The focus is back on the family! This week’s episode of Fresh Off the Boat returns to its roots, with a tightly crafted episode that features a relationship we’ve yet to really explore: Eddie and his mother, two people who are as different as can be. “Living While Eddie” gives us a glimpse into the role that Eddie’s expected to play in his family and how he manages to subvert their expectations. He willingly inhabits the role of the bad boy — the black sheep in the making who can skulk by without anyone noticing — but when those expectations are met head on by Jessica, there’s conflict, followed by a sweet sitcom resolution.
Breakfast at the Huang house is a casual affair, but the relative calm is disrupted by Jessica’s discovery that someone ate her breakfast papaya. It’s her morning papaya. It’s her one moment of joy. And now it’s gone. Viewers at home probably assumed that it’s Eddie because he’s the fall guy for every wrong wrought under that roof, and his mom does the same. In Jessica’s book, this is strike one. The second strike comes by way of a revelation from Evan: When white people have dishwashers in their homes, they use them to actually wash dishes.
“Why would you put dirty plates in the drying rack?” Eddie asks, genuinely confused. The Huangs have one of these mysterious dishwashing machines in their home — but it’s the thing they put their dishes in after they wash them. Jessica’s taped over the control panel of the dishwasher, something that I find hard to believe nobody figured out until this very moment. In any case, the jig is up. There’s a dishwasher and Jessica’s reasoning for not using it is sort of valid: letting a machine wash your dishes makes you soft. Of course, the dishwasher itself is irrelevant; it’s her house, so it’s her rules. Dishes get washed by hand. This rule is flouted pretty early, when Jessica hears the distant rumble of a machine doing the work a 13-year-old boy should be doing.
The dishwasher must go. Jessica is in the process of disconnecting it when she gets a phone call about the whereabouts of her eldest son, who has seemingly been caught shoplifting in the mall. He swears up and down that he wasn’t shoplifting at all — in fact, he intended to return the CD in question because Jessica cut his allowance money. His own mother is unwilling to believe his story, as is the proprietor of the CD store, who threatens Eddie with jail time.
Eddie has always been the bad seed and this incident feels like a third strike. Still, the reasons for why he didn’t steal the CD are pretty legit: It’s two years old, Tupac’s Makaveli just came out, and the CD itself doesn’t even work. Jessica cites the papaya incident and the dishwasher as evidence against him. He owns up to the latter, but finally breaks on the former: Eddie hates papaya. The breakfast thief was Evan!
It’s in this moment that Jessica finally realizes her son is a good kid, after all. He lied to protect his younger brother, and she, in turn, lied about the dishwasher to protect her children. It was a white lie, she concludes, one that protects you from all the things that make white people soft. Her faith is restored, bolstered by the fact that Eddie’s also telling the truth about the supposedly “stolen” CD. When they put it in the boom box, it skips exactly where Eddie said it would. Vindicated by the limits of obsolete technology, Jessica stands up for her kid like we all knew she would.
Part of the fun of this episode is the fact that it’s entirely anchored by the family. Jessica and Eddie get more comfortable with each other, and while that happens, Emery and his dad brings out the worst in each other. An infomercial for a grievously misnamed bit of junk is being filmed at Cattleman’s Ranch: It’s called an On-Gun, it shoots chopped onions onto anything you’d desire, and it needs a star. Enter Louis Huang, the hammiest ham in all of Orlando. He has one very simple job: to say one line and eat a salad. His cunning middle son Emery manages to psyche him out so much so that he can’t even utter the line.
The next day, Emery takes his place. He can say the line … without much feeling and while blinking incessantly. Neither father nor son is good enough to survive in the final cut of the infomercial in a flattering light, it seems. Does it matter, though? They’re on TV!
+117 breakfast papayas for the whole dishwasher/allowance/“softness” debate. A dishwasher is merely a vessel for dishes that have been prewashed by hand in the sink. The horror and wonder of Evan’s white friend’s use of the dishwasher felt very true to life. Who shoves a plate covered in marinara into a dishwasher without finishing it first? And if you’re going to get an allowance, you might as well earn it. Washing dishes by hand and then putting them in the dishwasher works just fine, even if it’s just for show.