Sunday, December 13, 2015

Fresh off the Boat 2.08: "Huangsgiving"

“Who pets a deer? What is she, Snow White?”

This year, we got our first glimpse at how the Huangs celebrate Thanksgiving. Come to think of it, since “Fresh off the Boat” premiered at midseason last year, this fall was the first opportunity the creative team had to do any holiday themed episodes. We have started to get a good read on how the Huangs approach American holidays (the one big one left is Christmas), but I’m wondering if the creative team will tackle Chinese holidays, too. The Mid-Autumn Festival is essentially Chinese Thanksgiving (at least the way I celebrated it with a Chinese roommate once), so an episode featuring that holiday probably wouldn’t tread much in the way of new ground after this episode, but maybe Chinese New Year would be interesting. Anyway, let’s step back to the episode we’re supposed to be talking about. It’s time to celebrate Huangsgiving!

At the beginning of the episode we learn about a Chu (Jessica’s family) tradition. Grandma Chu gets on a conference call with her two daughters, Jessica and Connie, and announces who will be hosting Thanksgiving that year. Connie is the usual host, as Jessica would tell it, because she is their mom’s favorite. Jessica thinks this is her year, though. She’s been sending her mother shipments of citrus fruit to remind her that Jessica’s family now lives in Florida, which would be a great place to visit. When the phone call comes, it’s the news she was hoping for. This year, as Louis would put it, is going to be Huangsgiving. Jessica and Louis call a big family meeting to go over the plan for the day. They are going to have Cornish hens, because personal poultry is way classier than the duck Connie usually serves. And instead of the charades game they always play at Connie’s they are going to play Monopoly.

The day before Thanksgiving, Connie and Grandma Chu are the first to arrive. Steve, Connie’s husband (played by the same actor who played Harry Tang on “Chuck”), arrives separately. Instead of the fancy sports car he was driving the last time the Huangs saw him, Steve is driving a busted-up Geo Metro. He tries to drive it like a sports car, but it doesn’t go so well. Connie announces that Steve drove separately because their marriage is on the rocks. Jessica, of course, thinks this is all a ploy on Connie’s part to steal the holiday attention. Connie makes a point of saying that she and Steve need to sleep separately, and this would have been much easier to accomplish at her own house in DC. Louis helpfully offers the pull-out couch, which impresses Jessica.

Steve convinces Louis to drink with him by saying how much the estrangement with Connie has been affecting him. It is unclear whether Steve is genuinely upset and wants Louis’ companionship, or if this is just another manipulation to ruing Huangsgiving and make sure that Steve and Connie host the holiday next year. From this point, the episode becomes a classic farce, with the action getting more and more crazy and out of control by the minute. On Thanksgiving morning, we find Louis passed out on the sidewalk in front of the house, with Grandma Chu sweeping around him. Louis is seriously hung over, but he is determined to make Huangsgiving a success.

Because of Louis’ hangover, dinner is behind schedule. To make matters worse, when the Cornish hens arrive, they are still alive. Grandma Huang is ready to chop their heads off, but the door has already been slammed in the deliveryman’s face. Louis says he will just grab a turkey from the restaurant instead, and they will cook and eat that. The situation improves a bit when Oscar Chow (Jessica’s ex whom her mom loves) and his new boyfriend arrive. Grandma Chu is only too happy to chat up Oscar for a while.

The situation deteriorates again when Honey and Marvin arrive. Louis invited them over without telling Jessica, which seriously stresses Jessica out. Marvin wants to play touch football in the back yard, and Jessica tells Louis to join the game, mostly to prove to her family that she can handle Thanksgiving on her own. Immediately, things go from bad to worse. Grandma Chu decides she doesn’t like Oscar’s boyfriend, so she gets Connie to take her away from him. Then Jessica discovers that Louis forgot to turn the oven on, so the turkey is raw. She tries to get Louis to come back inside to help, but Louis is the worst charades player ever, so he doesn’t understand her hand signals. Louis is distracted enough, though, to get hit in the head with a football.

Louis’ injury is pretty severe, but with Jessica’s help, he eventually regains consciousness. They decide to try and distract the rest of the family with Monopoly until the turkey is ready, which is going to be several hours thanks to the oven incident. Louis keeps falling asleep during the Monopoly game, which would be quite dangerous if this was real life instead of comedy. Connie then sees Jessica trying to cook the turkey with a hair dryer, and she tells the rest of the family that the turkey is raw. Grandma Chu tells Jessica that Connie went to the one store open on Thanksgiving to get a turkey fryer, since that will cook the turkey in less than an hour and “rescue” Thanksgiving.

At the store, Jessica confronts Connie about trying to make Thanksgiving all about her. Connie says Thanksgiving was the one time of year when she got attention for the right reasons – throwing a nice party. Most of the time it’s just for getting injured at inconvenient times or other drama. The sisters reach an understanding, and Jessica buys the fryer, saying that they can use it this year, and also at Connie’s house next year. At the time, I figured that buying a turkey fryer in a comedy couldn’t possibly end well, but the Huangs and extended family do get their Thanksgiving dinner without burning the house down. So I suppose all is well that ends well!

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