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 when Lois returns. Hal's stammering assurances that he's got expansion plans in mind fail to worry her; she's just glad to be home after an apparently unpleasant experience staying with her sister. 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 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, 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--the shining comic jewel of the entire episode. 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. 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, which infuriates Lois who questions him of what he is doing. Reese points out he has a lot more stuff he needs to sell and can't waste time on stupid stuff that Malcolm is wasting time for and claims that he has a jet ski on hold at a store. As it turns out, he was willing to be in charge of the garage sale so he can spend the money on a jet ski and not on the expansion of the house for his unborn sibling. Only then, Lois realizes her mistake in not heeding Malcolm's warning against Reese heading the garage sale and also sees how similar he is to Ida in being greedy in wanting the money for himself. She furiously calls him out for being selfish in destroying the old computer. Lois mentions that the garage sale money wasn't his to begin with because Malcolm and Craig were going to use the money from the old computer to build a new wall for the house as part of the family's expansion plan. Reese argues with Lois that since she put him in charge of the garage sale and not Malcolm, in his logic he gets all the money. An angry Lois denies it, making Reese upset and questioning why the hell he would want to be in charge of the sale. Lois tell him that she was only encouraging him to head the garage sale because she wanted him to build character and self esteem. Lois tells Reese off that he's going to need it and calls him an idiot for throwing away $1,300 the family desperately needs in a furious, yelling tone of voice. This makes the latter intimidated by her right away in front of everyone else who had heard her. Meanwhile, Craig whom was supposed to help Malcolm to sell a priceless computer, has pulled over and wants to cooperate with the FBI agents. Hal attempts to make a run for it with his old pirate radio... which gets him arrested, 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 upcoming baby in their largely empty living room. Hal tries to think positive about their current situation, but Lois isn't hopeful at all. Still remorseful in not heeding Malcolm's warning against letting Reese head the garage sale, she realizes he is hopeless after all. She asks Hal to tell her again, but then the telephone rings and Lois picks it up. It's Francis, and he's ready to have a heart-to-heart talk with her. On his hand, is Schlupi and it helps him say the things Lois needed to hear. Francis also mentions that being on the Grotto Ranch has helped mature him into a responsible adult and it impresses her, after the disastrous result with Reese.
- Jane Kczmerek 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 FCC 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.
- 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.)
- 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. While Hal tries to look on the bright side of their situation thinking it's part of the expansion, 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]
- Lois: How could I been so wrong about Reese. Hal, I just need to hear it one more time.
- Hal: Reese is.... Hopeless.