," Lois puts Reese in charge of the family garage sale. Meanwhile, Hal finds his old pirate radio transmitter and restarts a pirated broadcast he ran in college under the pseudonym Kid Charlemagne. However, when he makes unacceptable speeches about the government again he becomes wanted by the FCC and the FBI again. Meanwhile, Malcolm finds an old computer worth thousands of dollars and tells Lois about it. After Reese intentionally destroys it, she reprimands him and reminds him that they desperately need the money. At the ranch, Francis uses a sock puppet to help Otto deal with his estrangement from his son Rutger, an experience that helps him say just what Lois needs to hear when he calls home.
Following the events of "Hal's Friend," the bedroom wall is still knocked out and covered with plastic. Hal and the boys are trying to clean house and get the unwelcome animals out of the house when Lois returns. Hal's stammering assurances that he's got expansion plans in mind fail to worry her and she's just glad to be home after an apparently unpleasant experience staying with her sister. She tells Hal about her childhood which her parents have often looked down to her a lot and it made her do some soul searching. Moreover, she's been thinking of Reese and his wayward ways, venturing that if the lad were given some encouragement and responsibility, he might turn a corner. When Malcolm later suggests having a garage sale to raise some funds, Lois allows Reese to take credit for the idea and then puts him in charge of organizing the event. Peeved at this theft of his thunder, Malcolm protests but is silenced by a determined Lois, who's rooting for Reese to do well, despite the half-assed job he's actually doing.
During all this, Hal uncovers an old radio transmitter which he used in college for a pirate talk-radio broadcast. Inspired to renew his "Kid Charlemagne" character, he starts transmitting again from behind the garage, filling his frequency with increasingly-cockeyed conspiracy theories. Meanwhile, Malcolm finds a vintage 1976 computer chassis which Reese orders him to throw away but which Malcolm discovers online is valued at $1300. He tries to tell Lois about it and she once again accuses him of trying to undermine Reese. Annoyed, he enlists Craig to purchase it at the garage sale during a scripted transaction in which Reese's judgment will be derided in favor of Malcolm's.
The Mannkusser's receive a letter from their son Rutger, but when it arrives, Gretchen implores Francis to hide it, but too late, Otto is already setting fire to the envelope. It seems that the father and son had a falling-out years before (Rutger didn't return to work at the ranch after college as expected, instead deciding to become a doctor), and both are too strong-willed to attempt to breach the gap. When Gretchen happens upon "Schlupi," a sock puppet which Otto once used to communicate frank messages which he otherwise couldn't relay to his son, Francis has an idea.
The day of the garage sale eventually falls, and despite Lois' stalwart reassurances, Reese is a nightmare of bad salesmanship and harebrained ideas. He even sells Dewey's piggy-bank, which happens to contain $16 of Dewey's money, for a mere two bucks. After Lois does nothing to help him, an enraged Dewey retaliates by underhandedly selling most of the family's furniture and belongings from inside the house and then pocketing the money. Reese catches him in the act and beats him up. He takes the money that Dewey pocketed for himself. Malcolm is about to close the rehearsed "sale" of the vintage computer to Craig when a frenzied Hal spirits the portly Lucky Aide manager away while trying to evade lurking FBI agents working with the FCC. Reese then sees Malcolm with the computer and angerly questions him why he still has it after he told him to throw it out and tries to take it from Malcolm. As the two fight, Lois breaks it up and gets angry at Malcolm for trying to be the center of attention and points out that Reese has worked hard to make the garage sale work.
Left with no other options, Malcolm finally tells Lois the truth about doing research about a the old computer and reveals that it is extremely rare, with few in existence and that Craig will give them $1300 to purchase it. That he tried to tell her several times about, but she didn't care at all. Upon learning the truth, Lois is immediately in awe about being able to get $1300 from it and her faith in her older son wanes. Enraged that Malcolm disobeyed his wishes and feeling that he was wasting his time telling the family about the vintage computer, Reese intentionally destroys it. Only then, Lois realizes her mistake in not heeding Malcolm's warning against Reese heading the garage sale and the similar traits that he shares with Ida. Reese calls Malcolm out for wasting his time with the garbage he was trying to sell Craig and that he has more important things to do. He has already put a jet ski on hold that he's planning to buy and Lois is outraged. She immediately confronts Reese and points out that money isn't his to begin with at all. She mentions that Malcolm's sale of the old computer to Craig was going to give them the money that they need to finish Hal's expansion plans for the new baby. An aghast Reese reminds Lois that when she put him in charge of the garage sale instead of Malcolm, he assumed he'd be keeping all the money he earned. Lois points out that he was wrong to assume that and she wouldn't have let him buy that jet ski regardless of how he felt. Reese is horrified to realize that he's not getting paid and questions why she wanted him to be in charge of the garage sale. Lois mentions the reason she wanted him to head the garage sale instead of Malcolm is because she wanted to help motivate him into being a better person and having good self-esteem. She furiously tells him off that he's going to need both of them later on in life because he's an idiot for destroying the old computer and wasting the $1,300 that the family desperately needs. This makes Reese intimidated of Lois in front of everyone else who heard her yelling at him, which means that her yelling at him is the only thing he actually understands aside the bullying and being a complete idiot. Meanwhile, Craig has pulled over and wants to cooperate with the FBI agents. Lois demands to know what's going on as she watches Hal attempting to make a run for it with his old pirate radio with the FBI agents chasing after him. The FCC agents warn him to make it easier on himself and turn himself in. Hal refuses and tries to jump over the fence... which gets him arrested by the waiting FBI agents, fined and a bruised knee.
