Fresh Off the Boat
For me, Fresh Off the Boat is at its strongest when it focuses on the kids and the culture. Riding off the high of last week’s Chinese New Year episode and the glory that was Lao Ban Santa, I had high hopes for Valentine’s Day, and was slightly disappointed in the results.
The holiday itself is disappointing, so in a way, it’s fitting that “Love and Loopholes” is a bit of a flop. Crafting a 22-minute-long episode of family-friendly television around this cursed Hallmark holiday is hard! I get it. They did what they could with what they had, and while it wasn’t horrible, it was just okay. That’s all.
Jessica and Louis are at dinner with Marvin and Honey, who, to their credit, are very much in L-O-V-E. While regaling Louis and Jessica with the story of their hot date of Afro-Brazilian dancing at Chi-Chi’s — so hot, by the way, that they run to the bedroom to bone — it becomes apparent that Jessica and Louis lack the kind of fire that defines Marvin and Honey’s relationship. So, in a generous act of goodwill, Marvin and Honey decide to watch the Huang kids so Jessica and Louis can have a steamy night alone. After they absorb Emery and Evan, Jessica and Louis retreat to their home to do whatever it is that gets ’em going.
For Emery, a child so innocent and convinced that love is real that he has covered a single wall in his bedroom with valentines — like a Homeland-style evidence board, but for romance — the fact that his parents don’t seem to loooove each other in a visible, tangible way is upsetting. He wants them to have the kind of love that makes you get up and leave a country ham at the dinner table. Which is to say, Louis and Jessica’s date night thrills him in a way that I find mildly creepy. Evan takes a picture of his parents all dressed up, like the preternaturally mature child that he is, and that’s the end of that. Valentine’s Day is off to a good start!
Marvin’s idea of bonding with the Huang kids is to play a gentleman’s game of “Dare or Dare.” Truth, as you know, is for moms; men dare each other. I’m sure this seems like a good idea in Marvin’s head, but in execution, it is less than stellar. Emery gleefully accepts his dare to mismatch his dad’s socks. While he’s gone, Evan learns that Honey is actually Marv’s third wife and Emery discovers his parents doing the least sexy thing in the entire world — their taxes.
Okay, listen: Doing your taxes with the person you share a household with is love. Sifting through the endless piles of paperwork that come with owning two businesses and having three children is love. Accounting is erotic. Financial competency is sexy. You heard it here first.
But you can’t tell Emery nothing, because he is Not Having It. His parents walk in on him dejectedly taking down his love wall, because just like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, fairy-tale love is a fantasy. He wants them to love each other! And to show it. So, they get a second chance at date night.
Marvin and Honey will watch the kids again, though this time, they’re not in the best of shape. Honey didn’t know that Marvin was married to a fiddle player named Lucinda, so she’s doing that sitcom thing where she sulks offscreen while Marvin tells a romantic story to Emery about how love is really just about the little things, like over-easy eggs that magically replenish themselves while you’re sleeping. Because this is television, they make up. While I’m glad to see Marvin and Honey get some screen time, I would gladly trade it for more of the Huangs. I’m thrilled that Marv and Honey have a relationship that’s fulfilling and great, but I don’t watch this show to see a white couple do sitcom things. Please believe that I can find that elsewhere. Like, anywhere else.
While the rest of his family is occupied, Eddie is doing everything in his power to make Valentine’s Day special for Allison, his girlfriend whom I almost forgot. Sorry, Allison! She loves Janet Jackson and a radio station is doing a ticket giveaway for her show, so he enlists the help of Trent — the redhead, for those keeping track at home — to score some passes. Great news: They win! Less great news: Trent was the one that actually called … and as he’s a card-carrying member of the Rhythm Nation, it’s only fair that he goes.
Naturally, Eddie still has a plan: He encounters a scalper who’s more than willing to trade his two tickets for three, albeit in seats ten rows back from where they were. Because nothing works out until it does, the scalper grabs the tickets and runs away with ease, even with Trent in hot pursuit. But, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis save the day. They give Eddie and pals tickets for the next night in the V.I.P. section, which is conveniently located behind a giant pillar way up in the nosebleeds. Close enough, right? At least they got to hear Janet — and they even saw a slice of her arm from the Jumbotron.
Back to Louis and Jessica’s date night, redux. Twist: They’re still doing their taxes, which leads to Jessica finding out that Louis spent some cash to get the minivan serviced so that it looked nice while Jessica was meeting with some big clients. That, my friends, is love. The Huang elders exchange a real kiss, while Emery the romantic looks on in the distance. The love wall is resurrected! With his faith restored, he presents his parents with a homemade valentine. It’s a tax form (the wrong one, according to Jessica), and it’s attached to a construction-paper heart. True love, the Huang way.
+100 small-business tax returns, filed early for the Huang’s reluctance to show affection. My mother squirms out of every hug after 30 seconds. It’s not that the Huangs don’t love each other; their love for their children and each other is evident. Affection is tricky, doled out in increments and only for special occasions.
+10 green, plastic accountant visors for Honey’s astute observation that the Huangs only like to talk about work. Is this racist? Nah. It’s just true. If you have three kids, two businesses, and you’re hustling to grab your slice of the great American pie, you bet your bottom dollar that work will be at the forefront of your mind. Don’t knock the immigrant hustle. It’s very real.
+11 calculators for the Huangs not using an abacus. No one does their taxes on an abacus. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an abacus in real life.
+65 country hams for Jessica wrapping up those leftovers and taking them home and …
+16 biscuits to go with the ham for the brief shot of Jessica eating said leftovers the day after. Don’t waste food!