After another destructive prank by Reese, Hal and Lois find themselves struggling to discipline him as he shrugs off at any attempts at punishment. Trying a different angle, Hal forces Reese to attend a culinary class only for Reese to discover a remarkable talent for cooking. At Marlin Academy, Eric tries to force Francis to do his half of a major history project they are both responsible for. This is easier said than done, as he keeps on getting distracted by the smallest things until Eric threatens to tell on Francis to Spangler about him not doing his class project and leave him to deal with the consequences. Meanwhile, Cynthia organizes a "Be My Friend" party for everyone at the school, but Malcolm is worried that she's setting herself up to disappointment and tries to stop her.
Hal and Lois attempt to punish Reese for his latest hair-shaving prank but find themselves coming up short, as Reese shrugs off all their attempts. At their wits end, Hal suggests they change their approach to Reese and instead try positive reinforcement. To do this, Hal signs himself and Reese up for a cooking class. Reese initially isn't interested, until he sees the class involves sharp objects and fire.
At Marlin Academy, Francis keeps blowing off his share of a major history project that his friend, Eric, is also half-responsible for since he doesn't like to work and prefers to do his own thing. Fed up, he confines Francis into his own room to work on his half which is on the Reconstruction from the Civil War and tells him to be serious.
Meanwhile, Cynthia organizes a "Be My Friend" party for everyone at the school, but Malcolm is worried that she's setting herself up disappointment and tries to stop her. He takes her to the boy's bathroom to show her the writing on the wall which presumably is how annoying she is. Cynthia is hurt by this and cancels the party. Malcolm succeeds in angering Lloyd, Dabney and Stevie who were supportive of the party. He tries to defend himself by stating that she was setting herself up to be hurt and he cared about her to show her that. Lloyd, Dabney and Stevie doesn't believe Malcolm at all and thinks he's too selfish. They tell him off that the writing wasn't about Cynthia, but rather about him. Malcolm is shocked by this and is in disbelief thinking that his friends are lying to him. Lloyd, Dabney and Stevie reassues him that they're not lying at all. They had asked their classmates around school about their honest opinion on Malcolm. The boys got a truthful answer in how much the students like Cynthia because she never lets herself be in the advanced class bother her from making friends. Stevie, Lloyd and Dabney points out that everyone in their school hates Malcolm because they see him as an egotistical, obnoxious and a self-absorbed jerk who only cares for himself. Because of his own selfishness in cancelling Cynthia's party and which everyone in their school was looking forward to attending, the students are going to have more reasons to hate him. It was only then Malcolm regrets hurting her feelings and his friends were right about him being to wound up. He realizes that he should apologize to Cynthia at once and explain himself.
As the cooking class proceeds, Reese discovers a genuine talent and love for cooking impressing everyone in the class. Lois herself is astounded to come home from work to find Reese cooking dinner. Reese then reduces Hal to tears by thanking him for signing him up for the class.
Back at Marlin Academy, Francis tries to study and do his share. However, he keeps being distracted over the littlest things such as a loose thread on his sweater, enjoying the sunlight, sneaking out to a movie and even taking in a cockroach to do a race with one other ones. Eric responds by crushing the bug and calls him out for his irresponsibility. He then threatens to tell on Francis to Spangler and let him deal with the consequences on his own if he doesn't work on his half of the school project. He blows off the warning as he's not afraid of the Commandant. Francis tells Eric off that if he tells on him to Spangler about his failure to do his assignment and he ends up punished by going to summer school, the cadets will beat him up.
In the class' cooking contest, Reese is found to have cheated by placing an excessive quantities of salt in everyone else's quiches, even though he was already favourite to win. At home, Lois orders Dewey into his room, despite having done nothing wrong. She screams at Reese for the sabotage, but he shows no empathy. Reese continues to make Lois angry at him by being calm and insulting of her authority. When she asks him if he feels any guilt or empathy for messing up the contestants' dishes, he intentionally taunts Lois by admitting that he doesn't. Hal stops her from yelling at Reese further because he knows it's not working. He mentions to Lois that he has seen how much their older son repeatedly takes advantage of her by yelling at him and thus he continuously misbehaves further. Hal decides to try a different angle of punishment on Reese since having him go to cooking class was his idea. Lois is skeptical about it, but agrees to let him deal with their older son. Hal calmly punishes Reese by grounding him for a month and banning him from cooking a meal in the kitchen. He tries to remain calm and uncaring about it. Then, Hal ups the anti by calmly and callously forbidding Reese from doing anything in the kitchen; baking, broiling, toasting, etc. He loses his composure and starts complaining. Reese believes the punishment is too harsh from Hal and promises to behave himself. Hal refuses and sends him to his room. As Reese goes to his room in tears. Hal and Lois are left satisfied that they have finally found a punishment that works.
At Cynthia's house, Malcolm is confronted by Mr. Sanders who is angry at him for hurting his daughter. Cynthia appears and asks her father to give them time alone. After he leaves, Malcolm apologizes to her for hurting her feelings. He mentions he thought he was saving Cynthia from the disappointment in having no one attend her party. However, all he did was make the students hate him more having now realized that they think he is an egotistical and self-absorbed jerk. Malcolm realized that maybe Cynthia was right and he should loosen up more. Soon everyone at school, including Eric and Francis appears at the party. Malcolm mentions he has learned a lesson in being more considerate of others feelings.
- 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
- Craig Lamarr Traylor as Stevie
- Fred Sanders as Mr. Sanders
- Tania Raymonde as Cynthia
- Kyle Sullivan as Dabney
- Evan Matthew Cohen as Lloyd
- Eric Nenninger as Eric
- Kristin Quick as Flora Mayesh
- Ashlee Simpson as High School Girl
- Sheila Shaw as Student #1
- Colleen Maloney as Student #2
- Christopher Hutson as a male student
- Adam Craig Duro as Kid #1