Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fresh off the Boat 2.07: “The Big 1-2”

“I just want to spend my birthday with people I can be myself with.”

“The Big 1-2” was yet another episode of “Fresh off the Boat” that treated an American childhood milestone in a unique way with emotion that didn’t reach the point of being treacly. It’s Eddie’s first birthday, and he has decreed that he does not want a birthday party. This causes Jessica and Louis great consternation, especially when they discover that Eddie does want a party, just not with them. Watching these events unfold make Emery and Evan try to be rebellious in their own goody-two-shoes way. They’re tired of being the good kids who constantly get overlooked while Jessica and Louis are dealing with Eddie’s latest debacle. I love watching Jessica and Louis struggle through adapting the way they were raised to the needs of their very American children. They are strict, but they do truly love their kids, and I think the kids know and appreciate that.

This episode begins with home video of Eddie’s eleventh birthday. I think this segment is a good example of why I like “Fresh off the Boat” and fellow ABC comedy “The Goldbergs.” Both provide a lot of nostalgia for me. I grew up as a late-80’s/early 90’s kid (about a year younger than Eddie) in the northern Philadelphia suburbs, probably about half an hour from where the Goldbergs lived. When I watch “The Goldbergs,” I love seeing places that I enjoyed as a kid, like the Willow Grove Park Mall (that place was Mecca to young me). When I watch “Fresh off the Boat,” I love seeing the mid-90’s pop culture that I loved, like POGs and Super Nintendo (SNES). It’s kind of cool to see how I could have so many cultural touchstones in common with the (fictionalized) Huangs. Anyway, the birthday party video was super nostalgic. There’s a piñata that is duct taped and reused every year, and a banner that is probably reused too. Louis falls in the middle of filming the video, and the whole thing is kind of a mess.

This episode takes place about a year later, when it’s almost time for Eddie’s twelfth birthday. Eddie tells his parents that this year, he doesn’t want a party. He would rather just hang out at the mall with his friends. Louis and Jessica hesitate a bit to change up family traditions, and Eddie growing up makes them a bit sad, but they are ultimately okay with the idea. They’re mostly excited that they will have time to work on a Saturday, which is something they haven’t done in ages. The next morning, Evan and Emery excitedly grab Eddie’s birthday card and present, and they rush downstairs. They are quite sad when their parents inform them that there is going to be no birthday party for Eddie. They are mostly sad that nobody told them about the change in plans until now.

Jessica talks over the Eddie birthday party situation with Honey, who warns Jessica that for her last birthday, Nicole also said she wanted no party, but then she was upset for weeks when their actually was no party. Thinking that Eddie must really want a party, Jessica and Louis start gathering all the party supplies, and they go to the mall to pick up Eddie. They are shocked to see that Eddie has put together his own birthday party with his school friends (and Mitch from the restaurant) at the food court patio, complete with birthday cake and party hats. Meanwhile, Evan and Emery think that their parents don’t notice them because they are always so good and follow the rules. They decide they need to start acting out like Eddie, so they go to the movie theater and see Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which happens to be rated an oh-so-rebellious PG-13.

At dinner that night, Jessica and Louis are visibly upset, and Evan and Emery are shocked when they don’t react to the news that they went to see a PG-13 movie while under the age of 13. Jessica and Louis confront Eddie about the mall birthday party. Eddie basically says that he wanted a birthday party, but he didn’t want his parents to participate because he doesn’t feel like he can be himself around them. There is just too much pressure to be perfect like Evan and Emery. Louis seems especially pissed about Eddie’s friendship with Mitch, which is kind of hilarious. We learn later that Eddie and Mitch bonded during Eddie’s brief stint as a fajita server at Cattleman’s Ranch. Anyway, as a result of this conversation, Jessica and Louis decide they should relax the rules a bit so they don’t lose Eddie.

Because Jessica and Louis didn’t react to the news of the PG-13 movie, Evan and Emery start acting out even more. They eat Nutella straight out of the jar and smear it all over their faces. They throw a crazy amount of Legos (which really hurt if you step on them) all over the floor. They even alter a grade on a recent test to read “A-“ instead of “A.” Meanwhile, Jessica really does do her best to try and losen the rules a bit. She lets Eddie have a Pop Tart for breakfast (poor Eddie is worried it’s a trap), then she and Louis say Eddie can go on a sleep over. Eddie responds that he has a standing invite at his friend Dave’s house, and he would like to sleep over that very night. Jessica really doesn’t like the idea, but Louis convinces her to back down and let Eddie go.

Eddie happily goes over to Dave’s house, where he is given an entire bottle of orange soda right at the door. Dave then burps in front of his mother, and Eddie thinks he is going to be in for a fun night. Jessica goes over to Honey’s house to try and spy on Eddie. Honey’s brother-in-law just died, and she’s trying to make arrangements for family to arrive in town for the funeral, but that doesn’t stop Jessica, and later Louis. The situation gets even more awkward when Honey’s husband gets home, and she has to tell him his brother died in front of the Huangs, who just care about Eddie having a ball playing Light Sabre with Dave and his mom. While their parents are out, Evan and Emery decide to do the ultimate act-out and run away, packing their suitcases meticulously, of course. They get scared as soon as they step outside, though, and they go right back in.

At Dave’s house, Eddie is having a blast playing SNES and eating Cookie Crisp (gotta say, though, that stuff was vile) for dinner. Later, however, when it’s bed time, his stomach doesn’t feel good from the “cereal,” and Dave is dripping ice cream all over his pillow. Eddie reaches his breaking point when Dave and his mother say good night by yelling about how much they hate each other. Jessica and Louis are sitting up in bed when Eddie comes home. Eddie explains that he likes spending time with his friends, but he likes being home, too. Jessica, who has hopefully learned the “if you love something, set it free” lesson, offers to make Eddie birthday noodles. While Eddie, Jessica, and Louis are eating noodles, Evan and Emery roll into the kitchen to find out what’s going on. And they promptly get grounded for being up past their bed time. But they’re allowed to have noodles before the grounding begins.

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