Sunday, March 13, 2016

Fresh off the Boat 2.14: "Michael Chang Fever"

“Soon you will be a doctor with the power of the military. No one expects a coup from the Surgeon General, but you’d just be overthrowing Emery, who I’m sure got President.”

I wouldn’t say that this was my favorite episode ever of “Fresh off the Boat,” but it was entertaining enough. I thought the episode explored some really interesting themes and issues, like the pressures parents of all cultures place on their children. Stereotypically, those pressures are more intense in Asian families, which leads to what we see with Emery in this episode, but I think any family can relate to a parents’ desire for their child to succeed and do well in life. That’s what parenting is supposed to be about, right? Raising a child who can fend for themselves? Another interesting theme here was a lack of Asian athletes in professional sports and how that affects Louis’ reaction to what is going on with Emery. Emery wants to play tennis, and Jessica is all in because it could make him rich, and Louis is all in because he thinks it’s important to have more Asian athletic role models. Both are worthy causes taken way too far, as they all realize by the end of the episode.

As the episode opens, Jessica learns that Emery and Evan took a career aptitude test at school. She is thrilled when she sees that Evan’s test says he should be Surgeon General. Eddie thinks this is nerdy, but Jessica thinks it’s fantastic, and Evan likes that he can diagnose Eddie with “buttface.” She is sure Emery got something equally good, like President of the United States. She is devastated when Emery’s test says he should be a flight attendant. Emery says he got flight attendant because he likes to help people. Jessica thinks flight attendants are the homeless of the skies, because they don’t even have real seats on the airplane.

Jessica is horrified as she watches Emery open a beer for his grandmother, but the horror is interrupted by Louis calling the family into the living room to watch the “Super Bowl,” also known as Michael Chang playing in the Australian Open. He’s super excited because the only other Asian athlete he ever had to look up to was a soccer referee. Eddie and Evan both think tennis is stupid and boring, so they leave the room very quickly, but Emery is intrigued by a game with a scoring system “based on love.” Louis asks Emery if he would like to play tennis, and when he says yes, Jessica approves because tennis players can make a lot of money. Meanwhile, the kids all have identical backpacks Jessica bought on sale, and Eddie finds a demand note for POGs in Evan’s backpack. Eddie tries to convince Evan to stand up to the POG thief, but Evan doesn’t look very threatening.

Louis, Jessica, and Emery go to the country club for Emery’s first tennis lesson. Louis and Jessica are shocked when Emery can serve perfectly right from the get-go. He claims he’s just imitating what he saw on television. Billie Jean King, who has to spend 183 days a year in Florida for tax purposes, also sees Emery, and she tells Louis and Jessica that Emery shows promise. Jessica asks to buy one tennis lesson for Louis, so that he can continue teaching Emery (buying lessons for Emery would be too expensive, of course). Later in bed, Louis and Jessica both fantasize about Emery’s future. Louis looks forward to bonding with Emery by coaching him, and Jessica looks forward to Emery winning a lot of money he can use to buy an election.

Jessica has purchased a book on child prodigy athletes, and she’s dismayed to learn that most of them were only children. She immediately has Eddie and Emery switch rooms so that Emery can have his own room. Eddie takes this in a remarkably good-natured way, even when Evan presents him with the “Bunk Mate Agreement.” He vows to keep helping Evan against the POG thief. Next, we get a montage of Emery doing really well at tennis as Louis and Jessica cheer him on in increasingly obnoxious ways. As they are all watching the Australian Open, they see Michael Chang take second place in the tournament. Jessica and Louis disagree over whether Chang taking second place is a good or bad thing.

Eddie gets his posse together to go intimidate the POG thief. After a brief detour for ice cream (Alison let them know the truck was in the neighborhood), they are ready to go. They are surprised, however, to see that the POG thief is a fifth-grade girl named Stacey. It turns out that Evan borrowed some POGs from Stacey to get started with the game, and he keeps losing them. He seems to have a bit of a gambling addiction, to put it mildly. Later, Eddie confronts Evan about his addiction. Eddie realizes it has gone too far when Evan proposes stealing money from Jessica’s purse when she is asleep after eating Mexican food. Stacey comes to the Huang house, where she is invited to play one final POG match. If she wins, she gets one of Eddie’s prized Garbage Pail Kids cards. It’s not Evan who is going to be playing, though, it’s Grandma Huang, and she’s an awesome gambler. Evan wants to keep the game going, but Eddie pulls him away from the table before he can lose more of his stuff. Eddie gives Evan a beginner’s guide to playing the stock market, a more productive outlet for his gambling habit.

Meanwhile, Louis is a bit taken aback by the crazy training schedule Jessica has set for Emery. She basically wants him to do nothing but tennis and school every day until he is the best at both. As soon as Louis expresses doubts, Jessica goes to Emery and encourages him to fire Louis as his coach. The firing goes down not long before Emery’s final match in the country club’s tournament. Billie Jean King is going to be Emery’s new coach. Jessica wasn’t expecting to be fired too, though. Emery says she’s too distracting at his matches. Late at night, when they are in bed, Jessica and Louis can hear Billie Jean King continuing to drill Emery outside. Jessica is happy that Emery is being pushed, but Louis is concerned because he just wanted Emery to enjoy tennis.

At the last match in the tournament, Jessica finds out she’s banned for harassing the umpire. As Jessica is trying to argue her way in, she and Louis see Billie Jean King and Emery approach the court. Emery has changed his hair to match Billie’s, which is kind of creepy. Jessica and Louis decide to leave so they’re not a distraction. After the match, Emery comes home and announces that he won the match. He says Billie Jean King invited him to train at her facility in Coral Gables, but Emery doesn’t want to go because he wants to be with his family and learn to be a great flight attendant. The idea of Emery moving away is enough to snap Jessica out of the tennis obsession, and she turns his attention to trying to convince him to be an astronaut (aka flight attendant in space) instead.

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