"A Simple Christmas" is the second Christmas-themed episode of the ABC sitcom The Middle, aired in the show's second season.
Christmas is a time to appreciate the orange. What’s the orange, you ask? Let’s find out.
Frankie’s parents, Pat (guest star Marsha Mason) and Tag (guest star Jerry Van Dyke), are coming to stay at the Heck house for the 12 days of Christmas. According to Mike, that’s about eight days too long. Now, we all know that grandparents tend to spoil their grandchildren with treats. The kids love it. The parents…not so much.
Frankie pleads with her mom to stop giving out so much fudge. Pat doesn’t listen and her youngest child pays the price. When Mike wonders why his wife is reaching behind the furniture with a cloth, Frankie says, “Brick ate too much fudge. The poor kid just crawled behind the chair like a cat and barfed.” As for Tag, he’s driving Mike crazy. He’s constantly pestering him to be part of the annual family Christmas skit. Mike’s been avoiding participation for years. Tag also follows his son-in-law everywhere he goes.
Frankie feels the need to simplify Christmas when she finds an orange in a stocking. It’s been in the cellar since last Christmas so it’s not really orange anymore. Moldy blue would be a better description. Frankie always puts an orange into the kids’ stockings because it’s the only thing her grandmother ever got during the depression. She wants her kids to appreciate the rewarding simplicity of citrus fruits.
The kids aren’t thrilled to hear the plans for a simple Christmas. Nevertheless, the gifts this year will be all about quality instead of quantity. That may be difficult with grandparents in the house. Pat is constantly undermining Frankie’s authority and Mike just can’t escape tagalong Tag. The simple Christmas plans take a hit when Pat gives each kid a hundred dollar bill. It’s Brick’s very first $100.
Axl doesn’t want to spend a dime on Brick, so he agrees to build him an igloo as his gift. He actually does a nice job. The dwelling is spacious and structurally sound; though it’s missing the reading nook Brick requested during construction. The dreaded Glossner boys let out a sinister smile as they scope out Brick’s new frozen home. Trouble is coming, so Brick enlists Axl’s help to thwart an igloo attack by the bad boys down the road.
During this season of goodwill towards men, Sue attempts to make peace with Glossners. She stands outside the igloo belting out a touching Christmas carol. She looks like an angel. Then she looks like a snowman after the Glossners pelt her with boulder-sized snowballs. Fortunately, she’s able to crawl to safety under the car until it’s time to go to bed.
Later, Frankie hangs the stockings and places the few presents under the tree. She and Mike are admiring it and think about how the kids will be taught the simpleness of this one in particular christmas, but Pat and Tag give out 23 more gifts as they are the grandparents. When Frankie witnesses the extra gifts, she becomes enraged and attempts to dispose of them before the kids wake up, but Brick sees her and asks, "Why are you taking our presents mom, why?", just as Cindy Lou Who said. Just at that moment, Axl and Sue view the pile and tear through them rapidly. Frankie openly berates them, but retort that they should be "grand" about their status. In the afternoon, the Glossner kids are walking down the street, but Axl, Sue and Brick throw the oranges at them as retaliation for attacking the igloo. The episode ends as the Heck family are singing "The 12 Days of Christmas" with Brick and Axl participating.