At the Grotto ranch, Francis confronts Otto and encourages him to look at his ring. When he does in one second, he sees the Schlupi sock on his hand. Being encouraged by Francis and with it, Otto was able to tell him how he really felt when Rutger left him. When they came to visit him, it was very hard on him because he never made the attempt to visit them and realized how bad the estrangement is. Then, Francis arranges for a phone to be brought, so that nature can take its course.
At the house, Lois and Hal ponder the day's events in their largely empty living room. Hal tries to think positive in their outlook, mentioning that they did get rid of a lot of their stuff. Lois is hopeless and is still feeling remorseful for having not listened to Malcolm about Reese from the beginning. She admits she feels lost in what to do about him now that she realizes how similar he is to Ida in being greedy and destructive. Hal reassures her that Reese is hopeless no matter how hard they may try to motivate him. Lois is still depressed by this because that means she has to give up on him, that is until the phone rings. She gets a pleasant surprise when Francis calls to tell her (assisted by Schlupi) that he appreciates everything she did to try and help him. This helps brings peace to Lois and the two begin a heart-to-heart conversation.
- Jane Kaczmarek as Lois
- Bryan Cranston as Hal
- Christopher Kennedy Masterson as Francis
- Justin Berfield as Reese
- Erik Per Sullivan as Dewey
- Frankie Muniz as Malcolm
- David Anthony Higgins as Craig Feldspar
- Kenneth Mars as Otto Mannkusser
- Megan Fay as Gretchen Mannkusser
- Kirk Ward as FBI Agent
- Richard Eks as Police Officer
- Mildred Dumas as Elderly Lady
- Matt Corboy as Man
- Kathleen Darcy as Wife
- Connor Swanek as Toddler Reese
- Jay Colette as Young Reese
- Cody Arens as Young Malcolm
- This episode marks the first time Lois has regretted not heeding Malcolm's warning about Reese as he sees him as greedy and selfish.
- It is revealed that Susan was the clear family favorite of Victor and Ida's children, while Lois was considered hopeless like Reese.
- Out of Lois' children, Victor and Ida clearly favored Reese because his behavior reminds them of Susan. Whereas, they show contempt for Malcolm as the two believed he inherited Lois' own weak traits.
- The "Nortair 680B" computer found by Malcolm is in fact an Altair 8800, considered as the first Personal Computer.
- This episode also marks the first time that a member from the Wilkerson family has been arrested by federal officers. In Hal's case, he has been transmitting negative talk about the government which landed him into trouble with the FBI Agents.
- Francis would soon follow in Day Care
- This is the 2nd time that Hal has been arrested on his own. His first time was in Charity, his third time in Reese Joins the Army: Part 1 and the last one is in Malcolm Defends Reese.
- Despite being set in the fictional town of Star City, Hal is measuring the size of his radio broadcasting radius on a map of Chicago, Illinois with Harwood Heights being clearly visible on the top left-hand corner. Their house was marked as being here.
- This episode shows a pivotal moment where Francis truly shed's his delinquent ways and helps Otto reconcile with Rutger with the use of a sock puppet named Schlupi. He later uses it to tell Lois that he does appreciate how much she cares about him and this helps bring peace to her.
- This has been the 1st time Lois has given up on Reese. The next times this happens is in Buseys Take A Hostage and in Secret Boyfriend.
- This episode marks the first time that Malcolm warned Lois against letting Reese do anything, knowing the predictable results that would ensue. The next time, he warns against it is in Buseys Take A Hostage and in Secret Boyfriend.
- Blossom, a Powerpuff Girl, can be seen in the background of the yard sale.
- Lois:[After realizing that Malcolm was telling the truth and sees Reese destroy the computer intentionally] That money isn't yours. He was going to rebuild our bedroom wall.
- Reese: But you said I was in charge. That means I get the money.
- Lois: No, it doesn't.
- Reese: Then, why the hell do I want to be in charge?!
- Lois: Reese, this is helping you become a better person and building your self-esteem. Which is what you're obviously going to need if you are [yelling at Reese, who is clearly intimidated] STUPID ENOUGH TO THROW AWAY $1300 THIS FAMILY DESPERATELY NEEDS!
- Craig:[Pulls over his van and gets out of the car] I'm cooperating. I never met this man before. I hated the constitution. I hate free speech. I'll snitch. I know things.
- (Hal is seen running from the FBI Agents with his pirate radio with the FCC agents in the van.)
- FBI Agent: Stop, government agents.
- Lois: What on earth?
- FBI Agent: Fair warning sir, running adds $80 to your fine.
- (After Dewey tells Malcolm about his plans to trick Reese.)
- Malcolm: Dewey, you're totally overthinking this. Reese, aliens landed across the street.
- (Reese shows up with a baseball bat and wearing a football helmet as head protection.)
- Reese: Every man for himself.
- [Now inside the empty house, Hal and Lois are pondering what to do next after what happened. Hal tries to look on the bright side of their situation thinking it's part of the expansion, while he puts an ice package on his knee while Lois is feeling hopeless over everything she had done. She's still remorseful for not heeding Malcolm's warning against Reese heading the garage sale]
- Hal: Tell you one thing, 20 years ago I would have cleared that fence... and the open manhole.
- Lois: Oh God, how could I been so wrong about Reese? Hal, say it again please, I really need to hear it.
- Hal: Okay, Reese.... is hopeless.
- When Dewey walks into the kitchen the following morning of Lois's arrival, it is hinted that Dewey is not wearing any underwear. However, when he turns, you can briefly see a waistband from the back.
- In this episode, we learn that Malcolm has a burn mark scar on his right hand given to him by Reese when he was younger. This is not seen on his hand in any other episodes or later in this episode.