The Middleman recap: “The Cursed Tuba Contingency”

Oom-pah oom-pah-pah, friends! Polka wouldn’t be polka without it. Neither would pep bands. In fact, I’d wager that of all the music in the world, a good .001% would be horrible without the basso profundo of the mighty tuba. What kind of tuba you say? Tenor? Four-valve? The tuba kind.

Great Randolph Scott!

Wendy Watson‘s got a big night ahead of her. The night prior, she killed a giant pig-insect hybrid in the back of the Middlemobile and now she’s got to muck it out. That leaves Middleman with an evening free to catch the twilight matinee at a neighborhood revival theater. His favorite hero, Randolph Scott, is gracing the silver screen in Ride Lonesome. But someone’s on his tail. And that someone is Lacey Thornfield.

Lacey’s crush on sexy bossman has brought her to this, following he of the “pillow lips” to a western revival. The sexual tension between the two of them is the highest it’s yet been, with each breath and stutteriffic utterance from Middleman clearly limning his feelings. Lacey’s book is open just as wide. They decide to sit together…in the otherwise empty theater. There was no organic, cruelty-free vegan candy for Lacey, but Middleman brings her a water while he pours himself a tall milk from his hip flask.

Of course, the Middlewatch goes off and Middleman has to head back to MiddlemanHQ, but not before Lacey gives him her number.

A Cursed Tuba?

Showing up at the Peckinpaugh Hotel, they discover a body, “drowned in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.” Perfectly normal, except for the part where the body is in bed, and there was no sign of forced entry of the water. CSI on the scene, Cecil Rogers, tells the Middleduo his on-the-spot findings. The salination levels of the water definitely indicate its North Atlantic origins.

Middleman’s got a little man-crush on the efficiency and knowledge of the charming CSI. So much so, that he gets the wool pulled over his eyes after Cecil takes off and the real CSI show up.

Back at MiddleHQ, Ida gets them info on the victim while Dubby draws a picture of Cecil for facial recognition scans. We’ll find out more about the phony CSI later. Now, we find out that Artie Atkins – Double A – was a fence. His partner, Johnny John, is home at 8660 Hawks Lane, Apt. 9.

A real schlub of a guy, he wants the Middleagents to hold off because he’s got a real hottie inside. He asks if they know how rare that is and with a quick glance up and down, Dubby tells him she does indeed. Ouch. They wait outside while Johnny John goes back in and goes at it.

Sounds of sex ensue: springs springing; headboard crashing; bloodcurdling screams from Johnny John. Wait. That can’t be right! Kicking in the door, Dubby and Middleman find a succubus attacking him. She’s after the tuba the portly paisan and his partner stole. Uh-oh. Looks like Roxy Wasserman is up to no good.

At Famouse Fashion House, Middleman and Dubby walk in with their captive succubus. MM gives Roxy a solid right hook and starts yelling. Roxy broke her deal. She’s collecting magical artifacts. But it turns out Roxy was up to good, not no good. Good! She’s just trying to find the cursed tuba before its e-flat rumble kills all who hear it. Really. They drown in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. It’s a cursed tuba, you see.

Hide the Tuba

Back at MiddleHQ, Ida starts a search for the tuba. She gets a lot of hits. Every time someone mentions a tuba, emails the word, writes it on the web…she gets a hit. This is going to take a while. Long enough for Wendy to head back to the illegal sublet she shares with Lacey and for Middleman to take another shot at seeing the end of his movie.

Wendy’s a little saddened when she gets home. Lacey’s dolled up and takes off as soon as she gets a text. Wendy’s alone. But Lacey isn’t. She’s back at the theater to see Ride Lonesome with sexy bossman. And this time he’s brought cruelty-free vegan candy for her.

Unfortunately, the Middlewatch goes off again. He’s never seen the end of the movie. Lacey tells him she’ll watch it for him so she can tell him how it ends. Honestly? Might have been the sweetest moment I’ve seen on TV in this calendar year.

Ida’s hit is gold. Arturo Arroyo, the teenaged son of the Peckinpaugh’s manager, is thrilled to finally have a tuba. He’s headed to band auditions at his school. Dubby and MM head there to save those kids, but Cecil Rogers gets to Edward J. Smith HS ahead of the Middleteam and steals the tuba. Outside, he’s shot and loses the tuba to his attacker. Then, the bullet wound heals and he comes back from the dead.

