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 Benjamin!
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.
Now, please enjoy the following holiday verse to describe just what happens in the Heck house come Christmas Eve:
The stockings are hung by the chimney with care; they hold many oranges that Frankie put there. The gifts by the tree are simple and nice; many were purchased below retail price. This scaled-down holiday came from the heart; but when morning arrived, it all fell apart. The gifts were still there for others to see; but it seems they'd increased by at least 23. Just how this occurred was soon quite apparent; for nothing is simple when it comes to grandparents.
Yes, Pat and Tag went a little crazy with the gift-giving. Frankie is furious. She channels her inner-Grinch by trying to get rid of all the excess gifts before the kids wake up. Too bad Brick catches her in the act. Soon everyone is up and ripping open all the presents. Frankie has a total meltdown. She completely goes off on her mom and dad before storming off to the bedroom.
Frankie feels horrible about the scene she caused. She worries that's all anyone will remember about this not-so-simple Christmas. Mike assures her that won't be the case. Why? Well, because this is the year he participates in the annual family Christmas skit. Eventually, everyone makes nice because that's what families that truly love each other do. And the kids even learned to appreciate the oranges. As it turns out, they make great weapons when fending off igloo attacks by the Glossners. Merry Christmas from The Middle!