Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Fresh off the Boat 2.19: "Jessica Place"

“We shouldn’t be out here in the dark. Alligators roam at night.”

As “Fresh off the Boat” trades just as much in 90’s nostalgia as it does in trying to give a voice to the Asian-American experience, it was inevitable that we would eventually get a “Melrose Place” homage. I was 17 on New Year’s Eve 1999, so I was too young in the 90’s to have watched Melrose Place. I think that’s why this episode didn’t work as well for me as it otherwise might have. It was a funny episode for sure, and I definitely enjoyed it, I just think I would have liked it even more if I had been able to pick up on all the “Melrose Place” inside jokes that were undoubtedly sprinkled throughout. I think it’s interesting that Jessica is such a big “Melrose Place” fan, and I wish we would have seen a bit more about how that happened in the first place. We can draw the conclusion that the other HOA ladies introduced her to it, but it would have been fun to see it actually play out.

Anyway, the episode opens with Jessica and a bunch of neighborhood friends watching “Melrose Place.” By neighborhood friends, I mean some of the HOA ladies, and Honey and Marvin. Honey watches it even though she doesn’t like it, because she values spending time with Jessica. Marvin, surprisingly (or maybe not that surprisingly given his life history) is actually a “Melrose Place” fan. Also of note, we see from this scene that there’s something of a feud between Deirdre, the queen bee of the HOA ladies, and Honey. The feud has its roots in Deirdre’s belief that Honey ruined Marvin’s previous marriage to a good friend of hers. At the end of the “Melrose Place” episode, Jessica is very upset when there are no previews for the next week’s episode. Honey explains that the episode they just watched the season finale, and there won’t be new episodes until September. Jessica throws a tantrum, wondering why they can’t produce 52 episodes a year.

The next day, Honey and Jessica talk about Jessica’s post-season finale funk. Honey says Jessica needs to find a distraction, so Jessica decides that the family will be getting a pool. The kids are super excited about this until they see the actual pool. It’s an above-ground, and it’s not especially fancy. I had plenty of fun in our above-ground pool growing up, although my parents also had a nice, wood deck attached to it, so that helped offset the tackiness a bit. Evan is a bit of a buzzkill by bringing up the fact that the pool needs to be voted on and approved by the HOA. Jessica isn’t terribly concerned, though, since she has plenty of friends who are active in the HOA, including Deirdre. While awaiting the HOA vote, Louis, Emery, and Eddie try playing in the pool. Louis has Eddie and Emery start a breath-holding contest, but he gets distracted by the Structure vest a neighbor is wearing. When Eddie wins by cheating that went undetected by the distracted Louis, Emery throws a fit and storms out.

At the big HOA meeting, Deirdre, to Jessica’s surprise, convinces all the ladies to vote against the pool, due to the inherent tackiness of above-ground pools in general. Later, Honey convinces Jessica to go snooping around Deirdre’s house to see what secrets Deirdre has been keeping. They see something shocking, and Honey takes pictures of it. Meanwhile, Louis comes home from the mall (where he went to Structure to buy his own vest) with crappy mall Chinese food, and Eddie expresses some concern about Emery’s tantrum. Louis says Emery has always been that way. He’s chill for a while, then he explodes, then he’s back to chill again. Eddie tells Emery he should let his emotions out more often. Emery takes the advice with gusto, calling Eddie a cheater and insulting Louis’ new vest.

Honey and Jessica show the pictures they took at Deirdre’s house to Carol-Joan, another HOA lady who feels constantly overshadowed by Deirdre. She has been trying and failing for years to emulate Deirdre’s perfect, shiny hair. The pictures show that Deirdre actually wears a wig, so naturally Carol-Joan is pissed. She tells Honey and Jessica that Deirdre has even more secrets, and she’s done covering for her. Soon, an emergency meeting of the HOA is called. Carol-Joan announces that Deirdre has an illegal herb garden on her property, and she shows the HOA photographic evidence of the garden. Evan says that keeping an herb garden is grounds for expulsion from the HOA. In the ensuing chaos, Jessica gets the HOA to vote in favor of her pool and another neighbor’s cow mailbox. We would later learn that the cow mailbox was Evan’s motivation for getting involved in this whole drama.

After the HOA meeting, Honey and Evan have a secret nighttime conversation. We learn that they have been pulling the strings behind Operation: Get Deirdre Expelled this whole time. The next day, Jessica is about to go enjoy the pool when Deirdre shows up at her door with juicy information. In response to that information, Jessica holds a pool party, and she only invites Evan and Honey. At the party, Jessica reveals that older herb gardens were granfathered in, and Deirdre’s garden qualified. She is surprised Evan didn’t mention that at the HOA meeting. Honey says that she didn’t want to lose Jessica as a friend to the HOA snobs, so she took action against Deirdre. Jessica is just thrilled that she got to be in her own version of Melrose Place.

Eddie has a come to Jesus conversation with Emery about how his comments about the Structure vest hurt Louis. Emery apologizes, and Louis is very gracious about accepting the apology. He does want to know, however, how Emery has been controlling his tantrums. Emery introduces Louis to the box of “scream jars” under his bed. Whenever he starts to feel overwhelmed, Emery takes out one of the jars and screams in it. Louis is a little freaked out and says they need to find a method of controlling Emery’s tantrums that they can actually tell Jessica about. By the end of the episode, however, Louis is wanting to use a scream jar, too. Deirdre is accepted back into the HOA at the next meeting. She says that the Huang’s pool is probably a no-go, but the cow mail box is okay. Evan is happy, because that is what he really wanted all along.

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