It's Thanksgiving in The Middle and Frankie Heck is bummed that her mom isn't coming to dinner this year. She's further annoyed to learn that Mike has yet to invite his father over for the annual holiday feast. Frankie says, "I want family in this house, Mike. Otherwise it's not Thanksgiving. It's just overeating."
Sue wants to begin a mother-daughter tradition of making an apple pie from scratch. It'll be super-rewarding because apple pie is the most time-consuming and difficult of all fruit-based desserts. Sadly, Sue's not so hot with a knife. That's fine. Frankie is able rinse off all the blood on those apple slices. A few kitchen nightmares later, mother convinces daughter to settle for a frozen pie. Frankie says, "As long as you heat it up at home, it's homemade."
Aunt Edie and Aunt Ginny are on the Thanksgiving guest list, as is Bob and his new girlfriend. This isn't just some figment of his imagination either. He's actually met this woman. Her name is Lisa. She's a librarian which is thrilling news for Brick. He's always dreamed of the day a real librarian would walk through the doors of his home. But then, who hasn't?
Mike learns that his dad has been the hospital for several weeks with a bad hip. He never called because he didn't want to be a bother. Well, he's about to be one now because the hospital is giving him the boot. Frankie's glad Big Mike has come into her home for the holiday. Now she wants Mike to ask his brother what they should do with dear old dad once turkey day is over.
Rusty Heck (guest star Norm MacDonald) is a chip off the old block. He's been living in a tent in his yard ever since he burned down his house. He never told his brother about the massive fire because, well, he didn't want to be a bother. Well, he's about to be one now. All the Heck men are in the house for Thanksgiving doing what they do best, which is sitting on the sofa watching TV in robotic silence. It's what the holidays are about!
As we mentioned, Bob's girlfriend is a real, living, breathing librarian. Brick impresses his fellow bibliophile with his book-themed tie and some truly wild tales of the Dewey Decimal System. A jealous Bob tries to impress his lady with some of his own literary adventures. Bob says, When I was his age I was quite the reader myself. No Dickens though. I was home schooled. My reading list was all about how to avoid the devil."
Frankie encourages Mike to have a discussion with his dad and brother about their current living situations. The Heck men don't usually talk about things like that. Actually, they don't usually talk about anything at all. But Mike takes a shot at having a heart-to-heart family chat. It doesn't go well. Later, Rusty says a waitress once told him that his life could have been different if his dad had just said "I love you." This has Frankie thinking Mike should say those three little words to his dad.
It's an utterly awkward moment when Mike says "I love you" to his dad during Thanksgiving dinner. Frankie tries to make things right by unleashing a string of "I love you" lines, too. Brick adds that he loves the librarian which causes a heartbroken Bob to flee the room. Aunt Edie mentions that she once loved a black man but nothing came of it because it was forbidden. Yes, it was a different time back then. As for Big Mike, he doesn't say "I love you" but does mention that the mashed potatoes are pretty darn tasty.
After dinner, Big Mike and Rusty celebrate a Thanksgiving Day win by the Colts with what is probably their longest conversation in years. It ends with an agreement to live together until they both get back on their feet. As they're heading out the door, Rusty surprises Mike with a goodbye hug. It's a Thanksgiving miracle! Well, at least it is for Frankie. Mike's just glad it's over.