M - Models - are often the biggest source of confusion. These are the parts of your application that do all the 'heavy lifting' - they handle database access, perform the complex application-specific logic and are responsible for most of what your application 'does'. Unlike Views and Controllers, the Zend Framework doesn't have a base class for Models - this is because there's no real consistency in what they do. Some frameworks (like Ruby on Rails) try to present some sort of database-wrapper as a base for Model, but there are many cases (3rd party feed/API, static files, non-persistent calculations, concepts that span multiple tables...) for which this is, at best, a misleading practice. The Model is the part of the application where you're still forced to program and the framework can't really save you from it.
V - Views - are the simplest components here. They should be simple PHP/HTML templates. They're given view objects, arrays, strings, etc. which they then put into a page. There shouldn't be much (if any) complex logic here - loop over these, display this (if defined), zebra stripe this table and whatnot. There's some magic happening with View Helpers (such as the helper that magically renders a
Zend_Form), but that's not essential to understanding the overall system.
C - Controllers - In the broadest sense, the controller is responsible for taking user requests, sending them off to Model objects and preparing Models to be handed to the Views. It's the glue that holds everything together. If you're using Zend MVC, you're concerned with 2 controllers -
Zend_Controller_Front (which you get 'for free' if you use
Zend_Layout::startMVC()) is a single point of entry for your application - it handles the raw user requests and translates URLs into an Action to call. There are various places to 'plug-in' to this to handle things like authentication and access restrictions, but, at the core it's just the 'traffic cop' at the front gate directing incoming requests.
Zend_Controller_Action is the base class for actions - essentially an Action represents something your application does (log in, list blog entries, launch an ICBM, order a pizza...), but is not directly responsible for actually doing it. The Action Controllers are pretty boring - they pull values out of forms and URLs, call a few methods on Model classes to actually perform the action and push the results out into the view. As has been said before, they're the 'glue' that holds Models and Views together.
A rough test to see if you're splitting things along the right lines is to envision a major change to your site. A visual redesign would almost entirely be handled in the Views. Moving all your URLs would change your Controllers. Converting from a web app to a GUI app would replace the views and controllers, but your model would still be mostly unchanged. If you rewrite your models, you have a whole new application.