Saturday, July 16, 2016

Fresh Off the Boat 2.23: "The Manchurian Dinner Date"

“Speeches have the ability to affect real change. Lincoln knew that. Guess who else knows that? Me. I am known for my inspirational speeches.”
- Louis

We are wrapping up the season of “Fresh Off the Boat” and that means the end of another school year. Louis is kind of emotional about the whole thing, what with Emery being Valedictorian of his class. He’s gifting each of the boys with a free dinner at Cattleman’s Ranch and they are each allowed to bring a date. When Evan’s choice of his friend JJ si nixed, he decides to take Jessica. Eddie is all psyched to bring Allison but Jessica kind of freaks that he has a girlfriend. This sets off a whole lot of craziness for Eddie.

When he tells Allison she’s been invited but that his mom freaked because she always wanted him to date to a Chinese girl (cue weirdly shot flashback to Jessica talking ot Eddie in utero), she kind of panics. He says he’ll set up a chill night so they can meet before the dinner but when the time comes, Allison chickens out and sends her Chinese friend, Audrey, in her place. Jessica is overjoyed that Eddie appears to be dating a nice Chinese girl. In fact, she’s got tears in her eyes. Eddie is both confused and annoyed by the situation when he calls Allison up to find out what’s going on. The next day at school, Eddie says that she should just come over and they can watch a Denzel movie with Jessica, to keep her from getting mad at him. But when they get home, Audrey is there playing mahjong with Jessica and Grandma. Eddie has a panic attack of his own and claims the real Alison is just some girl selling girl scout cookies. Needless to say, she’s not too happy with him (although she can probably understand).

Before we can get to the graduation ceremony itself, we need to talk about Emery writing his graduation speech. He wants to thank all the people who made the time in elementary school so nice but Louis says he can give him tips on being a great inspirational speaker. Louis can be kind of a goof sometimes but it is kind of sweet to see him trying to help his boys out. The advice he gives Emery actually works (in a way). Emery ends up giving a really sweet speech, that is very much who he is, thanking all of his family members, including Eddie, for helping him get to where he is and be the person he’s become. Allison and Audrey are both in the youth orchestra that’s playing at graduation and right before they play, Eddie comes clean to Jessica abou the switch. Luckily for him, she kind of hated fake Allison. According to Jessica, she was too perfect and needed more personality, like Eddie. And as soon as the real Allison starts playing a piccolo solo, she’s in love.

Evan has a small storyline this episode. Since he’s taking Jessica as his date to the graduation dinner, he wants to look nice. Grandma offers to make him a new suit. Things don’t looks to be off to a good start when she’s measuring the sleeves (one is super short and the other is really long) with bubble tape. I did appreciate the use of bubble tape though. I loved that stuff as a kid. He even shows up to the graduation in his normal clothes. I suppose he’s lucky he always looks kind of grown up in his dress shirts and khakis. But he gets to really blow everyone away when he shows up to the dinner in a really nice, tailored suit (with his name on the back in red glittery letters….hey Grandma made Evel Knievel's cape after all). We also get to see that Emery and Audrey are quite alike. Jessica is worried about that, especially since she now adores the real Allison (for not only being dedicated to her instrument but picking one that has lots of unclaimed scholarships). We end the episode with everyone watching Malcolm X together. Jessica is wondering if there’s a Mrs. X. when Allison points out she became a big civil rights leader. It seems like she will fit in just fine with the rest of the family. Ad it’s kind of funny that when Jessica starts opening the water bill, all three boys run for the hills. Apparently they get grounded when the bill is too high and during one of the fake Allison bits, Eddie left the water running to cover the fact he left the house. It was a good little beat of physical comedy from the three boys that I’m sure they had fun improving (I hope they are allowed to do a little improv on this show).

Overall I thought this was a decent episode. It had some nice emotional points for the characters and it also seemed like a natural place to go with the story (especially since it originally aired near the end of the school year). I was a little worried that the longer season would dilute what made this show great in season 1 but it seems to have survived the extended season. I guess not being an overly serialized show it can handle having more episodes in the season. I will be interested to see where the show goes in season 3. I was about Emery’s age in the mid 1990s so I remember a lot of what happens on this show and I do enjoy the throwbacks (there seems to be a lot of 90s nostalgia going around these days in general). I’m wondering if the show will tackle more serious subjects as Eddie really becomes a teenager. I also hope we get to see some other non-American/non-Christian holiday celebrations (i know we here at More TV Please liked the Chinese New Year episode earlier this year).

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