Fresh Off the Boat
To call “Blind Spot” a misstep in Fresh Off the Boat’s near-stellar first season thus far might be a bit too harsh, but it is the first episode that I’ve felt lukewarm about: barely laughing throughout and not exactly eager to rewatch. It just, in comparison to the previous nine episodes, felt a little off, and too reliant on typical sitcom situations and broad stereotypes without finding a way to make them feel new or unique — a skill that Fresh Off the Boat certainly has. It’s especially a shame because “Blind Spot” focuses heavily on Jessica (and we learn a little about her college years) and puts Eddie off to the side to pop up occasionally with his chicken-pox scam.
But let’s tackle the beginning: Jessica’s college ex-boyfriend Oscar (Rex Lee) is coming to Orlando and is staying with the Huangs. Louis is cool with this — “I’m like a beanbag chair: almost always comfortable” — and at first it’s a nonstarter, until Honey plants a seed in Jessica’s head, wondering why Louis isn’t threatened by Oscar. So now Jessica’s annoyed and actively tries to make Louis jealous by talking about her and Oscar’s grand plans to test-drive Jacuzzis and get massages. “Are you sure you’re not jealous? It’s okay if you are,” she tells him, and he finally reveals the reason why he’s so chill: Oscar is gay. There we get Sitcom Trope No. 2: The clueless woman and her gay boyfriend. I was wary, but confident enough that Fresh Off the Boat would figure out a new approach.
Instead, it’s all pretty … eh. We learn about Jessica and Oscar’s college relationship, in which they dated for an entire summer but he only ever kissed her on the forehead. When we meet Oscar, he presents Eddie with wind chimes as a gift and reveals he’s in town to audition for a dance role in Aladdin on ice. It’s clear, as Louis puts it, that Oscar is “very, very gay,” but Jessica has a blind spot when it comes to gay people; Louis informs her that her gaydar is broken. It’s already such an overdone joke, and it just remains stale, though there was one inspired gag involving Jessica misunderstanding the very basics of Philadelphia. (“I don’t get it. This movie has nothing to do with Philadelphia. They should put Rocky in this movie. Liven things up.”) The payoff here — present-day Jessica pausing to wonder, “Wait, who was gay in Philadelphia?” — was almost worth it.
Unfortunately, the episode just floats along. It’s soon revealed that not only does Oscar have a crush on Louis, but he was also under the impression that the two were a couple in college. You know, because they hung out and sometimes split dessert (it was cheaper, Louis explains). Louis’s blind spot is not knowing when people are in love with him. This all sends Jessica into a spiral of insecurity, resulting in her plopping down at her favorite bar — a lesbian bar crawling with cheap stereotypes — to drink away her troubles until Louis and Oscar come to cheer her up. The lesson, according to Jessica: “It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight. The one thing we can all agree on is that I’m hot.” True, but it doesn’t make this tired story line any better.
Meanwhile, Eddie and his brothers actually get the better story line this week. The science fair is arriving soon, and Emery and Evan are both overly prepared and overly excited, each wanting to win the top prize (a pizza party), and each boy is positive that he will win. Eddie, however, is being his typical slacker self and doesn’t have any project in mind. But when Evan comes down with the chicken pox, Eddie spies a chance to avoid the whole fair by getting them, too. His plan doesn’t work — it’s Emery who gets the pox, because Evan has been creeping around like a horror flick trying to infect Emery so he doesn’t win the science fair — and Eddie is sadly healthy the morning of the science fair. When he goes to his little brothers for help, he reveals how much research went into learning how to get chicken pox. Eddie, by working hard to avoid working hard, accidentally learned enough to have a science-fair project. He doesn’t win (that would be too unbelievable), but just handing in something good is a big enough victory. It’s just too bad the rest of the episode was less than victorious.
• This episode’s Constance Wu Moment: Screeching “AT THE AIRPORT!”
• If nothing else, the main story line gave us a great spit-take.
• The monkey on the door of Evan’s quarantined room was a nice touch. I enjoyed all of the references to Outbreak.
• Eddie’s first science-fair attempt: “It’s a football and it’s a phone.”
• One thing I do have to praise about the A story: Fresh Off the Boat did set up Jessica’s blind spot earlier in the series, when she was convinced that a gay couple buying a house were nothing more than best friends despite witnessing the obvious.