Fresh Off the Boat
I can’t tell if I’m reaching an impasse with my favorite Taiwanese-American family from Orlando, but this week’s episode felt a little lackluster. Focusing on the family as a unit is where Fresh Off the Boat shines the most, while spending time with Jessica is usually a sure thing, so you’d think that honing in on her role as the unsung hero of the Huang family would press all my TV-watching buttons. Sadly, that’s not the case here.
Nothing about “The Best of Orlando” is bad, per se, but it all feels a little too obvious. It’s already clear that Jessica is the glue that holds this family together, since she has the relatively thankless job of wrangling three sons, a bumbling husband, and her own bountiful pride. In her role as matriarch, she makes sure that the entire household runs smoothly while saving face.
Anyway, here’s the good news: Louis won the Small Businessman of the Year award! Great news for the Huangs, better news for Louis, and the best possible news for Jessica, who loves nothing more than bragging about the accomplishments of her family. To celebrate Louis’s honor, she basically invites the entire neighborhood to the award ceremony. This win also adds some valuable ammunition to Jessica’s long-ranging and eternal war of competition with her sister, Connie (which is one of my absolute favorite throwaway bits about this series). Louis, however, hates bragging. Because Louis loves his wife and has accepted the fact that she is kind of unhinged, he doesn’t complain about it. Will this approach backfire? Yes, of course it will.
At the actual awards ceremony, everything seems to be going great. Jessica parades Louis around like a prizewinning bichon frise; Aunt Connie is dialed in on speaker; Grandma is wearing a very large hat. During his big speech, Louis thanks his kids, his neighbors, the people at Cattleman’s Ranch, and most important, the city of Orlando. You know who he doesn’t thank? Jessica.
In the wake of this grievous error, Jessica is screening calls and eating her feelings. Louis feels terrible, but lucky for him he has a second chance: Good Morning, Orlando! asks him to appear on the show as a result of his win. This is his time to make amends! Do you think he’ll do it right? Chances are high that he’ll blow it on live TV, even more than he blew it in the ballroom of what looked to be a Courtyard Marriott, but please, let me be wrong.
I am pleased to report that I am only half wrong. Louis shows up to the set of Good Morning Orlando! ready to right his grave error. He manages to get his thanks in to the usual suspects, but just as he’s going to launch into what would surely be a heartfelt thank you to Jessica, the show rudely cuts to a breaking report about a group of armadillos stopping traffic on the highway. One of them is in labor! How exciting!
While hiding from his wife at Marvin’s house, Louis and Marvin have a chat about how to make this thing right … again. Jessica hates most gifts, it seems, so Louis needs to find someone who really knows her. That would be Evan, who takes time out of his busy schedule of reading Chicken Soup for the Soul aloud to his Beanie Babies to help his dad out.
This is the solution: A Best of Orlando awards do-over, in the Huang dining room, featuring the speech that Louis really meant to give. “She’s the one who never gets thanked. The unsung hero of all of our successes,” he says, as a tiny smile breaks across Jessica’s face. Louis really, truly appreciates Jessica, because of course he does — he’s just a doofus about showing it sometimes. He has to appreciate Jessica, because without her, the entire family would crumble.
Oh, I guess we’ll talk about the others too. The spirit of small business runs deep in the Huang family, as evidenced by Eddie and Emery’s get-rich-quick scheme. Eddie spies with his little eye a pair of JNCOs at the mall and is immediately enamored, but they’re a whopping $80. Emery shows up in a pair of JNCOs the next day at school. They’re not the real deal, of course, but a decent knockoff made by Grandma Huang. Everyone loves the JNCOs and Eddie spies an opportunity. If he keeps Grandma in Sour Apple Blow Pops and gives her a cut of the proceeds, she’ll make as many knockoff denim palazzo pants as they can sell. Their off-brand jean business is booming until the principal shows up wearing the real deal, thereby sucking the cool out of the fakes. Nice try, Eddie.
+100 congratulatory (yet passive-aggressive) telephone calls for Jessica’s unabashed love of bragging. What good is any accomplishment if you don’t yell about it loudly and often from every rooftop and vantage point you have at your disposal?