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Hal Quits is the fourteenth of the second season of Malcolm in the Middle, which was broadcast on February 4, 2001.


Hal quits his job (claiming he asked for time off because of a health problem) after a disastrous career day at Dewey's school, and devotes his free time to creating a huge painting in the garage (all that is seen of the painting is the first blue dot and when it falls on him). He drives himself crazy adding more and more layers to the painting until he goes crazy about it.

Francis reluctantly works at the Lucky Aide over spring break when they need extra people to take inventory. Malcolm questions his future profession after an aptitude test reveals that he could do any job on the planet.


In the cold opening, Dewey enters the kitchen and tells his parents that the tooth fairy came and left him a rock and half a stick of gum. Both parents go to find Malcolm and Reese who they know are responsible for taking the tooth fairy money left for Dewey.

At breakfast, Francis is visiting home for spring break. Reese claims that he can make milk come out of either nostril. Malcolm tells us that he has gotten very good at doing it, despite his pity, he is actually kind of jealous. Lois stops to warn him that whatever comes out of his nose is going right back in. Dewey complains that a corner of his waffle is still frozen, Lois apologizes and tells him he had to put Francis' waffle on top, and that the toaster oven isn't big enough. Dewey is not happy with Francis, so he gives Dewey a piece of his warm waffle to make it up to him. Lois tells Francis to get moving because he starts his first day of inventory at the Lucky Aide. Francis feels proud about it while his other cadet friends are spending their spring break vacations doing something else like river rafting, he believes they are jealous about how he was going to be counting shampoo bottles. Lois tells him it's the perfect fit: they need people, and he has no choice.

Hal enters the kitchen in a clean work attire excited for his first time showcasing on Career Day at Dewey's school and he wants to get it right. Malcolm tells Hal that the students he will be presenting to are all six years old, Hal follows up with a lot to cover with his work material. Malcolm has to help with Hal because his teacher said it was fine and that he can make up what he missed after school. Hal feels confident until he receives feedback from the students about how his job is awful while he hesitantly tries to explain how important it is. Malcolm and Dewey both understand that their father is clearly not doing very well. Hal tries to tell the children in the class that all jobs are awful and there is nothing that can be done about it, one of the kids named Pete says that being a firefighter is not boring, Hal then counter argues by saying how big of a risk it can be with getting killed by a fire. Pete then believes that his dad, who is a firefighter, could die which all of the other students understand. Another young student asks Hal if the only reason he likes his job is because he does not have to worry about getting killed by a fire. Another student asks why he does his job if it is boring and he hates it. At this point, Hal starts thinking himself.

At dinner at the Wilkerson house Lois is upset that Hal quit his job, but Hal asks her to give him a little more credit and claims that he asked for a temporary leave of absence because of a kidney malfunction (despite the episode's title and official synopsis claiming otherwise). Reese is impressed and compliments him because it sounds drastic but vague enough to discourage any follow up questions from being asked. Lois then questions about the reason being feedback from a 7-year-old, Malcolm defends him by saying it went so bad that he made Hal cry. Hal said that the kid was ruthless but fair, Dewey says for that kid's dad's Career Day, he put on a puppet show to explain his job.

Hal gives a lecture about how life can be crazy: one day you're in your post secondary education as a cock of the walk, enjoying all the amenities of being a young adult, until you need money. You get a job position, believing it is only a temporary, but then you get a promotion, then a raise in pay, and then the subsequent doors of opportunity which are actually trapdoors. 20 years go by and it makes you ask the question: "Is this all I have to my life?" He is not referring to his kids of course, but he acknowledges how the house is crap. Lois tells the boys that she wishes to speak to their father alone, Reese suggests to do it in the bedroom since they are still eating their dinner. Seconds later, everyone obliges by their mother's demand and leave the kitchen. Lois asks Hal if he is going through a mid-life crisis, and if he has a plan for something. Hal tells Lois that he has always wanted to invest his time in the painting he has kept as a vision for years, and he is dead set on bringing it all onto a canvas. Lois asks if he even knows how crazy it is, that he was going to do the painting after they retire when being insane is nothing to be ashamed of and how she was looking forward to him being a painter in his later years, Hal states he can no longer wait but concludes that maybe after his retirement he could be a devoted gardener instead. Nevertheless, Lois allows Hal to create his painting because she understands how important it is to him and he is still a very good husband and father. Hal then tells her that the would love to get her something special but the amount of art supplies he needs requires him to dig very deep in their savings.