(And now a brief moment to complain about our sponsor. They run the new JCPenney ad that’s supposed to be an homage to the Breakfast Club. Stop crapping on my youth! Okay, back to our program.)

Cecil is in fact, immortal. As long as the tuba is intact, that is. He was the tuba player on the Titanic. While the ship was sinking, instead of playing with the string quartet, he wrapped his tuba in a blanket and said it was his three-year-old. With that cruel lie, he sealed his fate and that of his large, brass instrument. His curse is intertwined with that of the vile instrument of sonic death.

In ’55, Cecil stashed the tuba in a bank vault and started living guilt- and worry-free. Until Titanic fetishist Arthur Mendelson hired Double A and Johnny John to steal the tuba. And tonight, on his private ocean liner (three feet longer than the Queen Mary and 86 feet longer than Titanic) he will unveil it to all the Titanic collectors of note.

Save the Last Dance for Me

Lacey does Dubby’s hair and expresses some small jealousy over the date-like arrangements of the evening. So when Middleman and Wendy show up on the liner in period attire – a dashing tux and a gorgeous gown – it’s little surprise when they are joined moments later by Noser and Lacey in white tie and smokin’ hot dress. See, Lacey’s mom – Barbara Thornfield, MD PhD – knows Arthur Mendelson and Lacey called her (assistant) and got tickets.

Moser gets in a little Styx love just at the ship starts, “sailing away into the virgin sea” and Middleman and Dubby go looking for the tuba. They find it, after using Sensei Ping‘s Twisted Stones on Johnny John and two other goons, but get knocked out before they can destroy it.

Coming to in the engine room, they find they’ve been handcuffed by Arthur Mendelson who just doesn’t believe in the curse.

But Cecil does. And he realizes that this is the perfect opportunity to kill all the Titanic collectors and fetishists at one time, thereby taking out everyone who knows about the curse of the tuba. If no one knows it’s cursed, no one will try to take it or destroy it, and he can live forever, unconcerned.

Up in the ballroom, Lacey wants to find Wendy and MM. She’s getting pretty jealous. Poor Noser just wants to finish his lobster dinner, but that doesn’t matter. Middleman texts Lacey to come help them.

Wendy: Wait. Why do you have my roommate’s number?
Middleman: I have a good memory for numbers. I know lots of them.
Wendy: Why do you have my roommate’s number?
Middleman: I got it from your emergency numbers on your startup paperwork.
Wendy: My mother’s my emergency number. Why do you have my roommate’s number?

Wendy: Why don’t you just date my mom while you’re at it?
Middleman: Is she nice?

Personally, I think that’s a great joke, but Wendy’s in no mood for it. Fortunately, Lacey and Noser show up and free the trapped heroes.
Lacey and Noser earplugged-up and out of the way, Middleman and Dubby run to save everyone. Middleman punches Cecil while Dubby grabs the tuba. She starts running, but the gown’s too long and the tuba too big. She finally makes it to the railing and gets ready to throw it into the bay, but Cecil gets there quicker. He gets the drop on her, thanks to a conveniently located rope, and leaves her hanging from the rails while he runs to a gathering of guests.

Sweet Molly Brown! At least, that’s what Middleman says when Dubby nails the tuba and the tuba-ist with a harpoon in the nick of time.


Middleman can’t date Lacey. It’s not fair to Wendy, and it’s dangerous for her. So he dances with her and tells her they can’t be together, quoting Sam Boone from Ride Lonesome: “there are some things a man just can’t ride around.” Lacey cries, Middleman looks miserable, and Wendy looks sad for the both of them.

Then Lacey tells sexy bossman how Ride Lonesome ends: unexpectedly but perfectly. Just the way it had to.

I honestly didn’t think this show could have this much heart. I’ve enjoyed it for the cute factor and for its unapologetic goofiness, but it had only hinted at depth before tonight. There’s a good amount of chemistry between Matt Keeslar and Brit Morgan, and this is an unusual way to take that. I don’t know if this is going to resolve the unrequited romance between these two or not, but whichever tack Javier Grillo-Marxuach takes going forward should be fun to watch.


Two different tracks of references tonight. First up and not so hidden, Titanic:

  • Agents Harland and Wolff
  • Edward J. Smith High School
  • Molly Brown

And, westerns:

  • Peckinpaugh Hotel
  • 8660 Hawks Lane, Apt. 9
  • Agents Boetticher and Kennedy

What did everyone else think?