Houseboat is the first episode of season 3 and the 42nd episode overall in Malcolm in the Middle. It was directed by Todd Holland and written by Bob Stevens. It aired on November, 11, 2001.
Malcolm's family and the Kenarbans vacation together on a houseboat, while Reese and Stevie hang out with girls who like to take off their bras. Malcolm soon becomes annoyed with spending time with Hal and leaves him on a buoy.
Meanwhile, Francis' friend, Eric drops out of the military academy to take on a logging job in Alaska and Francis gets himself emancipated so he can join him, incurring Lois' wrath because she was against him leaving school from the start.
At a sporting store, Hal wants to buy a speedo, but Lois stands strong in her refusal because she knows they're going to be in close quarters with the conservative Kenarbans and wants him to get swim trunks. Hal comes out of the dressing room wearing the speedo, walks over to a lady thinking it’s Lois, and slaps her on the rear end. He then gets locked out of a dressing room at a department store and when he calls to Malcolm for help. Malcolm pretends not to know him because he's trying to impress a girl. Soon Hal is arrested and almost becomes a registered sex offender. Meanwhile, Reese plays with a spear gun and Dewey knocks over a basketball hoop, much to Lois' dismay.
At Marlin Academy, Francis is horrified when his friend Eric turns eighteen and decides to leave school before graduation and go work in a logging cabin as a logger in Alaska making mad money. He gives him a tape of nude girls to remember him by.
At the Wilkerson house, Lois berates Malcolm for what happened and orders him to apologize for once. Hal seemingly refuses to talk to him and tells Reese to close the door in his face. Soon Lois is arguing with Francis on the phone. He implores his mother to let him do the same thing, but she refuses. Francis tells her it isn't worth the money and they know he's flunking anyway. Lois stays strong and orders him to stay in school until he graduates. Francis gets so upset that he slams the phone down and the phone falls on his foot. In pain, he stumbles against a trophy cabinet, breaking it and falling to the ground. Then, the trophy cabinet falls on him.
The Wilkerson family goes on vacation with the Kenarbans on a houseboat. Dewey panics when he learns there's no TV on the houseboat. Malcolm is psyched when his father seems to have forgiven him for the department store incident, and they plan to do a little father/son fishing on their vacation. Some cute cheerleaders come by in bikinis on a speedboat and invite Malcolm, Reese and Stevie to come play with them. While Malcolm and Hal are bored out of their minds fishing in the dingy (and not catching anything), Reese and Stevie fashion a raft of sorts and paddle their way to the girls' cheer-leading camp. Meanwhile, Dewey decides to go on a rope swing over the water, but is too scared to let go of the rope and hangs there for hours getting sunburned. Finally, Lois has to throw rocks at Dewey to get him to let go of the rope.
That night on the houseboat, Dewey is bruised and sunburned, Malcolm is miserable, Reese and Stevie can't stop smiling, and Abe Kenarban is mopey. Abe and Kitty Kenarban end up arguing in their room, but the walls on the houseboat are thin, and the Wilkersons hear how Abe would rather be in a suite in Hawaii, but NOOO, Kitty had to have this awful houseboat vacation because the Wilkersons can't afford Hawaii.
Meanwhile at Marlin Academy, Commandant Spangler is unsympathetic of the huge gash in Francis's leg and in fact gives the boy a hammer so that he can get started fixing the trophy case that he broke. Francis loses his patience and goes to a corrupt lawyer, and by faking his parents' signatures he gets himself emancipated, allowing him to withdraw from school himself.
The next day, Lois saddles Reese with caring for Dewey, so Reese and Stevie ditch him on a buoy while they paddle back to the cheerleading camp. Malcolm spends another boring day sitting in a dingy with Hal not catching any fish. Finally, he catches a fish, and he and his father start the bonding process. At that moment the cutie girls speed by again, and Malcolm finds bikini tops and Reese's shirt floating in the water. He can't stand it anymore, pushes his father overboard and takes the dingy to go after the girls. Hal tells Malcolm he's going to be in serious trouble when they get home, but he doesn't care anymore.
Meanwhile back at the houseboat, Lois encourages Kitty to talk to her husband when he continues to pout. They start another fighting match behind thin walls, and when Lois hears things turn violent, she busts in... only to seriously regret walking in on the Kenarbans having sex.
Returning home, Lois punishes Malcolm and Reese for carelessly abandoning Hal and Dewey on the buoy, with three weeks of slave labor in the house. Knowing his relationship with his father will never be the same, Malcolm thinks it was worth it because he can't stop smiling.
Meanwhile, Hal decides to reach out to Dewey and plans a little father/son ventriloquism, which both seem to enjoy. Soon, Lois is furious when she learns that Francis quit school and is going to Alaska. Hal reminds her that he needs their permission to leave school. Lois tells him that Francis doesn't need to because he got legally emancipated.
- Lois:[on the phone with Francis] Absolutely not, Francis.
- Francis: You're not listening, I could make $45. That more than what you or dad make.
- Lois: You are going to graduate from high school.
- Francis: Why spend the tuition? It's at total waste of money and we both know I'm failing.
- [All is quiet for a moment.]
- Francis: Ok, now we both know.
- Lois:[Reading a document from the mail, regarding from an Alabama lawyer] Oh my god.
- Hal: What is it?
- Lois: It's Francis. He quit school. He's on his way to Alaska.
- Hal: That's impossible, he just can't take himself out of school. He needs our permission.
- Lois: No, he doesn't. [shows a legal document involving Francis' emancipation.] He got himself legally emancipated.
- Francis: [At a lawyer's office in Alabama.] You know I didn't want it to come to this, but there is so much a person can be pushed.
- Lawyer: You don't have to persuade me. This is the kind of injustice the Alabama legal system was designed to address. [Hands Francis a legal document.] Sign here.
- [Francis signs his own name on the document.]
- Lawyer: And we'll need your parents' signatures at the bottom.
- [With the lawyer not looking, Francis forges his parents' signatures and hands the document back to the lawyer.]
- Lawyer: Great! I'm a notary as well as a lawyer so I can have this extradicted.
- Francis: [Shakes the lawyer's hand.] Great.
- Francis quits military school in this episode, getting himself legally emancipated.
- Last appearance of Kitty Kenarban, before leaving in the episode Goodbye Kitty. She briefly returns in Kitty's Back.
- Eric Hanson turned 18 years old in this episode.
- Reese's shirt and the bikini top of one of the cheerleaders was seen floating in the water. This implies that they were engaged in a sexual activity that may have been the closest Reese has ever gotten to losing his virginity.
- Shortly before Malcolm catches the fish, as he is talking to Hal, a powerboat passes from left to right in the distance behind Hal. There is a quick camera shot back to Malcolm for a line, and when the camera returns to Hal, the same boat is closer and heading from right to left.