Meanwhile at the Lucky Aide all of the temporary employees have passed their inventory screening process, Craig informs everyone that corporate has pitted them against another retail store located in downtown, and that the first person to finish their inventory successfully receives a plaque. Francis asks a question about which household cleaner is the most deadly, and gets the task of counting the cotton swabs, another employee who blind answers Francis' question with a rat grenade is.

Malcolm says that he never noticed how much his father despised the job he has had for a long time and admits he was pretty self-centered to never pay any attention. Then he wonders if the same thing will happen to him. In the kitchen, Hal and looking over a list of brushes, paint, and other supplies he will need such as a camel-hair brush and a Kolinsky sable. Lois is surprised by how much he knows about painting, despite never doing it once, Hal tells her how he’s been painting it in his imagination for the last 20 years. Francis comes home distraught from his day at the Lucky-Aide position and explains to his parents how such labor is bad it is for your spirit, Lois tells him that Craig needs him to arrive at 7:00 A.M instead of 8:00 A.M and not to make too much noise when he gets up since Hal will be sleeping in.

The next day, Hal is in the garage about to start his painting. He starts by putting one small blue dot on the large white canvas. Walking home from school, The Krelboynes are asking Malcolm about how his dad reacted in light of quitting his job, Malcolm tells them what the believe is crazy. Malcolm explains that he is simply taking time off from work, when he says he has no idea what he is going to do for a job, the others are surprised. Lloyd tries to tell him it's fine to not have a plan but gets emotional, Dabney tells Malcolm that you can't just luck into any job position, Stevie says that because of his intelligence and tokenism the sky's the limit. Back at home Hal is vigorously mixing colors and applying paint onto the canvas in the garage, he even uses his bare hands to do so.

At the Lucky Aide, Francis is carrying four large bags of charcoal, he sets them down and checks with a co-worker named Garkech to ask the quantity, he then learns that he cannot write or speak intelligibly. Craig comes in to inform the employees of some news: his sources tell him that the downtown store they are in competition with has found a man at a homeless shelter who is a "Rain Man-type" human calculator who is prone to tantrums but they cannot count on that, so he has instructed everyone to work late into the night in order to keep up with the inventory records. He informs Francis about the number of loose candies in the store's dispensers and tasks him with double-checking the amount of malt balls. Francis makes an insult behind Craig's back about him eating 40 and tells him that he is paying for them.

At dinner, Malcolm notices how everything feels strange will his dad so happy. Hal loves the meatloaf Lois cooked and asks if it's a new recipe, Lois admits that she used ketchup instead of tomato paste. Dewey sounds quiet, Hal asks what is wrong. Dewey explains that a girl in his class called him "Ewey Dewey" and also puts paste in his hair all the time, Hal gives him some advice and says it's a sign that she might like him and it's her way of getting his attention, Lois supports Hal's advice and says it's true. Like Dewey, Reese knows a girl in his class but Hal stops him and suggests he leaves her alone before she calls the police on him, Reese accepts his answer and goes back to his meal. Lois is surprised by how everything is great with Hal being unemployed, he even sets the mood for a romantic night in the bedroom. In the middle of the night, Hal wakes up and goes back into garage to continue his painting, these time he splatters small cans of paint on the canvas to keep his vision intact.

Craig congratulates the inventory team for doing a great job yesterday... Unfortunately, he lost all the numbers that were recorded, he accidentally mailed them to his mother leaving everyone feel disappointed. Craig instructs everyone to recount all of the products while he goes over to the downtown store to play a little "defense", and to make matters worse, he puts Garkech in charge despite not being able to communicate with everyone else. Francis finds this unfair, but Craig states that he Garkech has not questioned every decision he has made, Francis feels more agitated and then asks about their lunch break, but Craig walks away saying he cannot hear him. He then goes over to Lois to say he is working for a moron, but Lois shoots him down with "you're boss is an idiot, your co-workers are incompetent, and you are unappreciated." Lois further explains the working world to Francis that if you want to eat, sleep indoors and have luxuries he does not have a choice, Francis asks about hid dad Hal's choice and Lois says that every 20 years you are allowed to have a two-week long breakdown. Garkech then shows up and whispers to another co-worker to tell Francis to get back to work.

