Fresh Off the Boat
I’m sad to report that this week’s episode felt a little lackluster. Part of the reason is me, though. As one of the only shows on television featuring a Chinese family, I really want the show to just go in on capital-I Issues. That’s the stuff that makes me cry and laugh and yelp in happy recognition.
But, a sitcom is a sitcom. Done any other way, Fresh Off the Boat would be too emotionally exhausting, so I get the need for episodes like “Hey, Jealousy.” Always focusing on the Huang family’s otherness would take away from the talent of the cast and the writers, and make the show feel more like an after-school special than a half-hour of very good television. So, I’ll take what I can get.
That said, “Hey, Jealousy” is nonetheless a pretty solid episode, proving further that if the Jessica Huang on TV were a real, live person, I would fear and admire her in equal measure. She is inspirational.
So, here’s the thing: Jessica and Louis spend a lot of time with each other, but they don’t spend much time apart, though not for lack of trying. Jessica and Honey try to have book club and wine time and girl talk, but Louis keeps interrupting. He’s alarmingly friendless, and it’s high time that changes. The problem? He doesn’t know where to meet people because meeting people when you’re grown is really, really hard. Back in D.C., he had Hank, who would gladly engage in spirited debates about the merits of Pomeranians versus poodles while playing pool. In Orlando, he’s got his work peeps and … not much else.
Jessica needs her alone time, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned, she’ll do whatever she can to make that happen. So, she resurrects Black Ball Betty — a pool cue, you pervs, this is a family show — hands Louis turn-by-turn directions to the nearest pool hall, and hopes for the best.
Cue Tips is a seedy, dark, smoky place full of unfettered, terrifying masculinity. Louis, earnest and kind, walks inside carrying his pool cue in its very own case. Even if the gentleman with the very long beard who approaches Louis is intimidating, he doesn’t let it show, because it turns out he made a friend. However, that friend is a woman named Tony (played by Angelique Cabral).
As a woman who clearly subscribes to the When Harry Met Sally school of thought that men and women can’t just be friends, Jessica is distraught that her husband is hanging out — as friends, mind you! — with a woman who is clearly trying to steal her man. So, like any sane person, Jessica tags along with Louis to Cue Tips to suss out the situation.
Tony is both attractive and really good at pool. Naturally, she makes her entrance to “Black Velvet,” a song that could make everything from picking a wedgie to using a toothpick look sexy, which doesn’t really do much to help Louis’s case. Jessica’s beautifully wrought breakdown upon seeing Tony for the first time is an accurate portrayal of jealousy, but the power of her presence does nothing to compel Tony away from her husband. They just want to play pool. Yes, pool is a game that film and television have rendered inappropriately sexy, what with the bending over and the leaning and the pool cues and all, but it’s just a game. It’s just a game. After a quick lie about Mitch getting locked in Cattleman’s, Jessica hustles her husband out and puts it all out on the table.
Yes, she lied to get him away from Tony. Apparently, women are to be kept away from married men because I guess they can’t be trusted? She lays down the law: Louis can only hang out with Tony during daylight hours, they can only share clear soups or broths as food items, and he has to keep his wedding band in plain sight at all times. And if he can’t do that, well, maybe he should let Jessica be his pool buddy?
This plan does not work, obviously. Even though Jessica shows up in leather pants and some red heels, she has to put on her emergency Keds and play Amy Grant on repeat just to feel comfortable. Also, she’s horrible at both pool and the kind of breezy, aimless conversation other people have with their friends. No one has any fun, but eventually, it all works out. Louis and Tony can play pool together, but only under the watchful eye of the benevolent women of the Denim Turtle.
While Jessica is wrangling her jealousy issues and tamping down the crazy within, Eddie is also dealing with his own problems in a manner that befits a middle-school boy with a comically inflated ego. Hot Chris dumped Nicole via an expertly deployed Terminator 2 reference, so she’s back on the market, but she just wants to be friends with Eddie. Because he is a boy with the confidence of a man, he’s determined to have his cake and eat it too. He’ll get ice cream with Nicole without telling his actual girlfriend, Allison, because as per Maury, single chicks can’t be friends with dudes. The trick is that he’s got to keep the girls apart to avoid the inevitable catfight for his affection, or something.
Keeping them apart works for one day, especially with Trent and his on-command nosebleeds coming through in a pinch, but Eddie sees the two women in his life exchanging Claires jewelry and talking, which means all of the work he’s done to keep them apart is ruined. Also, Allison used to have a crush on his best friend, Dave. When Eddie sees Dave and Allison chopping it up by the ice-cream truck after school, his inner green-eyed monster lurches to life.
This is where our intrepid hero makes several wrong moves. First, he assumes that Dave and Allison are flirting when really, they’re just chatting. Second, he interferes by saying mean things to Dave about his absent father. Third, Nicole walks up to eat some ChocoTacos with her good friend Eddie, and just like that, he’s caught red-handed. If Allison can’t be friends with Dave because he’s a dude, why does Eddie get to hang out with Nicole, a girl whom he probably would’ve proposed to, if only he’d had a ring? Turns out, Eddie’s just doing what a 13-year-old boy does best — he’s being a jerk. He apologizes to Dave, clears the air with his girlfriend, and all remains well in Orlando for at least one more day.
+ 35 stacks of quarters at the pool table for Jessica’s attempt at an apology. “I was almost not right” is precisely how I feel when I’m actually, probably, maybe wrong. Pride! It’s a tricky mistress.
+ an infinite amount of cue chalk for the crap that Jessica carries in her purse. I saw crumpled tissues, Tic-Tacs, a mysterious food item wrapped in a napkin, and a plastic bottle of what I hope was soy milk.