Foreign Exchange is the fifth episode of season two.
Against the family's wishes, Frankie invites a Japanese foreign exchange student to live with them, in the hopes of exposing him to American life; however, the Hecks get frustrated when he shows no interest in them or America.
People in The Middle strive to have the perfect American family. In Orson, everyone in the Heck house is still striving. Currently, there’s a raging debate over who does what in the household. Axl and Sue argue over who is supposed to do chores while Frankie and Mike fight about who should deal with the “check engine” light in the car.
Perfect neighbor Nancy Donahue tells Frankie that the local foreign exchange program is rewarding for the entire family, especially the kids. Being immersed with someone from another culture makes them more tolerant and mature. So Frankie signs up to take in a Japanese student named Takayuki. She says, “Okay, Takayuki, get ready ‘cause we’re gonna show you America!” Actually, they’re gonna to show him how to watch reality TV while eating fast food from a bag on the sofa. Sadly, Takayuki isn’t a burger and fries kinda guy.
Frankie slides Axl and Sue a few bucks to get them to stop feuding with each other so their houseguest won’t think they act like this all the time, which they do. She then sends Takayuki off to school after presenting him with a traditional American breakfast. Guess the kid doesn’t like Pop-Tarts either, as he hands his breakfast entrée back to Frankie after a less-than-stellar first day in America.
No one seems to be bonding with the exchange student. Brick is exhausted after trying give Takayuki a little history lesson about national birds. Sue spends three hours singing karaoke because Brick told her it’s a national pastime in Japan. As for Frankie, she’s still having trouble feeding their guest. Her frozen waffles and French toast sticks don’t go over well even though they come with a convenient container of dipping syrup.
Mike believes they’ve been saddled with a dud. Frankie wants the family to change their attitude pronto. She says, “I know Takayuki doesn’t say how disappointed he is, but his vacant stare speaks volumes.” Frankie is shocked to learn that the foreign exchange student at the Donahue house cooks exotic meals and is teaching them flamenco dancing.
Frankie is beginning to believe that her family may be right. Maybe they did get a dud. Frankie says, “I wanted a cultural exchange and instead I get another sullen teen. I mean, what’s with his parents sending him over here? I would never saddle some poor Japanese family with Axl.” She’s a fine American.
A follow-up chat with Nancy Donahue leads Frankie to change her tune once again. She now believes the reason Takayuki is so shy and distant is because they aren’t doing anything fun. All they do is work, eat dinner and watch The Bachelor. Frankie believes they are lazy ambassadors. What they need is a burst of Americana. So the entire family heads off on a road trip to Brown County. They churn butter there!
The Hecks plus one head down the open road to experience the best of the U.S. until the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Someone really should have done something about that “check engine” light. To make matters worse, Sue has to go to the bathroom big time. That’s because Axl switched her aspirin with a laxative. It’s payback for the time Sue tossed his pillow on the roof.
Frankie wants Axl to return the 20 bucks she gave him to get along with his sister. Sue’s miffed because she only got five. Brick didn’t get a dime! This leads to a big family brouhaha right there on the side of the road. Everyone is yelling at each other except for Takayuki, who calmly says he can fix the car. Woo hoo!
As it turns out, Takayuki is a whiz when it comes to fixing things. He repairs the toaster, fixes the lawn mower and shows the family how to get picture-in-picture on the TV. Takayuki really did enrich their lives. Frankie only hopes that a little bit of her family rubbed off on him, too. The fact that Takayuki now sits around in his underwear watching TV and whispering to himself leads us to believe that he did, indeed, take a little bit of Orson back to Japan.