Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fresh off the Boat 2.02: "Boy 2 Man"

“But you’re not even her real mother. You’re her stepmother. All you have to do is day drink and criticize her weight.”

This episode of “Fresh off the Boat” was all about growing up and how parents have to grapple with changing their parenting styles as their kids become more independent. As Eddie and Nicole spend more time together (and then don’t), we get to see the contrast in how their families handle the situation. The contrast between Jessica and Honey (Nicole’s stepmother and Jessica’s best friend) is especially interesting. We also get to see the rest of the Huang family react to the oldest of the three kids starting to really grow up and deal with teenage issues. Eddie’s adventures in this episode directly or indirectly affect all the Huangs. And we get a family Boyz II Men singalong out of it, so it’s definitely worth watching!

Right from the beginning of the episode, we see the contrast between Eddie and Nicole’s respective relationships with their parents. Jessica wakes Eddie up in the morning and tells him he doesn’t need an alarm clock because he has her. She also tells him that he must take piccolo lessons as his fifth period elective, even though Eddie would rather learn leatherworking. Honey, meanwhile, makes some small efforts to lay down rules with Nicole, but her father, Marvin, quickly undermines her and lets Nicole buy whatever she wants, like a Boyz II Men CD. She is her father’s princess, for sure, and it made me sad to see Honey marginalized in this situation. She’s making some effort to be a responsible stepmother, but it’s not doing any good.

Meanwhile, Eddie and his friends are getting picked on by the eighth graders at lunch. The eighth graders like to steal and/or damage the belongings of as many seventh graders as they can. This all changes, however, when Nicole decides to sit with Eddie and his friends. She says this year’s eighth graders don’t like her because she tormented them when they were seventh graders last year. Anyway, Eddie’s friends don’t seem to be super thrilled when Nicole first sits with them, but that quickly changes when they realize that the other eighth graders are afraid of her. They are thrilled with the idea that they can get away with acting dorky without any repercussions from the eighth graders.

Jessica stops by Honey’s house for Stephen King book club, but Honey hasn’t read the latest book yet because she’s been fretting over Nicole. She and Jessica talk about the latest issues, but Jessica doesn’t seem overly concerned. Despite Honey’s protests to the contrary, Jessica thinks children can always be controlled regardless of age. You just have to think several steps ahead like a game of chess. Meanwhile, Louis and Marvin go golfing. They see some little girls playing by the golf course, and Marvin talks about how he’ll always see Nicole as a little girl. This gets Louis to start thinking about what it might be like to have a daughter. He even pictures his hypothetical daughter’s wedding.

At school, Eddie and Nicole both complain about their respective fifth periods. Eddie doesn’t want to play piccolo and Nicole doesn’t want to have to go to tutoring. Nicole comes up with a plan, though. She wants Eddie to be her tutor so that they can basically just goof off all fifth period. Eddie is down with this idea since it involves more one-on-one time with Nicole. It is Jessica who tries to veto the idea, saying that tutoring is one step away from being a teacher, which is one step away from homelessness. She’s not entirely wrong. Anyway, Eddie acquiesces, as he typically does when his mother goes on the warpath about something. Eddie’s desire to tutor isn’t the only family issue Jessica has to deal with in this episode. Louis asks if they can have a daughter. Jessica says no, because “the shop is closed.” Evan hears this conversation and gets very worried. He talks it over with the ladies he powerwalks with, and they suggest that it’s Louis’ “time of the month,” and he needs something to help deal with the hormones. It’s interesting how the creative team mixes realism with the absurd.

Jessica and Honey have another conversation about Honey’s latest progress trying to give Nicole some boundaries. She is very proud of herself that she didn’t give Nicole money (even if she didn’t outright say “no” and just hid in the bathroom). She also compliments Jessica on Eddie being such a great tutor. Jessica, while she doesn’t say anything to Honey, is super pissed off because Eddie is directly defying her. Jessica being Jessica, though, she has a manipulative plan to end the tutoring arrangement for good. She goes to talk to Eddie’s teacher, who is desperate to seem “in” with Asian culture in general, and says Eddie is so smart that he can handle tutoring multiple students at once. The teacher agrees, and when the new students arrive, one of them starts flirting with Nicole, and Nicole reciprocates. With that, Eddie wants to quit tutoring.

Following the “break up” with Nicole, Eddie is upset, spending all his time in his room listening to “End of the Road” on repeat. I would have liked to have seen more of Eddie’s wallowing, but since this is a half hour comedy, one quick scene was really all we got. Meanwhile, Louis continues his campaign for a daughter. He decides to strategically place photos of baby girls in vegetable costumes everywhere in the house that Jessica might see them. Jessica hates the photos and has a hilarious story why that is way too long to describe here. You have to watch it! The younger boys also start randomly giving Louis gifts, hoping to get him out of his male PMS. By dinner time, all the Huang menfolk are somewhat depressed for their own reasons, and they sing “End of the Road” together in adorable fashion.

Jessica and Honey try to meet up for book club once again, and Jessica, for the first time, realizes that perhaps her formula-driven approach to parenting isn’t always going to work in every situation. She mentions that Eddie has been depressed lately, and Honey immediately knows it’s because of the situation with Nicole. She tells Jessica that she would have known that too if she ever tried to relate to her kids at all on a friendly level. Jessica takes Honey’s advice (sort of), and she has a heart-to-heart with Eddie where she tells him about how she handled her break-up with her college boyfriend, Oscar. The conversation, while helpful, still ends with a pitch for Eddie to try piccolo again. Eddie takes it as the loving, good natured way in which it was meant. When he gets back to school, he sees a hot girl practicing piccolo in the band room, so perhaps he will take his mother’s advice after all. Louis tells Jessica he doesn’t want a daughter after all. If a daughter had her heart broken the way Eddie experienced, he’d murder the guy. And speaking of Nicole, she’s not sitting with Eddie and his crew anymore, and the boys are about to be ambushed by the eighth graders again.

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