Saturday, March 5, 2016

Fresh off the Boat 2.13: "Phil's Phaves"

“Yo girl, it’s your boy Notorious E.I.G. and he’s making one epic mixtape!”

The two plots in this episode of “Fresh off the Boat” didn’t especially mesh thematically, although both featured some major 90’s nostalgia. I’m only a year or so younger than Eddie Huang, so I remember Gateway computers, Geocities websites, and mix tapes all too well. It was amusing watching the Huang parents struggle to understand technology. While that is also a common experience for people my age, it was not my experience. My mom has been a software engineer since the 1980s, and my dad has been in the IT business since at least the 70’s. I’m probably one of the few early thirty-somethings that can say their parents know more about computers than they do. And while I never made mix tapes like Eddie does in this episode, I definitely taped my favorite songs off the radio and tried to time it perfectly to minimize how much of the DJ was on the tape. So yeah, this episode definitely brought the nostalgia.

Jessica and the two younger boys return home to see what every 90’s kid dreamed of. The big cow-print boxes that housed a Gateway computer. Louis explains that he went in a store that he thought sold ice cream, and he ended up buying the family’s first “internet computer.” Louis wants everyone to take a typing class first, but Evan just starts looking stuff up on the Internet (using Lycos to be precise . . . I was more of an Alta Vista girl myself back in the pre-Google Stone Age). He looks up Cattleman’s Ranch and finds a review on an awesomely 90’s (complete with Ally McBeal dancing baby GIFs) website called Phil’s Phaves. The review is mediocre, saying that the food was fine, but the ambiance was a bit boring. He gives the restaurant a B-, which horrifies Jessica and Louis, because they consider that a “Chinese F.” At Evan’s suggestion, they send an e-mail to the webmaster, asking for reconsideration.

Meanwhile, Eddie and Allison are having fun talking about rap albums as they walk to the busses after school. Allison is being rushed by her bus driver, so she tells Eddie to call her and gives him her phone number. Eddie looks petrified, and I can totally sympathize. I’m not a huge fan of the phone myself. After Allison leaves, Eddie is bombarded by a heavyset, seemingly nerdy girl named Reba. Reba has a huge crush on Eddie, and even though she knows he has a girlfriend, she has hope she can be next. She even has a photo of him in her Trapper Keeper (oh how Trapper Keepers were a status symbol in the early-mid 90’s). I will say, though, that Reba’s glasses are a bit too 2010’s trendy to fit a mid-90’s nerdy girl. As a person who was a nerdy, not-skinny girl in the mid-90’s about Reba’s age, I will say that her glasses are way cooler than mine were. Anyway, she flirts with Eddie a bit, but he’s not having it.

Back at Chez Huang, Louis and Jessica have been continuously staring at the Phil’s Phaves page, hoping the page view counter won’t increase. They are dismayed when Evan shows them they need to refresh the page for the counter to update, and during the time they have been waiting, five more people have seen the review. In better news, Evan also shows them how to check their e-mail (it shocks Louis that you can get e-mail late at night), and Phil has indeed offered to give Cattleman’s Ranch a second chance. Louis is determined to make the restaurant extra fun for Phil’s visit, even if it means replacing ever “C” in the menu with a backwards “K.”

Eddie tries to call Alison, and it takes him a while, but eventually he works up the nerve. Allison answers, but so does her father. Then Louis gets on the phone too. It’s a mess, and Eddie hangs up before saying anything. He tells Emery (who had been listening in too) that he has a new idea for how to talk to Allison. He’s going to make her a dope mix tape. He closes his door and gets to work. Later, it’s science class time at Abraham Lincoln Middle School, and of course Eddie and Allison want to be lab partners. Eddie’s got his mix tape in his class folder, too. For their unit on dissecting an oyster, though, the science teacher wants to switch things up, and Eddie gets paired with Reba. Reba is super excited and takes Eddie’s folder, offering to do all the work herself. Later, Eddie is horrified to get a call from Reba saying she got the mix tape and she loves him too. Eddie tries to reason with Reba that the tape was actually for Allison, but Reba won’t hear of it. She even offers to break up with Allison for him. Just as she is about to say on morning announcements that Eddie is her new boyfriend, one of Eddie’s friends pulls the fire alarm to cause a distraction.

Meanwhile, at Cattleman’s Ranch, Jessica and Louis have prepared everything for Phil’s visit. There are new uniforms with comically small hats to be worn at a jaunty angle, and there are taxidermied hens with glasses. When Phil arrives, they are surprised to see that he is Phillip Goldstein, Eddie’s former friend who abandoned him at a Beastie Boys concert. They ask him to take the review down, but he won’t, because his parents have been teaching him about journalistic integrity. The staff fawns over Phillip through his entire meal, which makes it rather unenjoyable because they’re constantly bothering him. He’s going to bring his review down to a C+ after this experience. Louis and Jessica go to Phillip’s house to try and appeal to his parents, but his mother says she won’t ask him to take down the review. Jessica then has a new idea. She asks Evan to create a website slamming Phillip. He hesitates, wondering if it’s kind of like bullying, but Jessica says it’s being “e-vigilantes” protecting their reputation.

Emery suggests that Eddie just talk to Allison about the Reba issue, but again, Eddie’s not having it. He thinks that if a great mix tape can make Reba say she loves him, a really bad mix tape will have the opposite effect. He enlists the help of Nicole, who understands exactly what he is trying to do (she calls it a “nix tape”) and provides him with the lamest CDs from her dad’s collection. As she leaves, she remarks that Eddie never made her a mix tape, and Eddie doesn’t seem to quite know what to make of that. He settles in again for a mix tape session, and as the terrible music plays, he writhes in pain. He gives Reba the tape in science class, and the teacher catches him and plays it for everyone. It’s a huge embarrassment, and later, when Eddie calls Reba to apologize, she says he obviously can’t handle how she comes on strong, so they’re done. He then calls Allison, and while she’s upset at first, she falls for his live apology mix.

Phillip shows up at the restaurant again and implies that he knows the Huangs are behind the slam website. They don’t admit anything though. Later, they go to a parent meeting at school, where the principal announces that a student has been the victim of “compu-teasing.” Phillip then comes up to the microphone and tells his sob story about how he’s now afraid to use his computer. This is followed up by a speech from an Orlando police officer saying the department is taking compu-teasing very seriously. They have a new task force, and they have discovered that the website came from a Gateway computer. That’s all it takes for Louis and Jessica to admit they’re the ones who started the website. They have to pay a fine, and they decide to put the computer away for a while (it will still work just as well in a few years, after all!). Evan is devastated, since he had just enrolled in University of Phoenix for nursing school.

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