Malcolm is in a guidance counselor's office after taking a vocational exam to determine what job and career he could have after he completes his academics. His test results; however, say that he scored equally excellent in all areas, meaning that Malcolm is capable of acquiring any job position in any field he chooses wherever in the world. Malcolm does not feel proud of himself since the results do not clarify anything on his behalf. The counselor leaves his office to be able to commute to his night job.

Hal continues to throw paint of every color, he even gets naked and dumps a whole bucket of blue paint on himself to get himself closer to achieving. He later comes into the house at 5:30 A.M bumping into Francis, as he heads off to the Lucky Aide, Hal asks Francis for some money to buy more paint, but Francis refuses as he had previously purchased six cans of paint and tells him how hard he has to work to earn $20, Hal accepts his answer and leaves to go to bed but not before taking money from his son's wallet. As Hal continues to paint his picture, Reese and Dewey enter the garage asking their father for advice about Dewey's bully issue, as she is now using the tease "Dewey Dwarf". Reese keeps suggesting to fight fire with fire -- and come up with an even more demeaning nickname and spread it around for everyone to know. Hal is not paying attention to them as he responds with little to no feedback. Reese takes his lack of response as a yes and helps Dewey come up with a horrible nickname for the bully girl whose name is Regina Tucker. Reese tells him not to worry claiming they'll think of something eventually.

Malcolm is wearing a suit carrying a briefcase off to another dreadful day of work at the office, he passes by another Malcolm who is a mailman complaining about the weight of the catalogs in his mail carrier, he passes by another Malcolm with the occupation of a construction foreman waiting for the public bus, as he gets on board the bus driver is also another Malcolm. The passengers reveal to be more versions of Malcolm with different job occupations: police officer, restaurant waiter, fast food cashier, etc. The Malcolm with the police officer occupation leaves the bus, he enters his home greeted by his wife who is also Malcolm. Malcolm wakes up in his bed, revealing it to be a dream.

Days have passed, and Hal has gone through dozens and dozens of cans of paint, when Lois enters the garage to check in on him, he is mad. Lois tells Hal that it is past midnight and if he's coming to bed, Hal refuses as he is distraught by his never ending loop. Lois tries to comfort him and tell him it's all about fun, Hal says to her that it is driving him crazy, that he is so close. Lois tells Hal that there is about 500 gallons of paint used on the canvas.

Back at the Lucky Aide, Craig announces that their downtown competition has finished their inventory and that they have lost. Garkech talks in his language and Craig says he speaks for everyone; Craig goes to be alone in the cookie aisle. One co-worker admits defeat and suggests that they simply make up the rest of the numbers and go home, which all the others agree to. Until Francis speaks up realizing that he has spent his entire spring break counting flip-flops and Vagisil, and questions his co-workers if it was all for nothing. They answer yes. Francis starts ranting about how many parties he missed, the debaucheries he could have been at, all the drunk sorority girls going wild and ripping their tops off without him there to yell encouragement. Francis does not believe it was all for nothing, that they cannot quit on taking on a challenge, he asks for everyone's support but instead everyone does not listen and decide to leave.

Hal brings the entire family into the garage to show him his finally completed painting, but everyone seems confused to what they're looking at, Hal says it's perfect to what he imagined it. But Lois insists that Hal looks at the panting and tell her that he's satisfied with it, when Hal looks at it he yells in frustration, with Lois knowing he was not finished and that he does not allow Hal to return to work until he gets this obsession out of his system. Hal angrily throws more paint on the canvas, but then at that moment realizes he truly has completed his vision. The whole Wilkerson family is amazed by the finished painting, even Francis stops his complaining about his job to admire it. Lois is proud of Hal, and he is proud of himself. But it was not to last as the large quantities of paint Hal used had put weight on the canvas causing it to peel off the wall, falling onto Hal.

