Red Dress is the second episode of Season 1 of Malcolm in the Middle and the second episode overall of the show.


Lois must take drastic steps to discover which of her sons has destroyed the special dress she had bought for her and Hal's anniversary.


A battle of wits and wills ensues between the boys and their angry mom, who wants to find out who ruined her expensive new red dress - found partially burned and soaking in the toilet.

It's Hal and Lois's wedding anniversary (hence the dress); and while the boys fend off their mother, with the long-distance assistance of Francis, a lonely and increasingly sozzled Hal bonds with the staff of the restaurant where he booked a table for the big night. Lois finally achieves an epiphany on the phone with Francis, who convinces her to for once "let something go". After she leaves for the restaurant, with the boys in tow, Hal arrives home to an empty house, and accidentally sets a couch cushion alight with his cigar, the camera cuts to outside the house, with Hal moaning "not again" before the toilet flushes, revealing that the boys really were innocent the whole time.


(When Lois holds up her charred red dress)
Lois: Fire? Fire?! Fire?!!
Malcolm: Mom, what...?!
Lois: This is the most stupid, irresponsible, dangerous thing you have ever done! Is this what you want?! Will we have to identify your charred little bodies through their dental records?! I want a straight answer! Who did this?!
Reese: Malcolm did it!
Malcolm: Reese did it!
Reese: I didn't do it!
Malcolm: I didn't do it!
Dewey (quietly): We're going to the dentist?

Cadet 1 (to Francis): Man, if we had your Mom in 'Nam, there would be a McDonald's at Hanoi Square right now.
Cadet 2: Dude, there is a McDonald's at Hanoi Square.
Cadet 1: (pause) All right.

Malcolm: (to the camera) The good thing about being smart is I never have to look up any phone numbers. The bad thing is, no one else in the family ever bothers to remember anything.

Reese (to Malcolm): Hey, what am I thinking right now?
Malcolm: I'm smart, I'm not psychic.
Dewey: Can you understand what dogs are saying?
Malcolm: No.
Dewey: I can.

Lois (to Francis angrily): I cannot talk to you right now. You make me so mad, sometimes I just wanna break your neck! (pause) Did you get the cookies I sent you.
Francis (smiling): Yeah, they were great.

Dewey (about Lois): Why does she have to ruin everything I love?!


  • This is the highest rated episode of season one of Malcolm in the Middle, having had 23.3 million viewers at the time it was first aired.
  • This episode reveals that Hal has a smoking addiction and that he secretly does it when no one else is around. This is a Hal related theme that would be revisited multiple times, later in the series.
    • Francis was also shown to have a smoking addiction in this episode, but it's never seen again.
  • First appearances of Craig Feldspar and Stanley Winn.
  • Hal and Lois' wedding anniversary takes place in this episode and Francis had forgotten all about it. This doesn't seem very likely, because in the episode "Flashback", it was revealed that when Lois went into labor with Francis, she quickly got married to Hal and forced herself to keep the baby inside of her until after they were legally wed. Because of this, Francis was born on the day Hal and Lois got married. So, Francis' birthday is the same day as their wedding.
    • This would make this the first episode to take place on a character's birthday, despite the fact that nobody makes mention of it. Francis would actually have episodes where it's mentioned to be his birthday (Bully and No Motorcycles) and Hal and Lois' anniversary would be featured again in subsequent episodes (Dewey's Dog and Hal Sleepwalks), but none of those episodes would reference the other occasion.
  • This episode makes mention of the grandmother of The Wilkerson family. It wouldn't be until the episode The Grandparents, that Ida Welker actually makes her first on-screen appearance.
  • When Hal lights the dress on fire, one the comments he interjects is "Jeezle!" a made up word by the cast of the show, used as a euphemism for "Jesus!", as mentioned in the episode's commentary.


  • When Lois walks down the hall with the ruined dress you can briefly see a member of the staff, holding a water bucket in the background. This was mentioned in the episode's audio commentary, saying that nobody on the staff noticed it at the time being, even after watching over the episode for mistakes several times, and it wasn't until the episode had aired that a person from another country had immediately picked up on it the day it came out and posted it on the internet.