The third season of Fresh Off the Boat has felt like a reckoning for the Huang family, as they grappled with their own success. If assimilation is their goal, they’ve achieved it, but not so much that they’ve forsaken their own culture. “This Is Us” is the first part of a two-episode finale that looks to be raising the stakes for the future. With Eddie graduating and their individual businesses chugging along, the family is thisclose to unlocking the next level of achieving the American Dream. I can’t wait to see how it shakes out.
It’s the end of the school year once again and the Huang family is thriving. Eddie graduated from middle school. Evan’s killing it on debate. Cattleman’s is doing well, and Jessica just landed the biggest listing of her life — a big McMansion in a private housing development. All good news! Everything’s fine … but not for long. Evan’s got the private-school bug after hearing about the wonders St. Orlando’s has to offer — briefcases, a good debate team, and blazers year-round — but Jessica thinks private school is a waste of money, and I don’t know, maybe it is? If your kid is doing fine in public schools and the public schools aren’t terrible, maybe just keep them there and see how it goes?
I digress. Jessica doesn’t want to pay people to push her children, because that’s her job. Instead of entertaining her youngest son’s request to enroll in private school, she takes him to the garage to show him her vision boards for her children’s futures. They are life plans, updated every five years, with their future clearly mapped out for success. Emery’s pretty good at everything so he’ll be able to pick out his own career and/or marry Michelle Kwan. Eddie is Eddie, so if he stays out of jail, they’re happy. All the hopes and dreams of the Huang family are pinned on Evan, whom Jessica would love very much to become a president-doctor. Evan knows these boards. He’s seen them before. But he’s ahead of everyone else. He wants to be challenged.
Instead of doing the research or listening to her son, Jessica goes straight to the source: the headmaster of St. Orlando’s, who probably wasn’t expecting a petite Taiwanese woman and her nattily dressed son demanding a five-minute TL;DR of why private school is better than public.
Jessica points out that her taxes go to the public schools, so paying an extra $4,000 for her son to wear a blazer seems a bit steep. Everything the headmaster says about St. Orlando’s intrigues Jessica: There are no teachers, no vacation, and they only teach the bougie sports like squash and birding. Evan’s sold. Jessica’s sold. She’ll pay for the whole thing. But it’s not as simple as whipping out her checkbook — there’s a process. “So I have to earn the privilege to pay your ridiculous tuition?” Jessica says incredulously, as the old man behind the big wooden desk raises his eyebrows and imperceptibly nods.
Even after all of Jessica’s lobbying and Evan acing the interview like you knew he would, he doesn’t get in. He did everything right, but someone must have made a mistake. Here is Jessica’s first lesson in American nepotism, courtesy of alumna Deidre, who explains the way things work. Private schools are very picky. Unless Evan was the child of an alumni or a foreign diplomat’s kid or someone already in the upper echelons he so desires to reach, his chances are pretty slim. Is this fair? No. Is her son overqualified? Yes. Deidre suggests that maybe it isn’t Evan, who looks good on paper and in real life, but maybe her entire family. Look, they’re doing fine, but renting a home in a good neighborhood and owning a successful restaurant doesn’t translate to St. Orlando’s. No matter how hard the Huangs worked to achieve what is arguably 95 percent of the American Dream, it’s still not good enough.
You know in the end they’ll be successful, because this is a family sitcom where things generally tend to work out. And because this is a family sitcom, Louis’s plot is the engine that pushes this whole thing forward. While Jessica freaks out over whether or not she should pay $4,000 a year to send her child to private school, Louis is grappling with his own crisis. He’s tired of renting from a landlord who has misguided opinions about dandelions and lawn care, but he doesn’t really have the money to buy a new place. Marvin’s got a suggestion: Maybe let his good friend Michael Bolton buy Cattleman’s Ranch so Louis can get a house? At first, Louis turns him down. This isn’t in the plan, you see.
An encounter with the landlord finally pushes Louis over the edge. He takes the offer to sell Cattleman’s and when he tells Jessica, she sees a beautiful, perfect solution. They’ll move into that mega-mansion that she was trying to sell if the homeowner can get Evan into St. Orlando’s. That’s how you make a deal!
Meanwhile, Eddie and his friends spend the entire episode talking mess about how they will rule the school in ninth grade and editing the graduation video Emery made by adding Pop-Up Video–esque sick burns about each other for fun. This video is somehow stolen by Dave’s stepbrother. Eddie needs to get it back, so his friends throw a rock through the window, distracting the oaf so he can swipe it. Just when Eddie thinks ninth grade is going to be the best year ever, he comes home to his entire family bubble-wrapping valuables and labeling boxes. Good-bye friends. Good-bye, life you once knew. Hello … what, exactly?
Next week, we will find out!