In the end, Hal about to return to his job he hates despite having quit it; on the way there he also drives Francis to the bus station for him to go back to Marlin Academy. Malcolm has learned that he should not plan for his future when it is going to end up with a giant wall of paint crashing down on him. He will reach adulthood eventually, for now he's going to enjoy being a kid without any pressures and responsibilities. Reese punches him for stepping on his side of the room, and Lois reminds him to make up his bed and decides that he will start make everyone's beds for the next month. While she drags him off to start bed making Malcolm claims he is smart enough to know when he has it good.


  • This episode first aired at 5:30 and then aired a rerun on the exact same day at 10:30.
  • Stevie talks about what kind of job he wants to get when he grows up and says that with his intelligence and tokenism, the sky's the limit. Tokenism is the practice of employers for a company hiring people of minority groups and other people that have been oppressed by society in order to prove that their business is not biased towards any minorities. One of the problems that stems from this is that usually, people who are minorities use this to their advantage and get jobs simply for being a minority character and get a job without actually meeting the requirements. In this case, Stevie is an African American and a paraplegic, so he's knowingly planning on using this in order to get a good job.
  • Malcolm and his classmates talk about their future plans here on this fake road on the premises of the CBS Studio Center. This private location would later be reused several times over the course of MitM, next time in Malcolm vs. Reese.[1]
  • "Free Your Mind" by En Vogue is what plays during Hal's third painting montage
  • When Craig mentioned their competition's "Rain Man-type human calculator", he is referencing to Dustin Hoffman's character Raymond who was a prodigious, autistic man with the ability to count multiple objects at once. In the actual movie, Raymond was prone to tantrums.
  • Last appearance of Eraserhead.


Malcolm in the Middle episodes
Season 1 PilotRed DressHome Alone 4ShameMalcolm BabysitsSleepoverFrancis EscapesKrelboyne PicnicLois VS EvilStock Car RacesFuneralCheerleaderRollerskatesThe Bots and the BeesSmundayWater Park
Season 2 Traffic JamHalloween ApproximatelyLois' BirthdayDinner OutCasinoConventionRobberyTherapyHigh School PlayBullyOld Mrs. OldKrelboyne GirlNew NeighborsHal QuitsThe GrandparentsTraffic TicketSurgeryReese CooksTutoring ReeseBowlingMalcolm vs. ReeseMini-BikeCarnivalEvacuationFlashback
Season 3 HouseboatEmancipationBook ClubMalcolm's GirlfriendCharityHealth ScareChristmasPokerReese's JobLois' MakeoverCompany Picnic (1)Company Picnic (2)Reese DrivesCynthia's BackHal's BirthdayHal CoachesDewey's DogPoker 2Clip ShowJury DutyCliquesMonkey
Season 4 ZooHumilithonFamily ReunionStupid GirlForwards BackwardsForbidden GirlfriendMalcolm Holds His TongueBoys At RanchGrandma SuesIf Boys Were GirlsLong DriveKicked OutStereo StoreHal's FriendGarage SaleAcademic OctathalonClip Show #2Reese's PartyFuture MalcolmBaby Part 1Baby Part 2Day Care
Season 5 VegasWatching The BabyGoodbye KittyThanksgivingMalcolm Films ReeseMalcolm's JobChristmas TreesBlock PartyDirty MagazineHot TubIda's BoyfriendSoftballLois' SisterMalcolm Dates a FamilyReese's ApartmentMalcolm Visits CollegePolly in the MiddleDewey's Special ClassExperimentVictor's Other FamilyReese Joins the Army: Part 1Reese Joins the Army: Part 2
Season 6 Reese Comes HomeBuseys Run AwayStandeePearl HarborKitty's BackHal's Christmas GiftHal SleepwalksLois Battles JamieMalcolm's CarBillboardDewey's OperaLiving WillTiki LoungeIda Loses a LegChad's SleepoverNo MotorcyclesButterfliesIda's DanceMotivational SpeakerStiltsBuseys Take A HostageMrs. Tri-County
Season 7 Burning ManHealth InsuranceReese vs. StevieHalloweenJessica Stays OverSecret BoyfriendBlackoutArmy BuddyMalcolm Defends ReeseMalcolm's MoneyBride of IdaCollege RecruitersMonoHal GrievesA.ALois Strikes BackHal's DentistBomb ShelterStevie in the HospitalCattle CourtMorpGraduation