After a mishap of a steam cleaner, Lois finds out that Dewey stole a $150 bottle of cognac from the store where she works. She makes him return it, but she's fired by a tyrannic assistant manager, which leaves the family struggling.Francis, chosen to be part of the color guard at a beauty pageant, gains special backstage access when some of the contestants think he's gay.
The episode starts with the cold open where Lois is washing the dishes and trying to stop Malcolm and Reese from fighting, Dewey saying he hates his brothers, and Hal pretending to work on something, but in fact making a crossword puzzle.
Malcolm is in school, saying how confused he is about Julie Houlerman, about whether she likes him or not. Back at work, Lois and Craig are stocking shelves with condoms, and Craig exclaims how "intense" it is. The boys come in the store and Lois warns them not to mess around with the microphone, the candy, price tags and the register at Lucky Aide. Soon Reese and Malcolm are inspired to play with the steam cleaner, while Dewey is nowhere to be found(possibly told to play on the mechanical horse so he doesn't tell on them). Lois soon discovers the two older boys playing with the steam cleaner and punishes them.
At home, Malcolm and Reese are seen on their knees with their backs to the head and facing the wall as punishment for messing around with the steam cleaner. Hal talks with Dewey after finding him in his usual hiding place. He tells his father that he's upset with both Reese and Malcolm for forbidding him from letting him play with the steam cleaner and stole something from Lucky Aide. It isn't long until Hal and Lois learns that Dewey stole an expensive bottle of cognac. He apologizes for his actions, but she still makes him return the bottle and apologize to Mr. Pinter. Later on after they return the bottle, Mr. Pinter fires Lois out of spite because she was originally up for a promotion to manager at Lucky Aide. She refused to take it and this leaves the family struggling to make ends meet.
Meanwhile, Stanley and Francis both get jobs as security in the Miss Alabama Pageant. Francis tales the opportunity to socialize with the girls until he learns that they think he's gay. He takes advantage of the situation just to get closer to them. Francis later calls home and Hal informs him of the financial problems at home after Lois was fired from Lucky Aide. He mentions the good news is that it makes the tuition at Marlin Academy an issue. If Francis plays his cards right, Hal could convince Lois to stop paying the extra money to let him come home and allow him to attend public school.
It's been 10 days since Lois was fired, and Craig tries to help the family out by using his own money to pay for the family's bills. He also manages to convince Mr. Pinter to give Lois back her job, but he wants an apology from her. Lois abrasively refuses due to the latter's arrogance and spite. Malcolm accidentally tells Julie that he is now poor, so later they decide to make a collective of food in order to give it to them, thanks to Julie and Caroline. When Hal eats rotten peaches, Lois is forced to beg for her job back when she learns about the expensive bill at the hospital.
At Lucky Aide, Mr. Pinter offers her job back if she signs an apology letter. Lois refuses and confronts him for all the bad deeds he's done. She reveals dirty secrets about him that no one else except her knows: including his bribing Lois to cover for him by having her write sales reports, his secret stash of marijuana and his affair with the district manager's wife. She tells Pinter off that he should be grateful because she's the only one who knows this much about him and that someone else would sell him out if they found out his dirty secrets. Lois ends it by mentioning that she's a better person than Pinter is. After watching her leave, he thinks his secret is safe since she is the only one who knows his bad deeds. However, a smug Craig clears his throat to get Mr. Pinter's attention. He turns around to see the grinning faces of the other co-workers whom have overheard his secret. Their grins imply that they intends to tell the district manager about Mr. Pinter's affair with his wife and the other various mistreatment he has caused them and Lois over the years. He was so humiliated that he quit immediately to avoid being confronted by their boss. Ultimately, Lois finds her life back to normal and now Malcolm is not "poor," and tells that to Julie straight in her face.
- Jane Kaczmerek as Lois
- Bryan Cranston as Hal
- Christopher Kennedy Masterson as Francis
- Justin Berfield as Reese
- Erik Per Sullivan as Dewey
- Frankie Muniz as Malcolm
- Catherine Lloyd Burns as Caroline Miller
- Karim Prince as Stanley
- David Anthony Higgins as Craig
- Craig Lamar Traylor as Stevie
- Landry Albright as Julie Houlerman
- Marc Vann as Mr. Pinter
- Elise Horn as Tanya
- Alexandra Picatto as Bridget
- Shea Curry as Dina
- Kristin Quick as Flora Mayesh
- David Beach as Dr. Don
- Rich Scary as a preacher
- Harris Doran as a prayer
- Mr. Pinter:(realizes Lois didn't sign her name, but has just given him a suggestion) It's not a signature.
- Lois: (telling off Mr.Pinter) No, it's more of a suggestion. The horse you rode in is optional.
- Mr. Pinter: Now look...
- Lois: No, you look. I don't deserve this. The only thing I ever did wrong was doing all the work I did to cover your butt.
- Mr. Pinter: Well we obviously have different definitions of wrong!
- Lois: [Scoffs] Yeah, guess we do. For instance, I think it's wrong for you to put your name on sales report that you didn't write. I think it's wrong for you to keep a little bag of herbs in your bottom left drawer. I think it's wrong you slept with the district manager's wife. [this catches Pinter's attention] And you want to know something, you don't have to worry about it because I also think it's wrong to blab this kind of thing. You know you should be so glad that I'm the only one who knows this stuff about you. Anyone else here would sell you down the river in a second. God, I am so much better than you!
- [Lois walks away and Pinter thinks he's safe since she's the only one who knows. However, he soon finds himself cornered when he sees smiling faces of Craig and the other co-workers from the next aisle having heard about his secret. Their grins imply that they intend to tell the district manager about his wrongdoings including his maltreatment of Lois and his affair with their boss' wife. Pinter runs the other way and quits.]
- (After Lois returns the bottle of cognac that Dewey stole)
- Lois: What do you mean "fired"?! You can't fire me for this.
- Mr. Pinter: Sorry. Store policy is very clear about stealing.
- Lois: But he didn't steal it; he returned it. It's right there. The bottle is perfect. You can just put it right back on the shelf.
- Mr. Pinter: I already marked it out of inventory. My hands are tied here.
- Lois: What are you talking about? You don't even do inventory. You foist it off on me because you make so many mistakes.
- Lois:(stocking some condoms) Don't touch the microphone, register, candy, price tags. (Realizes something is amiss) Steam Cleaner.
- (Runs and catches Malcolm and Reese messing with the steam cleaner. They're both covered in soap)
- Lois: BOYS!!!!!!!!
- Malcolm: It's not what it looks like!
- (Lois and Craig are stacking condoms together)
- Craig: You know, uh, this is a little intense. You, me, working this shelf.. together.
- Craig: (chuckles nervously)
- Lois: What's intense about it?
- Craig: I guess nothing. Excuse me.
- Craig: (quickly walks down the isle)
- (Family is eating breakfast)
- Lois: Drink your milk.
- Dewey: It's lumpy!
- Lois: Then chew it!
- Girl: Francis, will you help me decide on my leg extensions? Which do you think looks better? Right leg, (lifts up right leg) or left leg? (lifts up left leg)
- Francis: Can you ... do both?
- This episode reveals that season one took place in 2000, showing the year number on the title board for the beauty pageant.
- Sweet Home Alabama, by Lynyrd Skynyrd is sung by Bridgette in this episode.
- Hal mentioned a time that "grandma" drove through the living room. It's likely that he was talking about Ida, who wouldn't make an appearance until the episode The Grandparents.